Jonelle Baxter is a young woman in a man’s world – a tough, hardworking motor mechanic from an idyllic country family. But lately things in her perfect life have been changing, and her workshop isn’t the only local business that’s struggling.
Daniel Tyler is new in town, posted from the city to manage the community bank. As he tries to rein in the spiralling debts of Bundara, he uncovers all sorts of personal dramas and challenges. The last thing Jonny and Dan need is an unwanted attraction to each other.
It’s going to take more than a good drop of rain to break the drought and to keep this small but very colourful community thriving.
From the bestselling author of The Road Home comes a moving and heartwarming story about love, change and courage – and the beauty that’s found in the bush, even in the harshest of times.
The Sunburnt Country by Fiona Palmer
I received this book as a review copy from the publisher, and at the end of this review I have to mention something that unfortunately had an effect on my reading experience.
This is one for the tomboys!
The Sunburnt Country gives you a very good idea of what to expect with its stereotypically Australian title. Set in outback Western Australia, we’re introduced to a town struggling enormously with a drought that’s destroying not only farms, but also business throughout the community. The temporary bank manager, Daniel Tyler, sent out from Perth, is basically there for one purpose: to take people’s livelihoods away.
The heroine of this story, Jonelle Baxter, is too good to be true, if Dan’s love-struck opinion is to be believed! A mechanic who races Australian muscle cars for fun, there’s not a lot of girliness going on here.
If you’re into Australian cars, you’ll love this book. I don’t know the first thing about them, but am a huge Formula One fan who attends races every year, so the scenes describing the pits and the behind the scenes of the races really rang true to me.
Rural books – from any country – tend to be a little self-congratulatory, demonising people who aren’t from the land, and making out that only those who farm are capable of human decency. I tend to judge rural fiction on this point first: if the author goes overboard with country = perfect and city = evil, then I cannot usually look beyond it to enjoy the story.
The author evened the playing field somewhat in The Sunburnt Country, by introducing a male lead character who is from a city. I don’t know what kind of men live in Perth (having never been there), but our Special Forces are based there, and – based on my knowledge of Australian men – city guys are nowhere near as wimpy as Jonelle’s biased opinion tries to make us believe!
I did like that Jonelle is incredibly prejudiced for much of the book, and towards the end realises something has to give. She can’t keep fighting for things to always stay the same. She can’t be stubbornly blind to the possibility of an outsider being the perfect man for her.
There’s a lot of learning both characters have to do here, and nobody ends up the same as they were at the beginning.
There’re a lot of characters in this one, many of whom are struggling with the drought. Covering months of life in small town Australia, this is the kind of book that will appeal to fans of television show McLeod’s Daughters.
This is not the first book I have read from this author, and I can see her writing is developing with each one. Packed full of Australianisms, this is definitely an authentically ‘country’ read.
So. My complaint?
I know that when a review copy of a book is sent to a blogger we’re supposed to ignore typos and formatting errors and all of that because it isn’t the finished product. However I have to mention it here, because the ARC I received had an error in every sentence and it definitely had a huge effect on my experience of the book. Most sentences started in lower case, and almost every proper noun was in lower case too. There were apostrophes where there shouldn’t have been and none where they needed to be. Wrong words were often used. Paragraphs weren’t always separated.
Quite frankly, it was a mess and sometimes very difficult to read. I expect some mistakes in ARCs, but not to the point it makes my experience of the book far more negative than it should have been.
I apologise to the author for having to base my opinion of her book on this!