Beneath Outback Skies by Alissa Callen

A quick rundown…Romance is the outback – or it is? When fancy city boy Tait comes to Banora Downs, Paige is instantly on edge. She doesn’t have time to deal with his coffee drinking city ways – there’s a drought and a farm to run.

Strengths: Good representation of the Aussie small town / farming community

Weaknesses: A little slow to engage for me initially

Why I read it: Sent to me by Random House Australia – thank you!

Pages: 224 (ebook ARC)

Published: 2013

Publisher: Random Romance / Random House

Setting: Outback Australia (New South Wales)

Rating: 8 out of 10

I’ve got a confession to make. I haven’t really read that many books set in Aussie farming communities. Why? Well, I used to live in one and I Know All About It. I know about the lack of privacy, the isolation and gossiping. What I have forgotten over the years is the good things about the country – safety, community and the beauty. Alissa Callen’s debut novel brings both the good and bad about the Australian bush to the fore.

One of the worst things about farming is drought. Unfortunately, our main character Paige who runs Banora Downs (a cattle property that sounds like it’s in Western New South Wales) is in the middle of one. She’s fighting a losing battle against the elements. Then city boy Tait comes to stay at the invitation of Paige’s father Connor – but what’s his agenda? Connor thinks it’s to write him a business plan and Paige thinks it’s for a rest, but neither of them knows the full story…

Tait is a city boy through and through – he has the mobile phone, the Jaguar (or Jaaaaaaaaaag as Jeremy Clarkson would say) and the fancy suits. But underneath the exterior, Tait is hiding a lot of pain and guilt, which is revealed in layers throughout the story. Tait also integrates himself into country life, whether it’s winding up the local gossips or assisting with sponsorship for the local ball. All this makes Paige think that she could be mistaken about Tait being a ‘love ’em and leave ’em’ kind of guy,

The story started off a little bit slowly for me – establishing the scene and the instant dislike Paige takes to Tait. Tait is incredibly patient with Paige, who flares up at any suspected slight! Once Tait was established at Banora Downs, I found the story grow increasingly more enjoyable as more characters were brought in and we learned more about Banora Downs’ history. Callen creates a rich history for the once grand property with a beautiful Victorian homestead to match that you can feel Paige’s pain at it crumbling away.

I also liked that the plot had multiple threads and simply didn’t stop and end with the romance. The romance in this book is just that – it’s romance, focusing on the build-up, the tiffs and talking rather than the sex. If you’re after detailed sex scenes, you won’t find them here. I feel it’s important to bring to attention the stress that continued drought brings (farm foreclosures, bankruptcy and suicides in addition to large companies buying up several farms, losing the community aspect of small country towns) and Callen has done that splendidly. Tait’s mystery was well hidden – I didn’t actually see it coming and it kept me interested as it was revealed in small parts. The supporting characters, such as Anne and Connor, were sensitively portrayed and I felt I got to know them as well as Paige and Tait.

The more I read of this book, the more I enjoyed it and realised that I quite enjoy Aussie bush romance. I’d definitely read more by Alissa Callen and more in this genre.


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8 thoughts on “Beneath Outback Skies by Alissa Callen

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  1. I also enjoyed this book. Initially I wasn’t going to finish but I just had to find out if the drought broke ( after growing up on a farm) and what happened to Paige and Tait. Also her Dad.

  2. I have this book to read. I am hoping to get to it later this week. Maybe!

    There are some really good rural romances out there. There are also some shockers!

  3. I wasn’t aware of a specific genre called (Aussie) bush romance, but I can see the allure of it. What appeals to me is that it’s not just romance (and hurrah for actual romance and not simply hot steamy goings-on) but that it’s made to be quite realistic too. Having lived in a very small country pretty much all my life, I find it mind-boggling to imagine a country that is as large as Australia and the differences in lifestyles living there brings with it.

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