In brief: Faith and Monty have been friends forever. As they both conquer their obstacles, could it be time for them to finally get together?
The good: Characters are wonderfully fleshed out and the plot lines are interwoven so well that there’s never a dull moment.
The not-so-good: I really, really need the next story (Outback Blaze) now because I’m not ready to leave Bunyip Bay.
Why I chose it: Sent to me by Harlequin Australia – thank you!
Pages: 343 (ARC)
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Setting: Country Western Australia
My rating: 10 out of 10
Oh gosh. Outback Dreams – where do I start with this book? I’ve written three different openings to this review and none of them seem good enough compared to this wonderful story. Rachael Johns has done it all brilliantly with this book – the characters are likeable (and gorgeous in the case of Monty), the setting beautiful and the storyline is a ripper. At heart a romance, this book also has a number of non-romantic plot threads deftly woven through it to maintain your interest while you’re reading and to have you thinking about the book when you’re not!
I do love books set in my native Western Australia, and Outback Dreams is set in a rural area that I’m fairly familiar with. While Bunyip Bay is a fictional town, those who know the area will see that Johns has remained faithful to the spirit of the area, as well as the local industries. There’s farming, fishing and a big town (Geraldton) close by, plus the Big Smoke of Perth is not that far away. This makes for plenty of opportunities for characters to move about and new characters to come in. I loved how the friendliness of the small country town is captured and how there’s no sugar coating of the downsides (such as wildfire gossip).
So what’s this story about? Monty (Daniel Montgomery) and Faith have been best friends since they were kids in Bunyip Bay. While Faith has stayed on in town as a frustrated cook and cleaner for her dad and brother, Monty’s family moved away to Perth to be nearer resources for Monty’s brother Will, who is autistic. Monty has always longed for a farm to call his own, and now he’s working feverishly in Bunyip Bay to earn the deposit. Monty’s got his eye on Ruby, the daughter of the family who runs the local Ag Store while Faith takes up a half-hearted romance with a man in town for crayfish season. When Monty asks Faith to accompany him to see a farm south of Perth, things go awry after one too many drinks and the friends get intimate. Mistake or meant to be?
While this is happening, Faith is organising a charity ball in Bunyip Bay to support dogs for autistic children after attending her yearly school reunion (poor Faith – imagine one of those every single year). Her father is barely speaking to her after Faith asked to be involved in the working life of the farm, rather than just the kitchen. Plus she’s not too sure what to make of Ruby, who has come to Bunyip Bay under a cloud – is she friend or foe? Monty’s trying to make sense of his future and where his fears regarding Will fit in.
It’s pretty rare in the book that I love all the major characters. But in Outback Dreams, I can honestly say that I did. Monty is a genuine gentleman, who is caring, clever and handsome. Faith is the kind of friend I’d like to have – she’s down to earth and unpretentious. Ruby is someone I’d like to know more about – I think what Faith mistook for a cold exterior hides a shy girl who’s been hurt. Will is just lovely (except for his spider addiction, I could have lived without that) and Mr and Mrs Montgomery are sweet with delightful quirks. I’d also like to know more about a minor character, Drew the policeman – I think he has a story too…
I loved this book; I could talk and write about it for hours! The spirit of Australia (and particularly country Australia) is evident in Outback Dreams. It reminds me of something we tend to lose in the city, heads down pushing through peak hour…the loss of mateship, helping a friend out. Bunyip Bay is full of good characters who help each other out – Monty helping out the elderly ladies in town with their gardening, Faith coaching the youth netball team… Johns gets the plot balance exactly right – there’s drama, conflict and love that will keep you turning the pages for hours until you finish.