In brief: Ashley ends up on a ranch in Zimbabwe by mistake, but it turns out to be the start of an eventful life in the heart of Africa.
The good: I learned a lot about Africa – this book is a wonderful tribute to the people and the land.
The not-so-good: Incredibly emotional in places.
Why I chose it: From Harlequin – thank you!
Pages: 409 (ARC)
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
Africa is one of those places I haven’t read very much about, so my knowledge is somewhat lacking. Before reading My Brother-But-One by T.M. Clark, I had only a hazy idea of events in Zimbabwe from school days. The lessons at school didn’t even begin to touch on both the harrowing events for the farmers nor the beauty of the country and the people – I had to wait for T.M. Clark to teach me that – and boy, was it worth it.
The story opens with Ashley inadvertently being sent to volunteer on Scott Decker’s ranch, Delmonica, in Zimbabwe. Scott didn’t want a girl (they’re far too troublesome, but somebody thought Ashley’s was a boy’s name and now he has a female engineer off the plane from Australia. An engineer is of use to him, but a girl? No way. This is not a safe place for a girl. Ashley is stubborn and instantly takes dislike to what she thinks is Scott’s sexist, overbearing ways. She’ll fight him on every front, not knowing the dangers that Africa can hide. As Scott says, ‘in Africa, there’s some things worse than death’.
As Scott and Ashley trade barbs, Ashley begins to realise that he has her best interests at heart and Scott finds out he has a unique woman on his hands. It’s not long before sparks of a romantic nature start to fly.
Now you would think that was the end of the story, wouldn’t you? Oh no. Clark breaks the die here and tells us what happens after Scott and Ashley get together. Unfortunately, it’s not the happy ever after that the reader would hope for. I found this to be where the novel really shone, as Scott and Ashley face a number of trials together – fire, family and the albino who is intent on revenge on Ashley. There’s a lot of powerful emotions and conflict here, which will have you on the edge of your seat reading and reading. Just as Ashley jumps one hurdle, there’s another…and another. Life wasn’t meant to be easy but Ashley has it bloody difficult!
I admire T.M. Clark for not being afraid to put her characters through the wringer – Ashley’s not charmed and some of the things that happen would test any person to their limits. She’s also not afraid of character sacrifice either and manages to spring it on the reader unexpectedly (in one part, my jaw dropped so low I thought it had become unhinged). The character sacrifice, while incredibly sad, does move the plot along into previously unthought-of of territory, showing the depths of Ashley’s strength. Her strength isn’t just within – a recurring theme in My Brother-But-One is family and its importance. Not just blood family, but friends so close they’re like family. This is where the title My Brother-But-One – the ‘but-one’ are the relations of close friends. For example, Scott is brother-but-one with Zol – Scott’s father rescued Zol as a boy and he feels his job is protecting Scott and also Ashley.
Zol has a lot of work to do when it comes to protection – Delmonica has an anti-poaching team to stop poachers in the reserves nearby. Everyone at Delmonica is passionate about anti-poaching, but it’s a bloodthirsty job as the poachers don’t stop at anything. Smashing a poaching ring involving high ranking members of the government has ramifications that mean Ashley needs to protect herself with firearms if needed. It’s an incredible contrast to life in Australia but Clark writes with such a passion for Africa that you can’t help falling in love with the setting and the people. There’s also a comprehensive glossary at the back to describe the various local terms used. I think it’s one of the best glossaries I’ve ever had in a book – every word I looked up was there.
As for characters, I thought Ashley was a believable heroine – she’s not too gorgeous and has just enough stubbornness to be interesting with being infuriating. Scott I warmed to more gradually (some of his initial remarks read as rather sexist to me), but his actions in regard to his people and anti-poaching redeemed him more than enough in my eyes. Zol is a fantastic brother-but-one and the villain, Rodney, incredibly creepy but with an amusing way of speaking!
Don’t dismiss this book as a romance. This is an adventure/action suspense with a little romance thrown in – the real love is that shown for Africa.