The Girl in the Yellow Vest by Loretta Hill

In brief: Emily needs a new direction in her career. In Queensland, she finds not only friendship, but feelings for her best friend…

The good: It’s a great romantic comedy and technically brilliant the way the four main characters interact.

The not-so-good: No Wendy from The Girl in the Hard Hat!

Why I chose it: Loved Loretta Hill’s other books.

Year: 2014

Pages: 400

Publisher: Bantam (Random House)

Setting: Perth, Western Australia and Queensland

My rating: 10 out of 10

A new Loretta Hill book is a must buy for me – I love her writing. The characters are funny and realistic; situations are both emotional and action packed and she demonstrates a genuine love for the Aussie bush. The Girl in the Yellow Vest is no exception – in fact, I think it’s Hill’s most technically complex book to date. Even better, it works brilliantly to create an ensemble cast, full of drama, romance and touching moments.

You may think that as the book’s title starts with ‘The Girl in the…’ it’s a continuation on from Loretta Hill’s second book, The Girl in the Hard Hat. But no, this book is predominantly set in northern Queensland. It does still feature an engineering setting (this time the Barnes Inc. crew is building a ship loader for a new bay on a wharf) but the majority of the characters are new. For those who want to know more about Dan, Lena, Wendy and Gavin, the book opens with a wedding and introduces Lena’s friend, Emily. Emily was one of the gang from uni – now, she feels stifled and a failure because she doesn’t have such exciting responsibilities as the others. She counts cracks in buildings in preparation for a new city tunnel while her best friend Will is part of the ship loader team in Queensland. To top it off, her almost-fiancé has dumped her.

With Will’s help (meaning a mention to his boss); Emily gets a job at the Barnes Inc. site in Queensland. Like Lena and Wendy before her, Emily has a few things to learn about being one of few women on site (Rule 1: never lounge by the pool in a bikini alone). In general though, the crew are helpful and pleasant. Especially when there’s a bet laid on who will win Emily’s heart…

Oblivious to this, Emily befriends the owner of the resort where the FIFO (fly in, fly out workers) live. Charlotte doesn’t have it easy – she’s a full time carer for her mother and her sister. In between, she’s trying to lay down the rules for the men (like pick up your beer cans) but getting nowhere with the boss, Mark (or Caesar as his employees call him). Mark is shut off, temperamental and abrupt (think Mr Darcy at his worst). Underneath his strict routine and cold-blooded demeanour, there’s a grieving man underneath. It might just take a letter from the past and a turkey to heal him…

What I loved about The Girl in the Yellow Vest is that alternating chapters are told from each character’s point of view, so the reader really gets into their heads. It’s not strictly Emily, Will, Mark, Charlotte and repeat – Hill has the knack for knowing exactly who the reader is dying to hear more about! The characters are also quite different, which is refreshing. There’s the overly serious Mark and Charlotte, who’s barely hanging on but doesn’t want to let others see. Emily and Will are sweet in their uncertainty, but Will demonstrates a moral backbone that makes him just a little too nice at times. They also had many layers that were gradually revealed throughout the novel, Mark in particular. (Who knew?) I also liked the contrast between the two relationships – both Emily and Mark are starting again, but their relationships are worlds apart – perhaps because of age, perhaps because of the degree of hurt.

Hill also sets up some beautiful scenes in the surrounding areas, from a dive on the Great Barrier Reef to fancy dinners in Mackay and Brisbane. The whole narrative has a lovely Australian feel, celebrating the beauty and freedom of our country. There’s also some great drama that unfolds throughout the novel – I honestly wondered at how it would all be solved. Hill has a talent for writing funny scenes – the section on Mark and Charlotte at the Great Barrier Reef was wonderfully funny, as were the missed opportunities between Emily and Will. I think this book could work really well as a television series!

With drama, action, romance and humour, The Girl in the Yellow Vest is a definite summer must read!

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