As I've mentioned before I'm doing the Australian Women Writer's reading challenge and aiming to read as many books by Australian females as I can. This isn't a hardship because most of the books on my TBR at the moment fit this category. There are just so many wonderful authors coming out of Romance Writers of Australia, that it's hard to keep up.
In the last week and a bit, I've read Putting Alice Back Togther by Carol Marinelli and Bella's Run by Margareta Osborn. Two very different books but I found both very easy to read and they kept me turning the pages well into the night. A testament to this fact is that I've read them both is just over a week, when I've barely been fitting in ANY reading lately.
Putting Alice Back Together has a premise I haven't read in a women's fiction book before - the heroine had a secret baby in her teens and has been hiding this for a decade. She relates to those stories on the TV about teenage girls who pop a baby out on the toilet and didn't even know they were pregnant! Now, although Carol is a Mills & Boon writer and although I'm a fan of these novels, this isn't your traditional category secret baby hook. Alice is an emotionally disturbed but lovable heroine - she's addicted to valium and alcohol and yet is trying to pretend that everything is fine and dandy in her world. One can see how her circumstances have led her to the place she is today and how she has a lot to deal with to move on and have a normal life.
All of the characters (Alice's friends, family and love interests) are fully fledged people, who are realistic and yet entertaining. This is not a romance but for those of us who love the genre, there's enough of a romance thread to interest. And although whether Alice gets her man in the end is left up in the air, for those of us who want to believe she does, we can :) The only thing that didn't really work for me was the flashing back and forth between the present and the past in the beginning but maybe that's just cos I'm easily confused. And by half way through the book, I was used to this technique and didn't really mind it.
As far as women's fiction goes, this is unique and hard to put in a certain box so I won't even try. Just read it!
Hot on the heels of Alice, I read Bella's Run, which I can easily classify - it's a rip-roaring tale of rural romance, although I've seen the author call it a saga :) The romance is the main plot, which is too me a positive. And I loved the hero Will from day dot.
The story begins with Bella and her best friend Patty on their ''trip of a life time'' working and travelling the Aussie outback. Margareta paints their friendship beautifully and therefore it is gut-wrenching when tragedy tears them apart. All the characters are lively and their dialogue helps classify them as very rural or country - some may feel this is stereotyped but I was enjoying the story so much I didn't really mind. As well as the characters, Margareta has a way with words that brings the rural mountain setting alive. There's not a whole load of farming jargon, which I look upon as a positive. Margareta has just enough farming detail to make the book's ruralness authentic but doesn't bang the reader over the head with extraneous farming scenes. Bella's Run made me realise its'the FEEL of a book that makes it rural, not necessarily the content. And I think that FEEL is something all Aussies - whether city or country dwellers - will enjoy in this book :)
If I had one critical thing to say about this book it is that I would have liked to see more of what happened in the years the hero and heroine were apart, but then again, Bella's Run sits at almost 400 pages, so perhaps that's asking too much!
As you can see, I've been very happy with the books I've been reading lately. I'm currently reading a Rachel Gibson book, but I'll be back to my Aussie books soon - looking forward to Jaye Ford's SCARED YET and Amy Andrews INNOCENT 'TIL PROVEN OTHERWISE :)