I love a sunburnt cowboy

My desk computer has crashed so I have no option but to leave the project I was working on and turn to my trusty, rust-clad lap top and blog. Thank heavens for multiple devices.

Before I launch into this review it’s only fair that I should make a couple of declarations.

Declaration 1: I’m no great reader of genre fiction. I’ve paddled in it occasionally, especially when the literary air has become too steamy and complicated. I’ve found a cool, refreshing dip in something blessedly simple and clean clears my head. But I should be honest, my opinion of genre fiction is complicated, divided and riddled with ‘what if’s’, ‘nonethelesses’ and ‘on the other hand’s’.

Declaration 2: I’m a bit of a fan of Margareta Osborn because… well… the truth is (and this blog is all about truth – I think) she’s a very good friend of mine. Such a good friend, in fact, that you will find my name on the second page of her very long list of acknowledgements. There – it’s out – I’m biased.

That said I’ve been as honest as I can in this review, and will leave you to make up your own mind about whether it’s worth the pixels it takes up on your screen.

Bella’s Run (published by Random House) is a rural romance, fondly known as ‘chook lit’ to those closest to the style. It is a relatively new genre, romance with a distinctly countryfied Aussie flavour. It contains all the traditional elements of the romance genre while bringing the sweeping beauty of the inimitable Australian landscape and our legendary country life into its full embrace.

Margareta’s love of her subject matter is obvious from the get go. Her characters are vivid and very, very human – although the city based ones are all suit-wearing, self-involved financial men. Then again, they make a good contrast to the tastier and more earthy country boys. And tasty is the word. Her hero, Will, is so deliciously described he sounds good enough to eat – twice! (‘She took in his tanned and rugged face, his molasses eyes so liquid she just wanted to roll in the sweetness of them.’ Hmm-hmm, he’s welcome to park his cowboy boots under my bed any day.)

The friendship between Patti (Pat-me-tuffet) and Bella (Hells Bells) is sweetly rendered and will make any female reader long for their sisters-in-crime days with their best mate. The prose revels in Australian vernacular reminiscent of a fireside yarn spinning. Dialogue is brimming with ‘Crikey’, ‘crap’, and ‘righto’, which you’d think might bring on a bout of cultural cringe, but it doesn’t because it’s completely appropriate to the story, the characters and the settings.

The story flows well, leaping across two states and eight years to follow Bella’s escape from and return to what she knows as home. Osborn builds the misunderstandings between Bella and Will while maintaining a fabulously raw sexual tension and attraction between them. I ended up jeering and cheering the pair from the sidelines as I watched them struggling to get it together right till the bitter end – (and thank God they did – I don’t think I could’ve coped with anything but a happy ending for Bella’s Run).

There are a couple of scenes in the book I have reservations about (don’t worry, Margareta already knows about them). One involves an impressive (but fairly nasty sounding) attack by stock whip compliments of Patti, and a synchronised spewing scene that didn’t do much for me. Still, they didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book – and yes, I genuinely did enjoy it.

Bella’s Run is a refreshingly boisterous and fun read, with some heart wrenching and tragic moments tossed in. It paints a vibrant picture of how the landscape of our youth is intrinsically linked to our sense of identity. I oughta be grateful, Bella’s Run reignited this once-upon-a-time-country-girl-now-turned-city-chick’s longing for the simpler pleasures of living within Australia’s magnificent and diverse rural landscape and the hard muscled, tanned men that inhabit it.

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