Author: Priscilla Brown
Steam eReads RRP $4.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
My Kindle and I are still getting to know each other, since most of my books are hard copies (still my preference). However, picking up a teen son after work (which often involves waiting) has hastened my acquaintance with my electronic bookshelf. It was during a couple of such waiting periods that I read Finding Billie, a short contemporary romance by Priscilla Brown currently only available as an eBook. It’s a book that falls squarely into the ‘nice’ category – nice characters, nice plot, nicely resolved tension … it doesn’t really demand much of the reader except an audience.
Female mechanic Billie Williams is surprised when an old friend, Zac Jarvis, walks into her garage en route to Melbourne. The last time they saw each other was 18 years ago, when the Jarvis family moved suddenly from the small country town that is still Billie’s home. She gives Zac an update on his old hometown, including the news that a greedy company wants to raze her home, business and other heritage buildings to make way for a shopping centre. Despite his desire to be on his way, Zac’s interest is piqued when he hears that these plans would destroy a known platypus habitat. The two part, aware that there is a renewed connection between them, as well as an attraction; Zac is less comfortable with the spark of attraction than Billie – a relationship is the last thing he wants right now. Two years earlier, his wife and two daughters were killed and he does not want to betray their memory.
The two meet again in Melbourne, when Zac invites Billie to a photography exhibition and the two share a romantic dinner; the next day, he invites her to breakfast but his withdrawn mood takes Billie aback. She starts to think whatever connection they had is over before it started – clearly Zac is confused and laden with emotional baggage. Best to back off before she gets hurt, she reasons. But before she knows it, Zac is back in town with some news that affects her. Is their reunion destined to be more than friendly, or is love on the agenda?
Finding Billie has a dual meaning – it’s as much about Billie finding herself as it is about Zac finding her. Billie has looked after her sixteen-year-old ‘adopted’ son Tim since she was in her 20s and finds it hard to see herself as a lover as well as a ‘mother’; it’s not a role Tim is keen to see her in either, and his resistance to her developing relationship with Zac is one of many things she needs to deal with as the story unfolds. Billie is a sweet, decent character and I did mildly hope she would find love with Zac in the end. Mildly? I would have liked to feel more about the characters’ relationship, or even the events of the novel, than I ultimately did; I didn’t not care, I just wasn’t compelled by the story to invest a lot of energy in caring too much. Does that make sense?
It’s clear that Brown has invested a lot of time researching different aspects to highlight minor themes of gender stereotypes and business versus the environment, and she set the country town scene nicely. ‘Limey’ reminded me of many country NSW towns I’ve driven through. The dialogue did feel a little stilted to me at times, but other than that, the story flowed well. The book has been given a ‘sensual’ rating by its publisher, so if you’re after a steamy read, this is not it. Overall, Finding Billie is the kind of book I’d read when I need to fill in time, but don’t want anything heavy or demanding; my taste usually runs to something with more depth.
Available from Steam eReads. This copy was courtesy of Steam eReads.
Bookish treat: Something sweet, like an airy sponge cake filled with strawberries and cream from a CWA bake sale. Sounds innocent at the outset … but strawberries and cream has possibilities.