Author: Karly Lane
Michael Joseph RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Gemma's BluffKarly Lane’s contemporary romances are good escape reads – light, fresh and on the sweet side of romantic. Her latest novel, Gemma’s Bluff, stacks up well, delivering a similar blend of sweetness and light.

Both a romance and a finding oneself story, Gemma’s Bluff throws together two likeable romantic leads – Gemma and Nash – on a working farm. Gemma turns up at the farm with her best friend Jazz, expecting to work for a few weeks as a jillaroo before starting her career in the family firm. Nash has no idea the two women are coming and has no time to muck around. He has a farm to run and he needs help from people who know what they’re doing. Mix up two reliable people and one unpredictable one who thrives on spontaneity and gets farming tips from Google, and there’s a recipe for disaster. Or can true love come from this mish-mash of expectations, responsibility, irresponsibility, freedom and space?

Lane explores the issue of “doing what’s right for you in your life” well. From a career sense, it’s an issue most of us can relate to. Who hasn’t had to defend their choice of career (or lack of one) at some point? The theme is explored through the two main characters, with Gemma torn between what her parents want her to do and what she’s really good at, and Nash taking on full responsibility for the family farm despite having other dreams.

As a rural romance, the novel also lightly touches on issues relevant to rural areas such as livestock farming and live animal export – a big and touchy issue in Australia. In particular it focuses on the farmers’ position, noting the impact of a temporary ban on live export trade (a real-life action that followed footage of cattle being tortured and the resulting public outcry). Lane uses Nash to explain how the ban led to a flood of animals on the market – animals that have to be fed or destroyed – and loss of livelihood, as well as personal costs such as depression and suicide. Whatever your stance on the issue, it’s food for thought. It’s one of the things I like about rural fiction – as an urban dweller, it’s good to be reminded about the challenges faced by other lifestyles (and where the food we eat comes from).

I did feel the last quarter was a bit rushed, but overall, it’s a satisfying read with plenty of romantic tension and drama. One for lovers of rural romance.

Available from bookstores and Allen & Unwin.

Bookish treat: I read this between Christmas and New Year so I had plenty of Christmassy treats to keep me going.




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