Emily Oliphant thought that the rest of her life was going to be so fabulous after she married John Stratten, son of one of the largest wool producers in the district. John had been so charming and Emily saw herself working beside him on the farm, making it a success, sharing their lives together.
But the reality turned out to be much different. Instead Emily found herself little more than a slave, cooking John his meals and cleaning the house and providing him with a willing body each night in his bed. She was locked out of the farming life, deemed “not for women”, yet John would not let her get a job either and contribute to their somewhat dwindling finances. And to top it off, the loving man she knew before the marriage turned into a selfish and abusive one.
Finally gathering the courage to leave three years later, Emily finds a friend in local woman Barbara who encourages her in every dream that she has. For a while she stays with Barbara and her husband Dave, ignoring her overbearing mother’s pleas to reconsider her actions. Emily has dreamed of opening a little country B&B, collecting a scrapbook filled with ideas. She and Barbara find an abandoned farmhouse, something that would’ve once been grand in its heyday and Emily arranges through the local bachelor owners, two brothers, to rent it for a very cheap fee. As she throws herself into painting, cleaning, sanding and fixing up the old place, she dares to allow herself to dream just a little.
But Emily doesn’t have a job and her foolishness in signing her husband’s financial settlement document to swiftly end things between them means that she has been nicely played out of a much bigger settlement. In order for Emily’s dream to come true, she’s going to need income but the financial crisis is still affecting her small rural town and Emily has found herself the victim of local gossip as well. What she doesn’t know is that she’s in possession of what she needs to make her dream come true…she just needs a little bit of luck to find it, that’s all.
This novel is the first in a series and I read an uncorrected proof copy which didn’t state that either in the title, nor did it have a To Be Continued on the last page. The only reference I found to the fact that it was a series book was one line on the About The Author page, which I often don’t read. I hope that the finished copy does state that it’s the first book in a series because reading this as a stand-alone, you’re waiting for things to happen that quite frankly, never do.
There were parts of this novel I really liked: I’m always a big fan of rural fiction novels that depict women learning to stand on their own two feet and I rather like it when renovations are included. I’m a nerd for ‘do it yourself’ stuff and enjoy fix-up housing shows on TV and I like to read about it as well. But that doesn’t change the fact that the main character is ridiculously stupid and I find it hard to tolerate stupid main characters.
Firstly, she leaves a man who is verbally abusive to her and threatens her new puppy with a shotgun. Good enough reasons to get out in my book but her moping at him not coming after her or displaying emotion at her leaving was irritating. She married a man who expected a slave, not a wife and it was clear he didn’t care about Emily so long as she cooked his meals and warmed his bed. Also, she was given strong, repeated and very smart advice not to sign a financial settlement that her husband drew up for them until she’d had someone look it over. Her ex-husband’s not a lawyer. He’s not an accountant. She chose to ignore this advice and then was bothered when she found out she’d been screwed. What did you expect, Emily? When someone offers you a homemade financial settlement and wants it signed ASAP, you can guaran-damn-tee that they are not out to look after YOU. They are out to look after THEM. She was also, at times crushingly negative and it made me applaud Barbara, who dealt with it all so patiently. I understand that Emily was timid and probably beaten down after her difficult marriage and wanted to sever ties with a man that made her unhappy quickly – but then once you have done that, don’t complain about it! Even if you did get screwed, you chose to take that as a way to speed up the process. The other thing was, Emily told us several times that John was fabulous before they married, but the reader never got to see this. All they got was how he was after and it made it extremely difficult to understand how he’d managed to have a relationship with her and get her to marry him in the first place.
I think that hopefully, this book got a lot of that out of Emily’s character and that the second book might be more positive. I’m really interested in the storyline about her gran and the jar of buttons that she left to Emily (it’s referenced a lot in this book and the reader knows something that Emily does not and waiting for her to discover it when I thought this book was stand alone was somewhat painful). So on that hand, I am looking forward to the next one because I do want to see what happens and how Emily discovers what she needs to, what that will mean for her and what she will do with it. I just hope that she’s a bit more positive.
Book #61 of 2013
Saving Grace is the 27th book read for my participation in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013