His Brand Of Beautiful
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Christina Clay is determined to secure the best when it comes to marketing her family’s new label of wine and the best in the business is Tate Newell. But Tate has been dodging her calls for months, not willing to be taken in with the kind of “cause” marketing he’s seen Christina and her family’s vineyard embark on before.
When they finally meet, Tate decides that he has to let Christina experience exactly what she wants for this new wine brand – for it to be ‘wild’ and ‘outback’ and something that will turn Australian wine on its head. He takes her camping on his family’s remote cattle station, sure that city girl Christina with her leopard print shoes and scarves will run screaming in no time. Instead, Tate finds himself reluctantly impressed at the fact that there’s more to Christina than he first assumed.
Christina has decided that her clock is ticking – she’s almost 35 and medical complications may make it difficult for her to conceive. She doesn’t really have time to waste. The attraction between her and Tate has been simmering during their camping experience and she plans to use that to her own advantage. Tate is the perfect opportunity to give her what she wants – a perfect brand for her new venture and also a baby. She just doesn’t plan on telling him about that last bit. After all, once the branding is finished, she’ll probably never see Tate again.
Unfortunately it’s not that easy. Commitment shy Christina finds herself slipping into an easy relationship with Tate, despite the fact that she’s keeping a secret from him. But she doesn’t want to get married and she doesn’t want anything from him. Christina has seen what happens when a woman has to sacrifice a part of themselves for someone else’s happiness, to be responsible for that and she’s not going down that path.
His Brand Of Beautiful is a debut title set in South Australia, which I have to admit, was a nice diversion from the usual settings of the eastern states. The first scene, in which the hero Tate is mistaken for the stripper that the heroine Christina has organised for her best friend’s hens party is so fun and it had me quietly giggling to myself. The attraction between Tate and Christina is almost immediate but things are complicated by the fact that Christina wants to hire Tate and Tate is…reluctant to be hired by Christina. He did some research and he’s seen her committing funds to save an endangered tree frog and finds out that she’s running in a marathon for breast cancer. When Christina mentions her ideas for the new brand, Tate baulks. He’s definitely not into “cause marketing” where a company attaches itself to a cause (such as saving cuddly koalas or freeing dolphins) simply because it looks good and it leads to more people buying their product. He’s into conservation for the belief, the desire to do good, even if it isn’t a particularly marketable cause. When Christina says she wants the new image to be wild, Tate decides to show her wild.
I really liked Tate as a character – he was a very interesting mix of successful city businessman, with the degree and the business and the image and skills but also a rural man, who grew up on a very remote cattle station. He was schooled through the School of the Air and has a real passion for the rugged Australian outback – not the pretty variety, seen from a plane but the dusty, sweaty landscape where the flies are thick. He wants someone in his life that he can share that side of him with – and if Christina isn’t it, she’ll cut and run a mile early. She reminds him of someone that he lost that was very dear to him and I think at times Tate fears too much about history repeating itself. Which he actually has in common with Christina and they tend to butt heads with their decision making in that they don’t so much make decisions as a couple but just order each other around.
Christina was a character I had a bit more trouble getting a handle on. She’s very generous, she’s a good friend, she’s passionate about her family’s business and making it a success. She has a fun and funky attitude to fashion but she’s also at home in jeans, camping out. However she was scarred by an incident in her childhood which tended to make her extremely selfish – case in point being her desire to conceive a child with Tate without telling him. That’s a very low thing to do to a man. The novel doesn’t touch upon a lot of things such as child support being compulsory whether the father knew of the pregnancy etc or not (which it is) and the fact that relegating someone to that of a weekend dad, or no sort of dad at all, is a bit morally bankrupt. Christina claims to want nothing from Tate, which is all well and good for her – but what about the baby? None of this really gets discussed properly or in depth enough for my liking. Tate is mad at Christina once he finds out but he seems to get over that awfully quickly – a little too quickly. What Christina did really wasn’t fair especially when it seemed like there was very little reason for her to be so underhanded about it. She put herself first in just about everything and didn’t show a lot of consideration towards Tate and there’s only so much mileage you can get out of “screwed up childhood with abandonment issues”. I did like that Christina was called out on her selfishness later in the book and forced to face the fact that she does do things without consulting other people or with little care for how it might affect them. There comes a time when you have to grow up and let things go and realise that other people’s choices are not your choices. You don’t necessarily need to live your life a certain way because of something someone else did a long time ago.
Overall this was a lovely read with characters who have to face past losses and let them go in order to step forward into a new life together free of any baggage. It’s sweet and sexy at the same time and with some humour. It’s a very nice debut which promises more good stories to come.
Book #85 of 2013
His Brand of Beautiful is book #38 for AWW2013
Q1). Hi Lily and welcome to my blog. Congratulations on the publication of His Brand of Beautiful and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Firstly, tell us how you came to write and what your journey to being published was like?
Bree, thank you for having me. Thank you for taking time to read His Brand Of Beautiful. I am in awe of book bloggers and how they are able to read so many books, consider them, pass on an opinion and keep such wonderful websites and blogs.
I am a journalist by trade, so I’ve been writing for at least 20 years, but creative writing for me started after the birth of my second son who is now 3. I never considered myself a particularly creative person, but we sold our house and moved into a new house and I got this urge to bake stuff. (I don’t bake stuff well, I am on the record as producing muffins that are more like hockey pucks). After the baking, I had an urge to paint. Then my youngest son put a golf club through my masterpiece, and I hung up the brushes and turned to writing romance… and so it went like that. Writing is the one I’ve stuck with and I love it immensely. It has become a hugely important part of my life.
Like many people, I had several rejections for His Brand Of Beautiful, and then in the space of one weekend, I had two publishers tell me they wanted it, one of which was Escape Publishing, who I eventually signed with.
Q2). Share a little about your writing process – do you have a specific place that you like to write, such as an office or maybe a local café? Do you treat writing like a job or do you write when the mood takes you? And do you have anything that you deem absolutely necessary for the writing process such as whiteboards to plan or even coffee to get you going?
I would love to arrange my life so that I could do more writing in the morning when I’m fresh. But I am SO not a morning person. At the moment I’m finding it really hard to find time to write because we have just (in February) moved interstate, we have found a new home and I have started a new job and all these things have crowded my brain and made it difficult to dedicate quality time for writing.
I dream of being able to write at a cafe. I love the JK Rowling story of how she put her young child in the pram and pushed the pram to her favourite cafe. By the time she got there, the baby was asleep and she wrote Harry Potter in that cafe. Unfortunately, my second child screamed the house down the minute I put him in a pram, so that beautiful ideal didn’t last for long. I don’t have to have much to be able to write, and I will write anywhere: the bed, the study, a desk, standing up at the kitchen bench. I like writing outdoors if it’s warm. I absolutely must have a cup of tea in the morning though, before I can function.
Q3). In His Brand of Beautiful, the main character Christina is looking to market the new wine brand for her family’s vineyard. Is wine something that you’re passionate about?
Am I ‘passionate’ about wine? I love wine lots. I love red, white, sparkling. I would probably have to be a winemaker to be considered truly “passionate” about wine and Christina Clay might say that made me a “wine wanker.” I definitely LOVE bubbles! And I can think of fewer better things in this world than relaxing with a glass of bubbles or wine in a hot bath… Hmm… kind of passionate then, I guess!
Q4). Tate decides that he wants to show Christina his “true outback” and he takes her camping on his family’s property. I have to admit, I’m not much of a roughing it girl myself – I like running water and working bathrooms! Are you big on camping and have you experienced any of outback Australia?
I’m not so much into camping now, but in 1999 hubby and I drove 40,000kms on a trip around Australia. We took dirt roads from Cairns to Darwin, and then down the centre, out and around Alice Springs and south into Adelaide, just our trusty Pajero and our tent and a different campsite most nights. His Brand Of Beautiful (in terms of the Outback scenes) is set along the Oodnadatta Track/Flinders Ranges of South Australia, although I don’t necessarily identify exactly where. The snippet of a story line of a female character, Lila Blu, being eaten by sandflies is based in truth. That definitely happened to me, and I did end up in Hawker hospital on a diet of anti-histamines. I’m a mum now, and young children and camping haven’t quite mixed for us. Not yet anyway. But back then I was definitely the type who could cook on a camp stove for months and didn’t mind if I missed a shower for days. I’ve discovered Nespresso machines since then, however!
Q5). Christina is quite flawed – she’s really quite devoted to doing what she wants to do, sometimes with little thought to others and of course she does something in the story that’s quite morally bankrupt. Was it your intention that she be this way or did her character just take over?
I am glad you saw this in her. Yes she is a selfish character. I think her heart is in the right place, but she has a very self-self-self way of achieving her goals (and damn the consequences). She is not introspective. Selfish people I don’t think are introspective, they just soldier on their path. I hoped to show her character growth by showing gradually through the book, her attention turn to other people’s wants and needs or reactions; and learning how compromise didn’t mean “giving up” the things she wanted. I liked creating the character of Lacy as a counterpoint, and to show up this selfishness in Christina.
Q6). Did the Easter bunny bring you something delicious?
My husband came to bed Easter Sunday wearing bunny ears… Oh? That isn’t what you meant. Sorry! Yes, the Easter bunny knows me well, so he bought me Yarra Burn bubbles. (Seriously, get yourself some!)
Q7). Name some of your favourite books and/or authors?
I love John Sandford. I love his hero in the Prey novels, Lucas Davenport. I love Lucas because he has a Jason Bourne thing going (another of my favourite heroes). And he’s also a bit of a ladies man (until Sandford wrote a wife into the series). Sigh.
Q8). And lastly, what’s next for you? Anything you care to share?
I wrote a novella over Christmas that I call The Goodbye Ride. It is a contemporary romance (again with a wine industry background). For the moment most of my work will have that wine industry theme loosely linked. The Goodbye Ride is about a girl (Olivia) on a mission to buy back her brother’s Ducati bike; and the boy (Owen) who wants the bike too; and what Olivia will do to get her hands on it. It’s set on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, so I’m hopeful of either finding a publisher, or I may self-publish that, so that I can release it in May/June.
I’m also working on another full-length Contemporary Romance, it’s actually the first book I ever started, called Fringe Benefits.
Thank you Bree. I love 1girl2manybooks, best of luck with your site.
Thank you Lily for your responses and good luck with publishing your future works.