All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Dark Oil – Nora James

on October 28, 2013

Dark OilDark Oil
Nora James
Harlequin Escape
2013, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Lawyer Lara Blackman has recently been promoted and she’s quickly ordered by her employer, Global Oil, to go to Africa in order to sort out a dispute between the company and the government of the country Global Oil is testing in. Lara is deeply upset to leave behind her husband, especially as it will be her wedding anniversary and she has planned something special. Her husband is ambitious and although Lara would prefer to downgrade their house and give up work in order to have a baby or two, her husband wants the big house, the new cars and keeps saying he isn’t ready to start a family. Lara feels as though they are drifting apart and she wants to use this anniversary as a chance to reconnect.

Her thoughts are even more disturbed when she realises that Jack Norton, a co-worker, is joining her on the trip. Lara has always had a bit of a reaction to good-looking Jack and she believes that he knows it too. Lara is worried about being in such close proximity to Jack, although her worries soon settle a little when he takes the time to brief her on the country they’re visiting, the customs, protocols and some basic information, which her other co-worker had neglected to do. The country they are visiting is very different to Lara’s hometown of Perth, Australia and she is very grateful for the information. She finds herself relaxing around Jack and they become friends and Lara even blurts out her fears to Jack that she believes her husband is seeing someone else when she finds it impossible to get hold of him during her time in Africa. Lara thought she was a happily married woman, but this trip to Africa is beginning to make her wonder… more ways than one.

Dark Oil is a book that having finished, I find it difficult to categorise. It comes from Harlequin Escape, Harlequin Australia’s digital first imprint and therefore, I expected it to be predominantly a romance novel. However, I think this book defies that – for a start, there’s very little actual romance in this book. Lara is married for at least three quarters of the book and she only separates from her husband, they don’t divorce within the story. Although there’s a bit of an attraction between Lara and Jack (Lara finds him very handsome, even when she still believes her marriage is successful and happy) and they do develop a friendship and mutual respect whilst they are in Africa. However, everything is kept all very proper and there are no moments that even come close to sighting the line, let alone crossing it. After they return from Africa and Lara separates from her husband, Jack and Lara don’t even see each other until the book is pretty much over. There’s the suggestion that there’s a happy ever after but the book ends before the reader gets a chance to experience them giving into their attraction and doesn’t give them much of an idea what they’d be like as a couple. It’s an underdeveloped part of the story and the focus seems to be more on Global Oil and their dealings in Africa.

The country Lara, Jack and the third co-worker Martin visit is a made up one, believed to be rich in oil but desperately poor and with a government steeped in corruption with coups ready to happen any minute (so really it could be based on any number of real African countries). As a general rule I dislike reading about made up countries – it seems to be an easy out. Although she works hard and is clearly competent, it seems that Lara has an edge in her new position because she speaks the language of the country fluently due to having a nanny from the country when she was a child. This is flimsy at best but the time that Lara, Jack and Martin spend in Africa is highly enjoyable to read. You do get a picture of the country and the author takes great care to show the corruption that exists at the highest levels and the poverty at the lowest, obviously a reflection on several real life countries. I actually really enjoyed the African storyline and the way in which it was crafted. It really dominated the book and to be honest, most of the time I forgot that there was supposed to be some sort of blossoming feeling between Jack and Lara because that paled so much in significance. I feel as though that really should’ve been more important, or taken a larger role. I liked the fact that they developed a good friendship, which I think is important and also that many romances lack but it often felt as though there was no chemistry between them. Lara was so obviously hung up on her husband Tim and what was going on at home behind her back was so obvious and she really had absolutely no idea. So the development towards the end felt way too rapid and Lara’s switching of affections/feelings was a bit unbelievable.

Often I find that some romances have a great romantic story line but it overshadows everything else. In this book, it was the opposite:  I feel that everything overshadowed the romance. It would probably be a very enjoyable read for those that like a meaty story without much of the “sappy stuff”. Me, I prefer the romance to be a bigger focus than it was in this one.


Book #279 of 2013


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