Copy courtesy of Harlequin AUS
Taylor Whitworth has the country in her blood – it’s where she longs to be. After yet another argument with her mother and stepfather about jacking in her stablehand job and going to university to study medicine, Taylor has had enough. She doesn’t want to be a doctor and she loads up her Jeep with her dog and her belongings and takes off from Brisbane for up north. She wants to find somewhere she can maybe get a job as a jillaroo.
She comes across the small town of Driftwood when a kind stranger stops and helps her after she runs out of fuel. That stranger is Jay Donnellson and he runs Waratah, a large property outside of Driftwood. He points Taylor in the right direction for a pub job and offers her work as a jillaroo come the time of the big muster. Taylor settles in to life in Driftwood like she was born for it – and perhaps she was.
She also bonds with Jay, developing a bit of a crush on him even though she’s warned not to by a local girl. Taylor decides that she doesn’t care about Jay’s reputation and rumours of his issues, she sees the man he is and he seems to like her too. They have a love of the land and horses in common and Taylor can’t wait until she can head out to Waratah and help with the muster. That’s the sort of work that she wants to do, being on the land with her horse, doing something useful.
Life up here can be perfect….but as Taylor is about to find out it can also be dangerous and destructive as the north gets hit by a cyclone that could take everything she’s come to love from her just as she’s found it.
Driftwood is Mandy Magro’s fourth novel and her first for Harlequin Australia. Taylor is in her early 20s and has been pushed by her ambitious stepfather to “do something with her life” and stop mucking around with horses and presumably, get a real job that pays well and has prestige associated with it. Although Taylor scored well in her exams, all she wants to do is work with horses. And when she can’t handle the pressure anymore, she takes off, escaping the pressure and the expectations to do what she loves.
Taylor is a very likable character – I felt sorry for her with the weight of the expectations upon her and the callous disregard by her stepfather of her feelings and her wishes. I also felt that the way in which she ran off, although a bit immature and irresponsible, especially as she didn’t tell anyone where she was going and left her phone off a large portion of the time, was probably in line with the way someone in her situation might act. I do wish she’d made more of an effort to reassure her mother of her safety rather than allowing voice mail messages to pile up on her phone for days but that just might be the parent in me talking. However I can’t imagine, even at Taylor’s age and even being angry, not at least telling my mother right away that I was safe and well. I feel as though Taylor’s family were out of sight and mind for her and although she was hurt and angry, she should still have considered the way they might feel in regards to her lack of communication. Taylor was lucky that it was someone trustworthy and friendly who picked her up and gave her a lift when she ran out of fuel (which again shows her youth and inexperience, she neglected to fill up believing there’d be another fuel station further along even though she was heading into fairly remote country).
Jay is a character who has a lot on his shoulders: his father died not too long ago in an accident, he almost lost his farm which has been in the family for five generations and his mother is spiraling further into alcoholism, unable to cope with the loss of his father. He works the farm almost singlehandedly with the help of a foreman who has been around for many years and the extra help he hires come the mustering time. He is also still heartbroken over the departure of his girlfriend who left him for someone with more prospects in the city, which has kind of sworn him off romance, although it doesn’t take long for Taylor to catch his eye and have him thinking about changing his mind even though she’s not from around here and he doesn’t know if she’ll stay around forever.
Driftwood is a very pleasant read that will surely find winners with fans of rural romance. It has a lot going for it in terms of the characters of Taylor and Jay and the setting is lovely. It does lack a bit of depth but this is countered by the inclusion of a historical story that runs alongside the contemporary which was quite enjoyable about how Jay’s ancestors came to own and work Waratah and how they left a legacy that turned up when he needed it most. For those that appreciate a nice easy-going read with minimal conflict to keep the characters apart, this will be a winner. For others that prefer their romance with a little more angst and a lot more passion, then this one might turn out to be a little too tame!
Book #284 of 2013
Thanks to the lovely people at Harlequin AUS and Morey Media, I have one copy of Driftwood to give away to a lucky Australian resident! Simply fill in the form to enter. Winner will be drawn by random.org and notified via email. Good luck!