Copy courtesy of the publisher
Hollywood actress Blaze Gillespie has been plagued by one scandal after another. Her reputation and her career in tatters she has fled Los Angeles for country, rural Queensland and the homestead that was her grandparents’. Sweet Springs has been deserted for years and Blaze is stunned by just how much the house has fallen into disrepair. Hiding out to escape the press and the rumours and the stares, she makes a vow to restore the house to its former glory. But it isn’t going to be easy. The locals won’t help her, especially as her latest scandal is splashed across the front page of the paper. And then there’s her neighbour, Macauley Black.
Macauley has built his huge cattle spread up from nothing. His property borders Sweet Springs and it’s no secret to the locals that he’d like to buy that too. However the offers he’s made have been knocked back and it looks like the Hollywood starlet is here to stay…for now. As much as Mac wants to be hostile, he can’t help but also be very, very attracted to her. He watches Blaze transform Sweet Springs, putting in the hard yards herself. Away from the cameras and the Hollywood scene, she seems different. She wears many different faces and he is fascinated by them all.
But trouble has followed Blaze from Hollywood all the way to rural Queensland. Someone bears a grudge against the beautiful movie star and they’re trying to see that she gets punished for the most violent of acts. The more Blaze finds happiness in her new surroundings and with Macauley, the more danger she’s in. But will anyone believe that the Hollywood movie star is actually in trouble instead of being the cause of it?
Southern Star’s pretty pastel coloured cover hides the fact that quite a surprising story lies beneath it. Blaze is an ‘Aussie done good’ in terms of having made it in Hollywood playing vampy sexpot roles. She hasn’t been home in a long time but when she finds herself caught up in a savage crime and implicated, she needs somewhere quiet to lick her wounds. Allowed to leave the country but still ‘assisting the police with their inquiries’ Blaze heads for Sweet Springs, her grandparent’s property where she spent time as a young girl. She needs time away from the limelight and all the horrible things people are saying about her although she soon finds that those sorts of salacious stories have made it all the way to her new location.
Blaze is a mix of bravado and vulnerability. She doesn’t really appear to be anything like a Hollywood actress and the book doesn’t really devote much time to that side of her life. She dives into fixing up the house with gusto, sanding back paint and scrubbing and cleaning and generally doing what she can. Her relationship with Macauley begins as mutual dislike and distrust. Macauley is a bit of a macho man, self-made and married to the land his priority and he doesn’t really have time for anyone that can’t make it theirs either.. He’s a very strong and dominant character and in that he meets a good match in Blaze who won’t allow him to boss her around or run over the top of her. At first he has a lot to be suspicious about with Blaze and his arrogance rubs her the wrong way but they also have a lot of chemistry between them and neither of them mind a bit of giving in to it. The chemistry is very good and the book was probably a bit blunter than I expected in terms of their attraction but I never really felt like it delved enough beneath the surface. Macauley assumes something really ridiculous and he gets angry at her about it but then it kind of all fizzles out and the two of them actually have a discussion but that’s about as deep as it gets. I got their attraction and their chemistry and it was fun but in terms of love and something more, that didn’t necessarily come through loud and clear. There’s strength in the secondary characters as well – I was particularly taken with the story of the builder Blaze hires to fix up her house and how he came to be that way and also the friendship she strikes up with a young local girl. I would’ve actually loved to read that girl’s story in full length novel, I think it had real potential to be lovely.
The novel built the suspense side of the story really well for the most part but I do have to say that the perpetrator was a little bit of a letdown and the motivation disappointing. I would’ve really liked it to be something meatier rather than seeming like a school yard fight gone crazy in the end. The scenes from the assailants point of view were good but there was perhaps one too many if the author didn’t want the reader to put everything together really quickly, including the reasoning behind everything. There were also things that weren’t explained well enough and maybe some liberty taken with the rules and regulations and cooperation between police departments.
Despite that, I did enjoy this book a lot – I especially liked reading about Blaze’s efforts to do up her family house and Macauley’s life on the farm. It was also interesting to read about the way in which Blaze found herself in trouble and how the press reported anything as truth. I know that I’ve read countless gossip magazines in my life and some of the garbage printed in there is clearly made up dribble and yet it gets pages and pages and sometimes, weeks and weeks of coverage even though there’s rarely ever a shred of truth in any of it. Few people do what Blaze does in this story and address the rumours and articles head on…makes me wonder what the magazines would print if everyone did!
Book #309 of 2013
Southern Star is book #106 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013