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Review: The Last Of The Bonegilla Girls by Victoria Purman

The Last Of The Bonegilla Girls
Victoria Purman
Harlequin MIRA
2018, 415p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The war is over, but her fight for a new life in Australia is about to begin…

1954: When sixteen-year-old Hungarian Elizabeta arrives in Australia with her family, she is hoping to escape the hopelessness of life as a refugee in post-war Germany, a life where every day was lived in fear.

Her first stop is the Bonegilla Migrant Camp on the banks of the Murray in rural Victoria, a temporary home for thousands of new arrivals, all looking for work and a better life. There, Elizabeta becomes firm friends with the feisty Greek Vasiliki; quiet Italian Iliana; and the adventurous Frances, the daughter of the camp’s director.

In this vibrant and growing country, the Bonegilla girls rush together towards a life that seems full of promise, even as they cope with the legacy of war, the oppressive nature of family tradition and ever-present sorrow. So when a ghost from the past reaches out for Elizabeta and threatens to pull her back into the shadows, there is nothing that her friends wouldn’t do to keep her safe: no action too extreme, no confidence too dark.

But secrets have a way of making themselves known and lies have a way of changing everything they touch. Can the Bonegilla girls defeat their past? Or has it finally come to claim them?

These days, one in 20 Australians have links to Bonegilla, a migrant centre where those new to the country after WWII were trained and processed before being allocated jobs. According to the website about the Bonegilla experience, more than 300,000 migrants passed through its doors between 1947-1971, mostly from European backgrounds with little to no English. In The Last Of The Bonegilla Girls Hungarian Elizabeta, Greek Vasiliki and Italian Iliana are all there at the same time, waiting for their fathers to be granted jobs or for them to have adequate accomodations so that they can go and live with them. Along with Frances, the daughter of Bonegilla’s director, the four of them bond. Only one of the three migrant girls speaks any English and so Frances takes it upon herself to teach them, better equipping them for their new home once they eventually leave Bonegilla.

What follows is a story that follows all four girls for decades as their lives diverge and come back together time and time again. They move to different states, they get married, have children, keep secrets. Sometimes their communication wavers but their bond is always there. What’s also very strong is the experience of being new to a country, one very different from the old one. The Europeans face the weight of parental expectations in many different ways, expected to marry within their culture and often to men they barely even know. This is at odds with practices in their new homes and the girls were young enough when they came to Australia to become accustomed to its way of life and the differences between that and how their parents expect them to be.

My husband is a first generation born Australian (I’m a seventh) but he was born a bit later than the setting for this story and surprisingly enough, did not face that sort of pressure to marry someone from his cultural background. In fact neither he nor his brothers married Italians although one branch of cousins moved from a small country town to a suburb in Melbourne and they all married Italians, some of which may have been family facilitated. I felt that this book really addressed those sorts of issues really well – that family conditioning, the time from their original country and always wanting to make their parents happy and do what they wanted, versus the time they had spent in Australia and a bit more of a taste of freedom. I enjoyed the way the book would skip forward and check in at various points in the women’s lives. It enabled the reader to keep up with all of the important moments, the ups and the downs but without getting bogged down in the day to day of four women.

Australia has always liked to think of itself as an enlightened country, with strong protests against any racism but ask anyone who came from somewhere ‘different’ and they’ll probably tell you another story. Part of the reason my husband never learned his parent’s language is because that was just another thing that made you a target at school. Elizabeta certainly notices looks and whispers when she speaks German and all of the girls are harassed and insulted one day during a trip from Bonegilla to the shops. A lot is made of ‘assimilation’ as well, getting them to slide seamlessly into Australian society and this is something that has always interested me. What is a successful ‘assimilation’? Is it speaking English? Is it having a job and contributing to society? Is it just abiding by the laws of the country or the laws and the customs? Why is this such a desired thing? People from other countries bring their experiences and knowledge with them and there are many things you’d never want to be forgotten or left behind. So much of Australia’s actual ‘culture’ is because of the many cultures that have come here to make up our current identity. I enjoyed the inner debate this book presented to me as I put myself in the character’s shoes, trying to imagine how I’d feel in those new and unfamiliar situations and torn between the ways of the old country and that of the new. It was so admirable how in the days of pre-internet and mobile phones, these four women kept in contact over so many years and didn’t allow those friendships to fade into nothingness. All of the women are so clearly defined too, which can be difficult sometimes with books that switch back and forth between characters. This was another really entertaining read from Victoria Purman.

8/10

Book #91 of 2018

 

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Review: The Three Miss Allens by Victoria Purman

three-miss-allensThe Three Miss Allens
Victoria Purman
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2016, 395p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In 1934, the three Miss Allens – Ruby, Adeline and Clara – arrive in the seaside town of Remarkable Bay for their annual summer holiday. It’s the last time they’ll spend summers as a family. Adeline is engaged, Ruby is weighing up an offer, and Clara is just eighteen and about to start her life. But by summer’s end, the lives they have known will change irrevocably and a mysterious secret will tear the family apart.

Eighty-two years later, Ruby’s great-granddaughter Roma Harris moves to the now sleepy Remarkable Bay, retreating from tragedy. Roma’s distant cousin Addy arrives too, fleeing a life with too much drama. It’s only when the women discover an old guest book that they start asking questions about the mysterious third Miss Allen. Who was she? Why has she disappeared from the family’s history?

If they solve this mystery from their past, could it change the women’s future?

I love a historical-contemporary blend. They’re one of my favourite types of stories to read but they can be difficult to balance at times. You can find yourself far more invested in one part of the story so it’s nice when both parts are equally as fascinating.

In 1934, sisters Ruby, Adeline and Clara are escaping the Adelaide heat with their mother, staying in a large B&B in the seaside town of Remarkable Bay. Adeline has just secured what is a very desirable match and is giddy over the prospect of her coming marriage. Ruby has received an offer but it’s not one that makes her dreamy. And Clara, the youngest at just eighteen, is harbouring a terrible secret that will divide her family. What should be a summer of careless fun ends up being complicated, ripe with new possibilities but also bringing terrible shadows.

In the contemporary part of the story, Ruby’s great-granddaughter moves to the very same Remarkable Bay after suffering a tragedy. Having quit her job in Adelaide and sold her home, she buys a large house overlooking the bay intending to do it up and restore it to its former glory. Joined by her cousin Addy, who she hasn’t seen for many years, the two women find a book that gives them a glimpse into their own history. They seek to unravel what became of the third Allen sister, Clara, who neither of them have ever heard of.

I really enjoyed Roma’s story. I’m a big fan of renovations both watching them on tv and reading about them as well. It’s something that I think I fantasise about doing one day but it’s also one of those things that will never really be more than that because I don’t think I’d actually be very good at it! But I love the idea of it, especially when it’s about restoring something of significance, such as the old place that Roma purchases. It’s not without its issues, having been severely neglected in the later part of its life but the bones are there and she knows what it could be. What Roma is doing is therapeutic for her as she seeks to heal from a tragedy and discover what she wants from her life now. Things have changed dramatically and she’s taking steps to move forward and although people think it’s ill advised, the house is the first step.

Roma is less than impressed when her busy brother sends their cousin Addy to check up on her. Addy is facing her own problems and once she arrives in Resurrection Bay she decides that she wouldn’t mind staying for a while to help Roma out. The two of them are intrigued by the mystery of the third Miss Allen….

….like I was. Clara’s secret isn’t difficult to guess but I do have to say that I didn’t expect everything that came after it. This book really doesn’t hold back in highlighting some of the difficult situations for women of the time….each sister experiences the troubles of being without real power in society, beholden to the rules and whims of the men in their lives in some way or other. I found each of their stories riveting but I think it was Clara’s that touched me the most. I’ve known someone in Clara’s position and although things are different now, I felt that I had the most sympathy for her, especially because of how isolated she must’ve felt. She would’ve most likely known the fate that awaited her as soon as her secret was discovered and I felt for Ruby too, who discovered it but was horrified by what came next. I found the family dynamics in 1934 very interesting. Despite the fact that their mother seems strict and careful with Ruby and Adeline, there’s still quite a lot that they manage to get up to (Ruby in particular) without her knowledge.

Back in the present day, Roma and Addy are working through an adjustment to spending time together. They holidayed together as teenagers, Addy spending time with Roma’s family and they each remember that time somewhat differently, each shaped by their own experiences. They haven’t seen each other in some time and it’s a bit of a learning curve, reestablishing their relationship and it’s not always smooth sailing. The house provides a refuge for both of them and Remarkable Bay seems a healing sort of place, where both of them discover a vision for what they want their lives to be. And who they want it to include.

I enjoyed this story from start to finish…… I liked Roma and Addy and really connected with Roma’s desire to restore the house to its former glory. The relationships in this story, the good bad and ugly are so well done and felt authentic in both timelines. I could’ve read a book twice this long with these characters, both in the past and the present day.

8/10

Book #204 of 2016

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Author Q&A With…….Victoria Purman

victoria-purman

Today I am very happy to welcome South Australian author Victoria Purman to the blog. The author of over 10 books, Victoria was kind enough to answer a few of my questions on writing and life to celebrate the publishing of her most recent book, The Three Miss Allens.

Q1. Hi Victoria, welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions for me. To kick off – when did you first start writing and what was the road to publication like for you?

I always harboured a dream to be a novelist and began writing terrible World War Two romances with a high school friend when we were fifteen. Fortunately, they never saw the light of day! Life got in the way (husband, work, three sons) but I finally realised about five years ago that I should go back to that dream. So I went to a writing workshop at the SA Writers’ Centre, joined Romance Writers of Australia, wrote my first book and have never looked back!

 

Q2. Let’s talk writing routines! For starters, do you have one? Or do you write whenever you can find the time?

I have to be very disciplined because I have deadlines to meet. For instance, I have three this year already. So I do try to write every day. I’m writing single titles books of about 130,000 words, I simply can’t fall behind. So I do words every day. I work part-time so that gives me two whole days a week to write – unless the dog needs to go to the vet!

 

Q3. Do you write full time or balance it with other work? Is there anywhere in particular where you prefer to get your writing done?

As I mentioned, I do balance my writing with other work. It’s actually good for the soul to go into an office and talk to people. One, it gives me the excuse to get out of my thongs (summer) or ugg boots (winter) and put on make-up! And two, writing can be very solitary, so talking with a wide range of people actually inspires me. One of my work colleagues was actually very inspirational when writing “The Three Miss Allens”.

 

Q4. Always an important question…..are you a meticulous plotter or do you sit back, type and see where the story takes you?

Oh god, no. I’m not a plotter at all! I so envy those people who can plot. I find that it makes me bored with the story and then I get distracted. I like to have a general idea about what will happen in the final pages, but there were some plot twists in “The Three Miss Allens” that literally came to me as I was typing. And I think they are some of the strongest parts of the book.

 

Q5. I’ve never been to South Australia but your books make me want to! Can you share a little about the setting of The Three Miss Allens?

You definitely should come! The Three Miss Allens is set in a fictional town – Remarkable Bay – on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. The peninsula is real, but I decided to create a town for the book. It’s always easier that way, I think, because I can take some artistic licence with businesses and landmarks. Having said that, Remarkable Bay was totally inspired by the lovely seaside town of Port Elliot. It sits right on Horseshoe Bay, which is totally gorgeous.

three-miss-allens

 

Q6. How much research did you have to do for the historical component of the story?

I did lots of research for the 1934 and wartime sections of “The Three Miss Allens”. Everything from the clothes women wore, beach etiquette (it was frowned upon for men to swim “topless” in South Australia back then and there were police patrolling the metropolitan beaches!), to food and the dairy industry! The beauty of the internet means that I can type in absolutely anything and be taken to reputable sources of material from which to learn and take inspiration. And I did do numerous visits to Port Elliot for inspiration, too.

 

Q7. In the modern-day portion of the book, Roma has bought an old house that needs restoring to its former glory. I’m a bit of a tragic for TV shows featuring renovations/restorations and it’s something I’d love to do one day. Have you ever done anything like that or would you, if given the opportunity?

 

My husband and I have renovated two houses and we’ve now sworn never to do it again! I do love makeover shows – most especially “Selling Houses Australia” – it’s amazing what a decent paint job and a couple of throw cushions can do! I’m pretty handy with a paintbrush and filling in small cracks, but I’m a firm believer in getting in good tradespeople to get the job done properly! We’re planning a major bathroom reno to get rid of a 1980s spa bath and I’m dreading it! All that red brick dust…

 

Q8. Would you prefer to be a modern-day heroine or a belle of the ball from historical times?

Definitely a modern day heroine. I do think that for the majority of people, the good old days weren’t such good old days. In “The Three Miss Allens”, I made a particular point not to romanticise the past. I don’t think it was a great place to be if you were poor, living with a disability, or were different in any way. And if you were a young woman pregnant out of wedlock, it could be hellish.

 

Q9. What’s on your summer reading list?

I’m interviewing authors at Adelaide Writers Week again this year so I have a box of books to read for that. I’ve just finished “His Bloody Project” by Graeme Macrae Burnet and I’m about to start “The Good People” by Hannah Kent and “Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms” by Anita Heiss. As well as a deadline on my next book, they’ll keep me busy!

 

Q10. And to finish off, what can your readers expect to see from you next?

I’m in the final stages of my next book, a family saga which begins in the post-war years in Australia and follows four families through to the present day. It’s loosely based on my own mother’s story of migration to Australia and her time with her family at the Bonegilla Migrant Camp near Albury. More than 300,000 Australians went through Bonegilla, and I thought there were some fantastic stories to explore about that era in Australia’s history.

Thanks for having me, Bree!

***

Thank you Victoria, for your wonderful answers and I am looking forward to seeing that family saga (hopefully) soon!

My review of The Three Miss Allens will be up later today.

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Review: Hold On To Me by Victoria Purman

Hold On To MeHold On To Me
Victoria Purman
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2016, 300p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Can she learn to trust him and love again?

Stella wasn’t looking for love – and especially not from a younger man..

When Stella Ryan’s successful life in Sydney crumbled, she returned flat broke – and broken hearted – to the beachside town she’d once called home. Five years on, she’s opened a boutique and rebuilt her life in the tourist haven of Port Elliot.

Luca Morelli has been working flat out to establish his own building company in the city and doesn’t have time to be driving back and forth to the beach to do a small job in a shop that was almost destroyed in a fire. But he soon changes his mind when he meets the glamorous owner.

Before long, Stella and Luca find that a working relationship isn’t the only thing developing between them. But the closer they get, the ghosts of Stella’s past come to haunt her once more. Can she ever believe a man again? And if she can, is the much younger Luca Morelli the man she can trust with her heart?

Hold On To Me is another novel in Victoria Purman’s Boys of Summer series. I’ve read the previous novels and really enjoyed them. Stella was introduced briefly before and Luca is Anna Morelli’s brother so I was pleased to get the opportunity to head back to this world and catch up with what is happening.

This one is a little slow to get moving – the cafe next to Stella’s shop catches fire and although her shop doesn’t burn it does take quite a bit of water damage from the fire brigade putting out the fire. She hires Anna Morelli’s brother Luca to repair the shop as well as make some improvements – Luca has ‘ideas’ and together the two of them begin to plan a much better space whilst a simmering attraction starts between them.

Luca is 29 to Stella’s 35 and this is something that does preoccupy her. I’m almost the same age as Stella and I have to admit, I didn’t find it to be such a big deal? Perhaps because my husband is older than me, I don’t tend to view age gaps the same as many others might. But 6 years when both characters are around 30ish didn’t seem much at all. If Stella had been 45 and Luca 25, it might’ve been something I felt more easy for her to panic over. After all, when you stretch that far, people can be in very different life places….especially if the older character is female. By the time the guy gets to 30 and might think about wanting children, the woman is most likely going to find that difficult. When the situation is reversed, men can keep fathering children well into their senior years. I think in some ways it was trying to portray that being younger, Luca was often the one more settled, more ready for what was happening but this was occasionally spoiled by him storming off in a huff, getting angry over being jealous or becoming moody in a way that was just vaguely explained as being because he’s Italian. Also Anna refers to her brother as bella several times throughout this book which made me giggle. I’m assuming it’s supposed to be bello.

What I did really love about this book is the strong friendship between all of the women (well couples) that have each been previously featured in a book. They catch up frequently and share their lives and have girls nights (and guys nights, I’m assuming!) and in some cases, match make the not-yet-paired-up members. I also really liked the little side plot of Stella’s friend Summer and her finding of romance. Actually I think I would’ve liked to have read more about that! The women are all so closely-knit and their friendship is written in such a natural and genuine way. It makes this seem like a really lovely place to live, the sort of place you’d love to move to, even if just to be included in that sort of friendship group.

Stella had a pretty rough childhood and it’s definitely affected her into her adulthood, as well as the failed relationship that sent her fleeing back to Middle Point. She’s had to overcome quite a few knocks and she’s very determined and strong, but at the same time she does tend to have a streak of the vulnerable in her and she finds it very hard to trust. I felt as though Stella had quite a bit of justification to be as emotionally stunted as she was, even though it did make her at times, a little frustrating! She was stubborn, clinging onto this stuff from her childhood and allowing it to continue affecting her every day life but thankfully she did manage to take some steps towards letting it all go, as well as what happened with the relationship in her past, once she got over the idea that she might somehow be publicly humiliated in some way and that it would change people’s perceptions of her.

Despite a few niggles with this one (mostly personal – not seeing what the big deal was with the age and Stella needing to constantly tell herself to leave the young man alone etc) I did enjoy this story and I loved being back in this part of the world, catching up with the other couples and seeing what was going on in their lives. Victoria Purman has created a really nice community here and populated it with lovely people, the sort that you just enjoy being connected to.

7/10

Book #3 of 2016

AWWC2016

Hold On To Me is the first book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

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Review: Our Kind Of Love – Victoria Purman

Our Kind of LoveOur Kind Of Love (Boys of Summer #3)
Victoria Purman
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2014, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Anna Morelli was always the good Italian girl who did exactly what was expected of her. She’s a doctor with her own practice in Adelaide and she married a lawyer and had the huge Italian wedding. But now Anna has done something that wasn’t expected of her. Her marriage has ended, her husband preferring someone who better fits the bill of a lawyer’s wife. Anna hasn’t told her family yet – she’ll be the first person ever in their family to get divorced. And then she does something even more reckless, indulging in a one night stand when she was at a wedding down the coast in Middle Point.

Former journalist hotshot Joe Blake is back in Middle Point where he grew up. He lost his job and his wife and since then he’s been living with his sister Lizzie trying to figure out exactly what he wants to do next. When he meets Anna, there’s plenty of chemistry and he thinks he might be able to turn their very enjoyable night into a regular thing. But Anna drops a bombshell on him and then runs away.

Joe is determined to make Anna see that this can work – they can work. But Anna is carrying a lot of baggage, mostly relating to her family and she wants to avoid any complications. Just when it seems like she’s ready to jump in with both feet, she and Joe discover that they’re on opposite ends of a very important spectrum.

Our Kind Of Love is the third and final book in the Boys of Summer trilogy which kicked off with Nobody Like Him and followed up with Someone Like You. We met Joe and Anna in previous books – Joe is Lizzie’s (from Someone Like You) sister and Anna is friends with the two previous heroes and had a long-ago relationship with one of them. They’ve stayed friends and Anna attended Ry’s wedding to Julia which is where she met Joe. They had a great night and Joe took her home but in the light of day Anna couldn’t get away quick enough. Even though she’s been separated from Alex, her husband for a little while now, Anna still hasn’t told her old-school Italian family that the marriage is over. It’s something she’s been dreading and so she lies to them at regular family dinners and events, pretending that Alex is busy working. There’s only so long you can put off the inevitable though!

I married a man whose parents were both born in Sicily. They came here separately and other members of their family and community came here too, all settling in the one town and making a big, Italian bubble. My mother-in-law is a staunch Catholic who goes to church about a hundred times per week and every event is filled with people, noise and food. I get the whole Italian thing. My husband was also married before me, so he was the first person in his extended family to get a divorce (although he wasn’t married either time in a Catholic church so it’s quite possible no one really considered him married anyway). A lot is made of Anna’s reluctance and inability to tell her parents but in the end, when she does, pretty much nothing happens except of course, them being supportive and feeling for her. A bit later her mother is scandalised when Anna brings Joe to an engagement party, even though most of their extended circle isn’t aware of the fact that she’s split up with her husband and she also attempts to begin setting Anna up with new, eligible and of course, Italian men. It’s interesting, because my husband is one of three boys and none of them married or were pressured to marry, Italian women. But – he has quite a lot of female cousins and most, if not all of them, married Italian men, if they married at all. His male cousins also married non-Italian women as well…perhaps they were attempting to avoid marrying versions of their mother! A lot of the scenes involving Anna’s family were things I’ve experienced before, with the possible exception of the one where people begin asking Joe’s intentions. Do people still ask intentions in this day and age?

I liked Joe in Lizzie’s book but I found that I actually liked him less in this one. I found that he was quite bossy and pushy, trying to get to the bottom of why Anna is reluctant to see him again and I sort of just felt like saying no means no, ok Joe? His persistence made him like a dog with a bone – or like he was on the lead of a good story. He plays reporter a bit too much in his personal life quizzing people and trying to find a way in, get them to confess things and it didn’t seem fair. The story takes place over the course of about nine or ten months, so in some ways, it does seem like things evolve between Joe and Anna. Even though she resolves to stay away, she finds herself returning again and again to Middle Point, and of course, running into Joe. They do start to spend time together but just when you think they might be on the way to happy ever after, Anna discovers something about Joe that is utterly the opposite of how she feels. It’s a big issue, one that is probably a dealbreaker for many people and Anna decides that she has to end it, for the sake of herself and the thing she wants probably the most out of life. What I found a bit unrealistic was that how someone who was as adamant as Joe on the topic somehow totally turns around – obviously someone had to in order for them to get back together. But it felt very abrupt and like there could’ve been more done between them, working this issue out rather than it kind of magically resolving itself whilst they were apart.

6/10

Book #258 of 2014

AWWW2014

Book #94 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

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Review: Someone Like You – Victoria Purman

Someone Like YouSomeone Like You (Boys of Summer #2)
Victoria Purman
Harlequin AUS
2014, 335p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Lizzie Blake isn’t too keen about being roped in to being Meals on Wheels to Dan McSwaine but she can’t really say no to the people that asked her. After all, one is her best friend and the other one is her boss. So she hauls herself up to his beach shack and knocks on his door, offering the best Middle Point pub has to offer. Only to have the door slammed in her face.

Dan has changed since the cocky, gorgeous guy who sauntered into the pub a few months ago with a wink and a smile. There’d been a glimpse of something between the two of them and Lizzie had been looking forward to exploring that a little more, maybe getting to know Dan. But then his car met a truck on the highway to Adelaide and Dan was severely injured – lucky to even survive. He is holed up now in his shack, looking like the Wild Man of Borneo and letting life go by. And so his best friend and business partner Ry, who happens to be engaged to Lizzie’s best friend Julia and Lizzie’s boss has decided that it’s time to get Dan back into the land of the living. And Lizzie is the perfect person to implement his plan.

Because although Dan has changed, there’s still something of the old Dan there. And there’s definitely a whole lot of the chemistry that sparked between him and Lizzie before, as well. All Dan wants is a bit of peace and quiet and for everyone to leave him alone. But against all odds, he suddenly finds himself realising that maybe, just maybe, that isn’t what he really wants. Maybe what he really wants is blonde haired, blue eyed and determined to drag him back into life again.

Someone Like You is the second in Victoria Purman’s Boys of Summer trilogy, the first being Nobody But Him, the story of Ry and Julia reconnecting after many years. Now it’s the turn of their best friends – in Nobody But Him, readers saw sparks between Dan and Lizzie and I was pretty excited when I found out that the next book would be their story. Dan’s accident was always going to make things more interesting and I was keen to see if this book was going to deliver on the promise constructed in the first novel.

The short answer to that would be yes, it does. Purman eases the characters back from their interaction in the first book by having them not cross paths since. When they do, Lizzie is shocked by the way Dan looks now and his desire to stay reclusive in Julia’s old house. Even though he slams the door in her face, she continues her deliveries, sneaking away before he can see her. When he finally catches her in the act, the two of them discover that the chemistry hasn’t gone anywhere at all.

I loved the glimpses of Dan that I got in Nobody But Him and was glad to see him become such a fully fleshed out character in this book. He’s not the cocky, confident man he once was – the accident has truly shaken him both physically and mentally. He’s having some trouble dealing with it and just wants to hide away from the world. He and Lizzie have a great spark and they bounce off each other so effortlessly. Both of them make a multitude of mistakes in this book – they’re both packing some issues and some of those issues are rather similar. However despite their mistakes and the feeling that sometimes it’s just the wrong time, they still can’t keep away from each other. They keep coming back to each other, keep supporting each other in different way, keep slowly building the grounds of a relationship until it sneaks right up on them that they’ve fallen into one without really communicating it in so many words. They both respect each other, they want more for each other and they understand each other. They can talk about things with each other that they can’t share with others. And of course, the sex is off the charts for both of them.

Lizzie too, is given much greater depths. On the surface she comes across as settled and having no problems but slowly the layers are peeled away from her and the reader gets to know her and why she’s still in Middle Point and the various things she’s gone through when she was very young. She’s much more caring and feels a responsibility in more ways than one towards people, especially Dan. Whereas I would’ve given up after someone slammed a door in my face, she keeps delivering the meals, keeps going making small inroads until she begins to see some real progress with Dan. However things really aren’t easy for them and both of them have to keep adjusting to the setbacks they experience, regathering themselves and then trying to go forward again. It’s a dance that’s been done many times before but it’s very well done here. It’s a fine balance between throwing up romantic conflict and tension and the reader feeling like they’re being jerked around by large numbers of obstacles.

Someone Like You is a great second installment in the trilogy. We’re treated to plenty of Ry and Julia, which will please readers like myself who always like to know how couples are getting on after the end of the book and we’re introduced to the couple who will take center stage for the third book. I’m looking forward to it and seeing how Dan and Lizzie are going as well has how the next couple find their HEA.

8/10

Book #24 of 2014

AWWW2014

Someone Like You is book #11 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014

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Nobody But Him – Victoria Purman

Nobody But HimNobody But Him
Victoria Purman
Harlequin MIRA
2013, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Julia left her hometown – a small town called Middle Point on the coast of South Australia – for Melbourne and university when she was just eighteen. She had big plans to become something, to lead an exciting life and none of those could come to fruition in Middle Point.

Fifteen years later and Julia is back in Middle Point. She’s been forced to take some time out of her high flying crisis management consultant job and head back to her hometown to sort through her mother’s house and her belongings and finally decide what to do. Her mother died 12 months ago but Julia has been putting this off. She knows that if she sells the house, she’s cutting her ties to Middle Point forever. And now that she’s back there, now that she’s seeing it all again through fresh adult eyes, she’s not sure that she’s ready for that.

It doesn’t help that she’s run into Ryan Blackburn. Ry and Julia had a thing all those years ago, before she left the town and left him. Now Ry is the owner of the local pub and a land developer and he also happens to be living in the house next door to Julia’s. Julia should finish up what she’s doing as quickly as possible and head straight back to Melbourne, especially when Ryan seems hostile…and very unavailable. But it’s a small town and the more they see each other, the more the attraction from so long ago begins to heat up again between them.

Falling into bed with Ryan is delicious but all of the old problems are still there. Julia still doesn’t want to settle down in Middle Point – she loves her job and her busy life in Melbourne. And Ry is about to embark on a big project, something that has Julia questioning their connection and if she knows him at all. However she’s about to discover that walking away from Ry and Middle Point isn’t going to be as easy second time around.

Nobody But Him is Victoria Purman’s first novel and the first in her trilogy to be set in Middle Point, a town on the coast of South Australia based loosely around those on the Fleurieu Peninsula. In this one, Julia has returned to her hometown in order to pack up her childhood home after the death of her mother some 12 months ago. Most of the houses along the beachfront have been sold, torn down and rebuilt as monstrosities but Julia’s mother hung onto theirs. It’s decorated in 70s style kitsch and Julia has to decide if she sells it and lets go of her life here finally or chooses just to rent it out. Despite the fact that this choice should’ve been easy for her, given how swiftly she left all those years ago, she finds herself torn as to what to do about the house.

Julia also finds that her summer teenage fling Ryan Blackburn is a permanent fixture in Middle Point, having purchased the local pub. Although he also runs a development business and has offices in the city, Ry spends a lot of time in Middle Point which means the two of them are forced into seeing each other and discover that the old attraction is still simmering away. Years ago Ry begged Julia not to leave but to his view, she got in her car and drove off without looking back. It’s fair to say that at first, he still harbours quite a lot of resentment towards Julia for leaving him, especially as after she did so, he made a few mistakes. Their first few encounters are a bit awkward but when Ry offers to help Julia with fixing up the house, a truce of sorts appears…and then more.

I really like the whole ‘returning home’ story line, especially in a romance novel and especially where there’s a teenage love involved. However I really wish that in this book, we’d been treated to more of Julia and Ryan from 15 years ago. Purnman does a great job exploring the chemistry that still lingers in the present day, building it up again but I’d have loved a better snapshot from their time long ago, to really see the connection they established. I’d have liked a bit more about Julia leaving too – some of those scenes could’ve really added a more emotional punch to the novel and given the reader a bit of a better understanding about how, 15 years down the track, they were both still so affected by each other.

I really enjoyed the setting in this novel – I haven’t been to South Australia, nor have I read too many books set there, especially out of Adelaide so it was a good opportunity to get to know another part of the country. Middle Point was going through a bit of a change, where a lot of the older houses were being bought up  and redeveloped by wealthy people from the city but it still maintained its small town feel and close knit community. That is evidenced by how much people care about the new development and want to make sure it will respect the community and not overdevelop it. It made me want to visit this stretch of the coastline!

The secondary characters in this novel were very enjoyable as well and I found myself really liking Julia’s best friend Lizzie, who also manages the pub for Ry. She’s the heroine in the next novel so I’m definitely looking forward to reading her story.

Nobody But Him is a very enjoyable read and a great way to kick off a trilogy because it has me excited to return to the area and get to know a couple of characters a lot better. Thankfully the wait for book #2 isn’t too long!

8/10

Book #250 of 2013

AWW2013

Nobody But Him is book #91 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

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