Outback Surrender (2003) by Margaret Way, Harlequin Romance #3775. This guest review was submitted by fellow reader Senetra for TBR Challenge. Please take a moment to read all the other reviews of our participants here.
I started and restarted this review several times, and couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say about this book, so I’m just going to lay it out there. I got halfway through and realized that there were more characters than plot, and a quarter of them were dead, but still show up. Here goes:
Shelley – Heroine – Martyr to her family, trauma in her past, keeping the family finances together.
Brock – Hero – Disowned by grandpa, traumas in his past, ready to avenge his mother and find out where his dad went.
Amanda – Shelley’s sister. Very pretty, parent’s favorite, doesn’t do any work around the family’s station. Acknowledged to be “loose” by several characters, but they live 3 hours away from town. Who’s she getting it on with?
Sean – Shelley’s dead twin brother. After overheating while outside, he mysteriously drowned at the age of six, but Shelley still sees him and talks to him daily. Parents never moved on after his death, him being the only son and all that.
Patrick – Shelley’s dad. He’s been drinking since Sean’s death. Who ran things till Shelley grew up?
Shelley’s unnamed mom – she lives holed up in her room, mourning Sean’s death.
Rex Kingsley – Hero’s granddad – Evil rich dying man who wants his grandson to come home so he can inherit things. Visited by the ghost of his dead daughter.
Catherine – Hero’s mom – dead of cancer (heartbreak, really) after her father banished her and her son. Her ghost visits Rex on his deathbed, and he talks to her.
Rory – Hero’s dad – MIA since the hero was six, never got along with father-in-law
Aaron – Phillip’s dad, Catherine’s brother, Rex’s son. Died when Philip was very young.
Phillip – Hero’s cousin – spineless dude who stayed for the abuse in hopes of inheriting, thinks heroine will marry him, even after she tells him that she will not marry him.
Frances – Hero’s aunt by marriage – parents worked 2 jobs each to put her through school; she got a degree in economics, married an innocent rich guy (everyone else saw her coming), got pregnant, broke his heart, so he let himself get gored by a bull and died. Seriously. And she’s having an affair with dying grandpa’s lawyer
Gerald – Dying grandpa’s shady lawyer – Destroys the will after grandpa dies, claiming that since no one had signed it, it was invalid anyway
Eula – Long-time housekeeper with a bad memory – Witnessed the will the lawyer destroyed; she made a copy using the fax machine, then promptly lost it. Much fretting ensues, irritating both me and Shelley.
Christine – character from another story. Her purpose? Deus ex machina.
Harriet – former schoolteacher who now owns a Thai restaurant that would be suitable for a showing of Shelley’s botanical artwork.
Mick Donovan – runs the town’s only pub.
On to the plot. Brock comes home from Ireland, runs into Shelley, realizes how beautiful she is now. Says stuff to Shelley like “You want the truth? You’re simply too sweet, too soft, too succulent. And I’m too hungry. I couldn’t have it ending in tears.” Shelley goes back home to the station and thinks about what she has to do to prepare for guests, but doesn’t really DO anything. Nobody really DOES anything. Brock flies over in the helicopter to visit, Phillip flies over in the helicopter to visit, Brock and Phillilp fly over in the helicopter to visit. You see where I’m going with this, right?
Amanda gets chased by an angry kangaroo. At some point, Brock and (virgin!) Shelley do it outside, in a cave or on the grass or something. Christine runs into Shelley in town. In another book, Shelley apparently gave them the clue they needed to decipher a map and find a fortune in gold, and they are giving Shelley money to thank her. Since Shelley can now afford to leave her family and pursue her dream of being a botanical artist, she refuses. Brocka and Shelley do it by a creek where she remembers that Sean was sick from the heat and Amanda left them alone, then Sean fell in the water. Frances plots with the lawyer and Rex dies. The old will leaving Phillip in control is produced. Brock is angry and going to sue the lawyer for misconduct. Patrick tells Shelley she is going to marry Phillip and have security. They are going to put Rex in the mausoleum with Aaron, but it’s locked and they have to break it open. Then they find Rory’s skeleton with a bullet hole in the skull. Phillp and Brock bond over the evil that was Rex and decide that they will tear down the mausoleum. Eula frets about her bad memory. The will isn’t in the Chinese vase, it’s in the Chinese chest! Brock wins everything! Gerald is forced to retire! Phillip becomes manager of a smaller station. Brock and Shelley get married. Patrick walks her down the aisle. One of Shelley’s bridesmaids (unseen before now) is the heroine of the next book, and Shelley even muses that Nicole has her own dramatic story to tell and traumas to deal with.
I went around and around with the grade for this book. There wasn’t a specific point I could point to and say “That’s where it went wrong.” The whole book is where it went wrong. F.
This book is part of the Koomera Crossing series. For interested readers, you can read a sample chapter of the story here.