HOLLY FORD ( ALLEN & UNWIN, $32.99)

North & South - - Review -

Chick-lit is an unlovely, di­min­ish­ing term, but it’s hard to know what else to call this ro­mance – a roar-rip­ping bodice-buster, per­haps, with ex­tra live­stock.

Ro­mances are sup­posed to end with a wed­ding, but this be­gins with one. As if that wasn’t genre-bend­ing enough, the heroine al­most has im­promptu sex for her own en­joy­ment. Are we in for a ma­jorly trans­gres­sive sub­ver­sion of the genre?

Not bloody likely. The first “ruggedly hand­some” face looms up on the sec­ond page. It be­longs to Nate, the fel­low wed­ding guest who has taken the fancy of Tess Drum­mond, a Ms Fixit for an in­vest­ment com­pany. His eyes trans­fix hers like a “hare in the head­lights” – thank good­ness the writer didn’t fall back on that hoary old “rab­bit in the head­lights” cliché.

Tess is turn­ing 30 and still has no man. Not, the book says, that there’s any­thing wrong with that. Ex­cept that it’s just the worst thing ever. But there’s lit­tle time to dwell on her celi­bate state – or the fact she nearly had good, no-strings sex – be­cause she’s off to put things right at a run­ning­down farm called Bro­ken Creek (doesn’t sound too promis­ing, does it?).

Imag­ine her sur­prise when the bloke cur­rently running the farm is the bloke with the eyes that turn women into hares. Now she, the hard-headed ex­ec­u­tive, is go­ing to have to duke it out with the sen­ti­men­tal hunk who’s emo­tion­ally at­tached to the farm. And not just him; there are the co­work­ers, too. One is a blind oc­to­ge­nar­ian, one is miss­ing an arm from a fire he started by ac­ci­dent, and one has PTSD from serv­ing in Afghanistan – Charles Dick­ens’ trea­cle sup­ply would have been se­verely de­pleted de­scrib­ing this lot.

And we haven’t even got to the love tri­an­gle yet. Lovers of re­li­able ro­man­tic conventions will not be dis­ap­pointed by The Last Mca­dam. +

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