OPAL RIDGE by Victoria Capper


The Opal Ridge Series
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A spunky young woman and a brooding young man fall in love when she comes to work on his family’s sheep farm.

Set in the Australian Outback, Capper’s debut novel is a romance between Charles Carmody, who runs his family’s sheep station, and Jenna MacKenzie, the high-spirited woman hired as their new “jillaroo,” or farmhand. Jenna, who takes the job at the last minute to replace her injured brother, is immediately attracted to Charles, and the feeling is mutual. Yet Charles—who “always found women wanting; too emotional, too flighty, or too selfish; or too conniving, maybe too demanding”—vowed never to have women set foot on Carmody Plains again. He expresses his burgeoning feelings for Jenna by being rude and cold to her. As expected, the two banter and argue before giving in to their deep-seated attraction. A series of secondary characters, including Charles’ family, his friend Tony, and Jenna’s friend Thea, round out the story and provide more colorful support to the central plot. Capper clearly has a great feeling and affection for the Australian bush, and the details she includes about sheep shearing are quite interesting. The Australian terms she works into the narrative mostly integrate seamlessly into the story. Her descriptions of the landscape—e.g., the kookaburras “laughing down by the water” and the “bell-like sounds of top-knot pigeons”—are lovely and evocative. Yet the plot itself is quite predictable, and much of the story unfolds through clunky exposition instead of developing more organically. For example, when Charles is first introduced, the text states outright that “Charles had always been very wary with his romantic relationships. His father had had a disastrous second marriage….He didn’t want to go the same way his father had.” Such information could have been presented more gradually and subtly through character development; cramming it together all at once reeks of too much telling instead of showing. This novel is intended as the first in a series, so future outings will hopefully allow for improved character development while still maintaining the sense of awe and wonder in the Outback.

A formulaic romance in a fascinating setting.

Pub Date: March 11th, 2015
Page count: 187pp
Publisher: Australian eBook Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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