Life is full of little surprises. How else can I explain why I would spend most of the weekend reading a romance novel when I don’t even like romance novels? After all, aren’t romance novels all about some gorgeous young thing falling in love with some other gorgeous young thing, having a few ups and downs and then living happily ever after? At 59 I know that is about as likely as winning the lottery. So how could someone so cynical [and old] find herself unable to put Brumby’s Run down?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that Brumby’s Run is what is called a ‘rural romance’ novel. The story is set in country Victoria, the second most southern state in Australia and the state in which I happen to live. That alone would have been enough to pique my interest but the author, Jennifer Scoullar does more than just set the story in a place that I am familiar with, she makes that place come alive. She makes the brumbies come alive as well and I have loved brumbies since I was a child.
For those who are not familiar with our aussie terms, a brumby is a horse that owes its lineage to the intermixing of hundreds if not thousands of feral horses that have roamed the high country since white settlers came to Australia. Brumbies are not purebreds but they are amazingly hardy, intelligent, resourceful horses. They have to be to survive in a landscape that did not evolve with horses in mind. Brumbies can also be incredibly beautiful and it is obvious from her loving descriptions that Jennifer Scoullar knows them well. She loves horses of all kinds and it is her love affair with them and the land in which they live that makes this novel so compelling.
If I’m to be honest I have to admit that the human characters in Brumbies Run are very likable as well. The story centres around identical twins, Sam and Charlie. The names are masculine but the twins are actually eighteen year old girls. Until the beginning of the story they have never met each other because they were separated at birth. Their biological mother Mary had the twins as a teenager and knew she could not raise both of them so in desperation she gave one of the twins – Samantha – up for adoption. Sam was raised by a wealthy family from Melbourne and grew up with all that money could buy. She had her own horse, the best schooling, an elegant home, trips overseas. In short, she had the lot. The only thing Sam did not have was a happy family life.
Charlie, the twin who stayed with Mary, grew up dirt poor on the run down property her mother had inherited and could not manage. Charlie grew up wild with a huge chip on her shoulder but she did have the freedom to do what she wanted to do and that was to work with horses.
The twins might never have met had Charlie not become ill with cancer. Only her identical twin could save her but Sam did not even know she was adopted. And so the scene was set for the development of some very interesting relationships.
Without giving the whole storyline away I’ll just say that I found the relationships between the twins and their two sets of parents very satisfying as Scoullar depicted all of the adults as flawed human beings and that made them seem very real. She made the twins seem very real as well, although there were some things that made me raise an eyebrow. For instance when Sam arrives at her biological mother’s property, Brumby’s Run, she is completely on her own in a run down house with no electricity. She has no light and no way to store fresh food or cook [the stove is electric as well]. Yet this city girl settles in without a qualm and even copes with the outdoor dunny [toilet] and a water-tank full of mosquito ‘wrigglers’.
As a city girl myself I’m pretty sure I would have got in my car and driven to the nearest motel but then again I am a bit of a wimp. In the story though Sam’s make-do attitude seemed right somehow and made her gradual transformation from city girl to country girl more believable.
And now to the romance. There is quite a bit of romance in Brumby’s Run and it did not make me pull a face. The male love interests were recognizably aussie ‘blokes’ and had their strengths and weaknesses, just like the girls. Drew was perhaps just a tiny bit too ‘nice’ at times but even at his nicest he never descended into the perfect man that so many romance novelists create. None of the males in Brumby’s Run were cardboard cut-outs and for that Jennifer Scoullar has my undying gratitude!
Last but not least a word about the craft of writing. I know that the author had a professional editor for Brumby’s Run but, having read an unedited short story she wrote I can say with all honesty that the beauty of the prose is all hers. Crisp, clean, evocative. Brumby’s Run is a rich, layered, well-written story that just happens to be a romance.
I apologize for my very obvious bias and would just like to finish by saying that despite my bias I enjoyed Brumby’s Run immensely and would recommend it to anyone, even guys.