Received from the author
A cow, a cowgirl and a divorcee walk into a bar...
Three unlucky-in-love girlfriends make a road trip to the Outback Bachelor & Spinster Ball, a highlight of rural Australian life. One's looking to move on, one’s thumbing her nose at romance, and one's looking to slip away and hide. None of them are looking for love...
Three women are about to meet their match in a cowboy, a soldier and a country rock star. One magical night. One less than magical morning after.
Forty-eight hours can change your life.
‘The Outback Bachelor Ball’ is a contemporary rural romance novella series from Canadian Joan Kilby, New Zealander Karina Bliss and one of my favourite Aussie romance authors, Sarah Mayberry. The novellas can be read out of order as stand-alones, but they are probably best read as a trilogy – with first novella ‘Win Me’, followed by ‘Woo Me’ and concluding with ‘Wait For Me’.
Confession: I don’t particularly like rural romances. I know, I know – stone the flamin’ crows, and after I wrote a whole spiel about why people should read New Adult romance and not reject the entire subgenre out of hand too! I know. I can’t help it – but when I think “rural” I’m more likely to go to a ‘Wolf Creek’ place than a men of ‘McLeod’s Daughters’ headspace. Luckily, the ‘The Outback Bachelor Ball’ wooed me with Joan Kilby’s first instalment, ‘Win Me’ – in which we’re introduced to the series’ three heroines, who are as dubious about rural Australian courtship as I am;
Amused, Ellie and Beth exchanged glances. Jen was always efficient and super organized. Ellie clicked on the link and the first photo that came up was of a naked, drunken cowboy gyrating with an empty beer can on his dick. They all howled with laughter.
“Now there’s your Prince Charming,” Jen said.
“Oh, yuck. It’s all drunken yobs, wet T-shirt competitions and if you’re lucky, a quick fuck in the back of a truck.” Beth said, checking out the site. “Even the title sucks – Bachelor and Spinster Ball. I’m not a dried-up old spinster, I’m a highly desirable…” She hunted for the right term.
“Spachelor?” Jen suggested and they dissolved into fits again.
— Win Me by Joan Kilby
Ellie McFarlane is our first heroine – she’s coming home from America where she’s been learning all about cattle ranch management, and though she’s excited to take charge of the family business, she can’t deny that returning home to her long-time crush and station manager Rick Drummond is another plus. But Ellie has to contend with Rick’s sense of proprietary when it comes to his feelings for his boss’ daughter (the man who is also his mentor, and more of a father to him).
Second novella ‘Woo Me’ is about Jen Tremaine; prickly and disillusioned with love – until she turns up to the Outback Bachelor and Spinster Ball with her two best friends, and keeps running into sexy security guard Logan Turner … he’s an ex-Special Forces soldier and their chemistry is electric.
Third and final is Sarah Mayberry’s ‘Wait For Me’, about Beth Walker who is coming off heartbreak and scandal after it was revealed that her country music star husband had been cheating on her, and for a long time. She’s leaving America and coming home to Australia, and her two besties – Jen and Ellie – who are keen to help Beth mend her broken heart. But the person who really ends up helping is an old friend called Jonah Masters, rising country music star and someone Beth shared a connection with many years ago …
Tying all three novellas together is the women’s friendship, and the B&S ball that acts as the setting to their ‘Stella Got Her Groove Back’ moments;
He didn’t trust himself to speak, so he simply pulled her close, tightening his arms around her and resting his cheek on the top of her head. No woman had ever felt so right, so at home in his arms and he figured he would be chasing this feeling for the rest of his life, always trying to find the same sense of peace and belonging.
— Wait For Me by Sarah Mayberry
I rather enjoyed these rural romance reads – some a little more than others – but I do think that each one had a hand in chipping away at my rural romance hang-ups. I liked that the women’s friendship was the foundation for the series, and that the authors went into the more ludicrous aspects of the famed B&S ball – arguably, that dose of reality didn’t endear me to rural romance settings, but I appreciated the honesty.
Sarah Mayberry’s ‘Wait For Me’ was my favourite of the novellas – arguably because it has that cheating spouse storyline I weirdly like (I’m in the romance-reading minority on this one, trust me – I know) and probably because it had that hint of a ‘Nashville’ storyline with the country music scene (I admit: I went to a Keith Urban place … not a bad place to be, at all). I loved that Mayberry drew out Beth and Jonah’s complicated history, and I always love a good ‘Sliding Doors’ second chances romance.
‘The Outback Bachelor Ball’ is a pretty great little bundle of rural romance – and I’m saying that as someone for whom this is not her go-to subgenre! My overall rating probably more reflects that I thought the first two books were okay, but Mayberry's was more of a 4/5 for me ... so I'm splitting the difference.