Book Review: A Girl's Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate
Financial whiz Kim is working her dream job… helping a youth ministry grow and help troubled and underprivileged kids. She’s got plans to do more, but is thwarted by Sam, the ministry’s charismatic pastor who has an inexplicable aversion to growing the ministry. When Sam takes off for Australia to help his sister on the family farm, the ministry’s board gives Kim an ultimatum; get Sam back and get him on board with the growth plan, or the ministry’s closing down. Which is how Kim finds herself thigh-deep in mud on a Queensland dairy cattle farm, avoiding Australia’s legendarily lethal wildlife and battling an inexplicable attraction for the man whose fault it is that she’s in this mess in the first place.
There’s a major subplot with Sam’s sister struggling to keep her farm afloat. Kim lends her expertise to try and figure a way out of things, and I have to say I really didn’t expect the eventual outcome here; it fits romance’s definition of a happy ending for the concerned parties, yes, but it didn’t have the feel-good conquering adversity message I expected. What we got was actually more like what happens in real life, when things don’t always turn out the way you thought you wanted, but maybe that’s not actually such a bad thing after all. It was pretty deep and meaningful, and there’s a lot of that in this book, actually; a lot of soul-searching by all the major protagonists.
This is Christian fiction and the romance goes no further than kissing (doesn’t even hint at more, except for doggy romances!) and Sam’s career as a youth pastor makes a certain amount of religious references obligatory. Unlike a couple of Christian fiction books I’ve read recently, though, this one didn’t come off as evangelising at all. The faith expressed by the characters was deeply personal, never obtrusive onto others. It’s subtle and well done, and I think a lot more authors could learn from this author’s light touch on the topic.
At some 368 pages, this is pretty long, and yes, there were a few scenes I thought could have been cut entirely or pared back a lot without affecting the story. Being a little long-winded was about the only critique I really have here, though, so I’m going to give this one a solid four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.