Elsa’s Stand is an absolutely delightful outback romance, and in a fascinating twist, I’m incredibly well qualified to review some of the ‘technical’ aspects of the plot. Jack Hargreaves, the hero, is an opal miner from Lightning Ridge, left a property by his mother with a sapphire find hidden on it… somewhere. And it just so happens that I’m a member of a lapidary club, with experience of both opal and sapphire hunting myself.
If Cathryn Hein hasn’t been fossicking, she’s definitely consulted thoroughly with someone who has. She uses all the right terminology and really gets the mindset of the lone miner chasing that elusive big strike.
Returning home to Wirralong after his mother’s sudden death, Jack’s first encounter with Elsa is when he walks into her hairdresser’s shop half an hour before his mother’s funeral after a two-day drive. Desperately in need of a shave and a haircut, he helps himself to her clippers when she can’t fit him in because she’s preparing a bride for her wedding, and leaves a hundred bucks on the counter before changing his shirt out in the street.
Born and raised in Wirralong, Elsa knows exactly who Jack is - the son of a black sheep who left chasing dreams of opal. Now he’s back, and staying on his mother’s property searching for a legendary sapphire strike she claimed to have found before her death. Some of the town’s most prominent citizens have already judged him by the sins of his father, but Elsa’s not that type. She’s fascinated by the quiet giant’s strength and fortitude, and he in turn is enchanted by her sunny attitude to life.
I thought Jack and Elsa were such a cute couple. I’d actually say the book was told more from Jack’s point of view than Elsa’s; certainly we got much more of his background, but then I think he was a more nuanced character all around. Elsa was charming but a little bit too good to be true, and I must admit I burst out laughing the first time I read about a hairdresser’s work outfit involving strappy, high-heeled sandals. I’ve never yet met a hairdresser who doesn’t wear the most comfortable flats she can find, considering how much time she’ll spend on her feet in the course of a working day. Twice Elsa wore heels to work, and then when she and Jack finally got a date, she wore flats!
Even with that amusingly unlikely scenario, I enjoyed this so much I have to give it five stars. This is a lovely addition to a delightful series, and can absolutely be read as a standalone.
Elsa's Stand is available now.
Disclaimer; I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.