I wanted something short and fun to read, so I picked this one up. When Clara discovers that her boyfriend's cheating on her, she kicks his butt to the curb and goes on the trip they had planned together-- five days in the Australian outback, riding horses and herding cattle. Her group guide is Evie, a beautiful "jillaroo" (cowgirl) with Aboriginal ancestry. I'm not in a position to say if the Aboriginal representation was good, but it was there, which I appreciated.
Let me start with the things I really enjoyed. One was Clara. The story's written entirely in Clara's point of view. It's also written in first person, which I sometimes have a hard time getting into. Here, I had no problem, and a lot of that was due to Clara's voice. She's bitter and snarky, and I loved it. It works because she just got out of a relationship that ended very poorly, and I think Ripley did a good job conveying that her bitterness toward her fellow travelers (especially Michael and Louise, that lovely couple) was less about them and more about her own unhappiness. She also makes great progress in terms of her mood throughout the trip, which was nice to read.
I also loved the descriptions of Australia. I'm an outdoorsy person (although I don't spend as much time in it as I'd like), so I loved reading about a gorgeous place I've never been to. A few favorite moments:
"Before I crawled into my tent, I took a moment to gaze at the sky. The constellations were all different, everything was out of place, but the stars were so thick and lustrous that I was, for a few seconds, overwhelmed at their grandeur, their beauty. No pollution. No buildings. Nothing between me and the galaxy."
"The land kept going and going, a great sleeping serpent of ochre rock, sand, and dust." So, yeah, some great writing about nature that made me want to go on a hike, even though I am far away from Australia.
My biggest complaint is, as some other reviews have mentioned, the ending. Even for a short book, the ending is abrupt. I was slightly disappointed, too, that the Happily For Now wouldn't last very long at all. Maybe that's just the romantic in me.
A couple minor things I noted and felt could have been changed. One of the characters rides a horse named Gypsy, and at one point, Clara claims a little cow will be her "spirit guide" for the trip. It doesn't seem like "spirit guide" has the same cultural significance as "spirit animal," but it still gave me pause.
Overall, this was a wonderful quick read! I'd definitely read more from Ripley, and I'll have to check out her books under Rebecca Langham.
Thanks to NetGalley, NineStar Press, and Kara Ripley for the advance e-copy.