Author: Karly Lane
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 28 April, 2020
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
Karly Lane has long been one of my favourite Australian authors with her signature style of steam, stock and snark with a huge helping of heart and humour.
Fool Me Once takes us into the farming regions of New South Wales where Georgie Henderson is managing a property, a role that she loves but is using to gain experience and save madly to try and buy back her beloved childhood farm.
Lane explores women in farming and gives us a close up look at some of the struggles facing Georgie simply because she’s a woman. The chauvinistic attitudes of those believing a man could do it better, and the assumptions made about why she does what she does. Lane has written a strong, capable and intelligent farmer in Georgie and she certainly evokes admiration.
Georgie is very much career focused and doesn’t take much time off but her childhood best friend can be quite persuasive, and so she finds herself at a B&S Ball; feeling over dressed, under intoxicated and way too old. A feeling that I could completely relate to, I think we all get to an age where we head out to something and wonder how we got so much older than the rest of the crowd.
Shannon is much more of a party girl and she is having a great time, especially since being asked to dance by a handsome stranger. Georgie is on the sidelines surveying the scene and trying to work out when she will be able to make her escape when she spots a tall, dark and handsome of her own. There is a lot that makes him stand out, not least of all being the much better cut of his suit than those worn by the rest of the crowd.
There was much that I found predictable in Fool Me Once, events I could see coming from a mile away and that is often the case with this genre. Lane writes in a way that ensures that there are little surprises along the way even when you can pick the events. She creates characters that draw me in so fully that I’m engrossed in their struggles and the predictability takes a backseat.
Georgie approaches the standout stranger, noticing that he is also sober and probably her best chance of conversation. It seems that Michael was also dragged along by his more extroverted brother Brent, who happens to be the one dancing with Shannon.
It wouldn’t be a B&S Ball without testosterone getting in the way and a fight breaking out over a women; though Georgie never would have thought she’d be the woman, and she wouldn’t have picked Michael to be the type to get in a fight.
Georgie leaves the ball and Michael claims a lift so that he can leave the car with Brent. So begins a whirlwind romance that neither of these two ever would have seen coming, totally out of character for both of them.
Georgie finds herself sharing information that she usually wouldn’t and tells Michael about the pain and anger she is still suffering over the loss of her family farm at the hands of a corporation and her dream to one day buy it back.
On the surface Georgie and Michael are from very different worlds, they both work in the same field but their jobs have little in common. Georgie finds it difficult to see any similarities between them but can’t deny the chemistry that sets her insides on fire.
Fool Me Once tackles the very real struggles of farmers on the land trying to keep family properties viable and the pressure they sometimes face from corporations accruing land for profit, haranguing landholders until they feel forced to sell. Lane has employed her insight and knowledge of the farming community to explore this issue from a variety of directions, we see the issue from both the victim and the corporate perspective but Lane also looks at two very different corporate business models.
Once again Lane played with my heartstrings and I found myself reading the last few chapters through a sheen of moisture, no tears fell but they were certainly sitting in the wings waiting for me to let my guard down.
Fool Me Once is a story of farming, family legacies, love and letting go. It was filled with characters who challenge one another to be better, to look deeper and to see to the heart of their pain and work out how to move past it.
I love Fool Me Once and I think it’s going to be a hit for long time fans of Lane, and any one who is just being introduced to her work now.
Fool Me Once is book #11 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2020.
Fool Me Once is published by Allen & Unwin and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold. In these uncertain times it would be great to try and support a local bookstore, many of the ones in my area have put systems in place to fulfil orders even though their physical stores may be closed to the public.