Author: Karly Lane
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 30 November, 2021
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Karly Lane is a firm favourite of mine, and though I have a few of her earlier backlist titles to catch up on I have read the bulk of her titles; and enjoyed them all.

Once Burnt, Twice Shy would have to be one of my favourites, and there are lots of reasons for that.

Number one reason is this … actually it’s not the number one reason but it is the one I’m going to start with. The guinea fowl. I know that might sound strange but I follow Lane on social media so I see a lot of what she posts about, what happens on her farm, and the guinea fowl do get a lot of mentions. They aren’t birds I’m overly familiar with, and Lane does not make me want to go out and get some. The dozen of them that appear in this novel are amusing, painfully so for the characters in the story, but I have a feeling that they are inspired by the ones on Lane’s own farm.

I love the story and the characters but the real number one reason this book is probably one of my favourites is the focus on the bushfires and the fire service. Australians everywhere would remember the horrifically tragic bushfires of 2019/20 and the toll they took. This is not a time in Australian history that we are going to forget any time soon, huge percentages of the country were a raging inferno that refused to be controlled. Lane has taken her experiences and the experiences of those around her to weave that time in our recent history into an enduring story of the courage and resilience shown by so many. The struggles faced, the shortage of Fire Service personnel, and the way that communities came together to rally and do what they could to support the fire fighters and those displaced by the fire.

Sam’s relationship with her horse was something just beautiful, especially the more we learnt about their bond and how long they’d been together.

All of this was much higher on my list of reasons to love this book than the element of romance, the second chances trope and the characters; though these were also definite reasons to love the story.

Sam Murphy is recently divorced, no longer the owner of a chic homewares boutique and an empty nester, life on the Sunshine Coast seems to be losing it’s appeal. She returns home to house-sit the family farm while her parents take a trip around the world and finds that it’s a much bigger job than she remembered. Luckily she has the tight-knit community around her to help – and her dad has asked everyone to look in on her.

Jack Cameron is the nearest neighbour and still a friend of her parent’s so he stops in to say Hi and offer any help she may need. The two catch up and things seem to be going okay, until they aren’t. Jack soon realises that ancient history isn’t as ancient as he thought and he still harbours more than a little resentment towards Sam for events of the past.

There is a pretty mean fire burning in the adjacent National Park and Jack is spending a lot of time out with the Rural Fire Service trying to contain it. They already hold out little hope of controlling the fire so the aim is to contain it; to keep it away from the outlying farms and the township.

NSW is in a drought, the worst drought on record and there’s no sign of it breaking. The fire in the National Park is starting to make even the hardiest farmers nervous and Sam is sometimes wondering what’s she’s got herself into. She’s loving being back home, and able to catch up with her childhood best friend as often as she likes but she still just isn’t sure what she wants her next chapter to look like.

Sam and Jack fall back into a somewhat easy friendship working together on both properties to keep everything in order – and prepare for the worst just in case. The fire causes everyone to do some soul searching about what’s important and re-evaluate.

These two were childhood sweethearts and for a while they thought they had it all figured it out … but it wasn’t to be. Jack was left devastated but the two moved forward separately, both married and had children; sometimes seeing each other in passing when Sam was home to visit. Now Sam is back and they are both divorced but can either of them risk another heartbreak.

The second chance storyline that Lane has written for Sam and Jack felt really authentic, I could see it unfolding the way it did.

I loved everything about this one. The town, the characters and the animals; the struggles and the never-ending effort of the RFS. It broke my heart to read of the heartbreaking decisions that sometimes have to be made between doing what’s ordered by those who see their big picture and doing what you feel is right for yourself and your neighbours. Who could bear the thought of driving away from your own property, knowing it’s right in the line of fire, to focus efforts on fighting the fire in another place.

I feel that Lane put a lot of time and effort into researching the rebuilding phase after a bushfire and learning about what was in place to help property owners and the displaced; but also how much of a strain was put on the organisations that were there to offer assistance because there was so much demand and so much loss. A beautifully written and emotionally engaging tale of family, friendship, community, second chances and the resilience we must find in the face of extreme adversity.

A beautiful read that made me laugh, made me cry, and made me remember the devastation, the loss and the heroic efforts of our emergency services.

Thank you Karly Lane for a beautiful story, and thanks to Allen & Unwin for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Karly Lane loves to hear from her readers, you can find her on FacebookTwitterInstagram and her Website.

Once Burnt, Twice Shy is published by Allen & Unwin and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.