Today we welcome Meredith Shayne with her latest novel
|Bottom Drawer Publications|
A twenty-year veteran of the shearing shed, Aussie Shane Cooper loves his job, and the home he’s made for himself in New Zealand. If he’s a little lonely, he’s got good mates to keep his spirits up. When a hot, cocky young shearer named Lachlan Moore catches his eye at a competition, he’s content to look but not touch, knowing the young man is out of his league.
Lachie wouldn’t mind a piece of Shane, but the gorgeous gun shearer from Australia is soon forgotten when the Christchurch earthquake hits, and tragedy strikes Lachie’s family. Lachie deals with it the best he can, cutting himself off from all he knows. A year later and he’s back in the shearing shed, out of practice and lacking confidence. That Shane’s there to watch him flounder doesn’t help his nerves.
As Lachlan struggles to re-acclimatise, Shane can’t resist giving him a hand to get back on his feet. As they move from friends to something more, Shane finds himself wanting to know everything he can about Lachie. But Lachie’s got secrets he desperately wants to keep, and when things come to a head, those secrets might just mean the end of them before they’ve truly begun.
SHANE AND Lachlan raced at the start of every run, and while Lachlan didn’t ever beat Shane, his numbers climbed steadily over time until he’d made a respectable total by the time they cut out. His mood seemed to climb with the numbers of sheep he sheared, so that while he still shut himself away every night to talk on the phone, afterwards he spent less and less time talking with Shane and more and more time with the partyers. Shane sat on the periphery of the merriment and watched, glad to see the improvement in Lachlan’s mood even as disappointment sat heavy in his stomach. Not that he had a right to be disappointed; he’d helped the guy a little, they hadn’t made a blood oath to become best friends or anything. It was only right that once Lachlan felt better he’d start hanging out with people his own age again.
It was only when they were back at the contractor’s after the job was done that Shane realised the fact that hope sprang eternal was going to be the death of him. There was a pub just near the contractor’s offices, and Shane had entertained the thought of suggesting to Lachlan that they knocked back some of the beers he’d won from Lachlan there, after they’d finished up, since from what he’d heard in the van on the way back neither of them had plans to leave Hawke’s Bay that night. But he hadn’t got around to suggesting it when Lachlan walked up to him with a plastic shopping bag in his hand.
He offered Shane the bag. Inside it was a twelve-pack of beer. “Here’s the beer I owe you. Well, there’s one more than what I owe you, but that can be a thank you for helping me.”
“Ah.” So much for drinking them together. Shane let his head droop a bit as he looked in the bag, swallowing down the sigh that threatened to escape him. “Thanks, mate. You didn’t have to do that. Buy me extra. Or buy me that many.” He smiled, but he knew it didn’t reach his eyes. “A couple of beers down the pub and I’d have called it even.”
“Nah, a bet’s a bet, right? I should give you the right amount.” Lachlan smiled at him. “Listen, a few of us are going to the pub for dinner if you want to come.”
“Oh, no, I’ve got—” Shane shook his head. “I’m leaving pretty early in the morning, and I’ve got a few things to do before then, so . . . maybe next time.”
“Okay.” Lachlan stuck out his hand. “See you around then.”
“Yeah, see you, Lachlan.” Shane shook his hand. “Nice meeting you.”
Lachlan smiled. “You can call me Lachie, everyone else does. It was nice meeting you too.”
With that he was gone. Shane forced himself not to watch him leave, heading out of the contractor’s grounds in the other direction, even though it would mean doubling back to get to his hotel. When he got to the hotel he had a shower then switched the TV on without paying attention to what was on, then cracked open a beer, settling in for the night.
LACHIE’S HEART sank as he watched Shane go, trying to think of something to say, some reason to call him back. As soon as he’d laid eyes on him from across the car park, he’d recognised Shane as the shearer he’d seen win the seniors’ division during the last competition he’d been at a lifetime ago—when he’d had a different life. When he’d been a better shearer. His stomach had twisted with an unpleasant stab of nerves at the sight of the hot shearer with the steely-blue eyes and the air of competence and confidence that just radiated from him when he was on the board. He’d worked with some of the shearers on this job before, but he wouldn’t have called any of them friends; he’d said yes to the job for that very reason, because none of them knew him well enough to know anything about his life, and he didn’t care enough about any of them to worry that he’d embarrass himself.
He’d cared about embarrassing himself in front of Shane though. Shane had seen him win, had congratulated him on it, and Lachie had known that Shane wasn’t going to see a winner in him on this job. He’d seen a look in Shane’s eyes that made him think that he might have recognised him from Gisborne, but it was easier to just pretend to not remember that they’d met. Faking ignorance or not, he still didn’t want to make a fool of himself in front of the guy.
His count after that first run had been like a knife to the guts. He wasn’t sure why he’d mentioned it to Shane after smoko; maybe it was just because he needed to say something to someone, and Shane had a kind glint in his eye that made it seem like he wouldn’t laugh about it. And he hadn’t. He’d done the complete opposite in fact, and the generosity in the gesture blew Lachie away. He couldn’t remember anyone helping him like that in . . . a long time. He couldn’t remember anyone helping him like that ever. Beer didn’t seem enough to thank him, but Lachie wasn’t sure what else he could do that wouldn’t look weird or way over the top. So he just watched Shane walk away, gathering his courage as he heard a burst of raucous laughter from behind him and someone calling his name. Taking a deep breath, he turned around, pasting a smile on his face, and walked towards the others.
At the beginning of the book we meet Shane, a veteran shearer in his late thirties from Australia but living in New Zealand for a long time, and Lachlan (Lachie), an early twenties junior shearer, while they're both at a shearing competition.
Shane takes one look at the other man and feels stirrings he hasn't felt for a while. Lachlan too is fascinated by the older man, and glances are exchanged, as are a few words, but neither acts on the immediate connection they both feel.
Lachlan returns home to Christchurch just in time for the earthquake to hit and sees his whole life upended. With his father gone and his mother descending into a severe depression, it's up to Lachlan to keep the family together, to put food on the table, to look after his brother and sister, and to take on a job he hates just so he can be at home.
A year later, after a family friend convinces Lachlan to return to shearing, he and Shane are reunited during the shearing season and end up sharing a bunk house, at which point things heat up nicely between them, though they still struggle to move from just sex to more. As they move from job to job, the two get closer, and begin to share the bed in whichever bunk they find themselves. Shane also helps Lachlan find his groove again, and make his numbers climb steadily over the weeks.
This isn't a romance in the traditional sense, and for the most part, this book is a melancholy read, with underlying sadness throughout that pulled on my heartstrings.
It also gives an in-depth view of the life of a shearer, the back-breaking work, the stink and the sweat of the shearing shed, and how shearers descend on a farm, spend a few days working their butts off, and then move on to the next one. It's a hard, difficult life, a nomadic life for the shearing season, and certainly not conducive to a relationship.
It's not an easy read, because both characters suffer so much pain and loss, and both characters have secrets they don't want to reveal. Being a gay shearer is also not something that's smiled upon, so the two keep their relationship mostly quiet, and try to keep it as a friends with benefits arrangement, though both have fallen hard for the other.
The chaos and panic, the loss of life, of homes, of livelihood after the earthquake is described with realism, to the point that I felt I was right there with these people, seeing the buildings crumble, experiencing their pain. The sadness that permeates this book got to me frequently.
The author explored both characters deeply, their insecurities, their fears and their pain. Neither communicates well to the other, which causes problems, and neither is capable of saying what they really want to say. They struggle, they fight, they give up.
They find a way, because love always does, and the ending is both heavy with emotions and ultimately satisfying.
I enjoyed reading this book. I loved the descriptions of the landscape, loved how the author didn't shy back from showing the reality of shearing, working with sheep, and how hard these men work for the money they make.
The writing is crisp, straight-forward, realistic and organic. A wonderfully rounded story, a character study of two men, and a romance that is at, while quiet, also strong and enduring.
** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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About the author:
A scientist in a past life, these days Meredith Shayne mainly uses her scientific training to poke holes in television pseudoscience. Originally from Australia, she moved to New Zealand to start a new life a few years ago and hasn't regretted it for one minute, even if she frequently wishes that the New Zealand weather was a little better; if she's forced, she'll admit that the refreshing lack of animals that can kill you in New Zealand makes up for a little rain.
Meredith travels a lot, so much so that she has developed a shameful love of airplane food and knows her passport number by heart. When she is at home, she enjoys baking, horrible music from the 1980s, reality television, and gloating any time Australia thrashes the living daylights out of New Zealand on the sporting field.
You can find her on her website.
Thanks for stopping by. Until next time, happy reading!!
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