Author: Amy Andrews
My poor e-reader suffers long periods of neglect so when I was emailed about reviewing the new Amy Andrews book I took it out and dusted it off. Not only was I a fan of Sister Pact, which is the only Amy Andrews I have read – and was written as Ali Ahearn – but Holding Out For A Hero is also to be the first book published under the new Momentum Moonlight digital-only sub-imprint of Pan MacMillan Australia. How could I possibly say no, and now my e-reader knows I haven’t forgotten it.
Much of the story revolves around football which is perfectly fine by me, usually, but this time the football was a code that I am completely unfamiliar with so it took a little getting used to. I have lived in SA for so long that I totally forgot there are other codes of football than AFL. Holding Out For A Hero is set in Brisbane which seems to have more of a rugby league heart.
Ella Lucas is a strong and independent school principal faced with the task of keeping her school alive. It’s not in a fantastic area, her truancy numbers are way up and enrolments are falling. Many of her students are troubled or disadvantaged and Hanniford High is the only chance these kids have at an education. All of these elements combine to put the school on the Board of Education’s list of schools to be assessed for closure. Ella is determined to ensure the future of her school but she’s not quite sure how.
Ella has had to become strong and independent, her small town upbringing forced her to look out for herself and then she escaped as soon as she possibly could – leaving a wake of rumours that didn’t do her any favours. She returns many years later to bury her mother and discover a younger brother. Her anger at the town that ostracised her sees her set out to give them something to talk about so she seduces the sexy retired football hero before heading home with her fractious younger brother.
Back in Brisbane Ella settles back into her life, both her and younger brother Cam taking lots of time to adjust to their new situation. One Friday night while out for after work drinks in their favourite pub Ella and best friend Rosie are horrified at the changes that have destroyed their favourite hangout by the new owner. The last straw is a totally decimated jukebox selection so Ella heads to the bar to take it up with the new owner – retired football hero Jake Prince who she hasn’t seen since that last very steamy afternoon in home town Huntley two years ago.
Ella and Jake are both haunted by their Huntley childhood and determined to move on and move forward – which definitely means NOT getting involved with people from Huntley. When it seems Jake may be the only chance to save Hanniford High they both need to put that aside and work together for a common goal.
I loved all of Amy’s main characters in Holding Out For A Hero, though I didn’t always like them very much. We learnt what made them the tick and how they evolved into the people they are today so even when their actions or decisions seemed rash or overreactions at least we could understand where they came from. Some of the revelations came quite late in the game but they were pretty big ones.
Jake is a tough and hard-hearted football hero, used to getting any woman he wants just for the night and not forming attachments. He’s used to being idolised as a hero but his front hides a much deeper soul, very prone to attachment. In his own way he has tried to pay it forward and offer opportunities to people he can relate to. On the surface it seems like he has the means so why wouldn’t he but it turns out there is much more to Jake Prince than meets the eye.
Ella and Jake are quite ordinary characters in comparison with some of the other people in Ella’s life. She is living with her best friend Rosie, a woman she has known since her last year of high school in Huntley. Rosie grew up in the carnival and they met when it arrived in Huntley, and have been best of friends since. Rosie is quite a character, the ultimate goth chick with the look perfected and a mouth to make any carny worker proud.
Rosie has just started seeing Simon, a wealthy young man from a political and upstanding family. Totally clean cut and above reproach – until he starts dating Rosie of course. The two are complete opposites and undeniably smitten. It is a joy, and a giggle, to watch them interact and grow with one another.
Perhaps the most colourful of the characters are Rosie’s aging aunts. Retired from carnival life but still very much entrenched in their ways. Reliant on tarot cards, tobacco and sherry the two own the house they all share. Living off competition wins and being supported by Rosie and Ella as a means to thank them for all that they have done for them in the years since they finished high school.
Daisy and Iris, Rosie’s aunts, are living in an area that developers are trying to buy out but they refuse to sell. Their huge rundown old house is home to strays of all descriptions. They have planted wattle trees specifically to feed all the local birds that have had their food supply devastated by development, they have 4 stray dogs and their door is always open to people who need them.
It seems all of the characters in Holding Out For A Hero are a little lost, a little displaced in the lives they lead. Even blue ribbon wealthy Simon has never had a close and loving family or a house that looks lived in. He is certainly in for sensory overload the first time he walks into the house.
Ella is anti-football, she is total math geek. She doesn’t understand football and she doesn’t like the sporting culture so it is with great trepidation she agrees to bring football to Hanniford High but she puts personal thoughts aside for the good of the school. I like the way Andrews has addressed the football culture that often does come across in the media, it does seem at times like sporting stars are a little above the law – or they think they are anyway. She has beautifully illustrated the direct opposite within the story as well and showcased what a major difference organised sport can make in the lives of teenagers who may be at risk of running off the rails a little. The important life skills it can teach. I personally would have preferred we were in an AFL setting but it was nice to broaden my understanding a little.
Holding Out For A Hero was a heartwarming and inspiring story of never giving up, friendship, family and letting go. I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading more by Amy Andrews.