Author: Ros Baxter
I have read quite a bit of Ros Baxter over the last few years and this is the first Rural Romance, she writes over a range of genres and I have enjoyed all of them. I went into Set In Stone anticipating enjoyment but also trying to stay away from expectations, more than anything I was curious how Baxter would tackle a novel set so firmly in the here and now – no fantasy, no science fiction. It’s safe to say she hooked me quick and reeled me right in, I haven’t wanted to put the book down as I desperately wait for answers.
The entire story hinges on an event twenty years in the past, one night that changed everything, and I was itching to find out what it was. Of course, Baxter kept me guessing until well past the halfway mark and though I came up with a few theories not one of them came close. I got a serious case of one-more-chapteritis and an amazing set of blinkers that rendered the state of my house invisible so I could claim oblivion to get to the bottom of the disastrous event, luckily this did not hide the box of tissues from me.
Louise Samuels is a successful lawyer in Sydney, far away from her home town of Stone Mountain. Louise has allowed her best friend Sharni to convince her to return for their school reunion but first they struck a deal. A deal that was supposed to be watertight and was put in place to protect them both – One hour: get in, shake your booty, get out. Of course that didn’t quite happen. The ground rules set at the door before they entered the reunion were no drinking, no meat, no fighting and no men….. they didn’t last very long either and before you know it the two were at the Welcome Inn washing down pills that would help them sleep off the hangover so they could fly out that evening.
Sharni is still very much in love with their home town and being back has freed her to return to her country girl roots and inspired her to pick up her paintbrush, she only left because her high school sweetheart transplanted her to Sydney after they finished school. Theirs is a story closely tied into the main storyline.
There is so much running through Set In Stone that I really loved but it is all tied into that one event and we all know I don’t like to write a review with spoilers, so yet again I’m stuck.
Louise had to grow up way too fast because her mother wasn’t like other mothers and that caused her all manner of problems, both at home and at school. She has grown into a strong and capable woman who always feels the need to fix things, she’s been fixing her mother’s messes for years – from a distance. Now that she’s back in Stone Mountain she finds herself staring down a mountain of messes that she’s determined to fix – for her mother, her father and the town she once called home.
Baxter explores many issues in Set In Stone from addiction, attraction, alcoholism and adultery to mining, drought, grief and small town finance. There is an interesting little piece of information about council by-laws relating back to when the land was first released to settlers that grabbed my attention because ever since Heart of the Country I have been intrigued by the whole concept of how the land came to be ‘owned’.
The chemistry between the leads is palpable, you can feel the sparks, but my one complaint about the book is that the descriptions of how deliciously delectably sexy Gage Westin was did get a little over the top; we got the message after the first five or so times.
I laughed, I cried and I even felt my heart break at times for what these characters have been through, and then for the extra torture Louise added to the mix. The characters are believable, relatable and some of them are downright lovable.
Baxter explores perception and the way that we can look back at a time in our lives and see a completely different picture. The way things look is often coloured by our own experience and it isn’t until you get some distance that you get some perspective and see something completely different to what you always believed.
I love Set In Stone, I love Louise Samuels even though there were times I just wanted to shake her. There are some beautiful stories of redemption and second chances, some amusing coming home moments and a study in underhanded dealings and snaky salesmen.
Set In Stone is an intense rural romance that sizzles while still offering intrigue and mystery with the long ago event shrouded in secrecy and the gas company determined to get their hands on the land they are angling for.
Set In Stone is book #28 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2015.
Set In Stone is available from Harlequin and where all good books are sold.