BOOK CLUB: Once Burnt, Twice Shy

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Karly Lane’s “Once Burnt, Twice Shy” is a second chance romance novel that often feels as though the romance is less important than other events. Indeed, some may not call it a romance; but it’s a strong and readable contemporary novel that most readers will enjoy.

When Samantha “Sam” Murphy was 18, she fled her small country town for the brighter lights and party vibe of the holiday zones in Queensland. Even when she became a wife and mother, it was the Gold Coast with its’ shiny energy that she called home.

Now, 30 years later, she’s back to “house sit” her parents’ farm while they’re on holiday. She’s been back before, of course; but now she’s divorced and her kids have left home. She’s in a very different frame of mind to when she came back with her husband and small kids in tow.

Within days of her return, neighbour Jack Cameron is checking whether she’s okay with the demanding farm work. Jack’s the boy she left behind, and now he too is a divorced father with two kids. It’s not long before sparks fly between them.

Oh, but sparks is the wrong word here. Because the Eastern seaboard of Australia is on fire, beset by bushfires, and they’re bearing down fast on Samantha, Jack, and their neighbours.

As with most romances, it’s not exactly hard to work out what the last few pages of the novel hold for our protagonists. However, Lane gives this novel particular depth with her focus on the bushfires of 2020. I think anyone who was in the area at the time would agree that her descriptions are evocative, moving, and a good reflection of what those days were like.

If sometimes the novel feels like the romance is a mere sideshow, that’s realistic too. People had more critical things on their minds.

once bitten twice shy

There’s a lot to mine in this romantic relationship. Both Sam and Jack have lived full lives already; they’re too old to be considering things like having kids together. There’s a whole set of different issues here, generated by their previous lives – such as the obvious, how adult kids will react. Lane explores these issues sensitively – and with some humor – and the novel could easily have been completely occupied with this alone.

I really enjoyed reading a romance that focused on older people, with different complications and challenges in their lives than those of people in their twenties or thirties. It’s not unique, but it’s also not so common, and I appreciated the differences.

In other words, “Once Burnt, Twice Shy” has two very strong plot elements, both equally interesting, and the one you feel dominates will probably affect whether you see this as a romance or a contemporary novel. Either way, most readers are going to enjoy this.

The characters are strong, the situation is entirely believable, and the story is well constructed and told well. Lane uses real events from the recent past with a sensitive and evocative touch. Romance readers will undoubtedly enjoy it; those who aren’t necessarily romance fans will likely still find a lot to enjoy in the other elements of the novel.

ISBN: 978-1-76087-850-4
Copy courtesy of Allen and Unwin

A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Once Burnt, Twice Shy by Karly Lane. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

6 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Once Burnt, Twice Shy

  1. Once Burnt, Twice Shy is another fabulous book by Karly Lane.
    Essentially a romance between childhood sweethearts Jack Cameron and Samantha (Sam) Murphy, both now divorced and considering whether they can pick up where they left off when Sam moves back to the family farm to look after it while her parents go off on a long planned overseas holiday.
    However a devastating fire front is burning and the vivid description of both the fire and emotion it evokes as firebreaks can’t hold it back and it roars toward Jack and Karly and their small community transcends fiction and is all too real for anyone who might have had this experience in rural Australia.
    Definitely a multi-faceted story which was engaging and totally enjoyable from cover to cover. A very easy read which I would highly recommend.
    Thankyou Beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for the opportunity to read and review Once Burnt, Twice Shy.

  2. Once Bitten, Twice Shy is a compelling read by Karly Lane. If you are a lover of the romance of life then you will undoubtedly find this book compelling. The romance between Sam and Jack, is coupled with the ravages of bushfire, which in Australia is quite relatable. Most people can remember their ‘first love’, Sam has indeed never forgotten hers and returns to her childhood home to have it rekindled spontaneously. Children, financial and housing problems are all overcome following the aftermath of the disastrous bushfire.
    A very good book to devour, easy to read, relatable characters and a responsible solution found for all problems.

  3. Thank you to Allen & Unwin & Beauty & Lace for a chance to read this book.

    I am a big Karly Lane fan & always enjoy her books. This one was no exception. I wasn’t sure if I would find a romance story based around “older” characters as interesting – I am usually drawn towards stories where the couple can settle down into a family but I really enjoyed the intricacies that they faced when trying to navigate a blended family together.

    Based on the backdrop of bushfires, this story was compelling, It had me thinking to bushfire season here in Australia & what it must be like to be faced with such a terrible thing & what others have gone through to have lost everything but to keep fighting for other people’s homes. It was so very well written.

    This is one book that I will recommend to others!

  4. Australian summer and childhood sweethearts rekindling their love. What’s not to love?
    I great book set in Australia during the bushfires. It touches on the hardship that farmers face every day, then throw in a drought and fires. It brought back a lot of memories from the terrible fire season in Australia not that long ago.
    Intertwined in the story is a mature love story, when two divorcees with teenagers and adults children rekindle their childhood relationship.
    Easy to read and hard to put down. Highly recommended!

  5. I loved this story, a great read for a Sunday afternoon with a glass of wine. I loved the journey of finding yourself again after being part of a couple for so long and that you can fall in love again, learn to trust again and overcome hurdles which in the long run, really aren’t hurdles, but obstacles we put in our own path because sometimes it’s easier not to try. The characters struggles with the bushfires really hit close to home, the recent fires being still fresh in our minds. All in all a good book.

  6. Loved Karly Lane’s Once Burnt, Twice Shy, a story about moving on and getting back to your roots all at once. Set against the rugged beauty of a rural town besieged by the threat of catastrophic bushfire, Sam and Jack are authentic likeable characters dealing with stresses of divorce, older children, ex-partners, business and farm-life. I loved the rekindled, mature and complex romance and thoroughly enjoyed the details of life on the land and volunteer fire-fighting. Highly recommend Once Burnt, Twice Shy for a relaxing read by the fire or on the sand! Thanks to beauty and Lace and Allen and Unwin for introducing me to Karly Lane, I’ll be looking out for more of her works!

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