A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Great Australian background detail with a real sense of place in a slow paced rural rehab romance. Unfortunately I found the hero unsympathetic.
Blurb: Welcome to Burreela, New South Wales. Population: more animals than humans. Although most (human) occupants are trying to get out of Burreela, the tiny town is the perfect place for veterinarian Michael Stone to break out of the bad habits that almost cost him the most meaningful part of his life: his profession.
Michael is struggling to regain his balance after hard personal losses and two years of promiscuity and drug abuse. He’s not prepared to meet Ryan Mitchell, a nice guy who won’t take no for an answer, whose patient pursuit leaves Michael less and less inclined to keep refusing. But Michael’s bad habits aren’t that far behind him. Can Michael hold himself together enough to be the man Ryan needs, or will he lose his equilibrium while trying to be man enough to hold on to the one he loves?
One of the strongest elements in this novel is the well developed background to this romance between a drug stressed vet looking for a healthier way of life and a farm-loving horseman. The contrast between Sidney and Burreela is full of vibrant detail; the clubs and bars as opposed to the small town market, livestock farming, the dust and dirt of the countryside. There is no way to mistake that this is firmly rooted as an Aussie experience. I enjoyed being part of Michael’s reintroduction to big animal veterinary practice. The emphasis on the new-to-me equine sports of campdrafting and tent pegging at the equine weekend added even more to the depth of description of the local community.
This amount of scene setting does slow things down somewhat, but what is gained is a real sense of how Ryan is a product of his environment and how much he loves his home. I really liked Ryan as a character, and found him well rounded and attractive.
Unfortunately I am going to have to confess that I found the main lead, Michael, less appealing. After I read Equilibrium for the first time I was just aware that I didn’t like Michael very much. This does not make for a comfortable reading experience. I’ve reread the book and no, he still doesn’t do anything for me. So feeling somewhat anxious about writing this review, I did what I rarely do before writing — checked out what other people thought. As I feared my dislike of Michael appears to be a peculiar thing of my own.
So I am going to briefly explain why I found him unsympathetic, but it appears I am in a minority of one here. After his two years of drug abuse, which it appears had gone beyond enthusiastic recreational use, and was starting to impact on his professional life, Michael moves to a rural area to escape temptation and regain his equilibrium. However whenever there is an emotional pressure, he thinks in terms of chemical help. I thought this made him appear weak-willed and not, as I think was intended, vulnerable. Whenever we experienced his inner life I was distanced by his lack of insight. I found his determined disingenuous attitude towards Ryan and their obvious and mutual attraction irritating. Ryan clearly understood him:
“You know exactly what I wanted. I know you did. You were just afraid of it that’s all. You’re still afraid of it. I don’t know why that is, because you want this too….”
Even knowing that Ryan understands Michael couldn’t make me get exactly what he saw in him; other than he was nice to old ladies and occasionally was funny — well one great line to previously mentioned old lady. Oh, and Ryan clearly finds Michael sexually hot…those scenes were good.
Enough of my dissatisfaction with Michael. The last third of the book is the most dramatic. When Michael finally has his upsetting episode, it was so foreshadowed it was almost a relief. His father is a really horrible character, but I wondered why his sister hadn’t realised he was still the same nasty-minded bigot he’d always been. The results of this encounter bring many of the characters — both friends and family — together as they interact in various interesting ways. Once again I found Ryan’s behavior totally admirable as he comes to Michael’s rescue. I also liked that Ryan’s previous police colleagues were so sympathetically drawn, no heavy-handed clichés here.
This book displays a very good breadth of view in beautifully recreating an unusual environment filled with details of different social lives. For me the main hero wasn’t appealing enough to lift the book onto another level. However there is a lot here that is enjoyable and other readers had none of my particular problems with Michael.