Title: The Billabong
Author: Jack Byrne
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Buy Link: The Billabong
Amazon: Buy Link The Billabong
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 70 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Andrea
Review Summary: A fascinating historical Australian setting and a good, slow build to the romance, but the ending was a little too rushed for me.
Having long ago lost his wife and children, cattleman Jim Kelly works the family farm in the harsh 1800s Australian outback, most days wondering why he bothers. That question is foremost in his mind when a venomous snake takes him by surprise. Another surprise comes when a skilled doctor is in the vicinity to save his life. But the third, and biggest, surprise for Jim is falling hard and fast for that man.
Life on the lam is tough, and bushranger Mark Turner simply wants to maintain his freedom as long as he’s able. Unfortunately, being a doctor, his conscience won’t let him leave a snakebite victim to die. Before he thinks about the consequences of his humanitarian actions, he’s both saved Jim and become smitten with him. But considering how Mark’s past could negatively impact any possibility of a future, maybe falling in love wasn’t such a great idea after all.
The Billabong gave me a glimpse into a place and time I didn’t know existed. My knowledge of Australian life in the 19th century is basically nonexistent. I was fascinated by Jim’s life in the Australian outback. The glossary at the beginning of the book was priceless. I studied those words and knew their meaning by heart before I started into the book. I had never heard any of them before and would have been very confused without that glossary. I’ll be the first one to admit that the setting and time period led to half of my enjoyment when reading The Billabong.
After reflecting on this book for a day or two, I came to the conclusion that The Billabong is probably the most believable “gay for you romance” I have ever read. I’m normally not a big fan of them, so let me tell you why this one worked. Jim lives in an extremely isolated area where he works the land and raises cattle. He did have a wife and children but they died a couple years prior to this book. I got the feeling that Jim encounters and interacts with other people very rarely, maybe just a few days each year. His life changes when Mark enters the picture. Mark is a resourceful, interesting, and intelligent man. I don’t think Jim realized how starved he was for human companionship before Mark came along. When Jim began feeling attracted to Mark, it was a shock for him because being with a man had never occurred to him. Jim and Mark were friends and they relied on each other. The development of romantic feeling felt natural to me. A gay for you romance in this type of environment made sense to me.
The interesting thing about the romance between Jim and Mark was how slowly it developed. This is only a 70 page book and I’m shocked at how well paced it was. The author did an amazing job of developing their romance in a rather short book. I enjoyed that because it gave me time to get to know the characters and get a feel for how they would react to the situation.
The slow development of the romance was great, but it did force the ending to be rushed. There was a lot of drama and action packed into a very small portion of the book. I wish that had been drawn out a little bit more. I was left thinking that another 10 or 20 pages might have slowed it down enough for me to keep up without feeling rushed. I didn’t care for the pace at the end, but I did like the book as a whole. This author has me intrigued and I will keep an eye on his work in the future.