The Unexpected Husband

Lydia Kelso, self-described old spinster (at 26?  puh-lease), is concerned about her older, more-flighty sister’s welfare. Daisy has apparently decided to have a baby by editorial cartoonist Joe Jordan, whether he’s cooperative or not. So Lydia goes to talk to him. Little does she know what she’s in for.

Her conversation with Joe goes well enough; at least he’s alert to her sister’s scheme. But Lydia, a widow, is…unsettled, by the handsome Joe. Ah, well, no matter, she’s off to the Northern Territory to help out for six weeks as a fill-in veterinarian at an isolated cattle station.  The station is owned by a brother and sister, and the sister’s husband. Imagine her surprise when she finds out that the brother in question is none other than Joe Jordan!

This story, set in Australia, got off to a bit of a slow start, for me; we meet Lydia and Joe right off, then Lydia’s sister Daisy, and some other supporting cast, but I really did not see it coming that Joe would be a co-owner of the station (ranch, to us Yanks). There are some interesting side stories going on here; for one, the notion of a station so far out in the weeds that supply deliveries only happen “every fortnight” (two weeks, to us Yanks) has interesting plot implications; when one of the hands breaks a leg, the Flying Doctor must be summoned, and Lydia does her best for the man for the several hours it takes the doctor to arrive, finding her veterinary training useful for that.  There’s a bit of a plot twist with the sister, as well, and her husband, but I won’t give that away; suffice to say that it kind of helps nudge things along between Lydia and Joe, at a point when the story was in grave danger of stalling.

I had some problems with the lack of realism of our protagonists in this story. Joe is, typical for the romance genre, a bit larger than life–not only can he run a ranch effectively, and draw editorial cartoons that have him working at one of the largest papers in the country, but he can also fly single-engine airplanes and helicopters. See what I mean? Perhaps a little bit too perfect.

Lydia was widowed young, and this, and the fact that her sister has been chasing after Joe (along with Joe’s reputation with the ladies), gives her pause to fret over her growing attraction for him. She’d been a widow for six years–at 26 years of age–and describes her two-year marriage to her husband as “perfect,” and doesn’t feel like that could possibly happen again. Really? I suppose I shouldn’t try to judge how someone deals with–or doesn’t deal with–grief, but something about this just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

Overall, I liked this story; it gives us a bit of a view into a way of life that is quite foreign to city folk. The protagonists here are not, perhaps, as realistically-developed as they could be, but that flaw doesn’t ruin this one for me. Once things get moving after Lydia leaves Sydney, it’s an entertaining, easy read. It’s not a nail-biter; the tempo is easy and steady, much like the tempo of the rural life it describes.


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