05 March 2016

Love in a Cloud


Synopsis from Goodreads: Guardian...or sweetheart?

A mysterious, shadowy figure had paid for Sonia's schooling, and his kindness and mystery had kindled her romantic imagination. Now she thought she knew who her hidden benefactor was -- John Grant, whom she loved at her first sight of him. But her heart betrayed her into a torment of indecision...of clouded love.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Beagle Books, 1971.

How acquired: From my mother.

First line: Sonia Merton was packing her new clothes with care.

My thoughts: Sonia is an orphan who has been attending a finishing school for young ladies, thanks to a wealthy benefactor. Orphaned at the age of four, she was adopted by George Grant (or so she believes), the owner of neighboring Dandonga Station, in Bulong district, which I Googled. In case you're interested, today, according to Wikipedia, it is an abandoned town in Western Australia. Mr. Grant took her to Sydney, where she was then raised by Mr. and Mrs. Varley. Mr. Grant writes to Sonia, and over the years provided her tuition, books, clothing, dolls, and whatever else she needed. But other than that trip to Sydney with him at the age of four, Sonia has never met him in person. Now she's completed her education at the finishing school, and Mr. Grant has sent her an invitation to come to Dandonga Station for a three month visit.

At the train station, she meets George Grant, who apparently goes by the name John, along with Mrs. Beckett, who runs the domestic side of the homestead, and John's cousin Nick. John spends his days in his office, taking care of the books, while Nick runs literally everything else about the station, including, to Sonia's consternation, John and Mrs. Beckett. She feels intensely loyal to John for all he's done for her, and she resents that Nick seems to give the orders and everyone seems to bow to his mastery.

And so the story takes off from there. Things aren't always what they seem, and we, the reader, are given inside information about what is really between John and Nick and the running of the homestead.

I loved Sonia. She's a very typical Lucy Walker heroine. Young, sweet, wide-eyed, somewhat naive, beloved by almost everyone who meets her. She's new to the life of a cattle and sheep station, but she quickly adapts and pitches in to help wherever she can. Mrs. Beckett is a gem. She took Nick in when he himself was orphaned as a young boy, and while she's not a Grant, she's as much a part of the family as John and Nick. And Nick. Much of the narrative is from his viewpoint. He's exasperating at times, especially to Sonia. But knowing what we, the reader, know about him that Sonia has yet to learn, he's also very good and noble. Sonia's friend Hilda also comes to visit, and she isn't always a true friend to Sonia. I wanted to slap her at times, and gently chide Sonia for being too trusting and ingenuous.

I love Lucy Walker's writing. She's descriptive, bringing the Australian Outback to vivid life. While I'm not sure it's a place I'd want to visit, thanks to Ms. Walker I've come to love reading about it. Her characters don't differ much from book to book - the heroines are all similar, as are the heroes. As are the basic plot lines, as the running theme seems to be young girl is transplanted from her city life to the Outback. But even so each story is unique, and enjoyable.
"We'll walk back there." He punctuated each word with a stab of his cigarette. "Then we'll take the horses and go up the cattle pad on the other side of the gully. I don't think it would be right for me to kiss you here, Sonia, where you can't escape me. But when we get to the top of that gully over there...and we're out on the open track...I'm going to kiss you."
A sweet, quaint, chaste romance (nothing more than a few kisses). 

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