Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
Love Song is the third book in the Daughters of the Outback series by Sasha Wasley and the film rights to all three novels have just been sold. Soon readers will be able to view Willow, Free and Beth on the screen amid the beautiful Australian landscape. The earlier books in the series, Dear Banjo and True Blue have been popular among readers in Australia as well as Germany and will soon become available as audio books.
These books are all set in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and, while Willow has returned to the family property after studying and working in the University of Perth’s agriculture department, Free and Beth have chosen to follow their own dreams. Beth became a doctor running her own medical practice in the fictional Kimberley town of Mount Clair, while Free followed her artistic interests.
Beth is the oldest of the sisters and has often been referred to as the bossy one. Like all the sisters Beth has known from an early time what career she wished to follow. Having lost her mother to cancer she was determined to become a doctor and applied herself diligently to her studies. Her success and compassion for others often resulted in her being asked to tutor struggling students. This is how in year 12 she meets Charlie Campbell, an aboriginal lad who has come into the town to continue his year 11 studies. They fall deeply in love and then, abruptly, one day Charlie is gone without a word, leaving Beth heartbroken.
Beth returns to Mount Clair as a doctor which includes servicing the aboriginal settlement, a day’s travel from the town. She has developed a strong bond with all her patients especially the little aboriginal girl with cerebral palsy and becomes involved in the dynamics of both the town and settlement. Her involvement with her aboriginal friends increases when a mining company wants to set up an operation which would include a wet canteen next to the settlement which has been a dry zone for many years.
To Beth’s surprise and apprehension, Charlie, who is now a big star on the alternative rock scene, returns to the area also to fight for the settlement. It had never registered with Beth that these were Charlie’s people. Things become awkward as both seem to be harbouring resentment for the other over what happened years ago.
Sasha Wasley’s writings focus on human emotions and human flaws making her characters resonate closely with the reader because they appear so ordinary. The reader cannot help but like Beth who is strong, solitary, sexy and community minded, but still has feelings of insecurity in her relationships and fears about her own future health considering her mother’s death from cancer. Charlie is handsome, talented and popular with a loyal following, yet he too suffers with uncertainty when personal relationships are involved. Both have trust issues. A few times their behaviour, as a result, frustrated me considering the mature persona they present within their immediate environment. They both have a high degree of compassion for others as well as sense of duty, casting them into leadership roles, yet around each other they seem to lose all confidence.
The author has the innate ability to address social issues pertaining to the environments which dominate her storyline. In her latest book, Love Song, the social issues highlighted, are those concerning mining on or near aboriginal lands and isolation of aboriginal settlements with their health issues especially when there are medical conditions which require special consideration. Another issue Sasha Wasley touches on in her latest novel is representation on social media. Charlie didn’t realise that his publicist had set up an Instagram profile for him and was shocked when he found what had been posted. ‘I can’t have her posting shots of other blokes and pretending it’s me’(240), was his angry response. This is a story about the inter-connectedness of the various groups who make up most of the population in outback Australia especially in the Kimberly region.
On revisiting the first novel about Willow Patterson, I was struck by the similarities between it and the story about Beth. In both cases young love leaves deep wounds which are fed over the years by an unwillingness to address the issues that were responsible for creating such feelings. Fortunately, by the end of the storyline common sense prevails, teaching the reader the valuable lesson, that when conflict occurs it is better to get the issues out into the open rather than allow them to fester inside.
Even the covers are similar. Both include the amazing red and blue of the Kimberley region with a major theme from the respective book featured in the sky. In Dear Banjo it is words from letters Willow did not read while in Love Song it is the handwritten musical notes reminding the reader of Charlie’s singing voice always in the back of Beth’s memory. The fact that there appears to be a formula followed in these two books does not take away from this new novel. If it works for Nora Roberts why not for Sasha Wasley?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Patterson girls, in this beautiful remote area of Australia, following their lives as they each find the love they so deserve. They are all so different in their personalities and passions which allows the author to explore different social issues in each story line. I look forward to reading about Free at some time and also seeing them all on the screen.
(June 4, 2019)
By Sasha Wasley