MINI-REVIEW: Joan Kilby’s WIN ME

Win_MeJoan Kilby’s novella, Win Me, is one-third of an interesting rom-concept. Its events occur concurrently with those in Karina Bliss’s Woo Me and Sarah Mayberry’s Wait For Me. Together, the three novellas respectively recount the story of three friends attending a traditional Bachelor and Spinster Ball in the Australian outback. Ellie, Jen, and Beth forged their friendship in boarding school. They saw each other through farce and tragedy. Now, at 28, they’re in various stages of heartbreak. They congregate at Ellie’s father’s cattle farm and resolve to heal their broken, neglected hearts by romping through the bacchanalian shenanigans at the local Bachelor and Spinster Ball. These traditional “balls” are debauched and rowdy; ratafia is nowhere in sight and participants trip the light fantastic only between the flaps of a sleeping bag.

Win Me tells Ellie’s story. After six years in Wyoming, Ellie returns from proving her cattle-station-managing skills to take on her father’s spread and the wrangler she adores. Ellie’s loved Rick Drummond since her teens, when she made a pass at him at one of these very balls and was rejected. Rick has protected and loved Ellie since his family’s dissolution brought him to Norm McFarlane’s cattle station to work as a wrangler. A cautious, sad, upright man, Rick ensured he never succumbed to his attraction for Ellie – warned away by her father, as well as his conscience. But Ellie’s returned more vibrant, beautiful, and fully woman and his resolutions are biting the dust.

Kilby’s novella had the thankless task of setting up the tripartite story-line. Or at least Miss Bates hopes that’s the reason for the lackluster opening chapters. Ellie, Jen, and Beth lie on Ellie’s childhood bed and weep into jam jars of margaritas. Ellie confesses her life-long love of Rick and lack of confidence in her womanliness. Jen and Beth resolve to turn her into a bombshell for the ball and Ellie resolves to either finally do the wild thing with Rick, or find another guy to help excise him from her system. Rick, in turn, lusts after and loves Ellie. One lovely detail Miss Bates appreciated is how he kept her in his heart while she was away: “He glanced at the framed photo of her atop his dresser, next to the photo of his parents. Ellie, whose face he woke up to every day, and never moved or turned face down, even when he had another women in his bed.” For the most part however, the first few chapters are backstory and internal monologue. Ellie agonizes over Rick and Rick agonizes over Ellie. Moreover, Rick’s family tragedy, which left them destitute and scattered, haunts him. His need for financial security is sympathetic, but the class barriers he erects between himself, the “cowhand,” and Ellie, the rancher’s daughter, sound ludicrous in a contemporary romance.

Nevertheless, the narrative improves once the ball is underway. Ellie, Jen, and Beth are amusing. Rick’s best friend, Jack, is a rueful rogue (Miss Bates’ favourite kind) and adds yet more fun to the narrative. Ellie appears in a sexy dress and flirts with Jack, the ball degenerates in compelling ways, and Rick reacts with he-man jealousy. At least the initial chapters’ endless “telling, not showing” nature is put to rest. (Remember, rom writers, the declarative sentence is your enemy.) Sadly, the narrative goes downhill in other ways. Firstly, Ellie and everyone around her fixates on her magnificent breasts. Once, twice, but the sundry times the “puppies” are mentioned are tedious. To follow, the love scenes are described in yee-haw bronco-riding figuration – nuff said, right? It’s neither sexy nor romantic. It is risible and crude. Then, angst of such proportions is introduced, it changes the novella’s tenor abruptly and disjointedly.

And yet, dear readers, Miss Bates was touched by Rick’s humble grovel. She remains convinced of the efficacy of Rick and Ellie’s life-long HEA. In a nutshell, Kilby’s novella is uneven, but not without merit. With Miss Austen, Miss Bates says, “almost pretty,” Northanger Abbey. Joan Kilby’s Win Me was self-published. It has been available since October 20th, 2015, and may be procured from your preferred vendors. Miss Bates is grateful for copies of the series from the authors. Stay tuned for reviews of Woo Me and Wait For Me.

6 thoughts on “MINI-REVIEW: Joan Kilby’s WIN ME

  1. Well – that was hilarious and the perfect anecdote to a monday, sans coffee (the tragedy of it all!)
    I am totally with you re puppies – seriously is there a worse descriptor for breasts? And why? I have never heard anyone use that reference, except in movies or books…not like ACTUAL real life…

    I have a bit of a love/hate with Australian Outback Romances, (being Australian), as they often seem to be written by people who have only ever experienced the ‘outback’ via TV like McLeod’s Daughters or The Farmer Wants A Wife (I can’t even on the descent into darkness that is that Reality TV show…) And then to include ridin’ cowboy euphemisms in the love scenes…?
    Good Gracious.

    Non-the-less – I am intrigued… 😉

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    • Where’s the coffee? I’m on my second cup this morning, enjoying a work-from-home day! Yee-haw to that! The novella’s context, the B&S Ball, was new to me though, I suspect, there are similar shenanigans in Canadian Alberta. Even in in Eastern Canada, there are country and western “festivals” that lapse into debauchery. Still unfamiliar to MissB. because she is a strict city-gal.

      Frankly, the love scenes were so embarrassingly kitschy, I had to do that reader side-eye-skim one does when one is embarrassed on the writer’s behalf. Then, the angst, the tears, the revelation of backstory worthy of an NA-rom … it was not good, not good at all. I’ve reviewed another Kilby, and was not crazy about it either: noted similar problems – too much “telling,” backstory, and internal monologue. Nevertheless, reviewers I respect loved her SuperRom, Maybe This Time, so I might still give that one a try.

      As for these “Outback” roms, let’s see how Bliss and Mayberry, two of my favourite category writers, do. 🙂

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      • OH NO! Not the side-eye – that is a true sign of a bad love scene – the skimming until Tab A has been inserted into Slot B — and then you can breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve made it past…

        Coffee press broke (on a Monday – the inhumanity of it all) – and even in my desperation I couldn’t resort to Instant – (just saying the word makes me feel dirty. 😉

        My standard (blame nostalgia) for Outback Roms is (and probably always will be) Lucy Walker – she wrote THE most adorable outback romances back in the 60s & 70s – they were all governesses and receptionists and the heroes were all lean and wiry with piercing grey eyes and monosyllabic responses…sigh!

        Although Liz Fielding did not-too-bad job – and Jessica Hart too – So I would definitely be interested to see how both Bliss & Mayberry go about it!

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        • This was so bad that I would’ve welcomed some slots and insertions. This was all yeehaw ride’em cowboy …

          The press died: this is tragic. I have one of those pod things. If it ever breaks, I confess, I keep an sealed jar of instant on hand. Couldn’t handle the caffeine withdrawal headache.

          I’ve never heard of Lucy Walker, but I like Fielding and Hart a lot. They can write. I think Marion Lennox writes some rom set in Australia, or am I fuddled?

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          • (*scurries away to check tbr*) YES – Lennox does Australian Roms — I have a few of them yet to be read…which is now super exciting…
            I just realised from her blurb that she is from Ballarat!
            Random non-relevent information: Went there for a school excursion; panned for gold; slept in a not-so-refurbished-train; was insulted by a boy I had a monumental crush on…. But I still have the gold dust in a tiny test tube – it’s worth about $1.43…All in all – fond memories.

            AM TOTALLY reading that next now. Thank you Miss B 😉

            I keep the emergency Instant in my freezer (I heard somewhere it keeps better there??? or is that urban myth..?) I just can’t bring myself to break it open…On plus side – now have new press and intravenous coffee is restored – (*sighs with utmost relief*)

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            • I acquired a load of Lennox when the Wondrous Broken Harlequin Code happened and we bought books for pennies. Its like will never be seen again … as a result I have the entire Banksia Bay series in the TBR. They were very well reviewed by DA at the time. So, *famous last word*, some day …

              I’m relieved to hear about the coffee. It was making me anxious on your behalf.

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