At it's heart, Bella's Run is a contemporary romance but it is also a wonderful story set against the rugged Victorian highlands. Osborn captures the spirit of the people who call the land 'home' with warmth and humour.
Bella and Patty are two capable, fun loving young women, enjoying a year traveling and working in the Queensland outback, but happy to return home when it comes to an end, especially with Will and Macca waiting for them. Osborn paints a delightful picture of these high spirited best friends, dancing with the tumbleweeds, sinking Cock-Sucking Cowboys (liquor shots with equal parts Bailey's Irish Cream and Butterscotch Schnapps), and handling stockman whips with ease. I particularly enjoyed how Osborn wasn't tempted to stick with the more wholesome stereotype of rosy cheeked, demure country folk, the author has created genuine and roundly developed protagonists who are smart and confident. Bella and Patty, as well as their friends, work hard and play even harder on the rare occasions that they get the chance. When tragedy strikes, it is all the more shocking that such vitality can be ended so abruptly. The novel's prologue (not a device I like, I must admit) tells of the devastation to come that changes the course of Bella's life, driving her from the land, and man, she loves. The attraction between Will, Patty's brother, and Bella is a surprise to both of them. Sparked during a brief visit while the girls were still working in Queensland, the night of the Muster proves to them both that something special is happening between them. However the fledgling relationship is stunted by their tragic loss and the two are separated by their pain and guilt. In the years since, both have moved on, but Bella's return to Tindarra makes it clear that the two still have strong (and lusty) feelings for each other. Bella's Run is a romance, so while the road to happily ever after is complicated, in this instance by a manipulative ex-wife, a persistent fiance, an unplanned pregnancy and the general stubbornness of the pair, Will and Bella's relationship is dramatically resolved.
This debut novel proves Margareta Osborn a wonderful storyteller whose exuberant passion for rural Australia is evident on every page. Bella's Run is a delightful and engaging read that I very much enjoyed. I especially love the authenticity that the author brings to the story and her characters and I am looking forward to her second book due out in 2013.