Review copy provided by publisher/ netgalley
Random House Australia, January 2013
Synopsis- Wendy Hopkins arrives in the Pilbara to search for the father who abandoned her at birth.
Getting mixed up in construction site politics at the Iron Ore wharf just out of town was not high on her ‘to do’ list.
But when she takes a job as their new Safety Manager she becomes the most hated person in the area. Nicknamed ‘The Sergeant’, she is the butt of every joke and the prime target of notorious womanizer, Gavin Jones.
Giving up is not an option, though.
For, as it turns out, only Wendy can save these workers from the coming storm, find a man who wants to stay buried and … put a bad boy firmly in his place.
Review- I had no idea this book picked up where The Girl in the Steel-Capped Boots left off until after I’d read it, so can honestly say it didn’t interfere with my reading experience having never read a Loretta Hill novel before. After hearing such great reviews from her debut novel, I didn’t hesitate at requesting a copy of this to read via Netgalley.
I can now see what all the fuss is about! Hill creates such a unique premise in outback romance- a woman working in a male dominated field in a male dominated community. She brings just the right balance to Wendy who’s strong and forthright but also feminine and vulnerable.
Wendy Hopkins arrives in Pilbarra, WA to take up a new job as a Safety Manager at Barnes Inc, where her first day goes from bad to worse. She’s labelled a spy for an opposing company, she’s nicknamed ‘The Sergeant’ and manages to get her colleague fired on her first week. Unsurprisingly, the blokes on site aren’t too welcoming of the newfound authority around the place- though they aren’t complaining about the sexy blonde distraction. Wendy is one of five women and has to come up with a plan quick to gain the respect of the men in town as a colleague and expert in her field, not just a perve for the blokes.
Despite her desire to go under the radar and focus on the search for the father she didn’t know existed until recently- she catches the eye of cheeky, flirtatious Gavin Jones who surprises her on a jog with an impulsive kiss. The feelings the kiss ignited in her was a shock in itself but the fact that he also turns out to be one of the men she needs to work with to implement safety processes at the wharf gets her into a bit of a panic. Desperate to forget about Gavin and focus on the search for her father, she doesn’t realise her ‘hard to get’ persona actually sparks further interest in Gavin who teases her whenever he gets the chance.
The fun of the chase begins to wane as Gavin realises there’s a lot more to Wendy than the quick fling he hoped for and he’s getting in over his head. Falling for her wasn’t part of the plan and his feelings for her make him put up a barrier, not just to protect himself- but to protect Wendy. Getting close to her- or anyone else- could place them in danger, because there’s a threat on his doorstep from a past he’s tried desperately to escape for the past five years.
As cyclone season looms ahead, Wendy throws herself into her work and gradually earns respect as the safety manager and gets the safety practices in place just as a cyclone is about to hit Pilbara. The suspense in the story is amplified when Gavin goes missing hours before impact and Wendy fears she’s partially to blame. She risks her life to find him as she realises the depth of her feelings for him.
Gavin and Wendy are really likeable characters and were well-fleshed out. I especially enjoyed their banter and how Wendy began to let down her guard when she was around Gavin. Despite his playful nature, many other attributes like loyalty and reliability also showed through in his interactions with Wendy and those he cared about. This and the fears he held for her safety added layers to his personality despite what he portrayed to the outside world. The slow-building relationship was well executed and the intensity was stepped up as the suspense of the cyclone neared. The resolution was believable and sat well with who Gavin and Wendy were as people.
My only real qualm with this novel is the name choice for the protagonist. I know this is going to sound really petty, but Wendy just seems like such an old-fashioned name for a young Australian women and it just didn’t seem like a good fit for me.
That’s really all I could come up with as a criticism because I did thoroughly enjoy his story- the characters are so real-life thanks to the author’s use of dialogue and description. I felt as though I was in Pilbara at that wharf myself!
The Girl in the Hard Hat is a fantastic addition to the rural lit genre by Loretta Hill and now I can’t wait to get my hands on her first novel to see where the story began!
The Girl in the Hard Hat can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers
This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge: