Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cutting Out by Meredith Shayne

Title: Cutting Out
Author: Meredith Shayne
Purchase at Bottom Drawer Publications
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: Mumson Designs
Genre: contemporary
Length: 222 pages
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf

A twenty-year veteran of the shearing shed, Aussie Shane Cooper loves his job, and the home he’s made for himself in New Zealand. If he’s a little lonely, he’s got good mates to keep his spirits up. When a hot, cocky young shearer named Lachlan Moore catches his eye at a competition, he’s content to look but not touch, knowing the young man is out of his league.

Lachie wouldn’t mind a piece of Shane, but the gorgeous gun shearer from Australia is soon forgotten when the Christchurch earthquake hits, and tragedy strikes Lachie’s family. Lachie deals with it the best he can, cutting himself off from all he knows. A year later and he’s back in the shearing shed, out of practice and lacking confidence. That Shane’s there to watch him flounder doesn’t help his nerves.

As Lachlan struggles to re-acclimatise, Shane can’t resist giving him a hand to get back on his feet. As they move from friends to something more, Shane finds himself wanting to know everything he can about Lachie. But Lachie’s got secrets he desperately wants to keep, and when things come to a head, those secrets might just mean the end of them before they’ve truly begun.
New Zealand’s half a world away, known to most of us as spectacular scenery with hobbits and a vague idea of Maoris and sheep. Meredith Shayne’s added detail and dimension and given life to those ideas.

There’s a very, very slow burn between Lachie, a rising star in the shearing world, and Shane, the acknowledged master. It’s not just competition, these men keep an entire industry moving, they’re an essential link between wooly animals and winter coats. It’s a world Lachie loves, and hates leaving.

The earthquake in Christchurch changes Lachie’s life and family forever, forcing him to step up to being the head of his family and the only one holding things together. He can’t manage this out on the shearing circuit, so he does what he must, and since Shane’s only a broad grin after a competition, any thought of pursuing more goes by the wayside. Once he’s back on the circuit, things can change.

The author seems to have used two real events as her basis, which is great for verisimilitude but may have had an adverse effect on the timeline, because a lot of time passes without much changing. (Christchurch is in a seismic hotbed and if you want to see a really cool demonstration look here: http://www.christchurchquakemap.co.nz/february )(Yeah, I look stuff like this up if the book intrigues me.) The sheep-shearing cycle may also have played into the timeline issues.

Lachie’s Maori, or part Maori, and the culture does come into play. While his mother is understandably devastated, she also retreats, and is allowed to remain in retreat, way past grieving and into self indulgence. I had high hopes for change after Jade and the other women from the marae came to visit, but alas, no. The result is a story that encompasses a lot of time but where plot and relationship advance at a glacial pace.

The writing is smooth enough to take some of the sting out of the pace, and once the guys do get into bed, they’re in bed a lot, but not talking. Not even the barest bones of something as important as “I have family to take care of,” which boots this into Big Misunderstanding territory.

Frankly, I was ready to slap Lachie and his entire family just to get their attention. Ngaire and Kenny, his sister and brother, read much younger than their stated ages and very helpless. While the mother’s depression was understandable, and may be a real course for some people, she lost reader-sympathy fast for essentially abandoning her kids for most of the long timeline. The whole seemed like artificially inflating the reasons for Lachie to avoid a relationship and to feel guilty for even wanting one.

Shane and Lachie do eventually expose their hearts to one another, and then cut to the HEA, which accentuated the timeline issues for me. I can’t help but think events could have been better balanced. Shane’s family issue had little foreshadowing, and came out in a rush. His help and encouragement without favoritism in the shearing shed was lovely, and he seemed like a really nice guy, if not quite as fleshed out as Lachie.

Still, this was an interesting look into an industry we mostly don’t think about, with two guys who catch at the heart in spite of or because of their flaws. More June/November than May/December makes for an experience gap that isn’t hugely wide, wide enough that I believed Shane felt too old to be a choice for a twenty-five year old in his prime, and was really wrong. These guys will be good together. 3.75 marbles

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