REVIEW: The Girl In The Yellow Vest By Loretta Hill

Published: January 2, 2014

Publisher: Random House Australia

380 pages

RRP $32.95

Format Reviewed: Ebook thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher

Emily Woods counts cracks for a living. Concrete cracks. So when her long-term boyfriend dumps her, she decides it’s time for a change of scenery. Her best friend, Will, suggests joining his construction team in Queensland. Working next door to the Great Barrier Reef seems like just the sort of adventure she needs to reboot her life…until she realises that Will is not the person she thought he was.

Charlotte Templeton is frustrated with the lack of respect FIFO workers have for her seaside resort. But picking a fight with their tyrannical project manager, Mark Crawford, seems to lead to more complications than resolutions. The man is too pompous, too rude, and too damned good looking.

As both women strive to protect their dreams and achieve their goals, they discover that secrets will come out, loyalty often hurts, and sometimes the perfect man is the wrong one.

The Girl In The Yellow Vest is an entertaining and compelling read that you won’t want to put down. It’s a quirky and fun-filled narrative that will have you laughing and crying along with its batty array of characters, that is bound to leave you feeling good about life at the end. With it’s exotic location, sizzling chemistry and all around Australian Charm its not a book you’ll want to miss.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Loretta Hill’s writing; it was something akin to love at first read when I read her first book back in 2012. Since Then I’ve purchased everything she has out and will continue to do so for a long time to come. It must be said though that although I was extremely excited to read this novel (I spent most of 2013 counting down to it’s release!), I was  apprehensive about it for I learnt early this year that this novel, although part of book series, was to be set in Queensland instead of the Pilbara in Western Australia. Having read the entire 380 pages in one day, I can safely say any fears I had over this book not living up to expectation where ill founded and put to rest early on. The narrative is nothing short of Hill’s trademark whit and originality, with well thought out characters, a vibrant background and rare look at  a widely unknown male dominated industry.

The Girl In The Yellow Vest is slightly different to Hill’s two previous novels in a variety of ways. The most obvious being the new and exotic location of Hay Point Wharf in Queensland which just so happens to virtually back on to The Great Barrier Reef. Also different is the narrative approach of the story, for The Girl In The Yellow Vest is told through the four main characters perspectives in alternating chapters. I especially loved this change to the books, as it allowed for a greater character depth across all the characters, but also it allowed a dual love story to develop and play out simultaneously across centre stage. The narrative change doesn’t come without limitations and issues of its own however, as the perspective change meant it took me slightly longer to immerse myself in the book as I learnt who everyone was and their individual nuances. Also towards the later half of the book there is a time jump between the two distinct romance stories, which sort of threw the narrative in a small way.

As usual Hill’s characterisation is spot on, with larger-then-life characters dominating the somewhat harsh and unforgiving landscape and workforce. I particularly enjoyed the character development of Emily Woods, who we first meet as a newly single engineer who has no idea where her life is going. Having spent five years playing yes-man to the man she thought was about to propose (Trent) only to have him kick her out of his house, she has no idea what to expect from the world. Vulnerable and out of whack with the world, she jumps at the opportunity to come work with her best friend Will up in Queensland. Being one of a handful of women on site, she is forced rather quickly to grow a back bone or face the possibility of the men walking all over her. What’s more I loved her chemistry with Will’s character. The two of them has some great interactions where their personalities really shine, as did their social predicament. Both are relatable and realistic character who are easy to identify with.

Charlotte Templton is a fiery, independent woman who is desperately trying to save her family business that the mess the FIFO workers are wrecking havoc on. With a mother sliding into the depths of Alzheimer’s and a fifteen year old sister under her guardianship the last thing she wants is to have to deal with the very stubborn and stoic Barnes INC leader Mark Crawford. But deal she does. Mark’s character was the hardest to connect with due to his cold, closed off nature and angry persona. As we learn about his past however, his actions become not only understandable but almost forgiveable. That said I can’t shy away from my slight disappointment in the way in which Mark’s character and his back story is very much similar to Dan/Bulldog’s from The Girl In The Steel-Capped Boots. I would have liked to have seen a bit more originality there. Largely though as the book progressed I did come to really like Mark, especially throughout his interactions with Charlotte. The two of them sparring and their very formal way of speaking and addressing each other as both refreshing and a shining example of the pure humour and warmth Hill is renown for.

Supporting characters such as Nova, Anne and Dipper ( Will’s colleagues) and Virginia and Zara Templeton (Charlotte’s Mother and Sister) were a great addition to the already bulging cast of vibrant characters that Hill effortless creates. In fact one of my biggest praises for Hill’s work is probably centred around her ability to not only  create such amazing, full of life and versatile characters, but her ability to sustain these characters in a variety of situations with true-to-life dialogue and actions.

Another welcomes surprised is the way in which many of Hill’s previous well-loved characters make cameos in this narrative. The book opens with Lena and Dan (Bulldog’s) wedding, where we also see Carl and Sharon. Later on in the novel, Chub and Annabel make an appearance, as does Fish who after getting fired from the Pilbara in the last book is now working in Queensland under Mark (Caesar’s) rule. The inclusions of these characters not only made me smile, but their early connection meant I was better able to place this book in regards to the previous stories.

The Girl In The Yellow Vest is my FAVOURITE summer read so far, and I doubt it will topped in the remaining summer months. After all what more could you ask from a good laid back summer read? Tropical exotic location? Check! Sexy hard working Men? Check! Check! Sun and Surf? Check! Good chemistry and believable connections? Check! Feel good romance? Check! Mystery and suspense? Check! I highly recommend this book to anyone whose looking for a read that’s a little bit different and a whole lot of fun.

For more information on Loretta Hill’s books visit her website, Goodreads or Random House Australia.

Read as part of my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2013

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