Bringo Springs by Laney Cairo – review

Rating: 6.5/10 ★★★★★★½☆☆☆ 
Title: Bringo Springs
Author: Laney Cairo
Genre: Rural romance
URL: Torquere Press
Price: US $3.95
Other Information/warnings: explicit m/m, violent deaths of endangered Australian animals
Summary [from publisher]: Ross is a city boy, working on his thesis and living with his trendy boyfriend. When his grandfather breaks a hip and winds up in the hospital, Ross is enlisted to take over the running of his grandfather’s farm. When he arrives at the farm, he finds one problem after another; everything from the bore pump no longer working, to snakes taking over in the house. After calling in for reinforcements for the bore pump, he sets out to get everything else working.
Relief arrives in the form of Geoff, who is impressed with Ross’ willingness to get his hands and boots dirty in order to get the work done. That’s not all that impresses Geoff, and when their attraction appears mutual, Ross must decide what to do. Can this city boy find happiness in the Australian outback? Read Bringo Springs and find out.

My review: The Australian setting was once again the inducement to buy this novella, though I had already decided I would read almost anything Ms Cairo brought out. This is another solid effort, with a nicely drawn setting which she’s taken pains to research. Unfortunately it’s flawed by the same problem I noted in her other books – the unconvincing dialogue which lacks any distinctiveness regardless of character background or nationality. Her men just don’t sound like guys, and they really don’t sound like Aussie guys. If you buy a Cairo, you’ll just have to accept that fault. It bugs me a lot, but it’s unlikely to bug someone not from an Australian background, or who is less concerned with authenticity. What is irritating, though, is that the latter kind of person isn’t going to appreciate the lovingly created setting and rich descriptions, and those who understand how authentic those are, are going to be annoyed by the dialogue, a boyfriend called Eugene, a horse called ‘Muffy’ and big brawny boys from the bush calling their horses ‘sweetie’ (all of which are not impossible, just very, very improbable.) I can’t but hope that one day, this author pulls it all together because when she gets it right, she’s one of the more superior writers in this genre.

There were a few other niggles, which, considering I enjoyed the story pretty well, still loomed larger than I would have liked. The crappy editing…well, it’s Torquere, and they don’t give a monkey’s (a fact more and more being remarked on by reviewers so they can’t be unaware of how poorly they’re regarded.) I don’t blame the author for that. However, this is the second story by this author where a rather large assumption about someone’s sexuality is made on the basis of them having a rainbow sticker on their car, which could equally be explained by (a) a kid sister with a rainbow fetish (b) it being a borrowed vehicle (c) it being a newly purchased vehicle previously belonging to a gay man or (d) someone whacking it on there as a joke. It’s the third story I’ve read of hers where fucking takes on almost magical properties, turning straight men gay, removing the pain of crippling arthritis, or, in this case, making a soft city boy run away to the country, dump his boyfriend and become the ultimate cow cocky. Almost makes a reader nostalgic for the days when all a hard screw did was make the bottom walk a little funny.

There were other plot points which made me go ‘hmmm’ too. Geoff’s clumsy come on seemed very unlikely for a closeted bushie, and especially for someone who’s clearly not inadequate or inarticulate. Ross’ treatment of his boyfriend was pretty vile, actually (another trope in Cairo’s books is that past relationships are suddenly rendered meaningless by the arrival of the One True Love), and he comes across as dangerously impulsive and flighty. The whole fluid bonding/exchange thing made me roll my eyes and Eugene tolerating a boyfriend who won’t let him fuck him seemed a tad unlikely too. A bit of dramatic hurt/comfort at the end involved a series of coincidences which didn’t ring true to me, though I liked the interactions that arose from it.

I swear though, these are things which bugged me more afterwards, than during the story. The whole handling of the farm crisis was really well done, and Geoff comes across as a great bloke (as does Eugene – the fact he’s not a bastard makes Ross look worse in contrast, actually.) The dog is a typical Cairo dog, full of personality and well used in the story, as are the other animals (though I gritted my teeth through the first few pages as endangered animal after endangered animal was summarily and illegally dispatched for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – it’s an authentic attitude to Australian fauna, but that doesn’t make it attractive.) Ross’ coping with the various problems of the farm, the camping out in the house, the randy old grandfather, the way the bush is both magical and frighteningly dangerous, were all fascinating. The romance is great, so long as you don’t care about Eugene. In the end, Ross finds success in his pursuit of happiness and Eugene isn’t left too appalling devastated. I liked him more than I like Ross, though.

So, if you want an outback romance with an authentic flavour, don’t mind dead snakes and kangaroos, and like an earthy tang to your sex, this one will be for you. Enjoyable.