Title: Fool Me Once
Author: Karly Lane
Published: April 2020
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
I received a copy of Fool Me Once from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Farmer Georgie Henderson manages a cattle property in the New England region of New South Wales, but her dream has always been to buy back her family farm, Tamban.
When an unlikely meeting with Michael Delacourt at a rowdy B&S Ball sends them on a whirlwind romance, Georgie can’t believe it’s possible for life to be this good. For the first time ever, her dream of buying back Tamban takes a backseat to her happiness.
But her world shatters when she discovers the shocking secret Michael has been trying to keep from her.
Can Michael convince her they still have a future? And after having her heart so thoroughly broken, can Georgie ever trust anyone again?
By now, everyone knows how much I adore Karly Lane’s books – they’re easy-to-read and enjoy books that always signal a wonderful time curled up on the couch with a cup of tea.
As with all her books, Fool Me Once is set in rural Australia (in this case, rural NSW) and follows the relationship between a farmer – Georgie Henderson – and a her love interest, Michael Delacourt. The story opens at a B&S ball that Georgie’s been dragged along to by her best friend, and is where she meets Michael for the first time. He’s out of place amongst the familiar crowd and the two have an instant connection that blooms into the beginnings of a long-distance relationship.
Except Michael’s got a secret that he’s hesitant to share, afraid of Georgie’s reaction. This causes a rift that may never be healed.
Before I dive into the characters, I did want to mention, briefly, how Lane sets up place as character. Georgie’s a farmer, and manages a cattle property, and she grew up on her family’s farm, not far from where she currently lives and works, so it’s in her blood. She’s always known what she wants to do, and the sale of her family property before she could take it is something that’s a on-going wound in her life. The places she’s lived and worked are additional characters to this narrative because they are so much part of her life. As a reader, we get a true sense of what these two properties look and sound like, and a peek at what needs to happen on a daily basis to keep a cattle farm running – not just the manual labor side, but also the business side.
Georgie is a strong woman, who’s known her whole life what she wants to do and the loss of her family’s property to a large corporation shattered a lot of her dreams. She’s found a great job, and an employer she loves and trusts and who feels the same for her in return, but it’s still not enough to shake the feeling of loss for her property and a distrust for the businesses that come through and buy up struggling farms. In many ways, she’s content to continue living her life and saving for the time when she can try and buy back her family farm, and that future is tested when she meets Michael. He’s someone she never thought she’d fall for, and he challenges her to step outside her comfort zone and live in the moment. But he’s also someone who can potentially hurt her and she’s guarded herself for so long that when his secret is revealed it shatters her trust completely. Then it takes her a long time to resolve her broken trust and her feelings for the man – beyond his secret.
Michael is someone who’s worked hard to get where he is in life, and it hasn’t been without its ups and downs. Born and raised on a farm until the death of his father, Michael and his mother then moved to the city when his mother remarries, and Michael is introduced to the world of business. He has a tumultuous relationship with his step-father, and walked away from working from him in order to start his own business. When he meets Georgie he’s smitten, and as he learns more about her, he realises that they’re linked together in more than a romantic way – and it’s not going to bode well for their relationship if she finds out. In his effort to stay with Georgie, Michael makes decisions to keep things from her and suffers the consequences of the actions. The fact that he makes these mistakes makes him a more relatable character – he genuinely thinks he’s protecting her, without realising that keeping things from her would hurt her worse – and instead of making me feel frustrated about his character, in a way, it’s kind of endearing.
Georgie and Michael’s relationship feels harder fought in Fool Me Once, compared to some of Lane’s more recent books. The story itself is built around the miscommunication trope (which can be hit or miss for me), and it pulls it off. As a reader I was pulled into the whirlwind romance quickly enough that by the time the secret drops I was waiting for it to happen and to find out if and how it can be resolved. Lane writes compelling characters and relationship realities, and I’m all here for it.