Finding Love Down Under by Donna Jay is a sensual romantic first foray into lesbian fiction. Claire Evans lives on a secluded vineyard in the New Zealand countryside, hoping the solitude will help her heal from her disastrous breakup with her previous girlfriend.
On a rare visit to town, she bumps into Zoe Anderson when she stops for a bite to eat. Zoe is running from her own troubled relationship with nothing more than a backpack full of possessions.
Claire offers her a place to stay, and a job of sorts, doing all the cooking and household chores that she isn’t so keen on. With nowhere else to go, and no desire to go home to Canada, Zoe accepts Claire’s offer.
Both women are feeling rather awkward and tentative as they encounter and negotiate beyond the sensitive raw spots that their previous relationships have left them with. It’s a gradual learning process for both. But as they each open up more to the other, they discover they have things in common, and an attraction begins to draw them together. This story is about how each woman helped the other heal, and become more open to the love that was growing between them.
Claire Evans is the strong quiet type, naturally dominant in her relationships. But the book starts out with her discovering a betrayal and abusing of trust by her then girlfriend. This scene was necessary to show how devastating the betrayal was, and why it’s so difficult for Claire to get over it. Circumstances have left Claire alone on an isolated vineyard, where she spends her days working the land and enjoying the solitude.
Zoe Anderson seems at first to be a slight mismatch for Claire. She’s in New Zealand on a work visa, hailing from Canada, and she’s definitely the effervescent city girl type. When we first meet her, though, Zoe has just run from a situation and a relationship that obviously didn’t end well. She’s lost and alone, and not sure where to go next. Claire offers her a place to stay and a way to contribute, and Zoe is grateful for it. She’s sweet, determined to do her part, and as we learn as the story progresses, as natural a submissive as Claire is dominant.
The Writing Style
The writing in this book seems to flow naturally and effortlessly. The pace isn’t rushed or hurried. The relationship evolves over time, and the writing allows us to look in on the various important scenes that show how things are developing without either letting us forget that the time has passed, or making us feel like we missed out on anything. It was just an excellent way to follow how Claire and Zoe’s feelings for each other mature.
The pacing of this book was one of the best things about it for me. Well, okay. The sex, too. But while the sex was exciting and sensual and kept me avidly turning pages, the pace was what made the book extraordinary. Not only does Jay give the characters the time to get to know each other, she gives them room to trust each other. And that’s one of the most important things for a relationship like this. When trust is abused, it takes a lot of time for someone to give that trust to someone new, and I applaud Jay for not pushing her characters faster than they would have wanted to go.
We’ll have to talk about the elephant in the room here. BDSM isn’t for everyone. That may be a turn off for a lot of people, especially in the prologue where it really is a horrible depiction of the some of the worst things that could happen in BDSM. That initial chapter may turn a lot of people off. But it’s there to show you that things like that AREN’T supposed to happen, and that they AREN’T normal or acceptable. There isn’t much of it in the rest of the book. I’m of two minds about that, because on the one hand, I think that’s the right choice for these two characters at this time, but on the other, I really would have enjoyed more. That’s me though. I’d consider this book kink lite, so if you’re hesitant about the idea of BDSM, please realize that it isn’t the main focus of this story.
This was an excellent romance. Donna Jay has written a compelling story of two women betrayed, who find each other, and in the finding, heal themselves and open themselves up to love. There are some erotic scenes, so if you like that (like me), this is definitely a worthy addition to your library. The kink isn’t very heavy throughout the book, after that one initial jarring scene, and so it could serve as a dip of your toes in to see what it’s about. Claire and Zoe make you pull for them to figure out their feelings and truly let each other in.
Excerpt from Finding Love Down Under by Donna Jay
“Well hello, kitty.”
A thick-set woman stood at the table, eyeing Claire up and down, disdain written all over her face.
Fear radiated off Zoe in thick waves. “What are you doing here?”
The woman slid into the seat next to Zoe and leaned in close. Zoe scooted sideways until the wall prevented her from moving farther away.
“That’s not a very nice way to greet your girlfriend. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?” The woman’s menacing gaze locked on Claire.
Zoe looked close to tears. “You’re not my girlfriend.”
Having no clue what was going on, although on full alert and ready to jump to Zoe’s defense, Claire plastered on a fake smile and extended a hand. “I’m Claire. And you?”
The very butch woman shook her hand, squeezing her fingers with way more force than necessary. Claire didn’t rise to the challenge.
The woman release her grip and scrubbed her hand on her checkered shirt, as though it was covered in slime. “The name’s Sam.”
Ah, so this was the ex. Not a him, a her. And a very hostile her at that.
Sam’s cold hard gaze shot daggers at Claire. “Zoe and I need to talk. Excuse us.”
The fact it came out like an order and not a request made Claire fume. She chewed the inside of her cheek, bit back an angry retort and directed a question at Zoe. “Do you want me to step outside?”
The look of anguish on Zoe’s face gave Claire the answer before her softly spoken reply. “No. We came in together. We’ll leave together.” Zoe straightened her spine as if gathering up some courage.
Claire gave her a barely perceptible nod, trying to convey the words, I’ve got your back, be strong.
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Note: I received a free review copy of Finding Love Down Under by Donna Jay. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.