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The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots by Loretta…

The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots

by Loretta Hill

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Loved it! My favourite read of the year so far. I'm so glad for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, because I never would have found this book otherwise. It's not my type of book at all, except that it really, really was. I ripped through it in a day.

The sense of place was just wonderful, and I fell a little in love with the Pilbara along with Lena. The characters are memorable and engaging, and the romance was full of tension and spark. I say that as someone who is decidedly not a romance reader.

Loretta Hill has done a skillful job in the slow reveal of Lena's character, her secret, Bulldog's secret, and the progress of the Pilbara project. All of the storylines in the book are engaging and tied up in a satisfying way.

I loved Hill's use of Australian slang and dialect to give her characters their own distinct voices, and I really enjoyed Lena's solutions to her engineering problems - social and structural.

This is a smart book, with likable characters, great pacing and all kinds of spark. ( )
  JetSilver | Mar 31, 2013 |
Sometimes, you just have to listen to your mother. Mum bought this book when it was first released and raved about it to me. Unfortunately, it has taken me until now to read it. (Yes, I am officially a bad daughter). But at least now I know what a talented writer Loretta Hill is, having devoured her other books (One Little White Lie and The Girl in the Hard Hat). This is a fun, funny and fabulous read about the FIFO (fly in, fly out) life in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. This is the place where men are men and everything is a shade of pink due to the red dust.

Lena is a graduate engineer, who is not sure whether she’s worthy of her degree. A city girl who loves her shopping and her lattes, she’s devastated to be told she’s going to a camp in the remote north of the state to work on expansion of a wharf for loading iron ore. With her new home a small donga (that’s a transportable unit), drab dusty uniform compulsory and camp home to hundreds of men, it’s not the life she was looking for. In between trying to prove herself to the men and fending off advances, Lena’s trying to adjust. However, Dan Hullog (or Bulldog) isn’t making life easy for her. Will she stand the test?

I loved this book. It combined a lot of elements that I enjoy – an Australian setting, a clever character (c’mon, since when do female engineers make common heroines?), a lot of banter, friendship, a bit of mystery and a touch of romance. Hill is clearly talented, particularly in making Lena’s colleagues stand out as individuals in the sea of men. Carl the manager and his blue language (which won’t be to everyone’s taste), gossip Radar, silent Dan, slightly creepy Gavin and permanently mad Mike are memorable. Sharon the bus driver is also sweet and a good friend for Lena. As for Lena, she’s quite shallow at the start, but grows throughout the novel to become a worthy heroine to gain the acceptance of her co-workers. The only part I felt that didn’t work all that well was Lena’s ‘secret’ – I don’t think it would be possible for one person to have so much input into university results (especially not with recent scandals). Dan’s secret was much better handled – truly heart wrenching at times.

Hill is also excellent at dialogue, creating witty banter and generally funny comments. She captures the essence of the Pilbara very well too – completely true to life (as I’ve been up that way several times myself). I loved how she took a typically male, macho setting and made a coming of age/romance novel. I can also see how she has grown as a writer – read The Girl in the Hard Hat (the sequel to this book) and the hilarious novella One Little White Lie to see for yourself.

http://samstillreading.wordpress.com ( )
  birdsam0610 | Mar 10, 2013 |
This book is written with a lot of truth as the author draws on her own experiences in the Pilbara of Western Australia to write the book. It is a chick lit book but still very enjoyable. It has only just been released. ( )
  cookiemo | Feb 5, 2012 |
The Girl in The Steel Capped Boots is a light contemporary novel that has a distinct Australian feel. It makes the most of it's unique setting, I love that it is set in the Pilbara in Western Australia. A sparsely populated and isolated area of the country, the Pilbara's stunning landscape has unique physical and emotional challenges for those that live and work in it.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. Lena Todd isn't exactly looking forward to spending months in the isolated Pilbara region building a massive wharf but she is determined to prove herself as a skilled engineer. As one of only five women amongst 350 men, Lena's designer label outfits and good looks don't make the good first impression she hoped for and being mistaken for a cleaner on her first day in the office shakes her confidence. Overcoming the sexist attitudes of the crew, and her own doubts about her abilities is a challenge but Lena surprises everyone, especially the client, when she proves she is capable of not only doing her job, but much more.

I was impressed with the way in which the author revealed the depth of Lena's character as the story progresses. My initial impression of Lena as a flaky party girl was repeatedly challenged as Lena demonstrated intelligence, courage and determination. It is wonderful that Lena not only survives but flourishes in the harsh and difficult conditions. Lena faces realistic situations in her new role, adjusting to living in a field of converted shipping containers (dongars), facing daily sexual harassment and the challenges of working on a massive building project.

While much of of the story explores Lena's adjustment to her unique environment, her relationship with Dan ‘Bulldog’ Hullog adds another layer to the plot. Dan is the demanding client, determined to keep the project on time and on budget, he is not a popular man amongst the crew and Lena is both intimidated by and wary of him. Their relationship is fraught with tension that slowly blossoms into heated attraction, especially when Lena learns of the tragic secret he is hiding.

In a place like the Barnes Inc camp it is not surprising that it has its share of characters. Lena's boss, Carl uses profanity as a noun, verb and adjective but for all his bluster he is a fair man with a soft heart. Gavin, young and cocksure, is a determined suitor who needs taking down a peg or two. Lena's wharf crew which includes men named Leg, Fish and Radar become her champions. Most importantly for Lena she befriends Sharon, one of the few women in the camp, who is the bus driver ferrying the men to the site and back. Lena also has her enemies, Mike is not going to listen to some girl and delights in sabotaging her where possible and she is the continued target of unwelcome harassment. Then there are the kangaroo's that seem determined to get in her way.

I was born in Western Australia and though it has been more than twenty years since I had no choice but to move to the other side of Australia, I still get pangs of homesickness when I read about my home state. Well written, funny and fascinating The Girl in the Steel Capped Boots is a wonderfully entertaining novel. ( )
  shelleyraec | Jan 20, 2012 |
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'Let me burst your city bubble for you. This is the Pilbara. And it's the Pilbara that makes the rules ...' Lena Todd is a city girl who thrives on cocktails and cappuccinos. So when her boss announces he's sending her to the outback to join a construction team, her world is turned upside down. Lena's new accommodation will be an aluminium box called a dongar. Her new social network: 350 men. Her daily foot attire: steel-capped boots. Unfortunately, Lena can't refuse. Mistakes of the past are choking her confidence. She needs to do something to right those wrongs and prove herself. Going into a remote community might just be the place to do that, if only tall, dark and obnoxious Dan didn't seem so determined to stand in her way...… (more)

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