Book Review: All That He Is by Jill Staunton

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Daniel O’Callaghan, ex-combat dog handler, is a man trying to come to terms with his tragic past. Travelling on his motor bike, he almost knocks Finneen (Neen) Murphy over in an outback town of Greenvale, northern Queensland. Neen is absorbed with her own problems and lets her fiery temper get the better of her. But sparks seem to fly. Daniel and Neen encounter each other again when they rescue abused dog Bess, an action which brings unexpected repercussions, hurling Daniel back to Afghanistan.

This was an interesting novel. Listed as a romance novel it’s not a genre I normally read so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But I was pleasantly surprised. The dynamics between Daniel and Neen is charged and the growth of their relationship unfolds throughout the story as we’re given both points of view.

This novel is much more than just a romance novel. Themes of environment particularly wildlife poaching, animal care and post traumatic stress were sensitively explored and threaded through the narrative, creating interest as well as some drama. The sexual tension between Neen and Daniel was well done and I enjoyed the dynamics between these two and their backstories. Is there anything that Daniel can’t do? He’s a man who’s almost too good to be true. He meets his match with Neen, an academic, strong and feisty with a strong sense of justice.

The real star of the show is the dog, Bess whose own story is fascinating. And of course the Australian bush landscape. Staunton certainly knows her setting and I could visualise the heat, the dirt, scrub, cattle, pale-headed rosellas and those black cockatoos.

If you like a great story, easy to read, then this one might be one to put on your list.

Thank you to the publisher, Boolarong Press for an advanced copy.

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