AWWNYRC#10: Duet by Kimberley Freeman

This is the tenth book I’m reading as part of my list of 10 for the Australian Women Writers 2012 National Year of Reading Challenge, which completes the exercise, though probably won’t be the last to fit the category this year*.

Duet

by Kimberley Freeman

Hachette, 2007, ISBN: 978 0 7336 2177 2

duet by kimberley freemanWhen the author of Duet — her first entry into the world of the depressingly named women’s literature field as a writer — announced the sale, she told me I’d hate this book. I bought it anyway, taking confidence in the fact Kim’s fantastical work was consummate and, besides, Hachette had whacked a ‘love this book or your money back’ sticker on the front.

That offer has no doubt expired by now, but it doesn’t matter, because I didn’t hate Duet. It was, however, an eye-opener.

This is the genre of the big tell, it seems, with motivations and feelings writ large — this is the genre of emotion, after all. And what a rollercoaster it is.

Two women who look so very much alike — one English, one German — share a false identity that propels them both into the spotlight, where both discover that fame and even fortune don’t deliver on their promise.

Angie, born poor and living rough, is discovered by music producer George who crafts her a pop career in the 1970s. It’s not so much sex, drugs and rock’n’roll as just the prescription pills, exacerbated by an abduction.

As Angie goes into rehab, George has had the good luck to stumble across Ellie, Angie’s lookalike with a brilliant set of operatic pipes, who is more than happy to escape rural poverty for a shot at the bigtime as Angie’s doppelganger.

The path to the charts has been anything but smooth for both women, but more setbacks are in store for all involved. There’s amnesia, marriage of convenience, thwarted love, all revolving around a slowly unveiled family secret that both destroys and resurrects.

Watching the characters manoeuvred through the various stages of life to finally arrive at the climax is a pleasure, as each change of fortune sets them up for the next with all the assuredness of dominoes.

There’s a little sparkle to enliven the text, too, thanks to phrases such as ‘the Seine dreaming of the ocean’, and some delightful springboards to end chapters as the mystery of the duo’s past unfolds.

Set against exotic backdrops in Europe as well as an isolated Greek island and the Australian coast and outback, it’s a global tour of ambition, regret and desire. This is a romance, so of course true love will out, but it’s all about the how. I was a little disappointed at just how neatly the boxes were ticked off by the final page, even if there were casualties along the way, but I am a cynical non-breeder so that disappointment should be expected.

While Duet is certainly outside my usual reading ground, I quite enjoyed this dip into the unfamiliar, thanks in large part to the twists and especially the Gothic influences to kept me interested.

* The final 10 has turned out a little different to the plan. C’est la vie.

Previous Challenge reviews:

Voyager opens digital door — for a fortnight

HarperVoyager has invited submissions of 80,000–120,000 words (preferred) using an online portal, 1–14 October only. Details are on the website. The limited move follows a popular shift among legacy publishers to consider manuscripts sent in by email — there’s a list here. The program is for digital rights only and does consider reprints, as long as the author has the rights, naturally. It seems to be part of the push into the digital realm flagged by Publishers Weekly in July, involving HarperCollins’ ramping up output from its digital-only imprint, Impulse.

  • Romance icon Harlequin is also seeking digital content for its Escapes line, across all subsets of romance, and will consider self-published titles.

  • Submissions for Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror Vol.3 are now open, looking for work published in 2012. The second volume is now available.


  • GenreCon for Sydney in November

    From the Queensland Writers Centre bulletin, a great event for genre writers:

    The Australian Writer’s Marketplace is proud to announce GenreCon!

    Rydges Paramatta, November 2-4th 2012

    GenreCon is a three-day convention for Australian fans and professionals working within the fields of romance, mystery, science fiction, crime, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and more. One part party, one part celebration, one part professional development: GenreCon is the place to be if you’re an aspiring or established writer with a penchant for the types of fiction that get relegated to their own corner of the bookstore. Featuring international guests Joe Abercrombie (Writer, The First Law Trilogy, Best Served Cold, The Heroes), Sarah Wendell (co-founder, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books), and Ginger Clark (Literary Agent, Curtis Brown).

    For more information, visit GenreCon.com.au. Early bird rates available to the first 50 registrations.

    The event looks to have a strong industry and networking focus, and the ticketing system includes mention of pitching opportunities.

    Tasty reviews for Ticonderoga’s fangtastic anthologies

    more scary kisses paranormal romance anthology

    dead red heart Australian vampire anthology

    Publishers Weekly has posted reviews of two forthcoming Ticonderoga Publications anthologies — Dead Red Heart (“solid”) and More Scary Kisses (“beguiling”) — and that’d be a thumbs up for both — yay! Both anthologies are due out around Easter. And yup, I’m chuffed to say that I’ve got stories in both of them.