Review: The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots by Loretta Hill

Title: The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots

Author: Loretta Hill

Published: Random House Australia January 2012

Synopsis: ‘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: three hundred and fifty 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 ..

Status: Read on January 16, 2012 — I own a copy {Courtesy Random House Australia}

My Thoughts:

The Girl in 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.


About the Author

Loretta Hill always wanted to be a writer. As a kid she filled pages of exercise books with stories to amuse her friends. Her father, who never wasted his time on fiction, didn’t see much worth in this pass time and pushed her to pursue a ‘sensible’ career. Fortunately, she had inherited some of his talent for numbers and decided to give it a go. She graduated from the University of Western Australia as structural engineer and took her first job with a major West Australian engineering company.A few years later she met a lawyer at a Black Friday party hosted by a friend. She was dressed as the devil and he just came as himself. They are now happily married and living in Perth with their two young sons and infant daughter.Despite her career in engineering, her interest in law and her journey into motherhood, Loretta continued to write. Not because she had a lot of time but because it was and always had been an addiction she couldn’t ignore. Her first novel (under the name Loretta Brabant) was a short romantic comedy called KISS AND TELL and was released in the USA in late 2009. The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots is her commercial women’s fiction debut. Loretta drew upon her own outback engineering experiences to write Lena Todd’s journey of self-discovery into a world full of larrikins, red dust and steel-capped boots.

Find Loretta Hill at

Website I Blog I Facebook I Twitter I Goodreads


Available to Purchase

@ Amazon@ Book Depository I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 1girl2manybooks
    Jan 21, 2012 @ 09:00:54

    I can’t wait to read this one, it sounds like something I’d really enjoy.



  2. Nikki-ann
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 05:37:57

    Not one I’ve heard of before, but it does sound like a good read. I’ve not read many books based in Australia.



  3. The Australian Bookshelf
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 10:16:09

    I’m glad you liked this book Shelleyrae, i’ve had my eye on this for awhile- but missed out on a review copy. I’ll be adding this to my TBR shelf!



  4. Marg
    Jan 23, 2012 @ 12:05:41

    As a transplanted Sandgroper, the setting does appeal to me, although I am not that sure about rural lit as a whole. I would love to get to the Pilbara one day so I might just read this one to get the sense of place.



  5. Sean the Bookonaut
    Jan 23, 2012 @ 23:42:26

    I might see if I can track it down on the strength of your review alone



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  7. buriedinprint
    May 08, 2012 @ 23:38:17

    It’s interesting to read your thoughts on this one; the character does sound appealing. I also share your interest in reading stories that are set in less-populated areas, as it feels like you’re completing the puzzle of what makes up a country on the page.



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