The Outback Stars was one of those books that I stumbled across in a moment of serendipity. I was in a place where I generally don't find quality reading material when it literally fell at my feet.
The pretty cover grabbed my interest and the David Drake blurb, "Likable characters, excellent development and a series of interlocking puzzles worked out against Australian culture that most Americans will find exotic. A smart, fun read" proved to be prescient.
Though I am not a fan of military fiction, I did like John Scalzi's Old Mans War series, and I enjoyed Elizabeth Moons military SF series as well. Outback Stars proved to be similar to those series, in that there is much discussion of military rules and protocol, yet because it is the Australian naval tradition translated to space, it was just different enough to not bore the reader to tears (though I will admit to skimming the more lengthy military discussions).
McDonalds prose is clean, crisp and regulation, like her heroine, Lieutenant Jodenny Scott, and the plot moves along at a march.
The story revolves around Scott, who is recovering from a horrendous accident on her previous ship, and Terry Myell, one of the men she works with on the new ship she's assigned to, the Aral Sea. Though she's made head of the under stores dept, Scott discovers that her division is full of thugs, malcontents and problems with missing materials and AI drones, called DINGOs. The farther Scott gets into the investigation and in trying to whip the department into shape, the more danger creeps up on her, and the more she develops feelings for Myell, though she knows there is a policy against fraternization between officers. At one point, Myell and Scott stumble upon an Aboriginal secret transportation system and that's when all heck breaks lose and chaos ensues. Fortunately, both survive and the book ends with a lovely HEA.
I enjoyed the fast pace adventure aspect of this novel, as well as the romantic b-side of the record, and I loved the characters, who were well drawn and distinct.
I'd recommend this book to fans of Linnea Sinclair's space adventure/romances and to those who liked John Scalzi or Elizabeth Moons series.