The latest novel by Cathryn Hein, The Falls is set in a rural town in New South Wales. Teagen Bliss is devastated by her parent’s betrayal and the losThe latest novel by Cathryn Hein, The Falls is set in a rural town in New South Wales. Teagen Bliss is devastated by her parent’s betrayal and the loss of her dream to manage her family’s farm in South Australia. She flees to her Aunt Vanessa’s home in NSW for respite, only to discover that she feels completely hopeless and depressed. With the support and nurturance of her Aunt, Teagan starts to find some sense of worth in working on the property and picking up a local job working with horses. Her Aunt’s friend and horse farrier Lucas Knight also helps to pass the time. Teagan is instantly attracted to him, but is no emotional state to enter into a relationship- not that she believes he’d ever have a romantic interest in her anyway. They develop a close friendship and Lucas proves to be a reliable friend and a committed lover; both of which Teagan finds completely overwhelming and unable to allow herself to enjoy. Her past experiences have landed her some major trust issues.
There are a lot of characters in The Falls, which helped to create a real community feel and a sense of place in Falls Valley. However, I felt that all the other characters and sub-plots got in the way of really fleshing out the conflict faced by Teagan and Lucas. The novel felt way too long for the rural romance genre and the numerous sub-plots really slowed down the pace of the story. Though I liked Teagan, her determination and hard-working demeanour, I felt the growth in her characterisation came quite late in the book when she acknowledges that she’s not coping. I’d have liked to see this happen earlier so that she could grow from that experience. In a long-winded story, the ending seemed a little rushed in that respect. As for the hero of the story, Lucas, I found him to be way too perfect and completely unrelateable. There’s so much focus on how amazingly good-looking he is and how Teagan cannot believe someone who stepped out of a Mills and Boone novel could ever be interested in her, that it completely overshadowed him as a man with any kind of substance. He certainly proves to be a reliable and supportive friend to Teagan, but I’d have preferred for these qualities to shine through rather than his glistening chest and warrior-like hair!
I’ve really enjoyed Hein’s novels in the past, but The Falls just didn’t do much for me. I struggled with the characterisation, the plot and the romantic elements. I did however love the setting, the small-town politics and the lessons that can be learnt from slowing down and enjoying a country way of life. While it wasn’t quite up to my expectations, if you’re a fan of Hein it is worth the read and I won’t hesitate to pick up any other of hers in the future.
A couple of years ago I read the fun and witty chic lit novel set in far North Queensland, The Coffeeholic and the Cafe (also known as All You Need isA couple of years ago I read the fun and witty chic lit novel set in far North Queensland, The Coffeeholic and the Cafe (also known as All You Need is Love and Coffee) by Elizabeth Martin. So, I was quite interested to see where the story would lead when I was contacted about reading Martin’s sequel, Tea House in the Lime Trees.
Claire and her boyfriend Bruce have had a blissful couple of months travelling North Queensland, but as their finances start to dwindle they decide it’s time to find some work and save up for their next big adventure. When Claire is offered a position as a travelling companion and Bruce accepts a job in mining, they are both over the moon. Together, they will be starting a new adventure in the Home of Coffee! Unfortunately, a misunderstanding leads to the realisation that Claire and Bruce’s idea of the Home of Coffee is substantially different. Their jobs are in different countries!
Devastated by this setback in their plans for the future, Claire and Bruce mutually accept their long distance relationship and intend to reconnect when their three month postings end. The ever so bubbly and eager Claire is thrilled about her new job… she can’t believe she’s really going to Italy!
Unfortunately another misunderstanding for Claire means that her dream job is quickly slipping away. Instead she’s left with a huge farm in the sticky, hot Far North Queensland town of Dimbulah. Even I felt completely deflated. Poor Claire!
Feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running such a huge property and missing her boyfriend who is uncontactable in a remote location she is vulnerable to the charms of the owner’s nephew Paul who bulldozes his way in to her life with the promise of fun, fanciful ideas and lots of tea. Coffeeholic Claire is in awe of the energy he brings and is quickly swept up in his dream to resurrect the Dimbulah Tea House. They get to work; renovating and advertising with a dash of playful flirting- only to stop for a tea break.
Martin creates an eccentric cast of characters and I can’t help but like Claire’s naive zest for life which propelled me through the story. Just like Cyclone Angela erupting through Dimbulah, Tea House in the Lime Trees sucked me in and spat me out and before I knew it I’d finished the book! Loved the setting, loved the characters and I continue to enjoy Martin’s witty protagonist Claire. I wonder what she’ll be up to next?...more
The second novel by Aussie author Therese Creed, Charlotte's Creek is another rural story about a strong young woman in rural Australia. While I wasn'The second novel by Aussie author Therese Creed, Charlotte's Creek is another rural story about a strong young woman in rural Australia. While I wasn't blown away by Creed's first novel Redstone Station, I was completely absorbed in the story of Charlotte's Creek. A combination of interesting characters, genuine outback community ties and a love of the land that made it difficult for me to put this book down.
Lucy Francis (presumably in her mid 20's) throws in her teaching position at a posh Sydney private school to take up a governess job in North Queensland. She leaves behind the life (her parents) expected of her and takes the plunge to be out of her comfort zone- and that she is. She arrives at the dusty homestead and meets her four wild students, quickly discovering why the family had so many failed governesses before her. Admirably, Lucy takes it all in her stride. She's young, determined and hopeful and she has a vision of how she wants to run her small school. Of course there's a lot of reluctance from her academically- behind students who would much rather be out on the cattle farm with their dad.
Lucy's initial isolation and loneliness is paramount and I admired how she embraced this aspect of her new life. in this acceptance she makes unlikely friends with the children's foul-mouthed mother Mel and the broody stockman Ted. I particularly enjoyed the quiet companionship between Ted and Lucy. Typically a near-mute hero would irritate me beyond tears, but in Charlotte's Creek it was his presence, his actions and what he didn't say that showed me the kind of bloke Ted was. His backstory, though revealed quite late in the story, was realistic in the context of his past experiences and the solitary lifestyle he lived.
What I particularly enjoyed about this story wasn't actually the love story. It was Lucy's exploration of the property, her eagerness to learn the runnings of the cattle farm and her curiosity about the history of the land. Perhaps that's what I connected with the most. My recent move to a semi-rural location has unearthed a much-needed serenity and a sense of accomplishment at even the simplest tasks undergone around our property. In that sense I could really relate to the way she handled the situation.
In my opinion Lucy was a more well-rounded character than Creed's protagonist in Redstone Station. Perhaps it's the author's own personal experience that shines through in this story- a former school teacher who now runs a cattle station with her husband and four (soon to be five) children.
I'm looking forward to seeing where Creed's writing muse takes her next....more
Simmering Season is another heart-warming women’s fiction novel by Australian author Jenn J McLeod.I like that the story revisited the small town of CSimmering Season is another heart-warming women’s fiction novel by Australian author Jenn J McLeod.I like that the story revisited the small town of Calingarry Crossing, initially introduced in House for all Seasons.
The protagonist, Maggie Lindeman, who had a small role in the first book, becomes better known to the reader. She’s an interesting character whose greatest weakness is that she cares too much about those around her. She’s constantly putting everyone before herself, including her rock star wannabe husband who is trying to make a name for himself in the city. Their relationship is on rocky ground, but Maggie isn’t prepared to give up until she realises what life could offer if she only just opened herself up to the possibilities.
I liked the viewpoints of Maggie’s seventeen year old son Noah and her friend’s daughter Fiona who added a youthful spin on the somewhat serious adult happenings in the town. The catalyst for change for all the characters is the impending school reunion which will reunite Maggie with her first love and provide Fiona with endless opportunities to track down her long lost father.
I enjoyed warming up to the story’s characters, a town I’d come to love in House for all Seasons. There’s a realness to Jenn J Mcleod’s stories and although on the surface it appears that there’s not much happening (in terms of big events), there’s that slowly simmering unfolding of secrets, forming of relationships and the ties of a small community that really draws me in.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the author comes up with next installment of this series, Season of Shadow and Light (due for release in 2015)....more
In Crimson Dawn, Fleur McDonald ambitiously explores many big topics including perinatal loss, domestic violence, drug addiction, sex parties as wellIn Crimson Dawn, Fleur McDonald ambitiously explores many big topics including perinatal loss, domestic violence, drug addiction, sex parties as well as the psychological experiences of loss, trust, love and survival. There were some areas that McDonald did well and some not so well.
Laura inherits her family farm, Nambina and works hard to build it up and begin a jillaroo school for budding female farmers. She throws herself into her work when her relationship with boyfriend Josh Hunter breaks down in the context of a miscarriage and then she also loses her best friend Meghan (Josh’s sister) who becomes very nasty toward her. Their bitterness and hatred wasn’t completely believable in my opinion as it lasted for nearly a decade and it’s all based on one misunderstanding that no one bothered to try and sort out.
However, it wasn’t the plot that I had the main issue with; it was the protagonist, Laura Murphy. Her passivity throughout the novel which spans eight years was completely frustrating and I really felt that her emotionality was severely lacking. I struggled to relate to her and believe that she was a real character. I just wanted her to snap, to yell, and to fight. But she was just too nice, she weighed up every decision by rationalising and talking to other people about them and for me as a reader, I just found her boring. I think that was the problem, there was too much focus on her thoughts and not enough on her emotions which meant I just couldn’t connect with her or become absorbed in her experience.
In terms of Laura’s role on the farm, her strength and determination to follow what she loves is admirable and perhaps this should have been the main focus of the story. Overall, I really struggled to get through this novel and wanted to like it more than I did....more
Iron Junction is rural fiction author Charlotte Nash’s second novel, one that’s release was much anticipated by me. I loved Ryders Ridge and was happyIron Junction is rural fiction author Charlotte Nash’s second novel, one that’s release was much anticipated by me. I loved Ryders Ridge and was happy to see the loose link to some of its characters in Iron Junction.
Again, the protagonist is a doctor, but the challenges are much different! Dr Beth Harding leaves Sydney in a hurry to take up a temporary job in a Western Australian mining town called Iron Junction. She’s uncertain about her decision to leave her fiancé and break away from her family’s expectations but the chance to get away and try something new was too enticing. The position she takes on presents many challenges but is also quite rewarding for Beth who tries to find her feet in a town populated by contract miners.
When Will Walker saves the day after a car breakdown, Beth discovers that there’s even more to love about Iron Junction than just her job. They develop an easy, open and trusting friendship that occasionally crosses into new territory. However, Beth is pretty clear that she only wants to be friends as she’s still trying to sort through the mess she left behind in Sydney. Will develops strong feelings for Beth but he too is happy to not get into anything serious because he has some troubles from his past hanging over his head that he does want her getting caught up in.
Will and Beth are very likeable characters and I was completely engrossed in any scene they were together as Nash really has a way of creating a strong thread of intimacy between her characters without rushing the romance. I loved this aspect of the story as it made their connection so much more realistic and the resolution of the story was believable. I really loved the pace of Iron Junction, the slow build-up of Beth and Will’s friendship until a whirlwind of challenges and decisions to be made near the end of the novel. I devoured this novel in a couple of sittings and I continued to think about these characters when I wasn’t reading their story.
What I also liked about this story was how Nash resolved the problems between Beth and her family. Some dysfunctional families just don’t have that happily-ever-after where everyone gets along and has a close bond. For Beth, she discovered that she couldn’t change anyone else, but she could make a choice about whether she allowed others’ negativity to impact on her and whether she continued contact with people who didn’t really take the time to get to know the real her. Good on her for making a brave choice to break free and choose something different for herself.
The only reason I didn’t rate this novel a 5/5 was because I felt that Will’s big secret was a bit of a letdown and was resolved rather quickly. This meant that the conflict he experienced about his relationship with Beth wasn’t quite as believable as it could’ve been. I highly recommend both of Nash’s novels for anyone who enjoys rural fiction....more
Reach for the Dream is a saga set in the 1950′s- 1960′s that spans the life of (fictional) rural girl Alice Ferguson from aged eight years until her lReach for the Dream is a saga set in the 1950′s- 1960′s that spans the life of (fictional) rural girl Alice Ferguson from aged eight years until her late twenties. After a tragic event leaves her motherless, Alice and her brother Ben are sent off to live with their Aunt, Uncle and cousins while their father grieves the loss of his wife. While Alice develops a strong bond with her Aunt Bea, the relationship with her cousin Katie is far from affectionate. Katie is jealous of Alice’s relationship with her mother and the way her bright and determined view of the world attracts a lot of suiters. She makes life difficult for Alice from very early on and this tumultuous relationship continues into their adolescence when they fall in love with the same man. Robert and Alice develop strong feelings for each other following a misunderstanding (instigated by Katie) and begin to make plans for their future. But her cousin’s unexpected pregnancy throws a spanner in the works and Alice and Robert are torn apart by the expectations of the society and their families during this time.
Alice travels to England where she pursues scientific investigations and starts a new life. She is a strong and determined woman and people (especially men) seem to flock around her and no matter what gets in her way, she continues to push forward and follow her dreams. She’s hard working and determined to live a life on the land which was quite unusual for women during the 1960′s. While Alice and Robert continue to lead separate lives with different partners, their love for each other survives and in essence this is a story about two young people finding their way back to each other. Unfortunately it takes 400+ pages to get there which I found really frustrating!
I don’t think I even finished the last book by this author that I attempted (Songs of the Bellbirds) and I found the last book of hers (Under Southern Skies) difficult to immerse myself in due to the young age of the protagonists. The author certainly does write sagas! In Reach for the Dream, we are introduced to the protagonist, Alice Ferguson at just age 8. She’s a resilient young girl who experiences much suffering and struggles that no young child should have to go through. However, I did expect that after the first chapter with the tragic circumstances of the fire that that story would then jump ahead a few years… but it continued on immediately after this moment and went into detail about her life after these events. For this reason I found it really hard to get into the rhythm for the story. Partly because of my expectations of where I felt the story should go, but also because in my opinion the story starts way too early. I felt that some of these early experiences could have been intertwined into the story through flashbacks…. Or to just include the first chapter and then jump ahead. Perhaps it was just my own impatience that I wanted to get into Alice’s story as an adult, to discover how those early experiences impacted on her life later on.
While there were many elements of this story that I liked (Alice’s strength and determination) there were many things about the storyline and characters that also frustrated me. I felt that her cousin Katie was portrayed as selfish and pretty evil at times. However, I felt that her character was quite one-dimensional and there wasn’t really a realistic exploration of why she behaved the way she did or why she disliked Alice so much. I also found it difficult to believe that everyone knew how manipulative she was and yet they continued to listen to her lies. Alice, at times, also didn’t feel like a wholesome character. I think she displayed a real strength and determination to move forward no matter what adversity she faced, but I did find it a bit unrealistic that everyone she came into contact with (except her cousin) fell in love with her. I’d have liked to see Alice have a weakness, something that I could relate to. It also really took a long time for Alice to take charge of her life and follow her dreams.
It’s obvious that my views on Reach For The Dream are mixed. On the whole I did like the story and after a rocky beginning I did manage to read it quite quickly. However there were elements of the story and the character development that I found difficult to relate to or find believable at times and this affected my overall experience of the story. One thing I could most definitely relate to (since I’ve recently relocated to a rural town) was Alice’s love of the land. This was something I could really appreciate.
For those more patient than me that enjoy a lengthy saga in a rural setting, then Reach For The Dream may just be the right kind of read for you....more
Southern Star by J.C Grey is a romantic mystery predominately set in outback Queensland, though does share a glimpse of Hollywood too. Blaze GillespieSouthern Star by J.C Grey is a romantic mystery predominately set in outback Queensland, though does share a glimpse of Hollywood too. Blaze Gillespie is a Hollywood star who flees to Queensland as boyfriend's murder has created a big scandal and her reputation is in tatters. She returns home to QLD to her family's rundown property of Sweet Springs. She's greeted at the airport by the surly Macauley Black who also turns out to be her cattle-farmer neighbour.
Blaze is suspicious of those around her, there's more scandalising information breaking the front page newspaper even in outback QLD as her reputation seems to follow her like a bad smell. A smell she just can't seem to shake. But when Macauley Black who doesn't give a damn about her Hollywood rendezvous and glitzy lifestyle shows an interest in her, Blaze is tempted beyond her self-control. In between renovating the homestead and trying to make up her mind whether she loves or hates Macauley, there's also danger lurking in the background for Blaze. Trouble has followed her from the US, locals are being targeted and all roads lead back to Blaze.
I enjoyed the mystery and the stark contrast between the life Blaze leaves behind compared to the one she sinks her feet into in outback QLD. Blaze and Macauley have great chemistry and I liked the protective, solid stance that he takes in her life. Even if he is a bit of a Neanderthal! My only criticism about the romance is that I felt they acted on their sexual tension quite quickly, at a point where it didn't feel very believable that they would take that next step. And since the rest of the story builds on this sexual relationship they begin, I found the depths of their feelings for each other hard to believe- especially given their backgrounds of not trusting the opposite sex.
Southern Star was a very entertaining read. I loved the setting, the chemistry between the hero and heroine was sizzling and the suspense just added that element of danger. Well worth the read ...more
Right as Rain is Tricia Stringer’s second novel, coming off the back of her popular Ruby Award Winner romance, Queen of the Road (which I absolutely Right as Rain is Tricia Stringer’s second novel, coming off the back of her popular Ruby Award Winner romance, Queen of the Road (which I absolutely loved).
In this story, we meet Mackenna Birch who awakens to find her holiday fling, Adam Walker, riding off into the sunset, leaving her confused and alone in her hotel in New Zealand. Feeling despondent, Mackenna returns home early to Australia to her family farm, only to find that there’s been a lot of change in the past six weeks since she’s been gone. Her city slicker brother has moved back home making a claim on the farm, he’s acting secretive, her father is recovering from a heart attack and there’s a new bloke working on the farm that Mackenna isn’t sure she can trust.
Mackenna’s dream has always been to run the family farm and to incorporate her chef background into creating an innovative exclusive restaurant style service on the property that showcases her meat products that they produce on the land. But Mackenna’s in a bit of a mess when it comes to the men in her life. Her best mate Hugh kisses her, the new workman Cam seems to be putting the moves on her and then Adam Walker turns up at her family farm claiming he never intended their holiday romance to be just a fling… he wants more.
I really liked Mackenna, she’s a strong and determined young woman but when it comes to men I felt just as confused as her in Right as Rain. As a rural romance I must admit, I found the romance storyline a little messy. There were three guys introduced and I didn’t actually feel a connection with any of them in the beginning. Both Adam and Hugh have POV scenes which made it confusing for me as a reader to know who I was supposed to connect with. Hugh’s POV tends to dominate over any of the other men in the novel; however he doesn’t take on the hero role in this love story- that just didn’t make sense to me. To be honest I felt a little suspicious of each of these three men, and so the romantic path Mackenna does take just didn’t feel realistic, nor was the romantic development very strong in this story.
I did really enjoy the secondary story of Mackenna’s brother Patrick and the growth he undertakes in the novel. There were times I really felt sorry for the way he is treated by the family but I liked how he stood up for what he wanted in the end.
I really wanted to like this story more than I did, because I loved Stringer’s last novel, but unfortunately Right as Rain didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It certainly won’t turn me off picking up another Stringer novel in the future though....more
I’m a pretty big fan of Karly Lane’s rural novels that seem to always offer up just enough mystery, small town community connections and romance to keI’m a pretty big fan of Karly Lane’s rural novels that seem to always offer up just enough mystery, small town community connections and romance to keep me turning the pages and leaving me wanting more.
Poppy returns to her small, country home town and moves into her grandmother’s cottage. She is determined to learn more about the woman named Maggie Abbott whose diary entries she has inherited with her grandmother’s belongings. As she’s drawn into these old letters and diary entries she becomes fixated on uncovering the mystery behind Maggie’s death. At the same time she befriends handsome neighbour Jim and makes an unlikely friend in his teenage daughter.
Returning home hasn’t worked out as expected and the successful forensic accountant living the high life in the city ends up baking cakes, offering fashion and romance advice to a teenage girl and falling for the ‘good’ guy next door- something she vowed she wouldn’t do. But, her hometown has a way of getting under her skin and Poppy begins to question what she values in life and whether she’s willing to make some changes to form connections and a relationship that she could retain for life- of if she throws will throw it all away and return to the city.
It was a slow start, but once it really got into the story I was hooked. Karly Lane always has a way of drawing an emotional connection with me as a reader and I particularly like the rawness and vulnerability that she creates in her characters by pushing them to their limits. The mystery just adds to the mood and makes me want to uncover the small town secrets just as much as the fictional characters do!
I’d recommend any of Karly Lane’s rural novels and I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next....more
Darkening Skies is the third (and hugely anticipated) book in the Dungirri series by Australian romantic suspense author, Bronwyn Parry. Each book focDarkening Skies is the third (and hugely anticipated) book in the Dungirri series by Australian romantic suspense author, Bronwyn Parry. Each book focuses on a new hero and hero and in this one, its investigative journalist Jenn Barrett and teenage sweetheart Mark Strelitz.
Jenn Barrett escaped the small town of Dungirri when she was an adolescent, following the tragic accident that resulted in her cousin’s death. She set her feelings for Mark aside and moved to the city where she was able to build an exciting and varied career in journalism.
Dungirri is home for Mark, who’s made a career in politics. But when he discovers he was the driver and that a young, troubled teen (Gil Gillespie) was framed for murder, he resigns from his employment and makes a public declaration of his guilt. This is the catalyst for Jenn returning to Dungirri and it’s also the start of a perilous investigation into the series of murders occurring in the small town following Mark’s admission.
Jenn and Mark are reunited in Dungirri, thrust into an adrenaline bursting scene where a man’s life is at risk. Past hurts and the separation between them is momentarily forgotten until the adrenaline wears down and they are both faced with the reality of their current circumstances. Jenn has conflicted feelings for Mark, who claims he was the driver of the accident that killed her cousin, but she can also see that the evidence isn’t quite adding up. Is Mark really a murderer? It quickly becomes obvious that they are wrapped up in this investigation together whether they like it or not and their former bond is reinforced amidst the life-threatening situations they face each day.
From conspiracies to secrets to betrayals and a surprising underground crime ring, Darkening Skies is a worthy addition to the Dungirri series that is easily one of my favourites in the genre. Parry predictably delivers an unthinkable amount of trials and tribulations in the way of her hero and heroine and as a reader, you just have to trust that they’ll come out the other side stronger, emotionally intact and able to have the happily-ever-after that is expected of a romance. Of course, even once all the dramas have settled down, Parry still makes the reader wait for that HEA… this book is not short of tension.
If romantic suspense and small town dramas are a guilty pleasure of yours, then pick up a copy of Darkening Skies. ...more
I just love discovering fresh Australian talent, a new author that will have me counting down the days until their next book release. Anna Romer is onI just love discovering fresh Australian talent, a new author that will have me counting down the days until their next book release. Anna Romer is on that list!
When I sat down to write this review, I had so many thoughts and feelings buzzing around that I worried I wouldn’t be able to get across how much I loved this book. Then I read back over the S&S media release for Thornwood House and sighed with relief. They’ve already come up with a perfectly succinct summary of the book.
“A beautifully crafted Australian rural gothic thriller.”
That’s exactly what this story is and the fun part is picking up the book and discovering exactly that- plus all the things about the story that can’t be captured in one sentence.
Rather than give a recount of the synopsis, I’m just going to share my feelings about the book. There’s so many story threads that weave together that it would be impossible for me to give it justice and I think it’s far more enjoyable discovering that for the first time when reading this story.
By about a third of the way into the book, I was completely hooked. I felt the eeriness of the house that Audrey and her daughter Bronwyn inherit in rural Queensland and my curiosity was piked. There’s something about Romer’s writing style that really drew me in, the way she created characters that felt so real and how skilfully she did all that with a novel written in first POV, all told from Audrey’s perspective (and interspersed with dreams and letters). I felt the obsession and the anticipation as Audrey devoured the letters and diaries, I was turning the pages of the book just as quickly.
The romance sub-plot was also beautifully done. Who would’ve thought a deaf hero could come so alive on the page and the attraction between Audrey and Danny was sizzling just like the Aussie sun. The mood and tension so cleverly developed to make this romance very believable and realistic.
The suspense in Thornwood House has to be one of its main strengths. I honestly didn’t feel like I could trust anyone in the town (a projection of Audrey’s own suspicious nature) and I was eager to find out who the villain was. By the last 100 pages, I sat up reading late into the night, turning the pages so quickly with my heart literally pounding in my chest. I felt like I was Audrey and that my life was in danger. So much so, that by the time I finished the book and turned off the bedside lamp it took me hours to fall asleep because I felt so hypervigilant!
Thornwood House is jam packed with tension, intrigue, suspense, romance, Aboriginal folklore, the quaintness (and peculiarities) of a small town and hidden truths. I can’t recommend this book enough! ...more
Australian author Jennie Jones (Born in the UK but now lives in WA- so we’ll claim her as our own) debut novel The House on Burra Burra Lane is the fiAustralian author Jennie Jones (Born in the UK but now lives in WA- so we’ll claim her as our own) debut novel The House on Burra Burra Lane is the first country romance novel in the Swallow’s Fall Series set in the Snowy Mountains in NSW.
Samantha Walker has escaped her controlling mother and abusive ex-fiance in Sydney to start afresh in Swallow’s Fall. It’s her first attempt at breaking free from the reigns of her mother and making a life for herself to pursue whatever interests she desires. The local vet, Dr Ethan Granger soon becomes one of Sammie’s desires and it comes at quite a surprise when his feelings are reciprocated.
Sammie is a complex character, she’s low on self-esteem, inexperienced at being independent and to be honest she’s a little awkward and clumsy too. After an emergency situation with her cat, she meets the town vet and it’s not long before the town’s gossip about the pair travels along the grapevine.
Ethan is a troubled hero with a shady past who avoids (emotionally) intimate and long-term relationships because he fears he will become the abusive brute his father once was. The two spend much of their time fighting their attraction for one another while developing a unique friendship. At the house on Burra Burra Lane, Sammie is undertaking renovations and has enlisted the help of Ethan’s carpentry skills to help him. But it’s not just the presence of Sammie that’s making it tough for him to avoid the demons of his past, but also the house. The one that contains frightful memories of his childhood.
Ethan was a likeable hero even if he was quite stubborn about taking all the responsibility for his families faults. However, the letdown for me in this story was the heroine, Sammie. I just couldn’t connect with her for a number of reasons and it made it difficult for me to really care about her and her future. The first scene between Sammie and Ethan, I understand was supposed to set up the attraction and conflict, but it felt a bit messy for me as I didn’t have any kind of background or grasp on the characters. I experienced her as too flighty and awkward and at times the introspection and self-doubts were a little painful to read. To be fair, I did warm to her later in the story, but I felt it was much too late to make a connection with the leading woman.
The other issue I had with the story turns out to also be one of its strengths. The author skilfully sets the mood with tension in many vital scenes between Sammie and Ethan which allowed for the emotional conflict between these characters to come into full effect. However, there was also an overuse of mood setting and I found some of the short, choppy sentences a little wearisome when they were present in scene after scene.
I’ve seen some really positive reviews for this story which makes me feel that most people won’t share my thoughts on The House on Burra Burra Lane. I did enjoy the plot, the small-town setting and the emotional tension in (some of) the mood-setting scenes, but being unable to connect with Sammie made it difficult to fully enjoy this story. Fans of rural or small-town romance will likely enjoy this story. ...more
From Alice With Love is an impressive novel that explores many of the social and political issues related to Aboriginal communities in Australia, setFrom Alice With Love is an impressive novel that explores many of the social and political issues related to Aboriginal communities in Australia, set around the recent time of the government’s interventions into rural communities to investigate the prevalence child sexual assault up until the “Sorry” speech led by Kevin Rudd. These big issues are sometimes in the backdrop of the protagonist Alicia’s journey of returning home and sometimes at the forefront, affecting the day to day lives of the Aboriginal community in which she resides and works.
Following a divorce from her long-term partner, Alicia has taken the chance of starting fresh and hopes to find a partner who shares her desire to start a family one day. She returns to her home town in Alice Springs to spend time with her ill mother and during her stay accepts a teaching role that involves the setup of the first school in an Indigenous outstation. There are plenty of challenges to overcome in creating a learning environment for this group of children, but Alicia is supported by the community and her childhood friend Lekisha.
Alicia meets Patrick who shares her values and passion about supporting the Indigenous communities in Central Australia. However, just when their relationship starts to take off, Patrick’s custody difficulties begin to put a strain on their budding relationship and they must decide whether they have a future together.
Alicia, as a character was quite likeable as was Patrick. In terms of the growth of these characters and the conflict they face, it did feel a little weak at times. However, there is a real sense of growth and conflict faced by the community and in some ways the community in which Alicia lives and work is the real protagonist of this book. So, while in most stories I’d find the lack of direction or conflict for the protagonist frustrating, the broader story arc moved forward enough for me to feel wholly satisfied by the end. This was also why I didn’t feel the political issues overshadowed the story, because it was part of the conflict faced by the community, the country and the people- even if it didn’t directly affect Alicia.
From Alice With Love was an ambitious story that explores the challenges faced by Aboriginal communities and those who work in rural regions. I liked how the author tied it in to recent political events and showed the impact of these decisions on the lives of Aboriginals in Central Australia and the Northern Territory. An enjoyable read and a book that I learnt from. ...more
Currawong Creek is Australian author Jennifer Scoullar’s second novel to be released with Penguin and while it might be a little less in the style ofCurrawong Creek is Australian author Jennifer Scoullar’s second novel to be released with Penguin and while it might be a little less in the style of rural fiction as Brumby’s Run, her latest novel introduces heroine Clare Mitchell who is caught between the authentic country lifestyle of her childhood and the fast-paced urban life she’s created in her adulthood.
Clare is a Brisbane-based lawyer representing the disadvantaged with a range of social issues. Eager to rise the ranks, Clare is hard-working and feeling in control of her life. Until, a little boy is abandoned in her office by his young mother and Clare is faced with the hard decision of allowing child protective services to place him in an unsuitable group home or to offer herself as a temporary carer. She chooses the latter which places her in a difficult position at work but also turns her life upside down at home. Not only has she got a 4 year old on her hands but a big bouncing dog who causes just as much havoc as her newfound parenthood.
As her structured, controlled life begins to unravel, her relationship breaks down and her boss insists she takes leave’ Clare leaves behind the hustle and bustle of the city to return to her grandfather’s country home at Currawong Creek. Clare’s return allows her to breath again. Young Jack’s behaviour settles, her energetic dog has plenty of time and space to burn it off and she finds herself falling for the local vet, Tom.
Clare is a likeable character who quickly makes Jack a priority and to do this must reflect on her life and consider what will be best for this young troubled child with many special needs. Having worked in child protection in the past, I felt Scoullar creates a realistic (and somewhat cynical) picture of the system and how it affected Jack, his mother and Clare. There were some details that probably didn’t ring true but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of this fictional story.
Clare’s love interest Tom, isn’t quite as well developed and fleshed out as a character as his heroine however I did like the simple, calming influence he had on Clare and Jack. There’s little conflict in the story for Tom in respect to his relationship with Clare which meant the romance didn’t have the emotional depth I’d expect in a romance story. My only other issue with the story was the complexities of the sub-plots as I felt there were too many issues being addressed in this one story and not enough space to explore them all. Not only is Clare faced with newfound parenthood, but her job is disrupted, she starts a new relationship with Tom, her grandfather is unwell and then there’s the mining company targetting their town that Clare also plays a role in. Nevertheless, most of these are all wrapped up satisfactorily at the end.
Currawong Creek is a story just as much about the country as it is the city and the conflict faced by both ways of life that are explored through characters such as Clare, Jack, Tom and her grandfather. An enjoyable read from an Australian author that promises versatility. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next. ...more