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'...moreThe 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.(less)
I am quite a fan of Anna Jacob’s historical novels with characters that often start out in the UK and find themselves a place to call home in Western...more I am quite a fan of Anna Jacob’s historical novels with characters that often start out in the UK and find themselves a place to call home in Western Australia’s Swan River Colony during the 1800’s. In the final segment of ‘The Trader’s Series’ Bram brings out his younger brother Fergus Deagan to join his emigrated family.
Fergus’ wife dies in childbirth leaving their newborn daughter fighting to survive. With his hands full with two young sons and grieving the loss of his wife, he employs a wet nurse to bear the responsibility of caring for his daughter. As the result of a rape Cara Payton falls pregnant but to her dismay bears a stillborn baby. Already exiled from her family, wet nurse position at the Deagan household is her last desperate attempt to make a life for herself. Fergus and Cara form a slow-building friendship based on the mutual companionship they offer one another. At the same time Fergus has to submit to the last promise he made his wife- to find a mother for their daughter and to remarry within the year.
The opportunity to migrate to Australia with the financial support of Bram takes them across the globe to create a new family together. Cara forms a strong bond with the baby and learns to love Fergus. I can’t say this story is really a romance, but Cara and Fergus do develop a romantic relationship that builds upon a marriage of friendship. To be honest, I felt the whole story was quite slow-building and it did lack some element of suspense or momentum. So in some way I suppose The Trader’s Reward’s main aim was to tie up all the loose ends in the series before Jacob’s said goodbye to the rather large family she has created in these stories. While I wasn’t completely enthralled in the story, I too was happy to see things tied up and overall it was a pleasant read.
The Trader’s series is a spin-off from Jacobs’ original Lancashire series. While I haven’t enjoyed The Trader’s series quite as much as I’d liked, I have enjoyed seeing Bram’s family in Australia expand and how they all connect and find home in the Swan River Colony. (less)
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 C...moreSimmering 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).(less)
In Crimson Dawn, Fleur McDonald ambitiously explores many big topics including perinatal loss, domestic violence, drug addiction, sex parties as well...moreIn 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.(less)
Safe with Me is a fascinating story about two families’ lives intersecting in the most unusual way. Hairdresser Hannah Scott mourns the loss of her tw...moreSafe with Me is a fascinating story about two families’ lives intersecting in the most unusual way. Hairdresser Hannah Scott mourns the loss of her twelve year old daughter whose life was lost in a motor vehicle accident. As she tries to get her life back on track and make sense of her situation, teenager Maddie Bell and mother Olivia walks into her salon and unleashes a bombshell. Unbeknownst to Maddie and Olivia, they provide the bait, the information that incites Hannah to find out more and to draw her in closer to this family. It turns out that Maddie was an organ recipient of Hannah’s daughter and the strange connection is something that Hannah just can’t let go.
While life may be spinning out of control for Hannah, Olivia’s perfectly constructed home life is also starting to slip as the domestic violence underpinning her marriage worsens. Told from the viewpoint of Olivia, Hannah and Maddie; Safe With Me delivers three interesting and unsettled women who are in the midst of discovering their identity as well as forming new friendships and relationships. I felt all three women were quite believable, but I particularly found Maddie’s perspective interesting and well fleshed out.
Safe With Me explores very pertinent topics of organ donation, chronic illness, grief and loss and domestic violence, but as a narrative I did feel it was missing an element of suspense; something to really draw me into the story and refuse to put the book down. Without this, I was left feeling uncertain where the story was heading and at times lacking motivation to continue reading- even though the story elements were of interest. Despite this missing element, it was an intriguing story with believable characters.(less)
Moira McKinnon’s debut novel Cicada is an impressive narrative of friendship and survival in early Australia. Set in outback Western Australia, Emily...moreMoira McKinnon’s debut novel Cicada is an impressive narrative of friendship and survival in early Australia. Set in outback Western Australia, Emily births to baby of Aboriginal heritage, much to the shame of her English husband William. He destroys any ties she may have with the baby and the biological father which propels Emily to go on the run with her Aboriginal maid Wirritjil.
They speak a different language, they live by different rules but Emily and Wirritjil connect through their shared goal to survive and to break free of the hold of their Master. The story follows Emily and Wirritjil’s escape through Australia’s harsh bushland; in which Emily learns to trust Wirritjil and the land in which she walks on. The viewpoints alternate between Emily and her husband William provide contrasting ideas about the values and rights of all human beings.
Cicada is written in a uniquely lyrical style with the voice of Aboriginal culture, heritage and values bouncing of the pages. It was written in a way that reminded me of Aboriginal dreamtime stories and the way in which they have a magical feel while exploring serious grave and terrifying issues.
It’s a reminder of our very recent history of war on Australian soil and we see in the character of Wirritjil, despite the hardships her wisdom and loyalty shine through on every page.
I became completely immersed in this story and in some ways it’s hard to even describe, but it’s a very well written story that is well worth reading.(less)
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 happy...moreIron 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.(less)
The return is the debut novel by Australian writer Silvia Kwon. Set in a rural town in Victoria; Merna and Frank Gibson are about to have their life t...moreThe return is the debut novel by Australian writer Silvia Kwon. Set in a rural town in Victoria; Merna and Frank Gibson are about to have their life turned upside-down.
Never the same since he fought to protect Australia from the Japanese during the war, Frank is a man who is content with making a life on the land. He’s temperamental and at times unpredictable, but Merna has accepted their relationship for what it is and has made a life for herself alongside her husband.
However, Frank’s patience is tested when his son not only starts working for Toyota but goes off to work in Japan for three years. From a different generation, Paul doesn’t completely understand Frank’s reticence, but then again they’ve never been close enough to share their feelings and Frank’s antagonism only encourages Paul’s rebellious streak. Merna mourns the absence of her son and she’s desperate for her family to be close and in contact. But it’s the icing on the cake when Paul returns to Australia, pulls up in his Toyota and presents his beautiful Japanese wife.
While the war is in the past, the trauma of his days fighting the Japanese is still very real for Frank. There’s a sense of betrayal and anger toward Paul for his decision. Paul on the other hand simply fell in love with a foreign woman in a foreign place and was brave enough to not only face his parents but their local community with choice he makes.
This story really surprised me. To be completely honest, when I first started reading this story I thought to myself “here we go, this story is going to be really slow and I’m going to find it boring because I can’t relate to the age group of the main characters Frank and Merna.” Interestingly, the author skilfully presents the perspective of each of the characters through the eyes of Merna and I could empathise with Frank’s hurt, Paul’s open-mindedness, Merna’s protectiveness and Miko’s curiosity. The intergenerational relationship issues, traumatic memories, and present-day family dynamics are wholeheartedly explored in a respectful and honest way. The divide of the father-son generation was profound and I must admit I felt myself siding with Paul’s openness to new experiences and his non-judgemental attitudes- though not at the expense of seeing the importance of Frank’s experience and the war that stole his youth.
A though provoking and fascinating exploration of family, identity and change. A brave debut novel by a talented Australian author.(less)
“How much money does it take to change your life?”
That’s the question that prompted Canadian copywriter Janice to completely overhaul her life, make a...more“How much money does it take to change your life?”
That’s the question that prompted Canadian copywriter Janice to completely overhaul her life, make a plan and work at her dream to pay for her own European sabbatical. Working in a corporate firm, Janice is fed up with her job and dreams of packing up her home, submitting her resignation and jumping on a flight to Europe for an adventure. She realises there’s a lot of hard work ahead of her to get to that point but she admirably commits to her goal and methodically and purposefully implements a plan to make her dream a reality.
She de-clutters her home, her mind and (some of) her emotional baggage; saves up a lot of cash to allow for 2 years of travel and is finally able to buy her tickets and depart. Her first stop is Paris and despite her battle with the language and the customs she slowly begins to fall in love with the city… and the handsome butcher on Rue Mouffetard.
Oh how I loved this book. It was just the perfect mix of humour, wonder and an engaging voice that made Janice’s memoir so interesting. With my (2013) European honeymoon still fresh in my mind, it was a joy to envision the places that Janice peruses during her time in Paris. I was also excited to recognise Rue Mouffetard where Janice meets Christophe. My husband and I stopped at one of those chicken stands and purchased a bag of those yummy baked potatoes dripping with chicken juice (I know it sounds pretty gross… but it was delicious!).
I could completely relate with her about the struggle to learn a foreign language. After taking a one-week Italian language class with my husband in Rome last year I felt completely overwhelmed by even attempting a conversation with a native speaker. Like Janice I could speak it and read it but as soon as someone spoke to me I was completely baffled as to what they were saying! It’s so hard to decipher the words spoken in a foreign language and then to actually make sense of those words! Unlike me however, Janice perseveres and her extended break in Paris allows her to practice and learn and develop her confidence in the French language.
The love story between Janice and her handsome, Daniel-Craig look-alike butcher was so lovely to see unfold. How on earth do two people who speak different languages fall in love? Well, Janice and Christophe manage to do just that and they get along perfectly fine! What I also found really interesting was the letter-writing business that Janice founds to fund her stay in Paris. She combines her love of art; writing and Paris into a job that she loves that can be shared with subscribers around the world. What a great idea!
I think this book was just good timing for me… while I sat at home on the back patio, listening to the rain patter on the tin roof and eating vegemite toast I could be transported into charming Paris. I could reminisce on my time in Europe while living vicariously through Janice’s adventures- without even leaving the comfort of my home.
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for a good travel memoir and this one was right up my alley. Janice has a great writing voice; she’s open, insightful and honest. I think I’ll even subscribe to her blog!(less)
‘Tiddas’ an Aboriginal word for sisters (or “sistas”) and is a powerful term that describes the connection between the five women in this Heiss novel....more‘Tiddas’ an Aboriginal word for sisters (or “sistas”) and is a powerful term that describes the connection between the five women in this Heiss novel. Despite the absence of a blood connection, Izzy, Nadine, Xanthe, Veronica and Ellen share a bond that has lasted a lifetime irrespective of proximity, family commitments and jobs. Growing up in Mudgee that have all found their way to the Brisbane area where they are trying to make the best of their circumstances and support each other via their monthly book club catch ups.
There’s a strong presence of Aboriginality in this novel, with most of the women identifying as Aboriginal and working in roles that support their local communities. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story and even though it did feel a little forced in the beginning, I did enjoy the more relaxed undertones that emerged through the book and the challenges that these women faced. I also admired their strength, their connection with their Aboriginal heritage and their determination to be good role models and advocate for those who are underprivileged. I found each of the women in the novel interesting, but I could most relate to and empathise with Izzy and Xanthe… perhaps because I work in the perinatal field I’m around pregnancy and new mums all the time, so their stories really stuck with me the most.
Izzy has just been offered a role as the first Aboriginal woman to have her own television show in Australia but discovers she is pregnant. It’s unplanned; her relationship with the baby’s father has never been made ‘official’ and becoming a mother was never part of her life plan. Her career was her life.
Xanthe is happily married to her English husband Spencer and after five years they are desperate to have a baby together, but the pregnancy just isn’t happening. I could completely understand her obsessiveness to conceive and the discomfort this caused for her friends. I could also relate to both Izzy and Xanthe’s emotional experience when Izzy announces her unplanned pregnancy. I liked how these two women manage to work through this and support each other.
Nadine was also a fascinating character, but one I believed experienced the least growth, presumably because the growth would occur long after the story in Tiddas finishes. I was relieved to see this successful novelist and alcoholic develop some insight and take charge of her life.
Veronica, a newly divorced woman who is redefining her identity and the carefree Ellen who is content with the occasional fling; play a smaller role in this story but were certainly integral to the dynamics of this close-knit group and also experienced a sense of self-awareness and found a way to take control of their life also.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my first Anita Heiss novel; I admire the story she created with five such different women while giving them each the space to shine in the novel. Tiddas is a fascinating book about women, relationships, culture, duty and connection.(less)
Fountain of Secrets is the second book in the Relic Seekers series by Anita Clenney. While I don’t love this series as much as her Highland Warrior bo...moreFountain of Secrets is the second book in the Relic Seekers series by Anita Clenney. While I don’t love this series as much as her Highland Warrior books, I do enjoy Clenney’s writing style and the way she incorporates humour, sexual chemistry and a touch of chaos to each story she creates. Kendall Morgan and Jake Stone have only been back from Italy for days when they are summoned by their employer and billionaire Nathan Larraby to return to Italy to safeguard the relics they’ve collected from the Protettori. Kendall has a sixth sense for relics and with Jake as her bodyguard they take their work seriously and are determined to complete the tasks designated to them.
There’s so much happening in this story that at times I was a little confused from dreams of King Arthur to the mysterious Protettori to the menacing Reaper it was sometimes hard to keep up! Not only the plot was full of action and surprises but so were the characters within the story and the relationships they develop with each other. Kendall has discovered something about her father that freaks her out, she suspects that either Jake or Nathan could be her long-lost childhood best friend Adam, only they don’t know it yet. She’s battling an emotional bond with her boss Nathan in contrast to her strong attraction to Jake and poor Kendall has no idea what to do! I enjoyed learning more about Nathan and Jake’s history and while I do have a soft spot for Nathan, I was happy to see Kendall and Jake’s relationship deepen. Jake is a likeable character even though he is a macho, sometimes chauvinistic and overprotective lout, he’s a reliable and strong support for Kendall. He’s the typical Clenney hero and I can’t help but find him endearing (even though I’d probably never go for a guy like that in real life!).
I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series and finding out how Clenney intends to wrap up the plot and character storylines. For those who enjoy romance, action, a splash of history, some exotic locations and steamy sexual chemistry, then the Relic Seekers series may just be for you!(less)
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 l...moreReach 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.(less)
Sara Foster’s debut novel, Come Back to Me (2010) is the third book I’ve read by this talented Western Australian author. Having previously enjoyed Be...moreSara Foster’s debut novel, Come Back to Me (2010) is the third book I’ve read by this talented Western Australian author. Having previously enjoyed Beneath the Shadows and Shallow Breath, I picked up this one at a second hand bookstore and it has sat on my TBR pile for a little while. I finally managed to pick it up and read it over the Christmas holidays and I’m kicking myself for having waited for so long- I loved it!
Come Back to Me is a mystery that spans Australia and England and had me hooked from the very first chapter. The way that Foster weaves the suspense throughout the story by relinquishing a little background information at a time and cliffhanger chapter endings managed to keep me on the edge of my seat almost the entire time. The characters frustrated me for a majority of the story (I just wanted them to communicate!!) and yet they were characters that were flawed and relatable, no matter what their circumstances.
Chloe and her husband Alex turn up at a double date dinner with her colleague (and ex-boyfriend) Mark and his new woman, Julia. The tension steps up immediately as it becomes obvious that Alex and Julia have some history. The tension is amplified by the delay in Chloe actually confronting Alex about this and why Alex isn’t upfront about it in the first place. And yet at the same time, I could understand why they did this. Chloe is fearful of losing Alex and Alex is so shocked by Julia’s reappearance that it brings up a lot of unresolved feelings for him. The plot takes off from there with Alex and Chloe’s marriage on the rocks, the identity of this mysterious Julia is revealed and Mark and Chloe develop an unlikely (and dysfunctional) friendship.
Although I wanted Alex to be more open with Chloe and to have tried harder to get his message across, I can also understand the difficult position he was in and how he felt he needed to supporting Julia. Julia was a character who is surrounded by mystery, but as her story unravels I could really empathise with her difficult experiences and how she chose to deal with this. Chloe was probably the most frustrating character for me as she just made silly decisions, she was avoidant and at times emotionally immature. And yet, I could still relate to her because of the fear of losing her husband and her life which led her to make these choices.
Foster creates fantastic mysteries that are psychologically stimulating and portray realistic and intriguing characters. Well worth the read and I’m looking forward to reading future books by this talented Aussie author.(less)