AWW Feature: Q&A with Cathryn Hein, author of Rocking Horse Hill

Cathryn Hein - Author Photo - web quality

I am thrilled to welcome Cathryn Hein back to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of her fourth rural romance novel, Rocking Horse Hill. Cathryn’s first three novels, Promises, Heart of the Valley and Heartland were finalists in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Australian Romance Readers Awards. In September she will release The French Prize, her first romantic adventure story.

Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned.
Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests, and published in Woman’s Day.
Cathryn currently lives at the base of the Blue Mountains in Sydney’s far west with her partner of many years, Jim. When she’s not writing, she plays golf (ineptly), cooks (well), and in football season barracks (rowdily) for her beloved Sydney Swans AFL team.

About Rocking Horse Hill

RHH cover - resizedWho do you trust when a stranger threatens to tear your family apart?
Ever since she was a little girl, Emily Wallace-Jones has loved Rocking Horse Hill. The beautiful family property is steeped in history. Everything important in Em’s life has happened there. And even though Em’s brother Digby has inherited the property, he has promised Em it will be her home for as long as she wishes.
When Digby falls in love with sweet Felicity Townsend, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Em worries about the future. But she is determined not to treat Felicity with the same teenage snobbery that tore apart her relationship with her first love, Josh Sinclair. A man who has now sauntered sexily back into Em’s life and given her a chance for redemption.
But as Felicity settles in, the once tightly knitted Wallace-Jones family begins to fray. Suspicions are raised, Josh voices his distrust, and even Em’s closest friends question where Felicity’s motives lie. Conflicted but determined to make up for the damage caused by her past prejudices, Em sides with her brother and his fiancée until a near tragedy sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

 My review of this delightful rural romance will appear later today, in the meantime please read on to learn more about Rocking Horse Hill and Cathryn Hein.

Q&A

 

Q: What five words would you choose to describe Rocking Horse Hill?
Cathryn: Dramatic, sexy, atmospheric, emotional, donkeyed!

Q:What was the first element of inspiration for the story of Rocking Horse Hill?

Cathryn: I was going to say Mt Schank, an extinct volcano south of my home town of Mount Gambier in South Australia. But the truth is I was riding my exercise bike and thinking about a newspaper article I’d read the day before, about women who fall in love with long-term jail inmates. One thing led to another and next minute I was off the bike and scribbling down notes. The story is nothing about that, by the way. That just triggered it all off!

Q: What is your favourite scene in the novel?

Cathryn: I can’t tell you! It’s such a pivotal scene that I can’t even give a hint because it will spoil the story. What I can reveal is that I wrote it fast and breathlessly.
But I do have another that I can talk about. There’s a scene at Camrick, the magnificent Wallace-Jones town mansion, where Em walks Josh to his car. As she swings past to leave, he reaches out and grabs her hand. What she says in response changes things between them. It’s lovely. Makes me sigh just thinking about it.
This is the lead up…
The wind had died down, leaving a night lit by Camrick’s warm glow. The gravel of the drive crunched underfoot, punctuating their lack of talk.
He leaned against the back of his ute and crossed his arms. ‘Nice evening.’
‘Yes.’
‘Do you mind that I came?’
‘No, not at all.’
‘Then you’re glad?’
She squinted at the sky. ‘Digby would have appreciated it.’
‘I didn’t ask about Dig, Em. I asked about you.’

Q: What is on all those post it notes?

Cathryn

Cathryn: Ooh, all sorts of things! Anything from writing reminders, character notes and the like – they tend to hang off the whiteboards on my left…

Post it notes - left

While on the right, under the window sill, I keep promo ideas and website, computery type things.

Post it notes - right

As you can see, I’m a bit of a post-it lover. They’re just so handy!

Q: I know you are a bit of a foodie, as evidenced by your regular blog feature Friday Feast, what recipe would you pair with Rocking Horse Hill?

Cathryn: Moelleux au chocolat! Or chocolate fondant. Em serves it to Josh the first night he comes for dinner. Besides being delicious, it’s a perfect metaphor for the way they feel about one another: set on the outside but gooey on the inside!
I’ll be sharing the recipe on Friday Feast this week, so keep your eyes out for that one.

Q: What are you working on now, or what can we expect next?

Cathryn: Right now I’m working on the second draft of The Falls, my 2015 rural romance. The heroine of that one is Teagan, one of Em’s, from Rocking Horse Hill, best friends. As for my next release, that’s a romantic adventure called The French Prize. It’s out in September and I can’t wait. I’m so excited about this book! There’s a romantic legend, an ancient sword, a sexy French hero, a clever and gutsy Australian heroine, and a cruel and dangerous enemy. It’s an adventure-filled page-turner.

Q: Can you please share three of your favourite novels by Australian women writers?

This is really hard because I’ve read some truly incredible books by Australian women, across all sorts of genres. It pains me to have to choose because I want to include them all, and because what comes to mind as a favourite right now might be surpassed by another tomorrow. It depends on my mood!
But here goes…
The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. Her Masters of Rome series is incredible. I’ve read The First Man in Rome maybe 6 times and it’s a monster-sized book. Only packing tape keeps my copy held together now. I’m just fascinated by the era.
The Rain Queen by Katherine Scholes. Oh, this book! Romantic and sweeping and an amazing story. I read The Hunter’s Wife before I read this and thought that nothing could top that, but The Rain Queen did. I’m a sucker for African stories though. It’s another big fat book too. I’m reading Scholes’s latest, The Perfect Wife, at the moment.
The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton. Or anything else by her. She writes so beautifully! The stories are completely compelling with their mystery and atmosphere. They have that wonderful Gothic feel that I adore. I’ve loved all her books. The opening of The Distant Hours? Magical!

Q: What is your preference?
Coffee/Tea or other?
Both! I have a cup of Irish Breakfast tea first thing then swap to rather strong lattes for the rest of the morning. Although I usually only have a couple a day. On the odd occasion I have a post lunch or evening coffee it’s straight espresso.
Beach/Pool or River?
Pool. You don’t usually find sharks in them.
Slacks/Jeans or Leggings?
Jeans.
Butterfly/Tiger or Giraffe?
Giraffe, because I’m height challenged!
Swings/Slide or Roundabout?
Swings. Wheee! That swooping feeling? It reminds me of teenage love. One glance, one word, one breath taken in the same room as your crush and it felt as though your entire innards were about to sweep out of your body and take flight. Completely agonising, of course.

Rocking Horse Hill is available to purchase from

 

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Review: Through the Cracks by Honey Brown

 

Title: Through the Cracks

Author: Honey Brown

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin April 2014

Status: Read from April 21 to 22, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“Within the space of one week Adam grew strong enough to stop him. Somewhere in those seven days a tipping point had been reached….
‘Don’t touch me.’
‘What did you say to me?’
Adam straightened his elbow and shoved his father in the chest.”

After enduring years of confinement and abuse at the hands of his father, Joe, Adam finally pushes back, but having secured his freedom he has no idea what to do with it…until Billy finds him. Placing his trust in the streetwise teen, Adam tentatively ventures beyond his suburban prison for the first time in years, but no matter the direction the pair take to escape, their past refuses to let them go.

Through The Cracks is an intense and provocative read, though not quite the thriller, I have come to expect from Honey Brown. Delving into the darkest recesses of society, Brown explores the fates of two very different young boys and their struggle to survive, and move on from, a shared history of abuse, exploitation and neglect.

Though ultimately a story of hope, Through the Cracks is not an easy read. Written with brutal realism, the themes are disturbing, and certain details, though never gratuitous, can be confronting. Most readers will find themselves heart sore and indignant as Adam and Billy evoke sympathy and admiration, their tormentors engender disgust, and those that fail the boys provoke outrage and guilt, while raising questions about society’s failure to protect its most vulnerable members.

Through the Cracks is a powerfully affecting tale but I think the publisher does a huge disservice to the book by linking Nathan Fisher’s and Adam’s identities in the blurb. It blunts the revelations that come as the story unfolds, and while still an absorbing read, I found there were very few surprises, and little suspense.

Through the Cracks is available to purchase from

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Review: The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

 

Title: The Forever Song { Blood of Eden #3}

Author: Julie Kagawa

Published: Harlequin April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from April 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Forever Song brings Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden trilogy to a dramatic close, forcing Allie, Kanin and their allies into a final confrontation with the psychotic vampire, Sarren, in a battle to save both humans and vampires from extinction.

Beginning where The Eternity Cure finishes, Allie, her sire, Kanin, and sire-brother, Jackal, are on their way to Eden to confront Sarren. Always a step behind, the band are delayed by the sick surprises Sarren leaves in his wake – massacred human villages, a tunnel full of Rabids and a former ally now an enemy, intent on killing them all.

Like its predecessors, The Forever Song is gritty and blood soaked, flooded with emotional angst and spiked with snarky humour. The story is fast paced despite its 400+ pages with Allie and her cohorts racing to stop Sarren from unleashing the fatal virus into the world.

Some characters may surprise you, others not so much. Allie still can’t decide is she is more human or monster, Kanin is as enigmatic as ever and Jackal has a barbed quip for every occasion.

I’m reluctant to write too much, wary of inadvertently spoiling the story for those yet to read this finale. I thought The Forever Song was an exciting and entertaining conclusion to the Blood Eden trilogy, which should satisfy Kagawa’s fans.

The Forever Song is available to purchase from

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Australian Edition

Due May 1st

 

 

 

 

Weekend Cooking: The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook by Liz Harfull

wkendcooking

I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads  a regular monthly post at Book’d Out. Cooking is something I enjoy and I have been making more of an effort again lately, so I am looking forward to sharing some of my culinary adventures.

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The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook  is much more than just a compilation of prize winning recipes and cooking tips, it is also a wonderful collection of heart-warming personal stories laced with Australian agricultural show nostalgia.

Agricultural shows have been a staple of Australian society for 200 years and around 580 are held across the country each year in cities, regional towns and small rural communities. While the noisy battle for first place in events like sheep shearing and wood chopping draws the crowds to the main show ring, an equally fierce but quieter competition is being fought in the grounds pavilions where cakes, biscuits, slices, pastries, jams and relishes are laid out on trestle tables being judged on strict criteria in relation to appearance, consistency in shape, size and colour, taste and smell.

Within the pages of The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook you can find award winning recipes for entries such as Eileen’s Apple Jelly, Charlie’s Rosella Cake and Rod’s Bloody Hot Tomato Sauce as well as classics like scones, pikelets and sausage rolls, teamed with the personal stories of their maker and the histories of the shows they compete in.

This recipe book is as much a pleasure to read as to cook from. The only disappointing element is the lack of photographs showing the winning recipes, though the pages are illustrated with reproductions of show ephemera, winners portraits and scenes from past and present shows.

I’m too slapdash a cook to ever enter in a show competition where the standards are close to perfection but I’m looking forward to trying several of the recipes in The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook.

One of the categories in show competition is ‘Slices’ so I thought I would share my favourite recipe.

 

Vanilla Slice

Photo Credit http://beatricechristiana.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/vanilla-slice-or-an-easy-type-of-millefeuille/

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
  • 300ml milk
  • 600ml thickened cream
  • 2 packets vanilla instant pudding
  • 1/4 cup pure icing sugar, to sift over the pastry

Method:

Preheat oven to 210°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Bake pastry sheets for 10-15 minutes or until puffed and just golden. When you remove them from the oven, place a tray on top of the sheets to make them flat and leave to cool.

Line a slice tin with baking paper and set aside.

In a bowl, using a mixer, add the milk, cream and pudding mix together and combine until thick.

Cut one pastry sheet to fit the base of the slice tin and place in the tin.

Pour the custard mixture into the slice tin and smooth out evenly.

Cut the second sheet of pastry and place on top.

Refrigerate until chilled through (about 3 hours) and sprinkle with sifted icing sugar before serving. Remove from tin and slice into squares or rectangles using a serated knife.

 

The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook by Liz Harfull is available to purchase from:

 

 

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Review & Giveaway: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off by Carolyn Brown

 

Title: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off

Author: Carolyn Brown

Published: Sourcebooks April 2014

Status: Read from April 02 to 04, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Across the street from Miss Clawdy’s Cafe (featured in The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee) in Cadillac, Texas you will find ‘Bless My Bloomers’, a custom ‘under-britches’ store owned by cousins Carlene, Alma Grace and Patrice the southern heroines of Carolyn Brown’s latest novel, The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off.

The story kicks off when Carlene Lovelle discovers a lacy red pair of panties in her husband’s briefcase, the same pair Carlene sold the week before to a size 4 twenty-something planning a weekend away in Vegas with her ‘sugar daddy’. Furious, Carlene confronts her cheating husband, Lenny, and his mistress, at his car dealership, where she stomps all over a showroom Corvette before installing her self in one the bedrooms above Bless My Bloomers. Carlene’s extended family rally around her, with Patrice willing to poison him, her mother offering to shoot him and Josie dispensing wise advice, though pious Alma Grace can’t help but pray fervently for a reconciliation before she loses her position on the church committee, branded sinful by association.
When it becomes clear that Lenny has no plans to repent for his despicable behaviour, Carlene decides the best way to punish him is to deprive him of the thing he loves most – first place in the town’s annual chili cook-off.

Scandal, sniping and sly acts of revenge ensue, seasoned generously with hilarity, as everyone takes sides in the battle for top honours in the cook-off. The cousins and their mother’s (aka the Fannin sisters) are united in their desire to produce the prize winning recipe and dethrone ‘King’ Lenny and they discover they have plenty of support from the women of Cadillac.

The cast of quirky characters thrive on gossip and grudges tempered by fierce loyalties and unconditional love. Carlene, Patrice and Alma Grace are very different from one another but bound (and sometimes strangled) by the tightest of family ties following the example set by the cousins indomitable mother’s: Sugar, Gigi and Tansy. I couldn’t help but love them all for their smarts, sass, quick wit and crazy.

A lively, warm-hearted story of family, love, feuds and food, The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off had me laughing out loud and cheering for The Red-Hot Bloomers in their bid to win that trophy.

For an exclusive excerpt, a delicious recipe  and details on how you can win two great prize packs

click HERE for the Blog Tour post published earlier today.

To Purchase The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off:

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Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published: Macmillan Au April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 30 to April 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“Why do we write fiction?” Professor Piper asked.
Cath looked down at her notebook.

To disappear.”

Cather is comfortable escaping into the realm of anonymous fanfic where she can be free of her crippling social anxiety, and always know what to say and do. College is nothing but uncomfortable, and it is all she can do, while struggling with the separation from her twin sister, Wren, and her father, to make it to her classes. But gradually, Cath is forced out of her comfort zone, encouraged by her roommate Reagan and the irrepressible Levi, in this charming contemporary novel by Rainbow Rowell.

I wavered between wanting to shake or hug Cath a lot of the time. Though I thought her sweetly shy and endearingly awkward, smart and often funny, her naivety sometimes stretched credulity. There were things I could relate to though, like this;

“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?” (on why Cath avoids the dining hall)

I remember that anxiety when I first went to university and having to force myself to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Cath really struggles with the changes college forces on her and it’s a slow, sometimes frustrating, transformation but I think Rowell handles it realistically and thankfully she has Reagan to look out for her;

“Cath rolled her eyes and looked at Reagan. “Do you really want me asking you stupid questions?”
“If they’re about food, water, air or shelter – yes. Jesus, Cath, I’m your roommate.”

Reagan is the perfect roommate for Cath – often absent allowing her the time on her own she craves but doesn’t hesitate to call Cath out on her ‘crazy’, in a blunt but non-judgmental way.

I loved the relationship between Cath and Levi, so much awkward cuteness. Their romance is sweet, moving from acquaintance to friendship to lovers without feeling rushed or forced. And even though he screws up quite badly at one point, Levi with his goofy, ever-present smile, is just so appealing.

I really wasn’t a fan of the fan fiction excerpts, the whole Simon Snow/Harry Potter thing made me feel a little uncomfortable. And I have to admit I don’t really get the whole fan fiction scene anyway, though I know it is huge and I respect Cath’s passion for it. The plagiarism debate that takes place between Cath and her professor seemed disingenuous, I found it hard to believe, no matter her private opinion, that Cath would have thought her fanfic be acceptable for an assignment specifically asking for an original story.

The scenes I particularly enjoyed included those where Cath was reading aloud to Levi, her Emergency Kanye Dance Party (though Kanye… ugh) and her and Reagan’s cafeteria observations (a friend and I used to do that too).

Unusually for YA/NA fiction, Cath’s family has an important role in this story. Cath’s identical twin, Wren, (get it? Cather..Wren) is also a freshman but unlike her sister Wren is eager to establish her independence and reinvent herself in their new environment, which means leaving Cath behind. The dynamics between the sisters is realistic I think, with its mix of love and resentment, complicated particularly by their oppositional feelings about their absent mother. The girls father, who is bipolar, is very much present through the book through phone calls, messages and trips home.

Fangirl isn’t perfect, but it is a sweet, funny and moving coming of age novel. I’d certainly recommend it for young adults on the cusp of graduation and those struggling with the transition to college, but it is also a charming read in it’s own right for anyone who remembers stepping nervously into the college dining hall for the first time.

Fangirl is available to purchase from

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Review: Tracking North by Kerry McGinnis


Title: Tracking North

Author: Kerry McGinnis

Published: Penguin Au March 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 27 to 29, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Tracking North, Kerry McGinnis’s fourth novel, is an engaging story of family and second chances set in the stunning Gulf country.

Kelly Roberts’ life is turned upside down when she suddenly finds herself widowed with two children. Forced to leave the station that had been her family’s home, Kelly dreads the idea of moving into town, or in with her mother who disapproved of her marriage, so when her father-in-law, Quinn, offers them a place at nearby Evergreen Springs she accepts his invitation as a temporary arrangement. But the longer she stays, the harder it is to contemplate leaving…

Set in the spectacular Gulf Country, which ranges across the northern borders of Queensland and the Northern Territory to the Gulf of Carpentaria, it’s clear the author has an intimate understanding of life in the remote regions of outback Australia, particularly its challenges in relation to the everyday tasks that urban dwellers take for granted. Grocery shopping and collecting the mail entails hours of driving over rutted, dirt roads, electricity is provided by temperamental and noisy generators, the children rely on the School of the Air for education or must be sent away and for weeks every year the Wet Season limits their access to the world beyond their doorstep. I really enjoyed this glimpse into a life so different from mine and its challenges and joys.

Though I admired Kelly’s strength and resourcefulness, there were times when I found her a little priggish, especially in relation to her father in law, Quinn and his ambitions. I felt for her though as she struggled with her son’s growing independence, her guilt over the final moments she spent with her husband and her fears for the future. I loved Quinn unreservedly, a hard working, wise old bushie with a huge heart and a few tricks up sleeve.

Though the focus of Tracking North is on family, McGinnis introduces suspense into the story when Twice stumbles upon a dead body and clandestine airstrip on the border of Evergreen Springs. There is also a low key romance that the author develops between Kelly and police sergeant Frank Watson.

Tracking North is a well written, lovely contemporary novel that I really enjoyed and I hope to read more by McGinnis soon.

Tracking North is available to purchase from

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Review: Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman

 

Title: Be Safe I Love You

Author: Cara Hoffman

Published: Simon & Schuster April 2014

Status: Read from March 27 to 28, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Be Safe I Love You is a moving story of a young female soldier’s homecoming after service in Iraq. Lauren Clay enlisted in the army after her high school graduation in order to provide financial security for her younger brother and depressive father. After five years of service her commitment is finished and she has returned home to Watertown, NJ, fresh from a nine month tour in Afghanistan.

With compassion and sensitivity, Hoffman exposes the struggle many returning soldiers face in reconnecting with the people and places they left behind. Family and friends are sure Lauren just needs some time to readjust to civilian life and the inevitable changes that have happened in her absence, but it soon becomes obvious to the reader that Lauren is suffering from the more severe symptoms of PTSD as she begins to experience black outs and hallucinations.

Amongst the confusion and anger Lauren is experiencing she develops twin obsessions, to toughen up her thirteen year old brother, determined to ensure he experiences the world without the buffer of a computer screen, and to meet up with a soldier she served with and follow through on their plans to work together at the Hebron oilfields. The tension arises as Lauren struggles to keep her grip on reality, and under the guise of a visit to their mother, heads for Canada with an unsuspecting Danny in tow.

Of the entire novel what really struck me was Lauren’s thoughts about her service in Iraq …”officially women weren’t in combat. They just support. It was the same f** job as every soldier she served with, but with the added downgrade in title and pay.” In Be Safe I Love You, Hoffman honours the female experience of war, something rarely explored in fiction despite more women having been killed in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq than in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

Be Safe I Love You is a thoughtful and thought provoking story, and though the conclusion is a little too neat and easy, I think it is a novel well worth your time.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Iron Junction by Charlotte Nash

 

Title: Iron Junction

Author: Charlotte Nash

Published: Hachette Au March 2014

Status: Read from March 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A contemporary rural fiction novel, Iron Junction is Charlotte Nash’s engaging second book, loosely linked to her 2013 debut, Ryders Ridge.

Fleeing a failed engagement and the censure of her family, Doctor Beth Harding accepts a locum position in a small mining town thousands of kilometers from her home in suburban Sydney. Her first week in the clinic, serving the local community and mine workers, runs smoothly but after Beth foolishly gets stuck in the middle of nowhere exploring the surrounding desert, and the mine boss starts interfering in her clinical decisions, she begins to second guess her decision to spend six weeks in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region. Perhaps she had made the wrong choice to escape Sydney, and Richard? But leaving would mean admitting defeat… and giving up on the chance of something new with engineer, Will Walker.

Romance is a significant element of the plot but the individual emotional development of Beth and Will receives equal emphasis. Both protagonists struggle with self doubt stemming from strained family relations as well as external pressures related to their work at Iron Junction. Their budding relationship is additionally hampered by Beth having just escaped a relationship where she traded her autonomy for acceptance and Will is haunted by a tragedy in his past that has made him believe he is not a worthy of a committed relationship. It is a lot for the pair to negotiate and Nash does well to bring them together in a realistic manner.

Rural and medical romance are regarded as two sub genres of contemporary romance yet Nash successfully blends the two in Iron Junction. The reader is privy to Beth’s consultations with her patients, revealing the types of injuries common to mine workers but the most important subplot explores the limitations of regional medicine by introducing an Aboriginal woman suffering from a serious lung disease as a result of untreated childhood pneumonia. A liaison officer with a talent for photography, Caitlin Murray’s health crisis results in one of the book’s most dramatic moments.

Combining romance and drama in a vivid Australian landscape, I found Iron Junction to be an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next novel from Charlotte Nash.

Iron Junction is available to purchase from

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Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Title: Shotgun Lovesongs

Author: Nickolas Butler

Published: Thomas Dunne Books March 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 04 to 06, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Set in rural Wisconsin, Shotgun Lovesongs tells the story of four men, and one woman, renegotiating the meaning of friendship, love and home.

Five characters share the narrative in alternating chapters. Hank – who inherited his father’s farm, Beth – Hank’s wife, Lee – an international music artist, Kip – a successful broker and Ronny -an injured rodeo star. These people speak and we think that we know them, who they are and what they dream of, but each are capable of surprising us as the story unfolds.

I have read few books that feature male friendship, and it was something that I really enjoyed about Shotgun Lovesongs. The bonds this group formed in childhood remain intact through a decade of physical separation and sporadic contact, but when they reunite in Little Wing they learn none of them are the boys they once were and their relationships with each other are now complicated by the men they have become.

The community of Little Wing in rural Wisconsin is vividly portrayed. I could easily imagine Kip’s mill looming over the town, the car park full of battered pick-ups, weathered men leaning on the bar in the VWF hall and tractors traversing the the open farmland.

While tempers may flare, the conflict in Shotgun Lovesongs is largely personal and the drama is subdued. The pace of the story is measured and thoughtful, emphasising emotion over action. I found the writing and dialogue to be simple and honest yet descriptive and affecting.

Shotgun Lovesongs is an understated yet heartfelt novel, an ode to friendship, to love and to family. It is a story about finding your way home, where ever that may be.

* I learned after finishing Shotgun Lovesongs that the novel is loosely based on the life of Bon Iver, a folksy rock singer, whom I had never heard of. A quick browse on Youtube revealed some really beautiful music and lyrics but I’m not a fan of his voice at all, I much prefer the covers by Adele {I Can’t Make You Love Me} and Birdy {Skinny Love} for example, but play the clip below to sample his music.

Available to Purchase From

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