Review: Zoe’s Muster by Barbara Hannay


Title: Zoe’s Muster

Author: Barbara Hannay

Published: Michael Joseph (Penguin) July 2012

Synopsis: Three women … two families … one secret … When Zoe, restless black sheep of the Porter family, discovers that her biological father is a North Queensland cattleman, Peter Fairburn, her deep desire to meet him takes her from inner-city Brisbane to a job as a stockcamp cook. Zoe’s mother, Claire, is wrestling with guilt over Zoe’s discovery. She swears Zoe to secrecy, fearing that the truth could ruin the career of her high-profile politician husband. But when she is forced to confront her past, Claire also reassesses her marriage. Virginia Fairburn is happily married to Peter, but she’s always lived with the shadow of the other woman her husband loved and lost. On the muster at Mullinjim, Zoe meets brooding cattleman Mac McKinnon, who knows from painful experience that city girls can’t cope in the bush. Every instinct tells Mac that Zoe is hiding something. As the pressure to reveal her mother’s secret builds, Zoe fears she must confide in Mac or burst. The truth has the potential to destroy two families. Or can it clear the way for new beginnings? Read an Extract

Status: Read from July 13 to 15, 2012 {Courtesy Penguin Australia/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

An engaging story, Zoe’s Muster doesn’t stray far from familiar ground for Barbara Hannay, the award winning author of over 40 category romance novels published by Harlequin, blending romance and an Australian rural setting.
Zoe Porter is stunned to learn that a North Queensland cattleman, Peter Fairburn, is her biological father, not the high profile Brisbane politician who raised her. Against her mothers wishes, but agreeing to keep her secret, Zoe abandons her cupcake business and takes a temporary position as the stock camp cook at Mullinjim, the Fairburn’s property, eager to learn more about her father and his family. Zoe expected cooking for half a dozen ringers over an open fire during muster would be challenging but not revealing her true reason for taking the position proves more difficult, especially under the scrutiny of Mac McKinnon.

Zoe’s Muster is well plotted with a credible storyline and I like the way in which Hannay expands this story beyond her main protagonist. This is not just Zoe’s story, her discovery, and her desire to learn more about her biological father, has implications for both the Porters and the Fairburns. Claire’s relationship with her husband is already under strain when Zoe discovers the truth of her paternity and though her instinct is to protect her husband, who is standing for re-election, Claire’s guilt proves to be a catalyst for change.
Virgina, Peter’s wife, is impressed with Zoe and considers her a possible partner for her son, Luke, who makes his interest known. Obviously Zoe’s secret precludes that relationship which creates some tense situations. When Zoe’s identity is revealed Virgina feels betrayed which is magnified by her insecurities stemming from Peter’s past relationship with Claire.

The characters of Zoe’s Muster are credible and Zoe is a likeable protagonist. Her motivations are easily understood and she is a well developed character. I loved the scene in which she gets her own back on Julia in regards to the spider and admire her willingness to awake in the pre dawn hours to feed half a dozen ravenous men.
The romance between Zoe and Mac has its own challenges, aside from the secret Zoe is keeping. Mac is wary of Zoe at first simply because she is a city girl, reminding him of previous heartbreak, but he also suspects she is hiding something. There is for me, the right amount of heat in this novel, smouldering looks and a passionate encounter or two.

While a romance is at its core, Zoe’s Muster combines an engaging story with appealing characters set in a wonderful landscape. I enjoyed reading Zoe’s Muster and consider it another fine example of the growing rural fiction genre being published in Australia.

Zoe’s Muster is available to purchase

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About the Author

Barbara Hannay has written forty novels for Harlequin Mills and Boon, many of which have been set in the outback. She has been nominated for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA award four times and won the award in 2007. Barbara has also won Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year award, and this year she has again been short-listed for both of these awards. Barbara’s very excited that Zoe’s Muster, her first rural romance with Penguin Australia, is being released in July 2012.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Review: Moonlight Plains by Barbara Hannay | book'd out
  2. Trackback: Review: The Secret Years by Barbara Hannay | book'd out

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