Review: Turtle Reef by Jennifer Scoullar

 

Title: Turtle Reef

Author: Jennifer Scoullar

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 22 to 23, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Turtle Reef is Jennifer Scoullar’s fifth novel, and her fourth engaging contemporary regional romance.

City girl Zoe King is thrilled when she lands her dream job at a marine park and research center in Kiawa, a small town in northern Queensland, looking forward to working with the Reef Center’s impressively credentialed director, Bridget Macalister.
Though the job proves more demanding than she expected, Zoe quickly learns to embrace its challenges, impressed by Bridget’s dedication to the center and delighted by the aquarium’s residents, including their six rescue dolphins.
Its the findings from Zoe’s first research project, monitoring the local dugong population and mapping seagrass meadows, that alerts her to a problem not only with the reef, but also the operation of the marine center.

Conservation management and environmental protection is a major theme of this novel. Set in a small sugar cane community on the Queensland coast, Scoullar writes of the risks outdated cane farming practices poses to the coastal environment, the general threats to our fragile marine ecosystem as well as the desirability of rehabilitating wild creatures for return to their natural environment.

The intrigue in the novel is a touch slow to develop but I enjoyed the measured unraveling of secrets. The suspense is fairly low key for most of the novel but the danger Zoe faces when she comes too close to working out exactly what is going on came as a surprise, raising the tension considerably.

There is an unconventional romance for Zoe in Turtle Reef. Quinn Cooper is a fifth generation local cane farmer and a caring guardian of his brain injured younger brother, Josh. Zoe is attracted to his good looks and down to earth charm from their first meeting, but as Bridget’s long term boyfriend, Quinn is strictly off limits. I have to be honest, I found the relationship a little odd, though the chemistry is there, the circumstances are awkward.

The Reef Center is home to a half dozen rescue dolphins, given delightful personalities by Scoullar. I was charmed by Josh’s interactions with them and saddened by the way in which they were betrayed. I was surprised to learn how intelligent octopuses can be, and fell in love with Einstein.

Scoullar’s descriptions of the beauty of the reef and the ocean are highlights of the novel.
“All around them lay a tapestry….Brightly coloured parrot fish abounded and were utterly fearless. Zoe could hear the soft chomping of their beaks as the grazed on the branching coral gardens. Blue-spotted lagoon rays scooted past,… and a shovelnose shark, with its strange triangular snout.”

Turtle Reef is a lovely novel from a storyteller whose fiction evokes the romance of the Australian landscape, and the heart.

Available to purchase from

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Also by Jennifer Scoullar

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Review: Life or Death by Michael Robotham

 

Title: Life or Death

Author: Michael Robotham

Published: Mulholland Books March 2015

Status: Read on March 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Life or Death is Michael Robotham’s tenth novel, a rare stand alone from one of Australia’s favourite crime fiction author’s, best known for his O’Loughlin/Ruiz series.

Inspired by a real life news report, Robotham has built his story around the character of Audie Palmer who, after serving ten years in prison, escapes the day before his scheduled release. No one understands why Audie would run when he risks an extended sentence if caught, but it’s assumed that it has something to do with the unrecovered $7 million dollars stolen during the robbery he was convicted of committing.

It soon becomes obvious however that Audie isn’t motivated by money, hunted by the authorities and criminals alike, he is on a mission to save a life. Despite what Audie stands accused of, he quickly becomes such a likeable character, a victim of bad luck and worse luck, he demonstrates an enviable strength of character to rise above it all. He is the ultimate underdog, battling to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming odds.

Flashbacks provide the details of Audie’s back story, explaining his present predicament. The twists and turns of the plot are well executed, even if a touch predictable. I read Life or Death in a matter of hours, Robotham’s fluid writing, and tight pacing ensures this is a page turner.

An entertaining read with a great premise, appealing characters and a strong and satisfying ending, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Life or Death.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: A Time of Secrets by Deborah Burrows

 

Title: A Time of Secrets

Author: Deborah Burrows

Published: Pan Macmillan March 2015

Status: Read from March 18 to 19, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A Time of Secrets is Deborah Burrows’ third wonderful novel blending Australia’s wartime history with mystery and romance.

While Burrows previous novels take place in Perth, A Time of Secrets is set in Melbourne in 1943. Australian Women’s Army sergeant Stella Aldridge is out shopping with her roommate and colleague, Dolly, when she overhears a whispered conversation in Malay between a group of Australian soldiers. Concerned with the implications she alerts her boss at the APLO, The Australian Pacific Liason Office, only to be drawn into a covert investigation headed by her superior officer, Lieutenant Nick Ross.

As Stella and her colleagues work to uncover the identity of the traitor sabotaging the Australian war effort they have to negotiate the politics of the APLO. I enjoyed the intrigue of the storyline and learning a little more about the war effort. In this, as in both of Burrows previous novels, A Stranger in My Street and Taking a Chance, Burrows’ brings to life the experiences and contribution of women during wartime in Australia.

A minor subplot focuses on Stella’s roommate Dolly, and the secrets she is keeping both from her fiance and Stella, while a second involves an axe wielding murderer stalking women in Melbourne. The theme of domestic violence is prominent in the novel. as is violence on the home front in general.

There is romance for Stella with the enigmatic soldier Staff Sergeant Eric Lund. A special operative, his life is at risk if the rumours of a traitor imbedded within the APLO are true. Stella’s attraction to Lund is complicated by his capability for violence, her first husband who was killed in action physically abused her, and she is wary. A sort of love triangle also develops as Ross, an unapologetic ladies man, makes his interest in Stella clear.

Burrow’s is a talented storyteller who brings wartime Australia to life. Offering an interesting mystery combined with strong characterisation and a well crafted plot, A Time of Secrets is an engaging historical fiction novel.

Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

 

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Review: The Secret Life of Luke Livingston by Charity Norman

 

Title: The Secret Life of Luke Livingston

Author: Charity Norman

Published: Allen and Unwin March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 15 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone is an emotionally powerful story of a family in crisis from Charity Norman.

A respected solicitor and beloved husband, father and grandfather, Luke Livingston seems to have it all, but he has a secret with the potential to destroy it all.

With thought provoking insight and sensitivity, Norman tells the story from four different points of view – Luke’s, his wife’s Eilish’s, and their children’s Simon’s and Kate’s.

I couldn’t help but admire Luke for his courage in finally following his heart. His despair and heartbreak is very affecting as he struggles with the realities of his situation. I rejoiced in each tentative step he took towards reconciling with his own truth.

“Because I’ve come to the end of the road, Eilish. The very end. I can’t go on, I was facing a choice last night: to end my life, or to accept what I’ve always really been.”

I sympathised with Eilish’s shock and feelings of betrayal, and the initial reactions of Luke’s adult children, Kate and Simon, when Luke’s secret is revealed. Norman portrays their confusion, anger and grief with believability as their comfortable world is turned upside down. I was furious with Simon’s extreme reaction, tempered only slightly when Norman revealed the awful memories Luke’s announcement stirred in him.

“Perhaps we never really understand our families at all, any of us. Perhaps those we love the most are really a bunch of strangers, with secret thoughts and inner lives.”

I was hugely angered by the bigotry displayed by many of the characters. It appalls me that such a level of ignorance and hatred still exists in today’s society. The author does a wonderful job of educating the reader about gender and sexual identity without lecturing.

The novel is well written, drawing the reader into the characters lives, but I did feel as if the story stalled somewhat in the middle and its progression was somewhat predictable.

A sensitive and thought-provoking story The Secret Life of Luke Livingstone is a wonderful novel and deserves to be read widely.

Available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

 

Review: Resistance by John Birmingham

 

Title: Resistance {Dave Hooper #2}

Author: John Birmingham

Published: Pan Macmillan AU March 2015

Status: Read from March 12 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The second novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Resistance is another darkly funny, action packed fantasy adventure from Australian author John Birmingham.

Dave is enjoying his celebrity, in a typical Dave-like manner, after the defeat of the Hunn but the breach in New Orleans was just the start and now the Hunn are boiling up from the underworld realm all over the globe, eager to reclaim their dominion.

There is no getting away from the fact that Dave is a dick, and his basic nature is unchanged despite becoming a superhero. In Resistance he is confronted with his new responsibilities as the only man able to translate the intentions of the Hunn but he manages to alienate almost everyone when he makes the wrong choices.

Like Emergence, Resistance is a fast paced, entertaining read, hilarious, action – packed and unfailingly politically incorrect.

I’m looking forward to Dave’s final adventure in Ascendance

 

Resistance is available to purchase from

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and all good bookstores.

Also available: Book 1

Review & Giveaway: She’s Having Her Baby by Lauren Sams

Title: She’s Having Her Baby

Author: Lauren Sams

Published: Nero: Black Inc Books March 2015

Status: Read on March 11, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

She’s Having Her Baby is a funny and bittersweet debut chick lit novel from Lauren Sams.

“This is it. She’s going to ask me to be her surrogate. No, she won’t. Surely she won’t. That only happens in Katherine Heigl movies, Jesus f** Christ, what if she asks? What am I going to say? There’s only one answer, right? Jesus f**”

Thirty something magazine editor, Georgie Henderson, has never wanted kids but her best friend, Nina Doherty, wants nothing more than to be a mother and when her latest IVF attempt fails, she asks Georgie for the ultimate favour. Reluctantly Georgie agrees to become Nina’s surrogate, willing to help Nina’s dream come true, but Georgie is wholly unprepared for what comes next…

Life doesn’t always go to plan and in She’s Having Her Baby the plot doesn’t quite develop as the reader may expect. Sharply observed, the author explores the themes of infertility, surrogacy, motherhood and friendship in a manner that is funny, poignant and compassionate.

I found Georgie to be an interesting character, she definitely has her flaws, being somewhat inflexible and self absorbed, but she is amusing, feisty and loyal in her own way. I admired Georgia for deciding to help Nina, though I think choosing not to have children for whatever reason is a perfectly valid decision, and though Georgia doesn’t cope particularly well when things don’t work out as expected, including with her relationship and career, she eventually pulls it together.

I’ve witnessed the toll infertility can take on the soul, and relationships, and I really felt for Nina, her desperation is authentic and moving. I laughed out loud at the passages describing the parenting styles of Ellie and the mothers at the playground. Those type of ‘helicopter’, holier than thou parents drove me crazy when my children were babies so I agreed . It’s not like I let mine play with knives or fed them a steady diet of McDonalds but they watched ABC Kids, ate jarred baby foods and wore disposable nappies, and let me assure you they are all bright, healthy and happy children.

The writing is of a good standard, the dialogue is natural, and humour is used to good effect, without undermining the more serious issues. The pacing works well with some surprises in the plot and a conclusion that is satisfying but not too neat.

I enjoyed She’s Having Her Baby, I found it to be both an entertaining and touching novel tackling issues relevant to the modern woman. Lauren Sams is a debut author with promise.

Learn more about Lauren Sams and her writing process in he guest post published earlier today at Book’d Out

She’s Having Her Baby is available to purchase from

Nero Books Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I via Booko

 Amazon US I BookDepository

and all good bookstores.

*****

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Nero Books

I have 5 print editions of

She’s Having Her Baby by Lauren Sams

to giveaway.

*Sorry,  only Australian residents may enter*

Congratulations to the winners of She’s Having Her Baby:

Linda H; Jan O; Amanda N; Tash B; Kirsty A

Entries close March 22nd 2015

****

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AWW Feature & Giveaway: Lauren Sams on Writing

 

Lauren Sams

 

Today I am pleased to introduce Lauren Sams and the release of her debut novel, She’s Having Her Baby. Lauren Sams began her career at Cosmopolitan, before moving to Girlfriend as Deputy Editor. She’s now back at Cosmo as Associate Editor. She writes for ELLE, marie claire, Sunday Style and Daily Life. She lives in Sydney with her husband, daughter and two dogs.

She’s Having Her Baby is published by Nero Books.

Georgie Henderson doesn’t want to have kids, but her best friend, Nina Doherty, has wanted to have a baby for as long as she can remember. Sadly, Nina’s uterus refuses to cooperate. One drunken evening, Nina asks Georgie for the ultimate favour: would she carry a baby for her? Georgie says yes – and spends the next nine months wondering why!
With intense bacon-and-egg roll cravings and distant memories of what her feet look like, Georgie tries to keep it all together in her dream job as the editor of Jolie magazine. Her love life’s a mess – and sauvignon blanc’s off the menu – leaving Georgie to deal with twists in her life she never expected

My review of She’s Having Her Baby can be read HERE,  but first please read on to learn more about the novel and how you could win one of five print editions…

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Writing: the best career ever except for CEO of Haigh’s and Amy Poehler’s Personal Assistant

People are always banging on about how hard it is to write a book. Or just, to write, in general. It’s lonely, they say. It’s exhausting, I hear. It’s hardly ever worth it, apparently. It’s enough to drive you to drink, says Ernest Hemingway and a bunch of his mates.

What utter rubbish (except the drinking part; I enjoy a dirty martini as much as the next scribe and possibly more).

The thing is, writing – if it’s your bag – is just about the most fun thing ever. It is also patently indulgent – perhaps even selfish. So when people – writers – complain about it, I want to stand up, reach across and gently slap them in the face. We’re not saving lives in Darfur, people. We’re writing. Get over it.

The process of writing my first novel, She’s Having Her Baby, was hard only because it was tiring. I had to fit writing into an already crammed life – I am the associate editor at Cosmopolitan, the acting managing editor at Cosmopolitan Bride and I freelance for a bunch of mags. Oh, and I have a husband and a two-year-old. So making sure all the balls were still in the air, inflated and bouncing happily was a challenge. But the writing itself? THAT was fun. I didn’t think of it as work.

And I didn’t think of it as lonely, either. I love my two main characters, Georgie and Nina. Georgie is a bit older than me, and though people may assume we are one and the same (first novels do have a tendency to be autobiographical, I know), we are not. Put simply, Georgie is kind of a flake. A lovable flake, sure, but nonetheless, a flake. She’s opinionated, likes a wine and doesn’t get why people would want to have kids. She’s fiercely loyal to and protective of her best friend, Nina. Nina, unlike Georgie, has her shit decidedly together and considers it her job to tell Georgie the cold hard truth once in a while. Nina wants to have a baby with a kind of desperation that I see in a lot of women – a quiet longing that gives way to outright anger at the injustice of infertility. So Nina asks Georgie the ultimate favour – would she be her surrogate?

I came to love my cast of characters (almost all of them female). Ellie, another of Georgie’s friends, was a bit of a surprise to me. Ellie is the mother of a toddler and in Georgie’s eyes, “gave up her licence to be an adult the day she got pregnant.” I was prepared to dislike Ellie from the start – she’s not the kind of mother I want to be and I had little sympathy for her. But as the writing process went on, I came to empathise with Ellie. She’s trying to be a great mum the best – and only – way she knows how, and while she knows her (childless) friends don’t approve, she doesn’t care. I kind of loved that about her. It was a joy getting to know Ellie (I know she’s not real; I am aware I’m sounding a little crazy).

I’ll concede that yes, it was exhausting trying to squeeze in writing and editing whenever I could, but again: this was a hugely indulgent exercise for me. Plus I have an excellent husband who makes fab coffee on demand (he is also available in Small and Large). I have a wife named Rochelle who is also my mother and says helpful things like, “How about I do a load of washing for you?” as I nod vigorously (then she folds it, in that way only mums know how).

And now, it’s out in the world and I’m ready to start work on book number two (the sequel!). So yep, it may be tiring. I may emerge, 90,000 words later, with bags under my eyes heavier than North West’s carry-on. But I will have had so much fun along the way, I won’t even mind.

Especially when I start drinking.

*****

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Nero Books

I have 5 print editions of

She’s Having Her Baby by Lauren Sams

to giveaway.

*Sorry,  only Australian residents may enter*

Please leave a comment on this post and then

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Entries close March 22nd 2015

****

She’s Having Her Baby is available to purchase from

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Review: Razorhurst by Justine Larbalaestier

 

Title: Razorhurst

Author: Justine Larbalaestier

Published: Soho Teen March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 07 to 9, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Justine Larbalaestier’s Razorhurst is gritty, intriguing novel blending history and the paranormal to create an interesting and exciting story with crossover appeal for both young adult and adult audiences.

It’s 1932 and the tentative truce between Sydney’s rival underworld gangs, headed by Gloriana Nelson and Mr Davidson, is on the verge of collapse when Gloriana’s right hand man, Jimmy Palmer is murdered in his bed.
For Dymphna, Gloria’s ‘best girl’ and Jimmy’s girlfriend, Jimmy’s death is a problem. Was he murdered by Mr Davidson in a calculated move against Glory, or was he killed because Glory learned of his and Dymphna’s plans to oust her?
Climbing into the Surrey Hills dosshouse housing Gloriana’s men in search of food, street urchin Kelpie is shocked to find Dymphna standing over the body of her murdered lover.
Both are forced to flee as the police close in, with Dymphna insisting Kelpie remains with her for protection, but safety is hard to come by on the streets of ‘Razorhurst’.

Razorhurst is told from the alternating perspectives of Kelpie and Dymphna, interspersed with brief omniscient vignettes. Both girls are feisty, brave, and smart, but most importantly they are survivors.
Kelpie is an appealing character. When her mother died in childbirth, she was taken in by ‘Old Ma’ who raised her as best she could. Upon Old Ma’s death, desperate to escape the Welfare, Kelpie took to the streets, surviving with the occasional kindness of local hard man, Snowy, and the ghosts that she can both see and hear that haunt the streets.
Dymphna was born to privilege but tragedy left her orphaned twice and she was forced to find a way to survive. As Glory’s ‘best girl’, she has earned status among the underworld, but she wants more. She too can see and hear ghosts but hiding her ability has become second nature.

Larbalaestier’s gangland characters are inspired by infamous Sydney identities (most notably Tilly Divine and Kate Leigh), and the author’s research into the ‘razor’ gangs of Sydney, so named because straight edge razors were the weapon of choice during the 1930’s.
I loved the historical elements that evoke inner city Sydney during the period. Grounded firmly in fact, the setting is fascinating and vividly drawn, from the slum of Frog Hollow to the seedy streets of Surry ‘Sorrow’ Hills lined with bordello’s, opium dens and gambling houses.

Unfolding over the course of a single day the pacing of the novel is well managed, the action is non stop as Dymphna and Kelpie scramble to survive. There are explicit, though not gratuitous, references to violence and the occasional use of language. A touch of humour and romance tempers the ever present sense of menace and danger.

Entertaining, thrilling and original, Razorhurst is a great read I’d widely recommend and I’m really hoping Larbalestier has plans for a sequel.

Available to Purchase From

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International Women’s Day: Cranky Ladies of History by Tehani Wessley (Ed.)

iwd_long

In honour of International Womens Day 2015, I am pleased to introduce Cranky Ladies of History, an anthology launched today from Fablecroft Publishing.

Title: Cranky Ladies of History

Author: Tehani Wessley (Editor)

Published: Fablecroft Publishing March 2015

Status: Read from March 07 to 08, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtsey the publisher)

My Thoughts:

Cranky Ladies of History is an anthology conceived and developed by Tehani Wessley of Fablecroft Publishing and author, Tansy Rayner Roberts. Crowdfunded through Pozible during Womens History Month in 2014, the concept attracted many supporters eager to be a part of project.

Twenty two authors have contributed to Cranky Ladies of History, including award winner’s Thoraiya Dyer, Juliet Marillier, Jane Yolen and Garth Nix.

Each short story in Cranky Ladies of History features a real female historical figure. I’m not familiar enough with history to separate fact from fiction in these pieces but these strong, often fierce women are those who challenged society’s rules and ideas about how women should behave, though not always in heroic or noble ways. While Garth Nix honours Lady Godiva in ‘The Company of Women’, ‘Look How Cold My Hands Are’ by Deborah Biancotti features Countess Bathory, an insane serial killer.

The women featured include an Ancient Egyptian ruler (‘Neter Nefer’ by Amanda Pillar), a Chinese Empress (‘Charmed Life’ by Joyce Chng), a British women’s rights campaigner (“Mary, Mary” by Kirstyn McDermott) and an Australia doctor (‘Due Care And Attention’ by Sylvia Kelso. Some of the protagonists represent well known figures such as Queen Elizabeth 1 (‘Glorious’ by Faith Mudge) while others feature woman whose lives have all but been forgotten, such as the Icelandic Viking warrior, Hallgerðr Höskuldsdóttir (‘For So Great A Misdeed’ by Lisa L. Hannett)

An entertaining and interesting anthology, Cranky Ladies of History is an important collection of fiction that gives voice to an extraordinary selection of women from a broad range of backgrounds, era’s and cultures. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

 

Cranky Ladies of History is available to purchase from

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Blog Tour Review: Rose River by Margareta Osborn

 

Title: Rose River

Author: Margareta Osborn

Published: Random House March 2015

Status: Read from March 04 to 05, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Rose River is a lighthearted contemporary rural romance from Margareta Osborn, expanded from her 2012 novella, A Bush Christmas.

Jamie Hanrahan can’t see any reason to celebrate Christmas, a year ago her beloved father suddenly passed away and now she has been unceremoniously retrenched from her high-paying executive PR job. Eager to escape the festive season in Melbourne, Jamie impulsively accepts an offer to housesit in Burdekin’s Gap, high up in the East Gippsland Mountains. Jamie is looking forward to peace and quiet, but then Polly Plains House manager, Stirling McEvoy roars into her life on his gleaming Yamaha and suddenly Jamie may be able to find a few reasons to celebrate the season after all.

It took me a little while to warm up to Jamie but she surprised me when she willingly helped Stirling draft cattle, despite being clueless, and quickly, if a touch reluctantly, involved herself in the Burdekin’s Gap community. Emotionally Jamie is a bit of a mess, still grieving for her father and angry at her mother for her quick remarriage, but Burdekin’s Gap, and the friends she makes, reveals a strength she never knew she had.

Stirling isn’t terribly happy to make Jamie’s acquaintance, he had been expecting a housesitter who could help around the station, not a Sass and Bide, Jimmy Choo wearing city slicker ‘Princess’. I liked Stirling, whom Jamie nicknames ‘Marble Man’ due in part to his impressive physique, though I felt there were some inconsistencies in what I expected of his character in the second half of the novel, after his ex girlfriend shows up.

Complications between Stirling and Jamie arise in the form of Stirling’s bitchy ex-girlfriend, Tiffany, who is reluctant to let go, and Jamie’s stepfather’s nephew, Marty, who seems determined to win Jamie’s affection despite her oft repeated disinterest. With their relationship so new and undefined, neither Stirling nor Jamie are willing to declare themselves and misunderstandings abound.

I really enjoyed Osborn’s portrayal of the Burdekin’s Gap community, from Stirling’s immediate family to pub owners Bluey and Jean, and the fundraising events, including Buck (naked) Cricket, and Cow (poo) Lotto, that unites the residents. The setting is also wonderfully drawn from the town itself, to the surrounding country landscape.

Those that read A Bush Christmas should enjoy the continuation of Jamie and Stirling’s romance, though it should be noted that novella is reproduced almost verbatim within the story. I found Rose River to be a straight forward, high spirited romance, that should appeal to fans of the genre.

Rose River is available to purchase from

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Also by Margareta Osborn


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