Review: The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthur

9780143799825

 

 

Title: The Homestead Girls

Author: Fiona McArthur

Published: Penguin June 2015

Status: Read from June 24 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Fiona McArthur’s, The Homestead Girls, is a heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion set in the outback of NSW.

In The Homestead Girls, Soretta Byrnes is struggling to keep her grandparent’s farm solvent in the drought, especially after her grandfather is badly injured in an accident, so when it’s suggested that she accept some boarders as a way to earn extra income, she agrees, determined to save Blue Hills Station.
Soretta is quickly joined by Daphne Prince, a flight nurse with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, eager to help the battling farmer; Dr Billie Green, with her rebellious teenage daughter in tow, who has returned to her hometown of Mica Ridge to fulfill a childhood dream by taking up a position with the RFDS; and eighty year old widow Lorna Lamerton, looking for company.
Despite their differences, the unlikely housemates soon become close friends, finding strength, support and happiness in their relationships with one another as they face a myriad of challenges.

I liked all the women in The Homestead Girls and delighted in their growing friendship. They all benefit from their living arrangements in both practical and emotional ways.

With such a large primary cast I did find some elements of the story a little underdeveloped. I’m not sure, for example, that the subplot involving Billie and her ex husband added anything to the story overall, the confrontation between the pair was anti-climatic and quickly overshadowed by following events.
Though there is romance in The Homestead Girls, for both Billie and Daphne, it doesn’t overwhelm the story. With both Billie and Daphne having been deeply hurt in past relationships they are wary of involvement and their romances with their respective partners, Morgan and Rex, develop slowly, though Daphne’s has been a long time coming.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service is an invaluable resource in regional Australia and McArthur highlights their stellar work in The Homestead Girls. The RFDS provides numerous services to outback communities from running immunisation and antenatal clinics in remote areas, to dealing with emergencies such as snakebites, heart attacks and vehicular accidents. I really enjoyed learning more about what it’s like to work for the service and reading about the team’s varied medical experiences.

An uplifting story of friendship and romance, The Homestead Girls is a lovely read I’d be happy to recommend.

CLICK HERE to read more about the inspiration for the setting of The Homestead Girls in Fiona’s guest post published earlier today.

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AWW Feature: The Outback, The Homestead Girls, and Fiona McArthur

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I’m delighted to welcome Fiona McArthur to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of The Homestead Girls.

Fiona McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for many years. She is a clinical midwifery educator, mentors midwifery students, and is involved with obstetric emergency education for midwives and doctors from all over Australia. Fiona’s love of writing has seen her sell over two million books in twelve languages. She’s been a midwifery expert for Mother&Baby magazine and is the author of the nonfiction works The Don’t Panic Guide to Birth and Breech Baby: A Guide for Parents. She lives on an often swampy farm in northern New South Wales with her husband, some livestock, and a blue heeler named Reg. She’s constantly taking photographs of sunrise and sunset and loves that researching her books allows her to travel to remote places. Her first rural fiction novel with Penguin Australia, Red Sand Sunrise, was published in 2014.

Fiona McArthur’s second novel, The Homestead Girls is a heartwarming story of friendship, courage and compassion in the outback.

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“Moving to the outback to join the Flying Doctors will change Billie’s life forever.
After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she  jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.
Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and has opened her homestead to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.
The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test…”

My review can be seen HERE, but first, please read on to learn more about Fiona McArthur’s inspiration for the setting of The Homestead Girls.

****

Outback Inspiration

by Fiona McArthur

Hello and thanks so much for asking me back as I launch my new novel, The Homestead Girls. And speaking of being back, I’d like to chat about background setting and how it’s such an integral part of a book. People have asked why I set a book ‘inspired by’ Broken Hill so I thought I’d mull over some of the ways I used our visits to Broken Hill and why I loved it?

I read an article once where Broken Hill was called ‘The boldest of the outback towns… pressure-cooked through the mining years.’ I wish I’d written that – but I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment. It’s a unique and layered township and surrounds and my husband loved it so much he wondered if we could retire there after just two visits.

Here’s 10 things I used from Broken Hill and Outback NSW for the Homestead Girls.

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Mt Gipps Station mailbox

1/The Sky – Bluer than any you see in the city – in fact all of the colours are so vibrant it’s one of the main reasons so many artists live there. Think Pro Hart. Jack Absolom.

2/The Landscape from the air – imagine the vista the flight nurses and pilots see every day when they go to work. That great expanse of browns and golds and orange, with ribbons of empty creek beds, and then a station or tiny township coming up on the horizon. I took a fabulous one and a half hour flight with Silver City Scenic Flights and lots of notes – though notes were when I wasn’t hanging on – it was little bit bumpy!

The Landscape from the ground – the lookout at Mundi Mundi – what a view! The view from the ridge on Mt Gipps. What a place for a sunset drink! And a seduction scene.

3/The Racecourse. The Silver City Cup was first held in 1899, and is the oldest horse race in the region, and held towards the end of October every year. Unfortunately it was the wrong time of year for us but we walked outside the racecourse, peered at the stands and took photos for a scene I knew I would write there. I looked up all the photos of the racegoers after the event and they all had smiles on their faces. So did my characters when they went.

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Murals Palace Hotel

4/The Palace Hotel main street Broken Hill – had to go and visit and sit on the stairs and just look. Wow! Inside is decorated with fabulous oil-painted murals up and down the stair walls and ceiling, including a magnificently flamboyant depiction of Botticelli’s Venus above the staircase. These are the paintings famously featured in the movie Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.

5/Walking down the main street beautifully restored buildings were exactly like the apartment one of my characters would live in Mica Ridge and then there are the roses. Love the roses outside all the town buildings. ‘Billy had forgotten about the roses until she saw them again on the day she arrived back to her home town.’

6/The huge airport and the RFDS Base – all those trees surrounding the tarmac, the heat that belts off it on hot days. Rental cars parked under the trees. Though, just stating, the flying doctor base scenes are set in Mica Ridge Base, which is smaller than Broken Hill. 

7/Silverton – two of my characters visited the pub, as did my husband and I, funny that, which is stocked with memorabilia from movies made in the area such as Mad Max, A Town Like Alice, it’s a must visit place with history around every corner. A really fun atmosphere, but so spread out it reminds you how much is gone, and gives the impression of being deserted.

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Desert Sculptures

8/The Desert Sculptures – loved this hilltop, in the middle of the outback, art gallery – arranged with huge, truly inspiring sculptures. The paths, bushes, trees, and native flowers all complimented the different-themed stone carvings (stone sourced from Wilcannia) on the skyline. Loved that the artist’s interpretation was explained on discreet signage beside each artist’s work.

9/Mt Gipps Station and the Sturt’s Desert Pea – inspiration for Blue Hills Station in the book – and the best farm stay ever.

10/And of course the people. The wonderful, laconic, incredibly tough people in town and on the land. Then there are the flight nurses, doctors, pilots and everyone else who makes saving lives in the outback, happen with a minimum of fuss.

I really hope everyone enjoys The Homestead Girls and… so my answer is why wouldn’t I draw inspiration from Broken Hill?

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Highway Signs

 *****

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Review: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

 

 

Title: The Unbroken Line {Will Harris #2}

Author: Alex Hammond

Published: Viking Penguin Au June 2015

Read an Excerpt on Book’d Out

Status: Read from June 21 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second legal thriller featuring defence lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

Will is still dealing with both the personal and professional consequences of the events in Blood Witness, when he and girlfriend Eva are brutally attacked by two masked men. They have a message for Will from their anonymous employer – back off. Angry and confused, Will has no idea what the men are referring to, but now he is determined to find out, and unwittingly becomes the target of a deadly conspiracy, headed by Melbourne’s elite.

With a well crafted and complex plot, The Unbroken Line is a fast paced story of corruption, violence, conspiracy and vengeance. As Will searches for answers to the attack on he and Eva, he must also defend his new law firm partner, barrister Chris Miller, when he is arrested for negligent homicide, prevent a judge’s teenage son from being charged with manslaughter, and repay his debt to the Ivanics family, all whilst under investigation by the Legal Commissioner for ethics breaches related to his actions in Blood Witness. With some surprising twists, Hammond reveals the links between these seemingly unrelated threads developing an exciting multi-layered storyline.

Will is an appealing protagoinist, flawed but intelligent, with a strong sense of justice. Under siege professionally, Will is faring no better in his personal life. He is still struggling to recover from the debilitating physical effects of the vicious stabbing that left him near dead in Blood Witness, and Eva, traumatised and scarred by the masked men’s attack, flee’s to New York. Though The Unbroken Line could be read as a stand alone, I’d recommend readers begin with Blood Witness, which establishes his relationships with Eva, Chris and several of the other other characters that appear in both novels.

I enjoyed The Unbroken Line, it is a well crafted and gripping legal thriller. Perfect for fans of John Grisham and Michael Connelly.

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Feature Excerpt: The Unbroken Line by Alex Hammond

Alex Hammond was born in South Africa and emigrated to Australia with his family as a child. He graduated in Law/Arts from Melbourne University in 2001 and worked for several leading law firms. Although, ultimately, the law didn’t take, he was exposed to many of the superstitions and sects of the profession and found himself fascinated by the culture, passion and grey moral world that lawyers inhabit.

The Unbroken Line is Alex Hammond’s second stand alone novel legal thriller featuring Melbourne lawyer Will Harris, following on from his Ned Kelly Award nominated debut, Blood Witness.

The violence of the past casts a long shadow – a dark legacy with lethal consequences.
When defence lawyer Will Harris is attacked by masked men with a clear message to back off, he has no choice but to listen. If only he knew what they were talking about.
Under siege as his fledgling law firm struggles to get off the ground, Will agrees to defend the troubled son of a family friend. But the case is far from clear-cut, and the ethical boundaries murky. Instead of clawing his way out of trouble, Will finds he’s sinking ever deeper.
At the same time, his search for his attackers unearths an unexpected source that points him towards Melbourne’s corridors of power. But motives, let alone proofs, are hard to find. It is only when those close to him are threatened that Will realises how near he is to the deadly truth.”

 My review of The Unbroken Line can be seen HERE, but first please read on for an excerpt of this exciting new thriller.

The Unbroken Line – Excerpt

 © published with permission from Penguin Australia

One

It had been six weeks, almost to the day, since he’d had a drink. Remembering the last glass summoned images of that desperate night – the blade glinting under streetlights before it rose again, steaming with his blood in the winter air.
Will Harris took another sip from the champagne Eva had ordered for them.
‘It must feel good to be out of that wheelchair,’ Eva said, no doubt seeing the veil of memory descend across his face.
The restaurant had been Eva’s idea – a date to reboot the fraught circumstances of their meeting; a balance against her holding his wounds closed until the ambulance had arrived.
‘Adversity may have a way of bringing people together,’ she said, ‘but more often it fucks them up.’
Will nodded. ‘It does. No changing the way we met,’ he said. ‘Just what we do from here.’
Earlier they had watched as the setting sun bathed orange light over the pale gums that grew along the banks of the Yarra. From their place above the canopy they could see the turgid water as it traced its way through the wealthy suburbs towards the darkening city and on, again, into the black inevitability of the ocean.
With the arrival of dusk a low line of bats had emerged into the air and even now, as they waited for dessert, the procession continued.
Around Will, the other diners were talking and eating artfully arranged meals on oversized plates lying on bright, starched tablecloths. He drained the glass in his hand and focused his attention on the woman sitting in front of him. Her dark hair was lifted up off her shoulders while her fringe was swept into a wave. Her olive skin contrasted with her yellow silk dress. Its low neckline suggested something of the tone she’d set for the evening.
She smiled at him. He could bask in her warm gaze forever. To simply sit here, with her – that would be reward enough, for everything he had overcome. And yet he couldn’t help himself from speculating, from fantasising: the two of them carrying her boxes into his apartment; her hand clutching his at her first major exhibition; drunk nights and late mornings as the world was reduced to the circumference of their arms.
‘So let’s cut to the chase, champ,’ Eva said, clearing the glassware in front of her so she could reach a hand out to his. As she leant for- wards the light from the candles glowed in her eyes. Her lips parted, revealing the gentle upward curve at the edges of her mouth.
‘Now that you’re out of that wheelchair and able to drive a girl to a fancy dinner, is it safe to say you’re officially ‘able-bodied’?’ she whispered.
He leant in towards her, tensing his stomach muscles to ease the pain where the scars were still healing.
‘Oh, absolutely. I would say that I’m well on my way to a full recovery.’
‘Because I wouldn’t want to set you back. Given how fragile you are.’
Will felt something touch the inside of his thigh. Her foot. Freed from its stiletto it was sliding up the inside of his leg.
‘It’s been a long time, Will Harris. And it’s a terrible thing when a woman has to wait. Injured or not, there are repercussions.’
‘That’s completely understandable, of course. A man would have to make amends to a woman in this situation.’
‘Oh, you don’t know the half of it. Amends are barely the beginning.’ Her foot tapped on him as though she were distracted by some other thought. ‘Glad to see that I have your full attention.’ Eva winked.
‘Hey, Eva?’
‘Yes?’
‘Why are we whispering?’
‘I don’t know. Because it’s seductive?’ She broke into laughter.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ He grinned back at her.
‘You should have worked that out long before now.’
A waiter arrived beside their table with the dessert. ‘Coconut sago with caramelised mango and salted caramel semifreddo.’
‘Thanks,’ said Will, trying not to blush as Eva’s toes drummed across his erection.
‘One other thing, sir,’ the waiter said. ‘The chef was wondering if he could get a photo with you both? He’s thrilled to have you here.’
‘Sure,’ Will said. ‘On our way out?’
‘If that’s convenient?’
‘No problem,’ Will replied. ‘Could I grab an espresso? Sorry, two,’ he corrected, as Eva held up two fingers.
‘Of course, sir.’
Will paused until the waiter was out of earshot. ‘Those things still make me feel uncomfortable.’
‘The photos? You’ll be fine,’ Eva said between spoonfuls. ‘People will forget soon enough. Or you could just say no.’
‘But that feels rude.’
‘Then enjoy it. You deserve it. You brought justice to a murdered girl, caught her killer, gave her family peace.’
‘That’s not how I remember it. You’re leaving yourself out of that story.’
‘Meh. I was just along for the ride.’
‘Well, I hope they bring me my jacket first. I don’t really need to be standing there with a hard-on immortalised on their Facebook page.’
‘What a terrible dilemma,’ Eva said, smiling.

As they crossed the car park, Will had to struggle to keep up. Even though he’d performed his exercises daily, moving was still a painful effort. His physiotherapist had reiterated to him the seriousness of the damage – his abdominal wall had been significantly traumatised; with his core injured, he would find even basic movements challenging. Although he was out of the wheelchair it would be months before he could start to think about any strenuous activity. As Eva swayed in front of him, her dress gripping the contours of her body, it occurred to Will that even though he’d spent so many hours with her, grieved with her, almost died beside her, he was deeply nervous about the raw, animal truth of their compatibility.
Eva leant back against Will’s car, yellow outlined against the British racing green of the vintage Jag.
She pulled him forwards by the lapels, her body softening as she kissed him on the lips, her tongue penetrating deep into his mouth. He could taste the ethanol on her breath, smell the heady perfume that rose up from her to envelop him.
‘Fuck,’ she said, eventually pulling away. ‘I’ve been wanting to do that ever since we started dinner.’
‘Does that count for amends?’
‘It’s a start. I need you to take me home and fuck me.’
Will kissed her again as he pulled the car door open. Eva drew herself away from him and slid into the passenger seat. He moved as quickly as he could to the driver’s side and got in.
‘Are you okay to drive?’ she said, fastening her seatbelt.
‘I’m good.’
Will started the engine and Eva tucked her legs under her, turning towards him and placing her arm around his neck. He took them out of the car park and onto the road.
To their left was a steep bank leading down to the Yarra. A lone vessel, a party barge, drifted down the river. Flashing lights silhouetted its revellers and lit up the craft like a garish lantern on the dark water. To their right were old mill stacks, decaying warehouses and other modern ruins. With the streetlights passing overhead and Eva’s head leaning against his shoulder, Will felt at peace. He’d almost forgotten what this satisfied calm felt like. Eva started to hum to herself as he merged into the traffic that led to the Domain Tunnel.
A black SUV crept out from behind Will and accelerated towards the tunnel, trying to overtake him. He slowed the Jag to let it pass.
Eva stroked the side of his face, stopping when he turned his head away from her.
‘What’s up?’ she said, no longer humming.
Will looked into his side mirror at the SUV closing in. Something was off about the driver and the passenger sitting next to him.
They were both wearing black balaclavas.
‘Eva. Sit up.’
‘What is it?’ she asked, straightening in her seat.
‘Something’s wrong,’ he said, pulling the Jag into the passing lane and accelerating.
Eva looked over her shoulder at the SUV.
‘Shit, Will.’
He pushed the accelerator to the floor and swerved the Jag around a slow-moving hatchback.
‘How do you know they have anything to do with us?’
‘I don’t.’
But it’s the only possible explanation, he thought.
The SUV returned to their rear-view mirror, keeping pace with the old Jag. The tunnel entrance was drawing closer.
No turn-offs.
‘Jesus, Will, they’re still there.’
His hands were shaking. ‘Hold on.’
Will weaved around another car as the tunnel enveloped them. The bright strip lights raced overhead as the car started to shudder, mirroring the shaking of Will’s hands on the steering wheel.
The SUV was closer now, despite his best efforts. With a pounding inevitability it was closing in.
Will looked up ahead. Traffic was thin in the tunnel. He pushed the Jag to its limit, cresting 140 kilometres an hour. All he could hear was the noise from the engine and Eva as she shouted, ‘On the right!’
The SUV was just behind them. A truck was looming in front of them. They were about to be boxed in. Will’s foot was on the floor; the accelerator had nothing left to give. The SUV hustled forwards, its black bonnet glistening under the tunnel lights.
Not enough.
Will pulled the Jag around the truck with millimetres to spare.
The SUV hit the back of the Jag. The shuddering movement thrust Will and Eva forwards, seatbelts straining against the collision. Will’s hands tightened around the wheel as he struggled to keep the car on the road.
The truck whipped past them and Will had to swerve hard to avoid hitting a taxi. Its passengers stared dumbstruck as he hurtled past.
The SUV lurched forwards and touched the rear right panel of the Jag.
Eva was staring straight ahead.
The tunnel exit.
Almost there.
The SUV hit the Jag again. The car rocked and Will fought the wheel as it started to oversteer. A second thud as metal now caught on metal. Both cars were jammed together.
He slammed on the brake, hoping to tear them loose. The larger vehicle rammed them sideways, the concrete of the tunnel wall shredding the Jag’s passenger side. Its windows burst, shattering glass throughout the car. The Jag spun free from the SUV and turned side-on to the road, tyres stripping rubber.
They came to a violent, shuddering halt across the lane.
The SUV stopped 30 metres away. Its doors opened and the men stepped out.
‘Eva?’ Will’s voice broke as he spoke. ‘Eva, are you okay?’
She uncurled herself from the passenger seat, shaking shards of safety glass from her hair. She looked back up at him, bleeding from a cut in her forehead.
Will tried to shove the buckled car door. It didn’t budge. Steel locked on steel.
‘Eva, are you okay?’
‘I think so. You?’
‘Hard to tell. But I’m moving.’
The men were jogging now. Closing the distance.
From the road behind them the horns of stationary cars were blaring. The red warning lights of an accident in the tunnel flickered into life.
Eva pushed the door open and got unsteadily to her feet. Will clenched his jaw as he dragged himself through the shattered remnants of his side window. Pain shot through him as his stomach clenched around old wounds. It was as though razor wire had twisted down his torso.
He slipped as he stood. Oil and radiator fluid had flooded over the ground.
Will grabbed Eva by the hand and they started to run.
The men began to sprint.
Will had never seen anyone move so fast. Before they had even taken five steps the men were on them.
It took only seconds and his head smacked on the concrete. With blurred vision came memory loss – adrenaline and pain confusing the exact circumstances of his hitting the ground. All he knew was that dark eyes stared down at him through a black balaclava. The man was kneeling on Will’s chest.
‘Got your attention?’ the man barked.
‘Yes,’ Will spat.
‘Back off. This is your only warning.’
‘Back off what?’
A latex-covered hand hit hard and flat across his face.
‘Back off.’
‘I don’t know —’
The hand again. This time a fist.
Between the concrete and the blow Will didn’t know what had happened. His eyes rolled back into his head. He’d been KO’ed in the boxing ring before but never like this. The back of his head felt as though it had been engulfed by the ground while the warmth of his own blood was now flooding across his face.
Turning his head sideways, Will saw Eva in the arms of the second man. He felt like broken lead.
Slowly and deliberately the other man dragged the blade of a knife down both of Eva’s cheeks. At first it was as though nothing had happened but as the seconds passed, thin lines of deep red began to appear, giving way to a full flow.
Eva didn’t scream. Not at first. Only when she touched her face and her hands came back glistening.
Both men turned and ran. Beneath the warning lights a crowd had gathered. They all watched as Eva’s dress turned from yellow to red.

***

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Review: Chasing Chris Campbell by Genevieve Gannon

 

Title: Chasing Chris Campbell

Author: Genevieve Gannon

Publisher: HarperCollins June 2015

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

My Thoughts:

Chasing Chris Campbell is Genevieve Gannon’s second novel, a contemporary story of love, travel and the adventure of finding one’s self.

When Violet Mason’s partner of nearly six years buys her a motorcycle instead of an engagement ring, she decides she has been waiting for her life to start for long enough, and when an email arrives from Chris Campbell, ‘the one that got away’, inviting her to ‘come to Asia’ she impulsively books a one way ticket to Hong Kong, hoping to reconnect with her lost love. Armed with an out of date tourist guide and plenty of hand steriliser, Violet plans to surprise Chris with her arrival, only to learn he has already moved on. Determined not to give up, Violet chases Chris through India to Nepal, back to Hong Kong and then to Vietnam, it is an adventure of a lifetime, but is it true love she finds?

Told in the first person, Violet, a sensible scientist with a mild phobia of germs, is completely out of her element as she travels through Asia. I thought Violet generally was a well developed and believable character. Though there are moments when she feels lost and lonely, with encouragement from her twin sister Cassandra, Violet slowly opens herself up to adventure. She makes friends with fellow travelers like the rather delicious Harry Potter (no, not that Harry Potter)and eventually learns a thing or two about herself. While I would never chase a guy half way around the world based on a few vaguely worded emails, I admired the fact that Violet took the chance and I vicariously enjoyed her adventures.

The author’s descriptions of the various places Violet visits are well written. I particularly enjoyed the journey through India, from Goa, to Delhi, to Varanasi.

Though there are flashes of humour, I have to admit I was expecting more given the novel is promoted as a romantic comedy. I found the writing tended to be a little stiff at times and the tone more often no-nonsense than lighthearted. The pace is good though and I appreciated the epilogue, which provided a satisfying ending.

For more information about Genevieve Gannon and  Chasing Chris Carson please CLICK HERE to read Genevieve’s guest post ‘Long Distance Love’.

 

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AWW Feature: Long Distance Love, Chasing Chris Campbell and Genevieve Gannon

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I’m happy to introduce you to Genevieve Gannon today who is celebrating the publication of her latest novel, Chasing Chris Campbell.

Genevieve Gannon is a Melbourne-based journalist and author. Her writing was first published in the St Monica’s Primary School newspaper, The Monical, in the form of a mince pie recipe she completely made up. She lifted her standards of journalistic integrity and wrote stories for music and fashion street press magazines while at university before moving to Canberra to do a journalism cadetship. In 2011 she joined the national news wire, Australian Associated Press, where she covered crime, politics and entertainment. Her work has appeared in most major Australian newspapers including The Age, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. She currently lives in Melbourne where she is a court reporter. At night time she writes romantic comedies.

Genevieve’s debut novel, Husband Hunters, was published in 2014. Chasing Chris Campbell is her second novel.

Violet is saving money: living on rice and beans and denying herself chocolate eclairs all in the name of saving for a home deposit. Once they save enough, she and Michael can buy a house, settle down and live happily ever after. But when Michael does the unthinkable, Violet is forced to rethink her life choices.

A chance encounter with Chris Campbell (first love, boy-next-door, The One That Got Away) spurs her into travelling to exotic locations she never dreamed she’d explore – Hong Kong, Vietnam, Varanasi – on a quest to catch up with Chris and lead a life of adventure. Armed with hand sanitiser and the encouraging texts of her twin sister Cassandra, will Violet find true love before it’s too late? Or will the nerve-wracking experience of travelling send her back to Melbourne in search of safety and stability? Can she work out what she really wants before she is left with nothing?”

My review of Chasing Chris Campbell can be seen HERE, but first please read on to learn more about Chasing Chris Campbell.

*****

The Tyranny of Long Distance Love

by Genevieve Gannon

Have you ever been in a long distance relationship? When I take a look around my group of friends, most of them have endured interstate or international love at one stage or another. With people travelling for work so frequently, or taking a year off to see the world, the number of opportunities for meeting people who don’t live where you live is great. I’ve had three long distance adult relationships and one transnational teen romance. They can be frustrating, stressful things. Even if you manage to strike some sort of balance with regular phone calls and visits, the inevitability of the situation looms over everything you do. At some point, one person will have to rip up the roots of their life and move, or the relationship will come to an end.
Distance can insert itself into relationships in ways other than those described above. In Australia, parts of the country have huge fi-fo sectors made up of fly-in, fly-out workers who spend a period of time away from their homes working in a regional area. They then fly home to spend time with their families. One partner is left behind to hold the fort while they’re gone. In the US and Canada, where young people travel far and wide to attend university, long-distance love is common. A 2013 Canadian study found that more than 40 per cent of university students were in long distance relationships.
Despite the fact it seems long-range love is all around, there’s not much written on the subject. Researching the topic, I found only one comprehensive study on the long distance love. In an interview, the psychologist behind the research said she was drawn to the subject because she was in a long distance relationship and found there was very little information or advice for couples grappling with the issues that come with conducting a romance from afar.
My first relationship, which bloomed when I was about 16, became a long distance romance when my family moved to the US for six months. At the time, it felt like an eternity. Looking back on it, six short months away from a boy I hardly knew doesn’t seem like a big deal. But my 16-year-old self keenly felt the sense of isolation, uneasiness, and uncertainty that became familiar feelings when I later found myself in relationships that straddled Melbourne and Hobart, Melbourne and Canberra and Melbourne and Sydney.
Because of this experience, I’ve always known a long distance romance was something I wanted to write about. But of course, writing about racing from the office to catch flights on a Friday evening and sending longing emails would make for a boring book. So I tried to investigate the themes in a different way with Chasing Chris Campbell.
For my naïve heroine Violet and her one-that-got-away Chris Campbell it is an interstate move that breaks up their relationship in the first place. Years later when they reunite, she decides she will travel to where he is to see if the one-time spark still burns. It’s an extreme example of something that is very common. But the core issues remain the same: the pressure and distortion distance can bring to a relationship. The fear of regret, the fear of making a the wrong choice. When I discuss what their long distance relationships meant to my friends, they speak of compromise, sacrifice and a need above all a need to communicate with the other partner.
Surprisingly, that one study I mentioned, from Queens University in Ontario, found that, if you can achieve these things, there is no reason a long distance relationship can’t work. While there were individual variations, broadly speaking, there were few differences between long-distance relationships and geographically close relationships.
The study found long distance relationships are not at an intrinsic disadvantage.
Its acknowledgement that this knowledge could help couples in long distances relationships seems to indicate those differences and challenges that do exist, are ones that can be soothed by reassurance and information. That is why my girlfriends and I used to love to talk and talk and talk about how we dealt with distance, and why I wanted to explore it in Chasing Chris Campbell.

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Review: After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh

9781492609193-PR

 

 

Title: After We Fall

Author: Emma Kavanagh

Published: Sourcebooks Landmark June 2015

Status: Read on June 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

From the sky above South Wales a plane falls, on a snowy river bank below, a woman’s body lies.

Unfolding from the perspectives of four characters, After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh (first published as Falling) is a multi-layered story of low key psychological suspense.

Flight attendant Cecelia, who that morning had resolved to leave her husband and son, is one of only a handful of survivors of the crash, wondering why she lived when so many didn’t.

Freya is the 24 year old daughter of the plane’s pilot, determined to protect her family from the horrifying suggestion that her father deliberately caused the crash.

Frustrated with his wife, police detective Tom throws himself into the investigation of the murder of PCSO Libby Hanover.

Jim, a retired police superintendent, is the dead woman’s devastated father.

As the protagonists each grapple with their private tragedies, the plot follows the investigation into the doomed plane alongside the investigation of Libby Hanover’s murder, slowly uncovering shocking connections between the two incidents.

Informed by her extensive career experience in psychology, Kavanagh creates four complex, though not always likeable, characters struggling with difficult pasts and complicated relationships, whom drive the narrative of this novel. All become entangled in the mystery that surrounds both the downed plane and the murdered woman, in both direct and indirect ways, as the author skillfully weaves the multiple threads together.

After We Fall is an impressive debut novel, an atmospheric and tense tale.

 

CLICK HERE for an exclusive excerpt and guest post from the author posted earlier today

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Guest Post and Excerpt: After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh

9781492609193-PR

I’m delighted to welcome Emma Kavanagh to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of After We Fall. Emma Kavanagh was born and raised in South Wales. After graduating with a PhD in psychology from Cardiff University, she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff, and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. She started her business as a psychology consultant, specializing in human performance in extreme situations. She lives in South Wales with her husband and two young sons.

After We Fall is Emma’s third novel, following the publication of Falling and Hidden.

“A plane falls out of the sky. A woman is murdered. Four people all have something to hide…

For fans of Tana French and Alice LaPlante comes After We Fall, a debut psychological thriller by former police psychologist Emma Kavanagh that explores four lives shattered in the tense aftermath of a plane crash.
Shortly after takeoff, flight 2940 plummets to the snow-covered ground, breaking into two parts, the only survivors a handful of passengers and a flight attendant.Cecilia has packed up and left her family. Now she has survived a tragedy and sees no way out.
Tom has woken up to discover that his wife was on the plane and must break the news to their only son.
Jim is a retired police offer and worried father. His beloved daughter has disappeared, and he knows something is wrong.
Freya is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. But as she delves into his past, she may not like what she finds.
Four people, who have never met but are indelibly linked by these disasters, will be forced to reveal the closely guarded secrets that unlock the answers to their questions. But once the truth is exposed, it may cause even more destruction.

Told from various points of view, chapter by chapter, readers follow the investigation into the doomed plane alongside the investigation of a murder. Kavanagh deftly weaves together the stories of those who lost someone or something of themselves in one tragic incident, exploring how swiftly everything we know can come crashing down.”

Read my review of After We Fall HERE

*****

Crime From The Inside Out – Characters In Crime

When I read, what interests me are the characters on the page. I want to see them come alive before me, watch them move through their world as whole, coherent individuals. When I write, I want the same thing. Whilst I write crime, it is rarely the crimes themselves that interest me, but rather the people involved in them.

Often what we concentrate on is the headlines – tragic air disaster; maniac kills eight; psychotic killer slays ten. That’s not surprising because our ability to digest information is finite and, particularly in a story in which there is a great deal of trauma, our capacity to process can be diminished. So we take what we read at its face value. The man was a monster. He was insane.

But behind that insanity, underneath the nightmare of what they have done, is a real person, someone who talked with friends, was held by parents, someone whose existence extends beyond the atrocity. People make decisions. Often people make shockingly bad decisions. But uniformly they have made decisions for a reason. They chose the courses they chose because in some way it made sense to them. What fascinates me is in digging beneath the skin and understanding what it was about these people that made them choose to kill.

****

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An Excerpt: Chapter 8

Freya: Thursday, March 15, 10:19 p.m.
They had left the television on. Hadn’t been able to bring themselves to turn it off, not while helicopters circled above leaping flames, orange sprinkled with flashes of blue. Freya watched it, couldn’t seem to pull her eyes away from it. Without thinking, she sipped the tea, so sweet that her teeth stung, sinuses humming. It scalded her lips.
They were waiting. After all, what was there left to do but wait? Freya had called the airline, once, twice, her fingernails dredging into the phone as it chirped, engaged, again and again. Her mother was at the table, slumped into the chair like all the bones had simply vanished from her body, her head resting on her hands, a puddle of tears gathering on the tabletop beneath the shadow of her hair. Richard beside her, so close it seemed that he would crawl into her lap if only she would allow him. He hadn’t spoken. Not since the television flared to life, the screen lighting up with fire and snow. He just stared.
“It’s stopped snowing.” Freya’s grandmother was drying dishes, rubbing a tea towel around and around the outside of a mixing bowl that had once reached the stage of dry and was now on its way back to wet. Her brow furrowed, as if in concentration, eyes red-rimmed. “Well, for now. They say we’ll be like this for days yet. So much for spring. My flowers have had it.”
It could not have been more than moments after the world had changed that her grandparents arrived. She remembered that it was before her mother sank into the chair, a puppet whose strings had been cut. Before Richard began to cry. They had been hanging there, in that world between the past and the future, when the front door had swung open. And their breath had caught, and even though none of them said it, they were all thinking the same thing. That they were wrong and he was home.
Then her grandparents, sweeping in like a breath of Siberian air, the argument that they had been having about something she couldn’t possibly remember still fresh on their lips. Halting in the doorway, as if the fear hit them head on, buffeting them so that they had forgotten the latest affront to their patience, the snow and the long car ride. Their eyes looking toward the television. Faces changing with the knowing.
Freya’s grandfather sat beside her, hands folded. Ignoring his own mug of overstewed tea.
“You know they still haven’t gritted our road. I’m going to write a letter. Ridiculous. Someone’ll have to die…” Her grandmother stopped, stumbling on the word so that it came out as little more than a squeak. A deep breath. “…before they get around to it. Then they’ll be gritting it in the middle of August.” She pulled out a chair, tea towel clutched tight between her fingers. Her lips were trembling.
“Betty.” Her grandfather’s voice was thick, dense with years of smoking cigarettes. He’d given up, years ago now, but still when Freya thought of him, it was that smell that she thought of.
“What?”
“This tea tastes like battery acid.”
Freya’s grandmother rolled her eyes, lips pursing like she wanted to say something but, just this once, had decided to refrain. Freya bit her own lip, pushing down a flush of anger. Wanted to tell them to shut up. Wanted to shout: Look at the television. Don’t you understand what’s happening here? But she drank her tea instead, watching her mother across the rim of her cup. She seemed to be slumping lower, sinking into the hard wooden chair. She hadn’t said anything, not a word since the television had flashed to life, changing their world.
“Mum? Why don’t you go on up to bed?” Freya leaned across the table, fingers stroking the soft skin on her mother’s arm. “Just for a little while. We’ll wake you when…we’ll wake you when we have some news.”
It seemed like her mother didn’t hear her at first, that her words couldn’t penetrate this hell into which she had descended. Then eventually she looked up. Freya started. Her mother had aged fifteen years. There were lines that Freya had never seen before; her gaze was dead, skin as white as the snow that lay thick on the ground beyond the windows. Her lips moved, a child testing her first words. Then she seemed to give up, speech more than she could possibly handle. Her eyes lowered and she shook her head.
“You know, you can’t be sure he was on that flight,” Freya’s grandmother offered. “I mean, they change the crews around all the time. You know what these airlines are like. He’s off one minute, he’s working the next. Always getting called away. He’ll have been on a different flight, I’m sure of it.” Looking down, studying the red checkered cloth. “I’m sure of it.” This last a whisper.
Freya looked down, studying her fingernails, chipped saffron paint coloring the edges, and tried her best not to think about yesterday, about her father standing in the snow, the tension that pulsed across his shoulders. The look when he saw her, desperation edging into fear.
“I’m telling you”—Freya’s grandmother had twisted the tea towel into a tight spiral—“he’ll be fine.”
“I’ll try the airline again.” Her grandfather’s chair scraped against the floor, nails down a chalkboard. “Someone must know.”
They watched him leave, closing the door softly behind him.
“It’s awful.” Her grandmother was watching the television, shaking her head. “Just awful. Those poor people.” As if she hadn’t realized that “those poor people” was them; as if it was just one more news cycle of murder and flooding and genocide. Tragic, but not really real.
Richard moved his hands so that they covered his ears. His hair had flopped forward over his eyes. The lights of the television danced on the loose curls, and his fingers dug in, tugging, again and again.
And in what seemed like seconds, the kitchen door was opening again, slowly this time, and Freya’s grandfather was there. Only he wasn’t looking at any of them and his steady fingers were trembling. Freya knew it without him saying it, could see it in his eyes, in the downturn of his lips. She reached out, taking tight hold of her baby brother’s hand.
“Grandpa?” Richard was looking at him, and it was like he was pleading. Say it isn’t so.
Then her grandfather reached out, took hold of her mother’s shoulder. And she was looking up at him, eyes pleading, large tears leaking from the corners of her eyes.
Freya’s grandfather shook his head. “I’m so sorry.” His voice cracked. “I’m so, so sorry.”
It seemed that time stopped in the kitchen. That they hung there, the world no longer spinning.
Then a sound, her mother, a low moan creeping from her, the sound of an animal caught in a trap. Her grandmother gasping, the news punching her in the stomach. Her grandfather had moved, had wrapped his arms around her mother’s shoulders as she shook. Richard, rearing back, pushing the chair away so that it tumbled, hitting the tiled floor with a clatter, shoving his way past his grandfather. And Freya frozen. Because this wasn’t real. None of this could possibly be real.

*****

9781492609193-PR

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Review: Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

 

 

Title: Palace of Tears

Author: Julian Leatherdale

Published: Allen & Unwin June 2015

Status: Read from June 10 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Set in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales Palace of Tears is a generational saga of family, passion, secrets and vengeance from debut author Julian Leatherdale.

The shifting third person narrative unfolds from the perspective of several characters, Angie and her mother Freya; Adam’s wives, Adelina and Laura; Laura’s daughter, Monika; and in the present day, Lisa, Monika’s daughter. Only briefly do we hear from Adam Fox, the owner of the Palace and the man who connects these three generations of women.

Lisa’s interest in the past is triggered when, during a visit with her ailing mother, Monika laments the mysterious fate of Angie, the ‘girl who broke Adam Fox’s heart’. The name is unfamiliar to Lisa and curious she decides to investigate, contacting Palace historian Luke Davis. Over the course of the novel, Leatherdale unravels a family history marred by untimely death, adultery, betrayal, heartbreak and revenge. What became of Angie remains a mystery til the very end with a surprising twist.

Leatherdale firmly grounds his fictional characters in time and place. Adam Fox’s Palace is modeled on the Hydro Majestic Hotel, opened in 1904 in the tiny township of Medlow Bath in the upper Blue Mountains and he ably describes the opulence of the hotel and the magnificence of the setting. The author also references several relevant historical events of the first half of the twentieth century from the wartime internment camps, to the deadly influenza outbreak that swept New South Wales, to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Antipodean tour, enriching the story with intriguing detail.

The tale is well structured, despite shifting between multiple perspectives and time periods. The story is well paced, with plenty of twists and turns in the plot to maintain interest. Descriptions, particularly of the setting are vivid, and

Melding history and fiction, Palace of Tears is an entertaining novel and an impressive debut from Julian Leatherdale.

“Nothing was achieved without risk and cost. The allure of the mountains had taught Adam that lesson…. The mountains offered up vistas of inspiration, horizons of wonder where the mind dared to leap and the imagination to soar. It enriched the spirit, breathed hope back in to the wounded heart. Yet there was always that reminder of the fall: vertigo’s strange seduction that dragged you down the bright waterfall into the shadow of the valley below. Mortality, failure, despair – all these must be acknowledged. Adam realised, over time, that his beloved mountains expressed the inner drama of his own soul.”

CLICK HERE to read How the Hydro Majestic inspired the Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

 

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Guest Feature: How the Hydro Majestic inspired the Palace of Tears by Julian Leatherdale

I’m happy to introduce Julian Leatherdale to my readers today.  Julian Leatherdale’s first love was theatre. On graduation, he wrote lyrics for four satirical cabarets and a two-act musical. He discovered a passion for popular history as a staff writer, researcher and photo editor for Time-Life’s Australians At War series. He later researched and co-wrote two Film Australia-ABC documentaries Return to Sandakan and The Forgotten Force and was an image researcher at the State Library of New South Wales. He was the public relations manager for a hotel school in the Blue Mountains, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Palace of Tears is Julian Leatherdale’s debut novel. Set in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales it is a generational story of family, passion, secrets and vengeance.

Angie loved Mr Fox’s magnificent, absurd hotel. In fact, it was her one true great love. But … today Angie was so cross, so fed up with everybody and everything, she would probably cheer if a wave of fire swept over the cliff and engulfed the Palace and all its guests.
A sweltering summer’s day, January 1914: the charismatic and ruthless Adam Fox throws a lavish birthday party for his son and heir at his elegant clifftop hotel in the Blue Mountains. Everyone is invited except Angie, the girl from the cottage next door. The day will end in tragedy, a punishment for a family’s secrets and lies.
In 2013, Fox’s granddaughter Lisa, seeks the truth about the past. Who is this Angie her mother speaks of: ‘the girl who broke all our hearts’? Why do locals call Fox’s hotel the ‘palace of tears’? Behind the grandeur and glamour of its famous guests and glittering parties, Lisa discovers a hidden history of passion and revenge, loyalty and love.
A grand piano burns in the night, a seance promises death or forgiveness, a fire rages in a snowstorm, a painter’s final masterpiece inspires betrayal, a child is given away. With twist upon twist, this lush, strange mystery withholds its shocking truth to the very end.

My review is posted HERE, in the meantime, please read on to learn what inspired Palace of Tears.

****

HOW THE HYDRO MAJESTIC INSPIRED THE PALACE OF TEARS – JULIAN LEATHERDALE

Three years ago, I decided I wanted to write a family saga set in the Blue Mountains. I have lived here for over twenty-five years and never tired of its sublime and savage beauty. But I soon realised that my family saga needed something else besides poetic landscape and atmosphere. It needed a building at its heart that would be the family’s inheritance and keeper of all its memories.
Like many locals, I have long been fascinated by the Hydro Majestic, one of our best-known landmarks apart from the Three Sisters. As drivers head west through the tiny township of Medlow Bath in the upper Mountains, they still do a double-take at the sight of this grand Edwardian-era hotel that stretches for over a kilometre along the escarpment.

With its distinctive dome and crenellated wings, the Hydro has always struck me as a kind of madman’s castle. Perched on the cliffs high above the Kanimbla valley, wrapped in fog and snow in winter and blue haze in summer, what could be a more perfect setting for a tale of family secrets and Gothic mystery?

Mark Foy is probably best known for his luxury department store in Sydney but he had already taken a huge gamble back in 1904 with his Hydro Majestic, the first health retreat of its kind in Australia, modelled on the spa hotels of Europe. He spared no expense on lavish décor, a gallery of expensive artworks, a hydropathy clinic with a German doctor, and luxuries and mod cons such as Turkish coffee and a telephone in every room. The clinic was short-lived but the hotel itself thrived as a mecca for the rich and famous well into the 1920s and 1930s. Guests included the Russian Ballet and one of the world’s richest women, German armaments heiress Baroness Bertha Krupp.

The more I researched the Hydro’s past the more its imaginative appeal deepened. I did not want to write a fictionalised history of the hotel itself. Instead I wanted to use elements of its history to create my own opulent hotel in the bush, the Palace at Meadow Springs, and the story of its visionary owner Adam Fox and his wives, lovers, daughters and grand-daughter.

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In October 2014, the Hydro Majestic was reopened, restored to its former glory under new owners and inspiring wonder in me all over again. While still writing my first draft, I was lucky enough to have a behind-the-scenes tour of the hotel still under refurbishment. Standing under the dome, it was easy to imagine the swank Edwardian balls and raucous jazz-age fancy dress parties held here, the society ladies gossiping on their lounges in Cat’s Alley while their husbands played billiards or retired to the smoking lounge.

Photos, memoirs, interviews and newspaper stories filled my imagination, suggesting fertile details or incidents for my own story. A visit by Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in 1921 inspired a confronting séance scene that reveals a dreadful truth for Adam Fox and his wife Adelina.
The filming of a silent movie (now lost) at the hotel with its erotic Spider Web dance made the perfect backdrop for Adam Fox to meet his young lover Laura.

In 1942, the Hydro became a US military hospital for wounded soldiers; it is where Adam’s daughter Monika sneaks in to meet ‘Yanks.’

With its own dramatic past, the Hydro was a gift for a writer but one that had to be handled with care, resisting the temptation to overwhelm my readers with wonderful oddities from my research. History always had to serve story-telling, not the other way round. As the story developed, the Palace, my fictional half-sister of the Hydro Majestic, became a character in her own right.
Writing is always a journey full of surprises. For me, one of the greatest joys of writing Palace of Tears was to rediscover the place where I live through the eyes of the past.

Every morning, as I drop my daughter off at her primary school, I drive past the ruins of a grand guest house on the corner of the highway. As part of my research, I now know the story of the fire that destroyed my daughter’s school and this guest house on one fateful day in December 1957.
I look at them both quite differently now and think of the people in my village who lived through that day. It is a humbling experience but also an uplifting one, a tribute to the power of stories.

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