Blog Tour Review: The Bush Telegraph by Fiona McArthur

Title: The Bush Telegraph

Author: Fiona McArthur

Published: 1st September 2020, Michael Joseph

Status: Read September 2920, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

Reader’s familiar with The Baby Doctor, will be delighted to discover Fiona McArthur’s The Bush Telegraph features Maddy Locke, the young woman who gave birth in an abandoned storefront while hiding from her abusive boyfriend, in this lively, heartwarming and absorbing rural romance novel.

Set eleven years later, Maddy and her daughter, Bridget, have returned to the small outback town of Spinifex where Maddy, who has since earned a host of nursing qualifications, is to manage the local medical centre. Hoping to banish the ghosts of her past, and make a life for herself and Bridget among the wide open spaces, Maddy is determined to rise to the challenge of providing quality health care to the region and support the revitalisation of the struggling remote community in the memory of her late adopted mother, and former town publican, Alma.

Romance is the last thing on Maddy’s mind, her trust in men having been eroded by her disastrous relationship with Bridget’s father, but meeting attractive station owner Connor Fairhall challenges that. Though wary of the single father who seems to be the subject of disturbing rumours, and whose son, Jayden, appears set on causing trouble, Connor proves to be an unexpected temptation for Maddy. I really liked the way in which McArthur developed the relationship between the two protagonists, particularly with respect to their backgrounds, and I thought their friendship blossomed into romance, with convincing chemistry, nicely.

While the romance is integral to the plot of The Bush Telegraph, McArthur explores several important themes and issues within the story. There are characters facing various problems including alcohol addiction, financial pressures, abandonment, domestic abuse, betrayal and grief. The community itself is showing signs of neglect, with struggling businesses, vacant storefronts, and a dwindling population.

The challenges of providing medical care in a remote location like Spinifex are made clear by McArthur as she details Maddy’s varied nursing tasks in the clinic, which include providing emergency treatment to a walk-in heart attack patient and a child in diabetic crisis, setting broken bones and stitching cuts, and caring for a woman in pre-term labour. Drawing on her own experience working in remote regions as a midwife, McArthur highlights the need for remote health workers to be well resourced and capable of handling a range of situations, the importance of back-up being available in an emergency, and most dramatically, what it means when the life in your hands is your own child’s. I was so affected by one incident involving Maddy providing life-saving treatment, I found myself wiping away a tear or two.

With its engaging characters, captivating drama, and heartfelt emotion, The Bush Telegraph is a wonderful read, sure to appeal to fans of the contemporary rural genre. I think it’s her best yet.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

 

Also by Fiona McArthur reviewed at Book’d Out

 

 

Review: The McCalister Legacy by Nicole Hurley-Moore

Title: The McCalister Legacy

Author: Nicole Hurley-Moore

Published: August 4th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read August 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++

My Thoughts:

The McCalister Legacy is an engaging novel of rural romantic suspense from Nicole Hurley-Moore.

Eleven years after the tragic loss of her parents and grandparents on the evening of her tenth birthday, Berry McCalister returns to their family farm in the small town of Harlington to decide the property’s fate. Her instinct is to remodel the house and then get rid of Stone Gully Farm, and reminders of the tragedy along with it, but as the renovations progress she’s surprised by how at home she is beginning to feel. The community of Harlington is warm and welcoming, particularly Nate Tarant from the neighbouring horse stud, but when she decides not to sell she is subjected to anonymous threats. Berry is puzzled given the land has no particular value, until she discovers some old paperwork of her father’s tied to an area legend, and a deadly secret is finally brought to light.

Set in rural Victoria, the story unfolds over three timelines. The earliest reveals a story that has become a legend in the town of Harlington of a young boy who got lost and stumbled upon a seam of gold, but was too young to reveal its exact location in 1902. The second timeline takes place in 2007 and explores the circumstances surrounding the murder-suicide that deprived Berry and her siblings of their parents and grandparents, while the third timeline is set in the present day.

The plot offers a good mix of drama, mystery and romance, and though it’s fairly predictable, it’s satisfying in that everything is quite cleanly resolved. While The McCalister Legacy is centered on a disturbing event, the villain is eventually exposed and punished, and there is a happy, albeit not perfect, ending for the remaining characters.

A quick, easy and pleasant novel, I enjoyed The McCalister Legacy and I’m sure fans of the genre, and Hurley-Moore will too.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Tiny White Lies by Fiona Palmer

Title: Tiny White Lies

Author: Fiona Palmer

Published: August 8th 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read August 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Tiny White Lies is an engaging contemporary tale from best selling Western Australian author Fiona Palmer.

When Ashley discovers her fifteen year old daughter is the subject of bullying both at school and online from her classmates, she is heartbroken. Already struggling to cope in the aftermath of her husband’s recent suicide, she suggests that they escape for the school holidays in the hopes of at least temporarily leaving bad memories behind.

After a difficult year that has left her feeling disconnected from herself, her husband and her device-obsessed teenage children, Nikki, inspired by her best friend’s idea for a vacation, suggests Ash and Emily join them at her husband’s cousins farm near Bremer Bay on the southern coast of W.A.

Ash and Nikki are delighted as their children adjust to a new tech-free routine, enjoying the ocean, bushland and farm activities Luke’s farm provides, but for the adults the lack of distractions becomes uncomfortable as the little white lies they have told one another, and themselves, cast a pall over their vacation.

A story of relationships, secrets, lies and love, there is plenty of high emotion, drama and even romance on offer in Tiny White Lies. Palmer briefly examines a raft of serious issues including mental illness, suicide, bullying, cancer, marriage difficulties, and body-image but its strongest focus is on the theme of disconnection.

I found Ash and Nikki to be likeable and sympathetic characters, though I don’t have much in common with either of them, I still felt they were relatable. As a mother of teenagers their concerns about their children, particularly in relation to electronic media use, are familiar, as are their children’s attitudes.

I loved the setting, having spent plenty of school holidays in southern Western Australia, and in both Albany and Esperance, which are west and east, along the coast, of Bremer Bay respectively. Palmer evokes the wild beauty of the area with its dense bushland and gorgeous white sand beaches, spending a few weeks at Luke’s farm would definitely be no hardship.

Written with warmth and insight into the challenges faced by modern families, I enjoyed reading Tiny Little Lies, as I’m sure all fans of Australian rural contemporary fiction will.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Fiona Palmer reviewed at Book’d Out

 

 

 

Review: Deadman’s Track by Sarah Barrie

Title: Deadman’s Track

Author: Sarah Barrie

Published: July 8th 2020, HQ Fiction

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy Harlequin Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Evoking both the beauty and danger of Tasmania’s mountains and rugged coastline, with the capricious winter weather often mirroring the tension of the storyline, Deadman’s Track is a riveting romantic thriller from Sarah Barrie.

The story opens with a breathtaking scene as wilderness guide Tess Atherton clings to the side of Tasmania’s Federation Peak attempting to save the life of a careless client, and it’s not the last time in Deadman’s Track that she will find herself trapped in a precarious position. The nail biting plot offers plenty of fast paced, tense action that sees Tess caught in the middle of a violent robbery, stalked by an ex-boyfriend, and targeted by a psychotic killer as she leads five teenagers through the Tasmanian bush.

The youngest of the Atherton siblings who own and run Calico Lodge, (with her brothers, Logan and Connor, featured in Bloodtree River and Devil’s Lair respectively), I thought Tess was an appealing character, who In the face of both physical and emotional challenges, proved to be courageous and resilient. She is confronted with two notable antagonists in Deadman’s Track, Aaron, who doesn’t it take it well when Tess tries to end their relationship, and ex-con Paxton. The behaviour of both men serves to push her closer to Jared, a local police detective with whom Tess has some history. A likeable character, thoughtful and straightforward both personally and professionally, Jared is a good match for Tess, and I enjoyed the development of their relationship, despite the somewhat awkward timing.

It may be considered ambitious of Barrie to include intrigue, action, romance and some thoughtful social commentary in Deadman’s Track, but she does so effortlessly, creating a credible and compelling story. Exciting, atmospheric and gripping, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

++++++

Available from Harlequin/HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Sarah Barrie reviewed at Book’d Out

 

Review: Croc Country by Kerry McGinnis

Title: Croc Country

Author: Kerry McGinnis

Published: July 2nd 2020, Michael Joseph

Status: Read July 2020, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Croc Country is an engaging novel blending romance and suspense from Kerry McGinnis.

After the tragic drowning of her husband and toddler daughter, Tilly left Queensland to become the house manager for the rangers of Binboona Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Northern Territory’s Gulf country. She finds solace in her routine, but when two policeman arrive and suggest not only that her husband may still be alive but possibly near by, Tilly is stunned. While refusing to believe such a betrayal possible, when Tilly and ranger Luke discover evidence of wildlife smuggling, and visiting botanist Connor makes a confession, she is forced to face the ghosts of her past.

McGinnis develops a strong and interesting plot of intrigue in Croc Country involving smuggling, corruption and murder. I thought the intersection of various agencies was quite unique and the the action was well paced, tense, and exciting. While honestly Tilly’s husbands involvement is a bit of a stretch, it’s a minor flaw.

I liked the mix of characters, particularly non nonsense Sophie and enthusiastic ranger, and twitcher, Luke. The romance that develops between Tilly and Connor is a pleasant, low key element of the story. As they are quite a young couple, I found the old fashioned endearments between them a little awkward though.

Though Binboona Wildlife Sanctuary is fictional, McGinnis places it in the east of the Gulf, near The Lost City, the site of ancient sandstone pillars. While vivid description from the author brings the beautiful landscape to life, she also details the work of the rangers in preserving it. They are kept busy with numerous tasks including land maintenance, wildlife protection, and hosting a seasonal influx of tourists, which I liked learning more about.

I was waiting for a crocodile to make an appearance in truth, but instead we meet a canny butcherbird, an injured brolga, a trio of orphaned joey’s, a sweet sugar glider, and a rare bat, along with the odd snake which slithers by.

Croc Country is my favourite of McGinnis’s bestselling novels so far

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Kerry McGinnis reviewed at Book’d Out

 

 

Review: What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Title: What You Wish For

Author: Katherine Center

Published: July 14th 2020, St Martins Press

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy St Martins/NetgalleyUK

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Life doesn’t ever give you what you want just the way you want it. Life doesn’t ever make things easy. How dare you demand that happiness should be yours without any sacrifice—without any courage? What an incredibly spoiled idea—that anything should come easy? Love makes you better because it’s hard. Taking risks makes you better because it’s terrifying. That’s how it works. You’ll never get anything that matters without earning it. And even what you get”—she lifted her chin in defiance—“you won’t get to keep. Joy is fleeting. Nothing lasts. That’s exactly what courage is. Knowing all that going in—and going in anyway.”

Really, I feel the above quote probably tells you all you need to know about Katherine Center’s new contemporary romance novel, What You Wish For. The words are spoken by Babette, a surrogate mother of sorts, to the story’s main protagonist Samantha Casey when she is tempted to give up on what it is she wishes for.

What Sam wants most is to be loved for who she is, but she’s afraid to trust it’s possible when offered. Center explores the themes of love, grief, friendship, suffering, and personal growth through her characters. The plot may be largely predictable but the author does touch on some serious issues, with several characters dealing with the effects of emotional or physical trauma.

What You Wish For is a feel-good novel, it was a quick and easy read with an inspiring message – to choose joy.

++++++

Available from St. Martin’s Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

 

Also by Katherine Center reviewed at Book’d Out 

 

Review: The Farm at Peppertree Crossing by Leonie Kelsall

Title: The Farm at Peppertree Crossing

Author: Leonie Kelsall

Published: July 2nd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

Told with heart, humour and candour, The Farm at Peppertree Crossing is Leonie Kelsall’s first contemporary rural romance novel.

When Veronica is told she is to inherit an 800-acre farm in South Australia she is at first convinced it is a scam, and then certain it’s a mistake. Growing up within the foster care system she learnt the hard way to trust no one, and believing in the generosity of an aunt she never knew is difficult, so Roni is not surprised when she learns there is a catch. In a series of letters, her late aunt explains that to freely inherit the Peppertree Crossing Roni must complete a number of tasks. Single, pregnant and with few other options, Roni, with her beloved cat Scritches in tow, decides to accept the challenge, and perhaps find the home she’s always yearned for.

Kelsall explores familiar themes such as family, friendship, and love in The Farm at Peppertree Crossing. The themes of forgiveness and redemption are also strongly represented in a way I particularly appreciated. Several sensitive issues are also raised in the novel, among them sexual assault, addiction, suicide, and pregnancy loss, in a manner that feels genuine rather than contrived. These subjects add depth to the story, pushing it a little beyond the borders of the genre.

Romance is still a key element in The Farm at Peppertree Crossing though, with a twist on the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope between Roni and share-farmer, Matt. Roni’s first instinct, particularly around men, is to be wary and defensive and she misconstrues Matt’s genuine offer of advice, help and friendship as manipulative and devious. I appreciated that Matt is not cast as her saviour, Roni must reach the conclusion that she is worthy of love on her own before their relationship can progress.

Roni is a prickly character to begin with, nursing a deep hurt she is closed off, mistrustful, and stubborn. I really liked Kelsall’s development of her character, which is somewhat slow, but authentic. She’s destined to learn lessons the hard way it seems, but she does learn and grow. Her journey is supported by several charming characters, most notably her late aunt’s dearest friend/partner, Tracey, and Matt, but also of the four-legged variety which includes her cat, a sheep named Goat, and a calf named Baby.

Well written, thoughtful and engaging with an ideal balance of romance and drama, I am impressed by The Farm at Peppertree Crossing and look forward to more from the author.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Cake Maker’s Wish by Josephine Moon

 

Title: The Cake Maker’s Wish

Author: Josephine Moon

Published: June 2nd 2020, Michael Joseph

Status: Read July 2020 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Cake Maker’s Wish is a delicious treat from bestselling author Josephine Moon.

After the loss of her beloved Ma, Olivia Kent’s curiousity about her grandmother’s early life leads her to successfully apply for a project offering the descendants of Stoneden villagers in England’s Cotswold region a subsidised opportunity to relocate. Leaving Tasmania behind, Olivia is excited to launch her business, Rambling Rose Fine Cakes on the village High Street, and give her young son, Darcy, a fresh start, as well as the chance to finally meet his Norwegian father in person.

The Renaissance Project is a fantastic concept and a wonderful element of the story, which also provides a backdrop for some minor intrigue. The initiative is designed to revitalise the community of Stoneden but unfortunately not everyone is happy about it with at least one resident actively trying to sabotage the scheme (and I was surprised to finally learn who, and why).

Nevertheless Olivia and Darcy quickly begin to feel at home in the village, befriending both other ‘imports’ and locals alike. As the story unfolds, Olivia is able to learn more about her grandmother’s past, which leads to a surprise revelation. There is also romance for Olivia with local dairyman Grayson, and Darcy’s visiting father, who is newly separated from his wife, and eager to build a relationship with both his son and Olivia, both vying for her affection. Olivia’s business thrives, particularly after a celebrity couple voice their support. Foodies will appreciate Moon’s delicious descriptions of Olivia’s creations, and delight in the included recipe for her Persian Love Cake.

With a serve of appealing characters, a sprinkle of mystery and a generous dollop of heart, The Cake Maker’s Wish is a delectable story about community, friendship, family and food.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

 

Also by Josephine Moon reviewed at Book’d Out 

 

Review: Better Luck Next Time by Kate Hilton

 

Title: Better Luck Next Time

Author: Kate Hilton

Published: June 16th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

Better Luck Next Time is an entertaining and engaging contemporary family dramedy from Kate Hilton.

The story primarily features the women of the Hennessy family -feminist icon Lydia, daughters Mariana, Beata, and Nina, and cousins Zoe and Zack. It begins on Christmas Day as the family gathers to celebrate revealing its own special brand of chaos. Lydia is frantically preparing the perfect Christmas dinner, Zoe is reluctant to admit her marriage is over, Mariana is furious with her husband, Beata is exasperated with her teenage son, Nina is uncharacteristically quiet, and newly sober Zach is looking to make amends.

Unfolding from multiple perspectives, each family member negotiates a series of disappointments, surprises, joys, secrets, and mistakes over a period of a year. The characters have distinct personalities and are easy to relate to as Hilton explores a variety of issues common to midlife including marriage, divorce, motherhood, addiction, and dating.

Hilton’s observations are often incisive, sometimes witty and occasionally poignant. The story moves at a good pace and I liked the balance between the humour and serious themes.

A fabulously funny, feel-good novel.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin. RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Bottlebrush Creek by Maya Linnell

Title: Bottlebrush Creek

Author: Maya Linnell

Published: June 2nd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

+++++++

My Thoughts:

An engaging contemporary novel set in rural Australia, Bottlebrush Creek is Maya Linnell’s second novel following her bestselling debut, Wildflower Ridge.

Featuring the youngest of the McIntyre sisters, Angie, she and her partner, Rob Jones, are thrilled when they find a bargain-priced, if run down, 200-acre property in Port Fairview, South West Victoria. Recognising its potential to provide a wonderful life for their small family, they plan to live in a caravan on site while they renovate the derelict cottage but the relentless hard work and financial stress of the renovation soon begins to take its toll on their partnership, exacerbated by Angie’s tense relationship with their new next door neighbour – Rob’s mother, a toxic friendship, and the return of Rob’s estranged twin brother.

I really like that Linnell chooses to feature an established couple with a somewhat unconventional back story in Bottlebrush Creek. I thought the author’s depiction of Angie and Rob’s relationship was nuanced and realistic, touching on familiar marital stressors such as parenting, finances, renovation, and communication failures. Bottlebrush Creek has a real sense of emotional authenticity that’s very appealing. While Angie and Rob’s relationship is quite fraught at times, there are also plenty of moments of humour, romance, and fun in the novel.

I generally found the characters convincing and often relatable. I liked Angie and could mostly empathise with her emotions and behaviour. Rob’s mother, Rosa, is delighted that her son, his partner, and her grandchild have moved in next door but Angie finds Rosa’s enthusiasm intrusive, and struggles as Rosa repeatedly pushes against her boundaries. It doesn’t help that Rob fails to recognise the problem, adding to the strain between he and Angie. Rob is a decent guy who loves Angie and his daughter but has his own issues and insecurities. The return of his twin brother from years overseas, and their shared past, leads to him making mistakes, which he is reluctant to share with Angie.

With its focus on relationships and family, Bottlebrush Creek is a wonderful story I found to be moving, entertaining and charming.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

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