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



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.


“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  will appear later today, in the meantime 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.


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.


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.


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?


Highway Signs



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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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Review: After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh




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


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.



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.
“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.



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Review: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman


Title: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry

Author: Fredrik Backman

Published: Atria Books June 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 14 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

For all it made me feel, I declared Fredrik Backman’s debut novel, A Man Called Ove my favourite book of 2014 and My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry is now my favourite of 2015.

Elsa is an improbably precocious but utterly adorable seven year old girl who loves her grandmother, Harry Potter and Wikipedia, in that order. Bullied at school, Granny is Elsa’s best and only friend, her guide to the Land-of-Almost-Awake, a dreamscape of fairy tales, magic and adventure that comforts them both when life is difficult, and her very own superhero.

She shouldn’t take any notice of what those muppets think, says Granny. Because all the best people are different – look at superheroes.”

Just before Granny dies she presses an envelope into Elsa’s hand, and asks her granddaughter to deliver a letter.

“Give the letter to him who’s waiting. He won’t want to accept it, but tell him it’s from me. Tell him your granny sends her regards and says she’s sorry”

And so begins Elsa’s adventure, part quest, part treasure hunt, part superhero mission, Granny’s letter leads Elsa first to the door of a wurse, and then The Monster (also known as Wolfheart), another letter leads her to the Sea-Witch and yet another much later to the Princess of Miploris. With each letter, offering apologies and regrets, Elsa unravels the truth about the fairy tales that form the foundation of the Land-of-Almost-Awake, and the secrets of her grandmother’s exceptional life.

“Elsa doesn’t know if this means that Granny took all her stories from the real world and placed them in Miamas, or if the stories from Miamas became so real that the creatures came across to the real world. But the Land-of-Almost-Awake and her house are obviously merging.”

In My Grandmother Asked me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Backman weaves a creative tapestry of the ordinary together with the extraordinary. Characters that are real, flawed yet magnificent, or as Granny puts it,

“no one is entirely a sh*t and almost no one is entirely not a sh*t”.

It tells a story that is both wise and insightful, absurd and wondrous as it explores the themes of grief, love, difference, connection, regrets and forgiveness.

Funny, moving, heartfelt and inspiring, it made me laugh and cry.
Not five stars but ten… at least!


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Review: The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein


Title: The Sunlit Night

Author: Rebecca Dinerstein

Published: Bloomsbury June 2015

Status: Read from June 13 to 14, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Sunlit Night is the story of Frances and Yasha whose paths cross far from home ‘at the top of the world’. Frances is completing an art internship while Yasha is in Lofoten to fulfill his father’s dying wish. It is a story of family, grief, growing up and belonging.

I found Yasha to be a more likeable character than Frances, perhaps because his woes were less superficial than hers. His story was more interesting and developed than hers, and I didn’t feel I learnt much about Frances at all. Unfortunately I wasn’t convinced by Yasha and Frances’s romantic connection either, though they had reason to form a friendship, I didn’t think there was any chemistry between them.

What I did really like was the novel’s unique setting. The Sunlit Night is set in Lofoten, an archipelago of six tiny islands in the Norwegian Sea, ninety-five miles north of the Arctic Circle. During the later spring and summer months, in which most of this tale takes place, the sun never dips below the horizon.

“These hours were characterized by a wildness of colors, the combined power of a sunset and sunrise. It was easy to watch the horizon for hours straight, the sun in perpetual motion, the sky turning orange and cranberry until at three it returned to blue, and I felt ready for bed.”

I enjoyed Dinerstein’s descriptions of the archipelago, though mere words barely do the beauty of this place justice (*google for photos*).

“The world was perpetually visible, so I looked at it. Conditioned by hours in the Yellow Room, I saw the landscape in colorblock. The midnight sun came in shades of pink. The fjords rushed up onto white-sanded beaches, and the sand made the water Bermuda-green. The house were always red. They appeared in clusters, villages, wherever the land lay flat. Mountains rose steeply behind each village-menaces and guardians. Each red house was a lighthouse, marking the boundary between one terrain and another, preventing crashes, somehow providing solace.”

The Sunlit Night is not without its charms, there is humour, genuine emotion, and some lovely prose, but the plot is weak and the pace uneven. My attention wavered during the last third or so of the book, much of which didn’t seem to quite make sense and felt rushed.

In the end, I would rate it as an okay read however others may be more appreciative.

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Seasoned Traveller 2015

Review: The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell


Title: The Third Wife

Author: Lisa Jewell

Published: Atria Books June 2015

Read an Excerpt

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

My Thoughts:

Adrian Wolfe is devastated when his wife, Maya, is hit by a bus and killed. A year later, a mysterious woman and the discovery of a cache of nasty emails sent to Maya, addressed ‘Dear Bitch’, are discovered and Adrian begins to wonder if Maya’s death was simply a drunken accident or by deliberate design.

Moving between the past and the present, giving voice to Adrian, Maya and various other family members, The Third Wife examines the complicated dynamics of family, relationships, and love.

The story pivots around architect Adrian Wolfe and his family – ex-wife number one, Susan, and their near adult children Luke and Cat; ex-wife number 2, Caroline, and their three young children, Otis, Pearl and Beau; and his third wife, the recently deceased Maya.
Adrian is an immature man without any understanding of how his choices have affected his his ex-wives and his children until matters are brought to a head after Maya’s death. Prompted by his third wife’s secrets, revealed to a stranger, he realises that he had simply ignored anything in conflict with his own preferred view of things, from Maya’s unhappiness, to his sons’ anger.

“He’d expected everyone to be happy, just because he was. Who the hell did he think he was?”

Though initially we are led to believe that the members of Adrian’s ex-family’s appear to be largely unaffected by his serial desertions, they even spend vacations together. However it slowly becomes clear that beneath the veneer, resentments have festered and his idealised life is beginning to fall apart around him.

“Where had he been? Where on earth had he been?….Everyone so angry and unhappy. And where had he been? Sitting cross-legged in the middle of this toxic tornado of human emotions humming la la la with his hands over his ears?”

Though the ending is a little facile, with interesting and well drawn characters, keen insight into the complexities of relationships, and a touch of intrigue, The Third Wife is a good read.

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Review: The Lost Swimmer by Ann Turner


Title: The Lost Swimmer

Author: Ann Turner

Published: Simon and Schuster June 2015

Status: Read on June 08, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Lost Swimmer is a low key psychological thriller from debut author Ann Turner.

University department Head Rebecca Wilding is under extraordinary pressure both professionally and personally. Accused of embezzlement by a hostile colleague and fretting about her husband’s increasingly odd behaviour, she hopes that she can resolve both situations during a long planned overseas trip. Instead, Rebecca finds herself in the midst of a crisis when the she becomes the target of the fraud investigation and then she is suspected of murder when her husband disappears without a trace.

I’ve been trying to write this review for three days but somehow can’t quite find the words. This is not a reflection on the novel which I really enjoyed, but I have to move on, so here are some scattered thoughts:

* Told in the first person, the narrative is immediate and tense, and I was never quite sure whether I could trust Rebecca or not.
* I felt there were some inconsistencies in the characterisation of Rebecca, she didn’t always behave in ways that made sense.
* I’d guessed the identity of the person framing Rebecca fairly early on but still had doubts all the way through given the multiple red herrings, any of whom would have been reasonable suspects.
* Stephen’s disappearance has less relevance to the story than I expected from the synopsis.
* The pace is steady and Turner builds the suspense throughout the novel. I read it quickly gripped by the spiraling tension.
* The descriptions of landscape and sea are vivid, especially those of the Amalfi Coast.
* An atmospheric debut exploring the themes of trust, betrayal, loss and love.

Truth was growing increasingly elusive and I was contributing; if I went down that path I could get tangled in my own lies.”


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Review: And Then Came Paulette by Barbara Constantine


Title: And Then Came Paulette

Author: Barbara Constantine

Published: MacLehose Press June 2015

Status: Read from June 06 to 08, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Ferdinand, a widower (whose wife was by all accounts an unpleasant woman) lives alone a rambling French farmhouse, with only a cat for company since his son and his family moved in to town. Bored and lonely, he spends his days at a small cafe, surreptitiously tripping young woman with his cane, while hoping to spend a few minutes with his beloved grandsons on their way home from school.

Ferdinand is on his way home one evening when he discovers his neighbour, Marceline has become overwhelmed by a gas leak. Concerned that she tried to end her life he vows to keep an eye on her and when he discovers her home is barely habitable, he insists she, along with her cheeky donkey Cornelius, cat Mo-je and dog Berthe, stay with him while repairs are carried out. Just a few weeks later the pair is joined by an old friend of Ferdinand’s, followed by a pair of elderly sisters-in-laws, a trainee nurse and an agricultural student. Ferdinand’s farmhouse is suddenly bursting at the seams. And then comes Paulette.

And Then Came Paulette is a charming story about family, friendship and community, wherein a collection of lost and lonely souls in need find refuge with one another. There is humour, tenderness and joy, despite the individual sorrows that unites these characters as together they rediscover a sense of purpose, usefulness and comfort.

The characters have their own stories and quirks, from newly widowed guy to ninety five year old Hortense. Ferdinand also has his family to worry about when it seems likely his son is heading for a divorce. The identity of Paulette comes as quite a surprise, one I’m not willing to spoil.

Translated from the author’s native French, And Then Came Paulette is a quick, uplifting read. I must admit the ending feels very abrupt and the story unfinished as a result, but I did enjoy it.

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Review: If You’re Not the One by Jemma Forte

Title: If You’re Not the One

Author: Jemma Forte

Published: Sourcebooks Landmark June 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from June 04 to 06, 2015 — I own a copy   {courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Jennifer Wright has a comfortable life – a hard working, if inattentive husband, Max, two lovely young daughters, and a comfortable home in the suburbs, but she is restless. In the throes of a mid life crisis she is wondering, ‘What if?’. One evening, after a bitter argument with her husband, Jennifer runs from the house and is hit by car. Comatose, Jennifer’s subconcious gives her the opportunity to explore what her life may have been like had she made different choices, what if she had runaway with Aiden? Or married Tim, or stayed with Steve? What could’ve been?

‘What If?’ is a game many of us have played, especially when things aren’t going well, even if it’s something we rarely admit to. We can only imagine how differently things might have turned out had we made a different decision, could we have been happier? Richer? Poorer? Sadder? In If You’re Not the One, author Jemma Forte explores the possibilities for her protagonist had she chosen a life with one of three ex suitors.

The premise is not really original (think Sliding Doors) but I was interested in how Jennifer’s alternate lives unfolded. I was surprised, even pleased by the ending, which is not as tidy as I expected, but it may frustrate readers who prefer closure.

The structure of the novel is a little tricky involving not only Jennifer’s actual present and past, but also the past and future revelations of her ‘alternate’ lives. Though the narrative shifts are titled, it still takes a bit of effort to keep track of who and when, and can feel a little disjointed at times.

Challenging readers to consider their own ‘What if’s?’, If You’re Not the One is an engaging read. I think it’s a book that would particularly generate interesting discussion among book club members.

Available to Purchase From

Sourcebooks I Amazon US I BookDepository I IndieBound

Via Booko

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