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

Title: She’s Having Her Baby

Author: Lauren Sams

Published: Nero: Black Inc Books March 2015

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s Having Her Baby is available to purchase from

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*****

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Nero Books

I have 5 print editions of

She’s Having Her Baby by Lauren Sams

to giveaway.

*Sorry,  only Australian residents may enter*

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

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

Entries close March 22nd 2015

****

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Blog Tour Review: Rose River by Margareta Osborn

 

Title: Rose River

Author: Margareta Osborn

Published: Random House March 2015

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

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rose River is available to purchase from

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Also by Margareta Osborn


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Review: Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

 

Title: Claiming Noah

Author: Amanda Ortlepp

Published: Simon & Schuster AU March 2015

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Claiming Noah, from debut author Amanda Ortlepp, tugs on the heartstrings, exploring a modern day dilemma raised by fertility treatments which challenges society’s ideas of motherhood and family.

Unable to conceive naturally, Catriona and James turn to IVF to create their family but after the failure of two cycles, Catriona, already ambivalent about motherhood, agrees to just one last attempt and when her pregnancy is confirmed, insists the remaining embryo be donated. After a difficult pregnancy and long labour she delivers a son but from the moment Sebastian is placed in her arms she feels a nameless dread, and begins to spiral into postnatal psychosis.
Diana and Liam are excited when they are told a donor embryo is available and thrilled when it takes. Nine months later, Diana gives birth to Noah, and despite the exhaustion that comes with a newborn and Liam’s casual indifference, Diana adores her beautiful son and then her world is turned upside down when he is abducted during a moment’s inattention.
Almost two years later, while Diana still clings to the hope Noah will be returned to her, Catriona, is happily preparing to celebrate Sebastian’s and James’ birthday with family and friends… and then comes a knock on the door.

Claiming Noah is a heartrending story that eventually sees the lives of Catriona and Diana intersect. Though I found some parts of the plot to be a little melodramatic, the situation Catriona and Diana find themselves is thought provoking and confronting.

At its core, Claiming Noah is an examination of the legal, moral and ethical issues related to embryo donation and adoption. Ortlepp admits she became fascinated with the topic when she stumbled across it and her research shows. Claiming Noah explores a kind of ‘worst case’ scenario which develops into an untenable crisis when tragedy strikes.

By choosing to present the alternating viewpoints of Catriona and Diana, the author encourages the reader to explore the complexities of their individual situations. Both women are sympathetic characters, and there are no easy answers to the dilemma Ortlepp has created. As a mother, the heartache of both Catriona and Diana when faced with the loss of their sons is touching.

A story about motherhood, loss, betrayal and love, Claiming Noah is an emotionally charged novel.

 

Learn more about Amanda Ortlepp and Claiming Noah in the guest post published earlier here on Book’d Out.

Claiming Noah is available to purchase from

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AWW Feature: Lizzy Chandler and the Snowy River Man

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I am thrilled to welcome Lizzy Chandler to Book’d Out today to introduce her debut short novel, Snowy River Man.

Lizzy Chandler is the pen-name of Elizabeth Lhuede, a writer, book blogger and creative writing tutor who founded the Australian Women Writers Challenge. She reviews books under her own name at Devoted Eclectic.

Lizzy has written a number of novels in a variety of genres, including romance, romantic suspense, fantasy and psychological suspense. Her unpublished manuscripts have earned recognition in a number of competitions, including New Zealand’s Clendon Award and Australia’s Emma Darcy Award (now “Emerald”). Lizzy is a founding member of the RWA Turramurra group in Sydney. She is a trained counsellor and also teaches creative writing by distance through TAFE (NSW) Oten. She spends most of her time in the Blue Mountains.

coverSnowy River Man, published by Escape Publishing, Harlequin’s digital imprint, is an engaging contemporary romance with a hint of suspense.

The last time Katrina Delaney saw Jack Fairley was the morning after a one-night stand, when she discovered he was engaged to be married. Seven years later, she dreams of a missing boy – Jack’s son. Katrina has worked with police to find missing children before, and she knows she must help. But seeing Jack again comes with its own set of dangers, and Katrina fears the risks she is taking with her heart.

Jack Fairley’s standing in the community can’t keep his son from wandering off during a country rodeo. Frantic with worry, Jack is willing to do anything to find him, even put aside his scepticism and accept the help of a woman who sees his son in a dream. But when that woman turns out to be Katrina Delaney, he’s immediately suspicious. Neither Katrina nor Jack have any reason to trust each other, or the attraction that flares between them again. But trust they will have to, if they want any chance at love.”

My review of Snowy River Man can be read HERE, but first, please read on to learn more about Snowy River Man in this guest post from Lizzy Chandler.

‘The Lost Child’

Snowy River Man opens at a country rodeo, with mountains grazier Jack Fairley riding a brumby stallion. When he finishes his ride, he looks around and discovers his six-year-old son Nick has disappeared. Jack lost his wife when Nick was still a baby and he’s terrified the boy has wandered off into the Snowy Mountains wilderness.

The story of the “lost child” is an enduring motif in Australian culture, but it also has a special meaning for me. When I was three and my mother was in hospital with her tenth child (yes, we’re a big family!), my aunt took me and my older brothers and sisters down to a harbourside netted pool to swim. While my aunt was minding the 18-month-old, I paddled on the shore. As the late afternoon shadows crept, I looked back at the beach and I couldn’t see my family. I thought they’d gone home without me. So I walked. I walked up the hill for a couple of kilometres till I arrived back out our old Federation bungalow and found no one there. After that, I had a terror of getting lost. I remember the horror of looking around and not finding the person you want to see. I’ve used those emotions in this story.

The motif also has a deeper resonance. While I was writing Snowy River Man, there was a lot in the press about the stolen generations, and the anguish of mothers losing their children. It’s a national shame and the injustice of it still impacts on current generations of Aboriginal people. When I chose to hint that my heroine, Katrina, was part-indigenous, I wanted to gesture in some way towards the stolen generations, but also to make it personal. I’ve never lost a child, but I did lose the opportunity to have one, and have endured that grief. I know what it’s like to yearn for a baby in my arms, to look at the children of my ex-boyfriend and current partner and wonder what might have been.

In Snowy River Man, I take “what might have been” and give it a happy ending.

Win a copy of Snowy River Man by visiting http://lizzychandler.com/snowy-river-man-giveaway/. Entries close March 1st, 2015.

cover

Snow River Man is available to purchase from

Escape Publishing

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AWW Feature: My Writing Journey by Nicki Edwards

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I’m happy to introduce you to Nicki Edwards today.

After twenty-five years of marriage, travel, children, study and work, Nicki decided she wasn’t busy enough. In January of 2014 she woke up and decided to fulfill a lifelong dream to write a novel. Nicki calls herself a city girl with a country heart. Unfortunately the only way she can escape to the countryside of her dreams is by living vicariously through the lives of the characters in the rural romance novels she loves to read. If she could spend her days dressed in jeans and boots out on the farm surrounded by horses, dogs, cows and sheep, she’d be in her element. When Nicki isn’t dreaming, reading or writing about rural life, she can be found in her scrubs in the emergency department where she works fulltime as a nurse.

Intensive Care is her debut novel, a medical romance, drawing on her love for all things country and her nursing experience.

“Escaping to the country was meant to be easy …
On the surface it looks like busy intensive care nurse Kate Kennedy has it all: a long-term relationship, a great career and a sleek inner city apartment. But appearances are deceiving, and in one fell swoop everything comes crashing down around her. In a moment of spontaneity, Kate leaves her city life and takes a new role as Nurse Unit Manager at Birrangulla Base Hospital, but her dream move proves harder than expected.
Local cafe owner Joel O’Connor finds himself increasingly drawn to the gorgeous new nurse, but like Kate, he’s been scarred by love and isn’t looking to jump into anything. Yet their chemistry is hard to deny and after a near fatal incident, Joel and Kate find themselves opening up to one another.
Just when Kate thinks she’s found love again, their fragile relationship is thwarted by their pasts. Can they both let go of their guilt and grief to move on to a bright new future?”

My review of Intensive Care can be read HERE, in the meantime, please read on to learn more about Nicki Edward’s writing journey.

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My Writing Journey

Thanks for having me on Book’d Out.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks since the launch of my “book baby”, Intensive Care – a rural romance full of medical drama and I have to keep pinching myself that it’s all real – I wrote a book!
As a child I always had my nose stuck in a book, and ever since I learned to read I harboured a secret desire to one day write my own. I was encouraged by teachers at school to pursue some sort of career in writing, but I never thought I was good enough. After all the years of reading, I’d put authors on a very high pedestal indeed!
At the start of 2014 I decided enough was enough. If I ever wanted to tick off the next item on my bucket list and write a book, then I had to stop talking about it and actually do it! I started writing at the end of January in 2014 and four months later submitted what I’d written to Momentum. Intensive Care is my debut novel, and I’m currently working on the follow up, titled Emergency Response. I’ve also written another medical rural romance, The Peppercorn Lease, which is yet to be published.
Inspired after reading best-selling rural romance author Rachael Johns’ book Jilted, and then being introduced to the rural romance genre, I decided to write my own rural romance. They say “write what you know”, and “write what you love”. What I know is nursing and what I love is the country: so it was these two things that inspired the writing of Intensive Care.
Everyone knows the saying that truth really is stranger than fiction. As a nurse, I have the incredible honour and privilege of being with people in both their moments of triumph and in their tragedies – often in a single shift – and I wanted to be able to share some of these incredible stories. I hope that I have been able to portray the incredible work that intensive care nurses do every single day. I’m now working in the Emergency Department so it’s pretty easy to guess where my next stories are coming from! While some of my characters and stories are real (names changed of course), some of my colleagues may recognise themselves as minor characters in my books!
The other inspiration for writing rural romance comes after living in regional Australia for three years. Now living back in the city, I still yearn for the simple lifestyle I had back then when I drove past paddocks full of cows and sheep on my way into town. There’s something special about life in the country and one day I plan to return and have my own little “escape to the country” moment, just like Kate. Hopefully it won’t be because I have a broken heart.
One of the most rewarding things about embarking on this writing journey is the new people I have met – many have only been online, but I feel like we’ve been friends for years and I can’t wait for the day that I meet some of these readers and writers in person. Being connected with other writers has been a very important part of this journey. When I’m filled with self-doubt, they’re there to encourage me to keep going. I joined Romance Writer’s Australia and am involved with a number of smaller writer’s groups, both of which provide immense support.
Intensive Care is about a young city nurse who escapes from Sydney to regional NSW after a relationship breakdown. She hopes the country move will heal her broken heart. She quickly falls in love with life in Birrangulla, enjoys her job working in the intensive care unit and then meets and falls in love with cute Irish barista Joel O’Connor. Unfortunately, adjusting to country life and fitting into the community isn’t as easy as Kate expected. This is a story of loss and grief and of finding hope and love again.
I hope readers enjoy the sweet nature of the book as well as the emotional moments that Kate faces with her patients in the intensive care unit in the backdrop of a small Australian community. I think the characters are very ‘real’, and while Kate and Joel’s relationship develops slowly, (they have a long friendship before it finally blossoms into romance), I’m hoping that the readers will enjoy this. I don’t write open door bedroom scenes, so if you’re looking for hot and steamy sex scenes, you might be disappointed by my book.  At the end of the day, I hope readers like the book enough to want to read Emergency Response which is the love story between Kate Kennedy’s brother Nathan and nurse Mackenzie Jones.
Now I just need to find time to finish it!

Intensive Care is available to purchase from

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Review: A Small Madness by Dianne Touchell

 

Title: A Small Madness

Author: Dianne Touchell

Published: Allen & Unwin Feb 2015

Status: Read from February 03 to 04, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

” The heat was over, along with summer. They walked the dunes in a flush of new shyness, talking of the beginning of their last year of high school.”

Rose and Michael have just had sex for the first time, they are in love and shyly thrilled with their new intimacy. In the heat of the moment they forgot to use a condom, just twice, but as each others first, Michael’s older brother assures him, at least they don’t have to worry about disease.
Two months later, Rose counts the days in her student diary – her period is 61 days late and a pregnancy test, obtained by her best friend Liz, shows two bold pink lines.

“‘I’ve worked it out. We won’t tell anyone. No one could help us anyway. I can hide it. It’s not real….These things go away all the time.'”

With compassionate insight, Australian author Dianne Touchell explores Rose and Michael’s responses to their unplanned pregnancy in A Small Madness. Ill-equipped to deal with the reality of their situation, Rose and Michael take refuge in denial that only grows deeper as time passes, leading to horrendous consequences.

Rose and Michael are ‘good kids’ from middle class families who regularly attend church, gets good grades and have plans for their future. I can’t profess to understand their behaviour, but I feel that Touchell communicated her characters rationalisations well and my sympathy was stirred for both characters despite their egregious mistakes.

“She was a good person. And she was as genuinely appalled as everyone else by speculative descriptions of the monster who must have done this dreadful thing in the bush. Because it wasn’t her.”

The premise of A Touch of Madness may seem far fetched to some, but it was inspired by an American case reported in the media. I was curious to know just how common Rose’s denial of her pregnancy is. I was quite stunned to learn that it happens in about 1 in 2,500 cases, and less than half the instances involve teenagers.

An emotionally powerful and provocative cautionary tale for both young adults and their parents, A Small Madness is beautifully written examination of a complex issue.

A Small Madness is available to purchase from

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Review: Runaway Lies by Shannon Curtis

 

Title: Runaway Lies

Author: Shannon Curtis

Read an Extract

Published: Harlequin MIRA February 2015

Status: Read from February 01 to 03, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Runaway Lies is an engaging novel of romantic suspense from Shannon Curtis. The plot is fast moving, offering some exciting and dramatic moments, and the romantic tension sizzles.

Darcy Montgomery has managed to elude her former boss for four months but when she rescues the children of wealthy business tycoon Dominic St. James from his ex wife’s sinking car, her anonymity is at risk of being compromised. Despite her injuries, Darcy is determined to slip away before anybody discovers the dangerous truth about her.
Dominic is grateful to Darcy for saving the lives of his four-year-old twins, and feels responsible for her injury when it’s determined that the accident was engineered. He’s puzzled though by her reluctance to accept his offer of help, even when she has lost everything.
Despite Darcy’s hesitation, Dom convinces her to spend at least a few weeks recuperating with him and his family and, after months on the run, she finally begins to let down her guard. But just as Darcy decides to trust Dom with her secret, her carefully constructed facade collapses and Darcy has no other choice but to run to protect her life…and her heart.

I wasn’t sure what to think of Darcy at first. Curtis presents her as a guilty woman on the run and I made the assumption that she had somehow bought her troubles on herself. I was relieved to discover as the story unfolded that Darcy had simply found herself in an awful position and was doing her best to do what was right, even though it meant she had to lie.

I have to admit my least favourite character trope in romance is the ‘billionaire boyfriend’, it is usually relied upon as a plot convenience allowing the author to circumvent issues that would trouble someone without a Platinum credit card, but Dom’s wealth doesn’t interfere in the story. I liked him a lot, he proved to be a great guy and a caring father.

I really liked the way Curtis involved the children in the story. It’s notoriously difficult to do so in a way that is realistic but the author manages to integrate them neatly into the plot and keep their behaviour and actions age appropriate.

An entertaining tale of intrigue, action and romance, set in NSW, I really enjoyed Runaway Lies and would recommend it to fans of Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry.

Available to purchase from

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Review: Useful by Debra Oswald

 

Title: Useful

Author: Debra Oswald

Published: Viking: Penguin Jan 2015

Read an Extract

Status: Read from January 25 to 27, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Sullivan stepped up onto the low wall and peered over the edge. The job of obliterating himself shouldn’t be a huge effort, considering he’d made so little meaningful impact on the world.”

Sullivan Moss is useless, once a handsome and charming young man with the world at his feet he is now a puffy faced, unemployed, near forty year old, divorced alcoholic. Wracked with guilt and regret after the death of one of his best friends, he decides to commit suicide by jumping from a building only to fall the wrong way. Waking up in hospital with bruises and concussion, a casual comment from a nurse gives Sully an idea, he can do one useful thing before his next suicide attempt, he can donate a kidney to a stranger.

To everyone’s surprise, including his own, Sully begins to turn his life around, determined to honour his commitment. He sobers up and gets a job removing hazardous asbestos. He makes an attempt to repair some of the bridges he burned and makes a friend of his reluctant landlady Natalie, and her son Louis. Redemption isn’t going to be easy though.

With a blend of black humour and soap opera like drama, Oswald explores the regrets for the life not lived. It’s not just Sully who is struggling with the disappointments of middle age, his best mate Tim is bewildered by his unhappy marriage, and Natalie is beginning to wonder if she will spend the rest of her life alone, living in her mother’s spare bedroom.

The narrative is sharp, funny and insightful. I enjoyed the writing though some may be offended by instances of crude language. The mix of slightly surreal and familiar scenario’s works well and the story is well paced.

A story about finding meaning and purpose in life, about changing the things you can, and accepting those you can’t, Useful is an entertaining read from Australian playwright, author and television scriptwriter (most notably for Offspring), Debra Oswald.

Available to purchase from

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Review: Secrets of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie

 

Title: Secrets of Whitewater Creek

Author: Sarah Barrie

Published: Harlequin MIRA January 2014

Status: Read from January 20 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Intrigue, action and romance blend to create an engaging read in Secrets of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie.

Set in rural Australia, Secrets of Whitewater Creek introduces Jordan Windcroft, who has been running the family farm on her own since the tragic death of her parents. Independent, feisty and a hard worker, she is the town’s favourite daughter despite being on probation for the manslaughter, after claiming responsibility for a car accident to protect a friend from a corrupt judge.
Reid Tallon comes to Whitewater Creek posing as a probation officer, chasing a lead on a drug case he has been involved in for three years. He is hoping Jordan, who was also charged with possession when she was arrested, will be able to give him some insight into the local drug trade.
The attraction between the two is immediate, but Reid is undercover, and won’t let anyone jeopardise his case, and Jordan, whose focus is on saving her farm, has a secret she can’t risk him discovering.

I really liked Jordan who proves to be a practical, smart and strong woman, I enjoyed her quick witted banter, she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and means what she says. She is loyal almost to a fault, and in her determination to protect her friends, she makes herself vulnerable to a dangerous stalker.
Reid is a smart and capable detective, determined to destroy the drug syndicate he holds accountable for his sister’s death.
Both Jordan and Reid try to deny their mutual attraction but it doesn’t last long. The development of the relationship is compressed due to the time frame of the novel but nevertheless believable and enjoyed the way they sparked off one another.

The story offers two main arcs, the first involving Reid’s investigation of the drug syndicate, the second sees Jordan’s life threatened by a crazed stalker. In the main, Secrets of Whitewater Creek is well paced, with a good amount of action balancing out the romance, though I thought that the stalker situation dragged on a little too long.

One aspect of the story that did bother me was the way that Jordan’s friends turn on her, suddenly suspecting her of being a drug abuser. I could understand why Reid would jump to the wrong conclusion but I didn’t believe that her close friends would do the same.

Still, overall I found Secrets of Whitewater Creek, (previously published as Deadly Secrets) to be a page turning Australian romantic suspense novel with appealing characters, an interesting story and well crafted setting. Perhaps Barrie will allow us to revisit Whitewater Creek again.

 Available to purchase from

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Review: The Sunburnt Country by Fiona Palmer

Title: The Sunburnt Country

Author: Fiona Palmer

Published: Penguin Australia February 2013

Read an Extract

Status: Read from February 25 to 28, 2013 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The Sunburnt Country is Fiona Palmer’s fourth engaging novel set in the regional area of her home state, Western Australia. In a small country town where the residents are struggling to survive the drought, bankers are the enemy.

Jonelle Baxter dreads having to meet with the new Bundara bank manager, her mechanical repair business is not in good financial shape despite keeping her as busy as ever and she is risking bankruptcy by falling behind in her loan repayments. She doesn’t expect to be attracted to the suited city boy who threatens everything she loves.
Daniel Tyler is in town to do a job, he has two months to tie up loose ends before the permanent bank manager will arrive and then he can return to his comfortable city life and a significant promotion. He doesn’t expect to find a home in Bundara… or love with the town’s only mechanic.

I found Jonelle aka “Jonny” a very likable character (though not her name so much). As a mechanic with a love of dirt car racing and a Torana her most prized, she is a little different to most romantic heroines, though definitely a tomboy she is still feminine. Her loyalty to her family, friends and community is her best trait. She risks her own business, accepting barter and delayed payment, in order to support those doing it tough and serves as an volunteer rescue crew member. She is close with her family which includes brother Zach and best friend Nae (Renee,) who provide a secondary romantic subplot and when childhood friend Ryan falls apart, she doesn’t hesitate to do all she can to help him get back on his feet.

Jonny’s close family and friendships contrast with Daniel’s lack of genuine relationships. His relationship with his father is complicated by the man’s narrow focus on work and his estrangement from his mother and younger brother after his parent’s divorce. Daniel is still very much in his father’s shadow but his time in Bundara gives him a fresh perspective. I liked the way in which Palmer developed Daniel’s character, though as a hero he was perhaps a little too passive for my tastes.

The romance between Jonelle and Daniel is fairly low key, developing naturally and pleasingly not beset by simple misunderstandings. There are good reasons for their wariness with each other – Jonelle will never leave Bundara while Daniel has a life in the city to return to. Though the romance is a feature of the novel, I really like that the author doesn’t rely on their relationship to promote personal growth for each of her characters. The decisions both Jonelle and Daniel make are about their individual needs, not the romance between them.

Fiona Palmer authentically captures the spirit of a community doing it tough, waiting for the rain, and I really liked the way in which she showed how the effects of the drought affect not only the farmers, but the town as a whole. She also touches on the issues of depression and suicide as Ryan struggles to deal with the end of his marriage and his failing farm.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Sunburnt Country, just as in The Road Home, Palmer’s own passion for the land bleeds into the story, her scenes are vivid and genuine, just as her characters are. This is another Australian rural fiction title I am happy recommend.

Available to Purchase

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