Review: Magpie’s Bend by Maya Linnell

 

Title: Magpie’s Bend

Author: Maya Linnell

Published: 1st June 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Magpie’s Bend is Maya Linnell’s third engaging contemporary romance novel featuring the McIntyre sisters in rural Victoria.

When Bridgefield’s only general store owner is injured and decides to sell up, local nurse, and single mother, Lara McIntyre reluctantly finds herself leading a campaign to ensure it’s services aren’t lost to the community. She doesn’t want the distraction of handsome newcomer, journalist Toby Paxton, even if he’s the first man since the public collapse of her disastrous marriage to pique her interest, she just needs his help to save the store.

The second eldest of the McIntyre sisters, Lara is a lovely character. A dedicated community nurse, she enjoys running, baking and managing her small holding. She is the mother of thirteen year old Evie, who has recently enrolled in boarding school and  Lara is struggling somewhat with her absence. The victim of domestic abuse by her ex-husband whom she only managed to escape when he was jailed for financial crimes, Lara is still wary of men and reluctant to trust her heart.

Toby is also a single father whose teen daughter, Holly, lives with her mother in Ballarat, visiting every other weekend. His move to Bridgefield is calculated to advance his career at a city paper, though he is finding he enjoys the lifestyle the town affords him as a keen runner, and the opportunity to indulge in his passion for photography.

I enjoyed the romance between Lara and Toby which Linnell develops slowly but organically, respecting Lara’s past trauma. Lara’s family can’t help but meddle a little wanting the best for their sister. Toby is very patient as Lara stubbornly refuses to admit her interest in him, but just as it seems he has found his way past her defences, Lara learns something that seems to confirm her worst fears.

There are lots of delightful elements to this story. I love the focus on community in Magpie’s Bend as the townspeople rally to save their general store. The shop is much more than a convenience for Bridgefield locals, and they fight hard to save it. There are some charming animal ‘characters’, including a dog named Basil and a baby magpie named Vegemite, and a range of delicious homemade pies.

Magpie’s Bend is a heartfelt, winsome and satisfying rural romance, a delightful read I enjoyed over a long weekend.

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD $29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

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

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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.

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository