Review: Cross My Heart by Pamela Cook

 

Title: Cross My Heart

Author: Pamela Cook

Published: September 26th 2019, Wildwords Publishing

Status: Read October 2019 courtesy the author

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My Thoughts:

Cross My Heart is a moving story of friendship, grief, and redemption set largely in a small country town, west of The Blue Mountains in the middle of NSW, from Australian author, Pamela Cook.

When Tessa De Santis learns of the death of her childhood best friend, she is reminded of the long ago vow she made to care for Skye’s daughter, Grace, should anything ever happen to her. Tessa, whose lifestyle with her husband is not conducive to motherhood, is reluctant to take custody of the ten year old, but feels compelled to honour her promise. Grace is traumatised by the loss of her mother, and overwhelmed by her new circumstances refuses to speak, so on the advice of a child psychologist, Tessa takes Grace back home in hopes that the familiar will be of comfort.

Cook’s characterisation in Cross My Heart is thoughtful and authentic. Tess is a woman who has unexpectedly found herself caring for a troubled child, and flounders somewhat under the weight of the sudden responsibly. Grace is grieving the loss of her mother, and wary of Tess who is a virtual stranger. The development of their relationship is realistic and moving as they both struggle with their new circumstances.

As Grace confronts her turbulent emotions in an equine therapy program, Tessa’s own emotional equilibrium is tested by a series of flashbacks. Nearly twenty years previously Tess and Skye were victims of a predator, and between Skye’s death, a suspected suicide, and living among her things, memories Tess thought she had buried are resurfacing. Cook’s treatment of this issue is sensitive and honest, and the author uses it to add an unexpected element of suspense to the story.

A heartfelt, thoughtful, and ultimately uplifting story, Cross My Heart is beautifully written, and I’m pleased to recommend it to readers of contemporary women’s fiction.

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Available directly from the author at pamelacook.com.au

Or from your preferred retailer @ Amazon AU I Amazon US I Kobo I iBooks

 

Also by Pamela Cook reviewed at Book’d Out

 

Review: Blackwattle Lake by Pamela Cook

BLACKWATTLE_LAKE_Cover

Title: Blackwattle Lake

Author: Pamela Cook

Published: Hachette December 2012

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from February 11 to 13, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the Author}

My Thoughts:
In Pamela Cook’s debut novel, Blackwattle Lake, Eve Nicholls has returned to her hometown after an absence of twenty years, having inherited the family farm upon her mother’s death. She plans to sell up and move on as quickly as possible, unwilling to remain in the community that drove her away twenty years ago. But as Eve sorts through a lifetime of clutter and memories, she is forced to confront the consequences of the choices she made as a teenager, and find a way to live with them if she is to have the future she hopes for.

I was expecting what has become a reasonably formulaic storyline for the rural fiction genre (misled in part by the cover) only to be pleasantly surprised by Blackwattle Lake. This is largely a character driven novel focusing on the protagonist’s need to confront the tragic circumstances that precipitated her abandoning her home, family and friends, though she is also forced to cope with external challenges including a raging bushfire that menaces the community.

The moment Eve swore, lit a cigarette and poured herself a drink while her kelpie, Banjo, lay panting at her feet, I knew we were going to get along. She felt familiar in an indefinable way and is probably one of the most authentic characters I have encountered in a while. She is complicated in ordinary ways and though defensive and abrupt at times, Eve invokes sympathy without pity.

For me, the absence of a traditional romantic subplot was refreshing. There are a few interesting moments with the childhood sweetheart she left behind, the cheating ex who follows her to beg for forgiveness and the vet who saves Banjo’s life but they contribute to developing Eve’s character rather than providing a convenient distraction from her journey.

I found the realism of character, crisis and landscape in Blackwattle Lake very engaging. Cook proves to be a skilled writer, deftly capturing natural dialogue and behaviour. From the first page I was able to create a mental picture of Eve’s surroundings with small details, such as the “crushed Coke can littering the path”, and the “humming of cicadas working their way up to a crescendo somewhere above her head” providing sensory realism to the scene.

Well written, with appealing characterisation and an engaging storyline, Blackwattle Lake is an appealing contemporary novel set in rural Australia which I truly enjoyed. I look forward to reading more from Pamela Cook in the future.

Click here for your chance to win a Signed copy of Blackwattle Lake

Follow Pamela Cook

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Available To Purchase

All good bookstores including Dymocks and Unleash. Also available at Target, Big W and Kmart.

Harbour Bookshop Ulladulla

Booktopia

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AWW Feature & Giveaway: Pamela Cook

Hachette - Pam 1

Welcome Pamela Cook!

I am pleased to welcome Pamela Cook to Book’d Out today.

Pamela lives in the southern suburbs of Sydney and spends as much time as possible at her “other” home at Little Forest on the south coast of NSW. Being a country girl at heart and spending so much of her time around horses enticed Pamela to “write what you know” and she’s more than happy to now be a writer of Rural Fiction. Apart from being a writer, teacher and mother of three gorgeous daughters she also manages a menagerie of dogs, rabbits, birds, fish and horses and her favourite pastime (after writing) is riding her handsome quarter horse, Morocco.

Her fabulous debut novel, Blackwattle Lake (Hachette 2012), tells the story of Eve Nicholls who has reluctantly returned to her rural home town. She’s glad to have her best friend Banjo the Kelpie with her … and a bottle of bourbon. Her plan is simple: sell the farm , grab the cash and get the hell out. But as she sorts through a lifetime of clutter and memories, Eve is forced to confront the consequences of the choices she made as a teenager and find a way to live with them if she is to have the future she hopes for.

My review of Blackwattle Lake will be published later today. In the meantime, read on to learn more about how Blackwattle Lake came to be and for details on how to win a signed copy.

My Journey To Publication

Hi there and thanks so much to Shelleyrae for having me as a guest on the Book’d Out Blog.

I thought I might share with you today how I came to be a published author – the years prior to Blackwattle Lake.

My background is in high school English teaching which fitted in beautifully with my love of books and my yearning to share that love with others. As the curriculum became more crowded though and the opportunity to discuss good books and teach creative writing lessened I found myself craving more creativity so I enrolled in a Masters of Creative Writing at UNSW. That was a turning point. I met other writers, shared ideas, got feedback on my work (which brought me to tears until I toughened up) and found myself loving the escape of creating a story and inventing new characters.

The year after completing my Masters I enrolled in a First Page to first Draft, a write–your-book-in-a-year course with Jan Cornall at The NSW Writer’s Centre. It was here I met the wonderful writers who became my writing group, The Writers’ Dozen. After a few years of meeting each fortnight we self published an anthology of our work, Better Than Chocolate through which we raised over $6000 for the organisation Room to Read which builds schools and libraries in developing countries and provides scholarships for girls. That was another pivotal moment as I became heavily involved with Room to Read as a volunteer and fulfilled another life long dream two years ago – a visit to India to see the programs in operation.

But back to the writing …

Over the last decade I have written a number of short stories and poems which have made their way into small anthologies but most of my time was spent writing a novel about a woman’s journey, set in Nepal. This novel was a long learning process and a labour of love. I finally completed it about three years ago and began sending it out to publishers and agents, receiving some interest but nothing more. I still think of that manuscript as my baby and intend returning to it one day soon. BLACKWATTLE_LAKE_Cover

I also wrote a first draft of Blackwattle Lake as part of Nanowrimo 2009. If you haven’t heard of it Nano is all about writing a 50,000 word novel in a month, the idea being to let the words flow and worry about the revision later. Well, I started with an image of a woman standing at a gate to a horse property but the gate was locked and she couldn’t get in. From that single image I just followed the nano guidelines and kept on writing. It amazed me how the story seemed to tell itself – I’d spent years labouring over small details on my previous novel and yet this story seemed to be just telling itself. The muse was definitely with me!

I left the draft alone for a while and then in early 2011 started revising it and sent the first 50 pages off to the Queensland Writer’s Centre/Hachette Manuscript Development Program along with my first manuscript (which I’d entered in previous years). From past experience I wasn’t hoping for much response so was blown away when I received a phone call requesting the rest of the manuscript and even more elated to receive a second phone call telling me I had been accepted into the program.

In November 2011 I headed to Brisbane with eight other writers and met with Hachette publisher, Vanessa Radnidge, who gave me great feedback and a few more ideas on what to do with the manuscript. I also discovered that I was a Rural Fiction writer, a genre I’d heard of but hadn’t read. The group I met in Brisbane were all amazing writers and the whole experience was rewarding in itself.

So after more revision I resubmitted the completed manuscript and sent it off with fingers crossed and more than a few prayers whispered. Someone was listening because about 6 weeks later Vanessa called to say they loved it and wanted to publish the novel.

Needless to say there were quite a few champagne corks popped over the next few weeks. Holding that first copy in my hand, having a book launch (my very own!) and seeing it on bookshop shelves have all been the most surreal experiences. I’m still pinching myself!

For me, writing has always been about connection – connection with yourself first and then with others – those who share your journey and ultimately those who you will never meet who read your words and find something in them that resonates. The genuine good will and happiness I’ve felt from so many people over the last few days has been another form of connection – a sharing in the joy of realising a dream.

And I’ve learnt that realising a dream is all about commitment – committing to the dream and believing in it but also doing the work to back it up. Sometimes the dream comes true just as we imagined, other times it might be in some varied form but I truly believe that with persistence and hard work we can all make our dreams come true in some form or another.

Win a Signed copy of Blackwattle Lake

I’d love to connect with more readers on my blog and twitter. Over the next two weeks anyone who signs up to follow me on one of the following and messages me with a comment that includes the hashtag #BlackwattleLake will go into the draw to receive a free signed copy of Blackwattle Lake.

Follow Pamela Cook

Website I Blog I Twitter I Goodreads

Available To Purchase

All good bookstores including Dymocks and Unleash. Also available at Target, Big W and Kmart.

Harbour Bookshop Ulladulla

Booktopia

Amazon

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