Flame Tree Hill by Mandy Magro

Flame Tree Hill by Mandy Magro

Kirsty Mitchell is ready to come home. After a tragic accident that left her  scarred, she fled overseas. Now, three years later, she’s finally returning to  Flame Tree Hill, her beloved family farm. But at twenty-five Kirsty isn’t  prepared for the terrifying new challenge ahead: breast cancer. Kirsty’s never  been a quitter and that’s not about to change. But can her budding romance with  local vet Aden bear the strain? As she battles with chemotherapy and as her past  threatens to overwhelm her, Kirsty realises you can never take anything – or  anyone – for granted. Drawing strength from her family and the beauty of Far  North Queensland, Kirsty finally understands what she must do.

A lyrical and heart-warming testament to the power of love – and  forgiveness.

Flame Tree Hill by Mandy Magro

This is a true blue Aussie book, complete with some serious Australian slang and attitudes that mark it as distinctly of the outback.

Of course, the blurb makes no secret of the fact this book deals with some major health issues, which sets it apart from others in this genre. I could have done without some of the oversharing of medical details (which weren’t just about the cancer), but medical discussion isn’t something I’m all that fond of, and I have no doubt many readers will appreciate it. However I did like the way the family rallied around each other when cancer struck.

Now, I’m going to have to admit something: I didn’t like either lead character at the beginning of the book! (But stay with me here…)

In a strange coincidence, the heroine of this story, Kirsty Mitchell, was working on Fleet Street in London when the story began, and this is a street I have both lived and worked on. Whereas my impressions of being in the very centre of London went along the lines of, ‘Wow, I love living surrounded by Renaissance-era pubs, being within walking distance of all the theatres and museums and markets of the West End and being able to see St Paul’s from my windows’

… Kirsty’s reaction was, ‘I hate this place. Only outback Australia is any good. I hate the weather and the buildings and my sense of humour is too good for the locals, and I even though I have a boyfriend here, I don’t care about him. I can’t wait to get home to real men and perfect weather (kind of ironic, as she was from a part of Australia infamous for rain and floods!).

Similarly, hero Aden Maloney had been living in ‘the city’, and was married to a ‘city woman’ who didn’t understand anything about him or his hobbies because she was an ignorant woman from ‘the city’, and he couldn’t stand living in ‘the city’.

If there’s something that stops Rural Fiction from being a favourite genre of mine, it’s this smug superiority so many characters in these books demonstrate. There’s no perfect place, and idealising one lifestyle while demonising another grates.

So… we got off to a bad start, this book and this reviewer. However I am happy to tell you all of that dies down pretty fast…

…Because Kirsty is diagnosed with cancer.

Surprisingly, considering the packaging, this is not really a rural story as much as a story of a relationship struggling to survive through serious illness. There’re a lot – a lot – of medical scenes with a lot of medical details, and I’m going to have to assume the author did some serious, dedicated research here, because it seemed authentic to me.

Kirsty holds a secret from everyone up until the end of the book, and because there’s a lot going on it’s not mentioned very much until later chapters. Your capacity for forgiveness will probably determine how much you like the outcome of this story. I thought about this shocker of a secret for a while, and I honestly don’t know if I could have been as understanding as Aden was. This drama – a bigger spanner in the relationship than the cancer – is probably The Biggest I have read in romantic fiction.

Flame Tree Hill takes Australian rural fiction in a very different direction. It’s a brave move, and I believe people who have some personal experience with cancer are going to find a lot to connect with here.


Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Heartland by Cathryn Hein

Heartland by Cathryn Hein

A powerful, passionate and moving rural love story from the bestselling author of Promises and Heart of the Valley.

When Callie Reynolds arrives at Glenmore, the property she’s recently inherited, the last thing she wants is to be saddled with a warty horse, an injured neighbour and a mad goose. Haunted by her sister’s death and her fractured family, all she wants is freedom.

But Callie hasn’t counted on falling for Matt Hawkins, an ex-soldier determined to fulfil his own dream of land and family. Nor could she predict the way the land, animals and people of Glenmore will capture her heart.

Callie is faced with impossible choices. But she must find the courage to decide where her future lies, even if it costs her everything she holds dear.

Heartland by Cathryn Hein

Cathryn Hein has created another engaging rural Australian romance. This oh-so popular genre has a few writers who are head and shoulders above the rest, and Hein is one of them. As with her previous books, this one shows a clear love for and understanding of horses.

I liked the role reversal of sorts in this story, with Matt knowing almost immediately that he wanted a relationship with Callie, and he made no secret of it. As the author points out more than once, it is the little things he does rather than what he says that makes it clear he cares. I also liked the way his occasional loss of confidence over his obvious war scars was portrayed.

It’s always nice to have one of those grovelling moments at the end – makes for some good drama! There’re some secrets that aren’t revealed to Callie until the very end of the book, but I liked the way it was handled.

For lovers of contemporary romance, women’s fiction and anybody who has ever had a thing for horses.

Man Drought by Rachael Johns – currently $1.05!

Man Drought by Rachael Johns

Man Drought by Rachael Johns

I read and loved this book a few months ago. HERE is my review. Get it while it’s so cheap!

Imogen Bates moved to the small rural town of Gibson’s Find to start a new life for herself after the death of her husband. Tired of being haunted by the painful memories of her old life, Imogen set her last remaining hopes on the little town and, in particular, pouring her heart and savings into restoring The Majestic Hotel to its former glory. But while the female-starved town might be glad to see a young woman move in, not everyone is happy about Imogen’s arrival.
Sheep and crop farmer Gibson Black once dreamed of having the kind of family his grandfather reminisces about, but he’s learnt not to dream anymore. Living in the mostly male town suits Gibson down to the ground…and he won’t have anyone – least of all a hot redhead from the city – change a thing.
Imogen has never been one to back down from a challenge, especially when it concerns her last chance at happiness. She’s determined to rebuild the pub and create a future for the little town. But can she create a future for Gibson and herself, too?

More RITA Award news to be excited about

I have already mentioned the exciting list of 2013 Romantic Suspense RITA Awards finalists, but there’re a lot of other books worth noticing nominated in other categories.

This is a pretty good year for Australians, including recognition for Bronwyn Parry’s romantic suspense/murder mystery story Dead Heat.

There is another book set in rural Australia that is a finalist in the Contemporary Single Title Romance category: Zoe’s Muster by Barbara Hannay. I loved this book, added it to my Best of 2012 list, gave it as a Christmas present… I also reviewed it HERE.

Zoe’s Muster by Barbara Hannay

Three women… two families… one secret…

When Zoe, restless black sheep of the Porter family, discovers that her biological father is a North Queensland cattleman, Peter Fairburn, her deep desire to meet him takes her from inner city Brisbane to a job as a stockcamp cook.

Zoe’s mother, Claire, is wrestling with guilt and shock over Zoe’s discovery. She swears Zoe to secrecy, fearing that the truth could ruin the career of her high profile politician husband. When she is forced to confront her past, Claire also reassesses her marriage.

Virginia Fairburn is happily married to Peter, but she’s always lived with the shadow of the other woman her husband loved and lost.

On the muster at Mullinjim, Zoe meets brooding cattleman Mac McKinnon, who knows from painful experience that city girls can’t cope in the bush. Every instinct tells Mac that Zoe is hiding something. As the pressure to reveal her mother’s secret builds, Zoe fears she must confide in him or burst.

The truth has the potential to destroy two families. Or can it clear the way for new beginnings?