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.
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.