New Release Book Review: With You in Wild Orchards by Rania Battany

Back at the end of 2019, I read my first novel by Rania Battany, Fleeting Moments, in which I found one of my now favourite authors. In Fleeting Moments, I could see so much of myself and some of my relationships, in Maya (the main character), it was quite confronting, it also gave me so much to think about and work on in my own life. As her bio states, “She creates relatable characters and explores real issues while engaging her readers with stories that tug at the emotional core.” she has continually done that for me with every new book she has released. Her books are heartfelt and emotional, tackling important issues and themes that make me think and feel, as well as allowing me an insight into things people around me deal with every day.

In her newest novel With You in Wild Orchards Rania has once again wowed me with her ability to write a character I related to deeply while putting my emotions through quite a bit for the 5 or 6 hours it took me to read it.

Grief, it’s an emotion that most of us will experience in one form or another over the years, whether it’s from losing a loved one, losing a dream, the end of a relationship, leaving our homeland or home town and many other big and small things. Grief is a complicated emotion and no one person will have the same reaction or deal with it in the same manner, for some it might last a minute, and for others an eternity. The people we meet in With You in Wild Orchards; Luna, Jamie, Juliette, Annie, and Alan, each one has lost something, a dream, a friend, a loved one, and each one has dealt with it in a different way. Juliette’s grief caused her to make decisions that in turn affected the lives of those she loved, decisions that changed the course of other people’s lives and left secrets in their wake.

With her Aunt Juliette’s passing Luna is set on an emotional journey of grieving, remembering the past, searching for answers about her aunt, opening her heart and letting go, so she can realise a future she’d forgotten she wanted.

When Juliette dies, she leaves behind a minefield of secrets for Luna to discover and unpack, secrets which have affected many parts of both her and her mother’s lives and their relationship with each other. Juliette was the person Luna felt the closest to, she was constantly in awe of her aunt and the way she seemed to live such a full and adventurous life. But Juliette also continually left, off exploring the world leaving Luna in a cycle of loss and though she hasn’t really acknowledged it, essentially a feeling of being abandoned. Now Luna is forced to deal with those feelings she’s done such a good job of pushing down (I’m not ready to deal with my own feelings around that subject, but then, are we ever really ready?).

It is amazing how our hearts and minds work, how we perceive people and events one way only to look at them years down the track and realise that we only saw a part of the picture or only one aspect of a person, whether by choice because we didn’t want to see or because others didn’t want us to see.

Luna is a character who carries a lot of pain inside, deep inside, buried deep so she doesn’t have to look at it or deal with it, she’s done a good job of squashing painful thoughts and feelings inside, (something I know how to do well also), but by doing this she purposely hasn’t allowed herself the opportunity to love or be loved and has lost her spark and passion for life, even going so far as to forget what those passions once were.

The town of Edens Valley is as much a character as the people and plays an important role in Luna remembering the things she’d forgotten and the feelings being in that beautiful place gave her. Rania does a wonderful job of bringing the town and its surroundings to life and if I could I’d want to go and visit it myself, spend time under the willow tree by the river, sit on the hill overlooking the wild orchard, taste the food the locals put so much time and effort into producing.

It is in Edens Valley that Luna also meets Jamie, a man who is hurting, guarded and suspicious of what it is Luna is doing there. Jamie is also a caregiver and though he doesn’t want Luna around and doesn’t trust her one bit, he can’t help but do small things to take care of her needs while also pushing her to leave. Jamie, unlike Luna, hasn’t forgotten what his dreams and passions are and slowly, as Luna worms her way unintentionally into his heart, he starts to share what those dreams would look like. I could really feel Jamie’s internal struggle, of wanting to dislike Luna, his mistrust of her and his desire to not allow himself to be emotionally vulnerable to anyone whilst being pulled towards her every step. I really liked Jamie, I could feel his goodness along with his hurt, I understood his dreams of not conforming to his family’s expectations and following his own path, and I loved how he cared even when he didn’t want to; sometimes it’s the small things we do for others that can have the biggest impact.

At the same time, I could feel Luna’s confusion about the feelings and emotions Jamie elicits from her, feelings and emotions she’s never felt or allowed herself to feel before. I loved how once Luna makes a decision she jumps in with both feet, not allowing others to steer her off her path and I loved that by returning to Edens Valley in search of one answer, she finds so much more.

Through Luna, Rania has also managed to explore and cast a light on type 1 diabetes, a chronic disease I admit to not knowing much about. I had no idea just how dangerous it can be on so many levels to a person’s health if it isn’t managed correctly. I have a friend whose son has it and I’ve seen them constantly monitoring his levels, making sure he eats when he needs to and watching what he eats as best she can, but Luna’s mother, Annie, takes all these steps to the next level, maintaining a rigidity that Luna as a child and a teenager, found stifling and caused resentment for her growing up and I can understand Annie’s fear after reading about it. As an adult, we would have much more of an understanding of the dangers than a child and even then, many adults I know would struggle to make the right decisions for their health all the time. Young children are often the ones who it most commonly appears and depending on how it is managed and how their parents manage it with them, I can only imagine how it could feel terribly suffocating, limiting and a barrier to friendship and fun.

With You in Wild Orchards is a story about grief, love in its many guises, finding yourself and finding and following your dreams, about secrets and choices and their consequences. A story about living with an illness that affects your life and the choices you make, good and bad. A story that has made me wonder what I’m truly passionate about and whether there is a way for me to follow those passions once I figure them out. Rania has once again made me look at myself and the way I cope and manage my emotions and challenges (I guess I need to be reminded occasionally about this) and whether they are really working for me. It’s a story with real, slightly flawed characters who are trying to live their lives the best they know how while dealing with the ups and downs life throws their way, just like all of us.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this wonderful novel in return for an honest review. Thanks also to the author for once again giving me so much to think about and work on in my own life.

About the book

Twenty years ago, Luna’s aunt Juliette convinced Luna and her mother to write down their deepest secrets. She hid those secrets in a box. Then, in a pine forest far from from home, Juliette buried what they wrote.

Luna never planned to go in search of that box. Whatever secrets her mother and aunt wrote that day, Luna had wanted to remain buried.

But when Juliette dies unexpectedly, Luna discovers her aunt was hiding more than the secret she buried twenty years earlier. Searching for answers, Luna returns to the small town Juliette had once loved; to the trees guarding their secrets.

There’s one problem.

The pine forest is on private land. That land belongs to the sexy-but-guarded Jamie.

The more Luna chases Juliette’s ghost, the more uncertain Jamie becomes of her intentions, but the more time they spend together, the more their chemistry builds.

It’s complicated. And scary.

Especially since the last thing Luna expected to find was love … or herself.

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New Release Book Review: Into the Rain by Suzanne Cass

4.5 Stars

I think this has to be one of my favourite Suzanne Cass novels to date, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and found it hard to put down. It was a great start to her new series. Lacey and Nico were such good characters to get to know and I enjoyed the crime and mystery aspect of this story immensely. Set in Tasmania in Boat Harbour Bay, a place I had to look up because I needed to know if it was a real place or not, which it is, I thought this was the perfect setting for this book.

I was hooked from the start, as we meet Lacey, a young woman on leave from the police force after struggling with a traumatic event, she is travelling around Tasmania in an old Kombi van (something I would love to do) in order to give herself time and space to heal. When she breaks down at night in a cold deserted carpark and our hero Nico comes to the rescue. Lacey isn’t totally on board when she first meets him and I enjoyed seeing their relationship grow into friendship then more as they deal with Lacey coming across a traumatic murder and Nico investigating the crime.

It would be hard to be a police officer in a small town and we see how hard it is for Nico to do his job while dealing with people he considers friends in the community and having to investigate them. Lacey learns a lot about what she is capable of and does a lot of figuring out what she really wants out of her life. Lacey’s parents, her mother, in particular, was a piece of work and I wanted to set the guard geese onto her.

Nico also has to deal with his mother springing a nasty surprise onto him whilst in the middle of the murder investigation and I’m hoping we get to follow this mystery in the next book.

New Release Book Review: Lest We Forgive by Phillipa Nefri Clark

4.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

I don’t read a lot of crime fiction, so when I do it’s because it sounds too good not to read, and Lest We Forgive (Detective Liz Moorland #1) by Phillipa Nefri Clark was exactly that.

It had me hooked from the get-go and I stayed up until god knows what time reading it because I couldn’t put it down (didn’t want to, who needs sleep).

The cast of characters was vast but well done. I felt like I already knew Vince, the bitter, reclusive retired cop who is the driving force behind wanting to find out what really happened to cause the crash that took his daughter Suzie and her husband David, leaving him fighting for custody of his granddaughter Mel against her godparents, Carla and Bradley, the latter being business partners with David.

There was a lot of emotional baggage to unpack with Vince, he’s a complicated character and I think if he hadn’t been forced to deal with it after taking on the care of Mel, then maybe he would never have got there and started to heal.

Vince is a force to be reckoned with and he will go to any lengths to uncover the truth, drawing his ex-police partner and friend, Detective Liz Moorland, who was called to the scene of the accident, into his investigation. Liz is already investigating the disappearance of an escaped and dangerous prisoner but is drawn into the investigation of the crash when evidence is uncovered that proves it wasn’t an accident. I really liked Liz, she was a strong female character who wasn’t afraid to go after the truth or put her partner Pete in his place when he acted out of line. The friendship between Vince and Liz blurred some of the lines in her investigation, but also helped Vince on his path to healing.

Mel was a fabulous character, for a little girl who’s lost her parents and had her life completely turned upside down, she brings a lot to this story and plays an important part in uncovering some of the clues that lead Vince and Liz to dig further into David and Bradley’s business, but also put her in danger. There are also some lovely scenes between Mel and her kitten Robbie and a horse called Apple and also Vince’s neighbour.

There are many twists in this story, unexpected connections that arise, danger from different sources, schemes and blackmail and dodgy business dealings and more murders. The bad guys are not nice people at all and I was stunned at the lengths some were willing to go to for money.

There is also a deeply emotional element running through as Vince, Mel and Carla deal with their losses Vince also has to deal with his past in order to be what Mel needs in the present and Carla deals with her desperate need to have a child and wants custody of Mel.

This book had me rapidly turning pages as I was drawn into uncovering the truth behind all that was going on, the tension ramping up to a really great ending.

Though the series is Detective Liz Moorland’s, I feel we only uncovered the tip of the iceberg with who she is so I’m looking forward to more Detective Liz Moorland books in the future and finding out just how far she will go to uncover the crimes and catch the bad guys.

Paperback available now

Ebook available March 28th 2023 – available for preorder



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New Release Book Review: Bellevue by Alison Booth

4.5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

After reading Alison Booth’s last book The Painting and absolutely loving it, I jumped at the chance to read Bellevue, her latest novel.

Bellevue was another fantastic read for me, while it took a couple of chapters to draw me in, once there I didn’t want to put it down. Set in the Blue Mountains in NSW in the early 1970s the author really manages to capture both the time period and the place in her writing.

The story is told mainly from Clare’s perspective but we also get a young boy Joe’s perspective interspersed between chapters and I really enjoyed this because it enabled me to glimpse a different aspect of both Clare and the town and its people.

Clare hasn’t had the easiest of lives and we are taken back in Clare’s memories to the early 1950s when she meets her husband Jack, to his death and the secrets he has kept from her and the loss of their property due to those secrets, some of which are only fully uncovered in the later part of this story.

Clare has been left Bellevue by Jack’s Aunt Hilda who came to Clare’s aid when she first lost everything and has continued to be there for her ever since. Remembering how happy she was there with her young daughter, who is now an adult travelling in Europe, she decides to retire and live in Bellevue whilst doing it up.

Things are never simple though and while Clare finds some wonderful people who inhabit the town, she also finds a few not-so-nice ones who are determined to cause her trouble because they want to buy her property for a new development.

This was a time when people were starting to stand up to developers and the government in order to save the land, cultural heritage sites and historical sites, from their greed. When they decide to try and intimidate Clare into selling, they had no idea the fight that would bring them. Clare was part of a big push to save the bushland where she previously lived and she is pushed to take up this newest fight to save not only her property but the town and the surrounding area from being developed and destroyed.

Clare uncovers corruption and greed that bring with it answers to secrets from her past. There were so many twists and turns and mystery and intrigue, and there were times I didn’t know who to trust or believe, who was Clare’s friend and who wasn’t. The author does a great job of only slowly letting us have small pieces of the puzzle, revealing little character traits, and bits of things overheard or seen, keeping us from seeing the whole picture until the very end.

The friendship that Clare forms with young Joe, a boy who has lost his mother and whose father has become neglectful and somewhat abusive, turns out to have a big impact on both their lives. I loved seeing how they each helped each other, Clare proving a safe place for Joe to hang out, a nurturing grandmother figure for him to give and receive affection from, something they are both lacking. And in turn, Joe helps to thaw some of the pain and hardness that Clare has been carrying and which Joe sees in Clare the first time he glimpses her leaving a garden party.

This isn’t a fast-moving story, though the second half moves along faster than the first, instead, it is a slow-burn read as we get to know the town and its characters, learn about Clare and her past and her dreams for the future. It is a look at family and its often messed up relationships, it is a reminder of how fragile our environment is and the need for everyone to stand up and protect it if we want any of nature or our history to survive the greed that is prevalent even more today. It is a look at grief and the effect it can have on those around us and the baggage we carry with us that can affect so much of how we live our lives. It is about friendship in its many forms and about healing from our pasts and letting go of the baggage we are carrying.

I really enjoyed this novel and I can’t wait to see what Alison Booth delivers next.

Alison Booth has written an interesting post on the background to writing her newest novel if you are interested in having a read.

Background to writing Bellevue

Backlist Read 2023: All About Ella by Meredith Appleyard

This is the first book to mark off of my backlist reads for 2023, I wish I’d read it back when I got it because it was so good that it’s kept me up late reading it for the past few nights.

All About Ella does what Meredith Appleyard is so good at and gives us characters we grow to love, people, places and circumstances we can relate to and shows how complicated relationships can be.

Ella was an incredibly strong character, from the moment I was introduced to her I knew I was going to love her. I was angry for the way her family treated her, especially her awful daughter-in-law, what a piece of work she was, I was hoping karma would throw something terrible at her, but alas…
As I learned more about Ella and her late husband Sam’s life and the way he treated her and the children, I was awed by Ella’s way of looking at things, I liked that she was able to look back and see how things weren’t so great, but still, be positive about it all too. Sometimes it isn’t until we lose someone that we really take a look at who they were.

All of Ella’s children were extremely selfish individuals whose pretence at looking out for Ella was only driven by their own desire for her money. I’m sure this happens a lot more in real life than we can imagine, why shouldn’t older people make their own choices and spend their money the way they wish, they shouldn’t need to put their life on hold just so as their children will have something to inherit.

Meredith does a wonderful job of describing the town of Cutlers Bay, I’ve only been to Streaky Bay which is further along the coast than where Cutlers Bay is supposed to be based (I think), but I could imagine myself there, I could imagine the house that Ella fell in love with, I think I would like it there myself. I loved meeting the whole cast of characters from Cutlers Bay who rounded out the small-town feel beautifully.

What Ella finds when she runs away from her family is more than she could have imagined, she finds herself, she says something in the book about this and I felt for Ella, that it had taken her until she was 70 and had lost her husband to really find out who she was and how much she was capable of. Sam had pretty much ruled her life from the moment they got married and then her children had tried to do the same, running away saved her and allowed her to finally live life on her own terms.

Angie was another wonderful character that I grew to love, I felt a lot of compassion for her nomadic way of life, one she’d chosen not so much because she liked to travel and keep moving but because she was afraid to let herself get close to other people. Her family life was dysfunctional at best and her mother was certainly not the mother she (or anyone) needed. At 40 she knows nothing but this way of life, but meeting Ella turns her life on its head and starts her on her own journey of discovery.

Zach came a long way from the taciturn police officer who first met Ella and Angie and wanted them both to leave his town ASAP. Ella really was the catalyst for lots of changes in Angie and Zach, and even in Claire who had become lonely in her older age living by herself.

One of the things that Ella and Angie learn is that family doesn’t need to be blood-related and that sometimes our found families can be more important to us than those we call relatives. This was a beautifully written story about connecting with others and finding the things that make up happy in life and standing our ground against the people who say we can’t have them.

Thank you to Harlequin Australia for a digital copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Book Review: The Women and the Girls by Laura Bloom

I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this novel. I had previously tried reading it several times but never got past page 40 something. I initially found it hard to get my head around who the three women were, and which children and husbands went with them and I didn’t really connect with any of them to start with. I put this forward as one of my choices for my book club to read in an attempt to get at least one backlist book off of my TBR list (this has been on my shelf for nearly 2 years) and this was the one chosen, I’ll be interested to see what the other women thought. Taking this down the beach I was determined to give it a final shot and I am so glad I did because the fourth time saw me completely change my mind about this book.

After getting past that pesky page 40 something, I started to get my head around who was who and slowly began to, if not like, at least feel some understanding for each of the women.

Set in the 70s, Libby, Carol and Anna seem to have nothing in common other than their children are friends (sort of). They barely know each other at the start of the book, but an ABBA concert and one life-changing decision by Carol to leave her abusive husband sets in motion big changes for all three women and their families as both Libby and Anna are motivated to leave their own unhappy/unfulfilled marriages.

I grew to care about each of these women and their husbands, except for Carol’s husband, he was beyond any sort of redemption even by the end of the book. Each woman and their respective husband are forced to take a good look at their lives, who they are, what they want and what they need to be happy.

The 70s were certainly a different time to be a woman, a wife or a gay man and some of these differences made me very sympathetic to those they affected. For instance, Carol’s husband is able to cancel her passport so she can’t leave the country and she is unable to get a new one without his say-so, nor can she open a bank account or get a loan in her name without his signature. I mean seriously, this was the 70s, not the 1800s, it amazes me how little autonomy women had back then. And don’t get me started on male homosexuality being illegal until South Australia changed its laws in 1975 with other states following after. It wasn’t until 1994 it became a Commonwealth law. It is mind-boggling to me how long it is still taking for society to change its thinking on so many different aspects.

The children in the story play an important role in helping the women bond, but also in making them realise things about themselves and each child as an individual. While initially these women and girls (and one boy) are thrown together and seem to thrive in their new environment, there are many things to consider as time passes and they all have to deal with the fallout of their choices and their personalities and some cracks appear. They went from near strangers to living in a sharehouse in days and while the women created strong supportive and lasting friendships from this shared experience, the children (and their parents) learned that not everyone has to get along and like each other.

I really appreciated how these three women stepped up and supported each other and their children, each learned to roll with their strengths and ask for help with things they didn’t do well. They learned to look past the surface of what a person shows the world and understand each other’s journey so far while encouraging each other in their journeys forward. Communication was tantamount to making this new way of life work and also in holding onto the newly formed friendships. I liked seeing how Libby, Carol and Anna each took their new freedom from their marriage down different paths and how they dealt with the differences between them as they came up.

Each person involved in these three relationships had flaws, likeable and unlikeable character traits and good and bad decision-making skills, this kept things very real and allowed for growth on so many levels. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for any of them, as individuals and as a collective. And as with how it all started with one thing as the catalyst, it all starts to fall apart the same way.

I was happy with the ending for each woman and the choices they made for their futures, and the possibilities that lie ahead for them all.

New Release Book Review: East of Alice by Annie Seaton

This was a really great romantic suspense read by Annie Seaton, I loved journeying to Alice Springs and the East MacDonnell Ranges to Ruby Gap. When I travelled across Australia I made it to Alice and the West MacDonnell Ranges, I didn’t have the right car to go to the East, but I recognised the landscape and the feel of the land, luckily I didn’t come across any criminal goings-on while I was there like the characters in this novel.

The first part of the book is told in two timelines and while I really enjoyed the backstory from the 1800s, I felt it kept pulling me out of the present-day story which annoyed me a bit. I thought Rose was extremely courageous following her husband out to a wild Australia and learning to make a life in such harsh conditions as she encountered in outback Australia at the time. Her story though was a sad one but one she made the most of.

In the present day, we meet Gemma who has returned to The Alice to teach after leaving when her twin brother Ethan disappeared 6 years before. We get a few chapters from Ethan’s story 6 years before that help to uncover the mystery leading up to his disappearance. Also newly returned to The Alice is Saul, Gemma’s ex and Ethan’s best mate.

I enjoyed both the romance aspect and the suspense/mystery aspect of this novel, I liked seeing Gemma and Saul reconnect and Gemma lose her prickliness and let down the walls she’d kept up since her brother’s disappearance and I liked seeing Saul self-assured about his feelings for Gemma and being willing to put himself out there now he had a second chance.

The mystery surrounding Ethan’s disappearance, the rubies which may or may not have been real and the operation which was going on hidden in the remote bush kept me reading, dying to find out what had happened and how it would all play out. I had my suspicions about one of the mysteries and was pleased to know I was right in my thinking, but still unsure how it would play out in the end. Annie Seaton did a good job of melding all the storylines, past and present together and with the aid of a wonderful setting created an engaging story.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

New Release Book Review: A Family’s Trust by Louise Guy

Domestic Noir/thriller/drama isn’t a genre I read a lot of, years ago I did, but these days I limit my reading to just a few select authors. Louise Guy’s newest novel had me completely hooked whilst also being scared to read on because I was so anxious about what was going on for the characters and what would happen next.

Louise Guy has written characters who seemed so real to me that I was drawn into their dramas, their relationships and their emotions as if I actually knew these people, especially Jess and Reeve. It took me a bit longer to relate to Reeve than Jess, but once caught I was horrified at what she was going through with her possible early onset dementia and the repercussions of things she had no knowledge of doing or saying. Jess’s past trauma within the foster system was terrible and it doesn’t help to know that these sorts of things still occur, I liked that Jess as an adult was working in the foster system in order to try to make things better for those going through now. As things in Jess’s past come to light both good and bad secrets are uncovered.

Not only are Jess and Reeve going through their personal dramas but added to that is the passing of Martin and what this means to both women and the consequences of his life and his death.

As the story progressed I began to have a few theories about what was going on and my anxiety ramped up, I wondered if things were going to turn out well or not. While one of my theories was correct, there were many twists in the story that had me thinking ‘oh my god’ quite a few times.

This was a well-written novel with its secrets woven carefully together to create an engaging read that I recommend to anyone who enjoys this genre.

About the book

Family are the ones you can trust…aren’t they?

Reeve Elliot and Jessica Williams are polar opposites. In contrast to Reeve’s privileged upbringing, Jess suffered intense emotional trauma in the foster care system—trauma she’s tried to bury yet has recently come back to haunt her.

As Jess does her best to deal with her past, tragedy shakes the foundations of Reeve’s present. But heartbreak and grief come with a silver lining—the unexpected knowledge she has a half-sister, Jess.

Discovering their biological link, Reeve pushes to form a bond with her sister, a bond tested by Reeve’s unpredictable behaviour and fears she is following in her mother’s footsteps of early-onset-dementia.

But family is everything, and the sisters are committed to supporting each other. However, that’s easier said than done when a large inheritance is at stake, and the lines between greed and family and right and wrong begin to blur.

Someone is lying. Someone is manipulating the truth. But is it one of the sisters? And are they even sisters at all?

New Release Book Review: Outback Skies by Suzanne Cass

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series, though, with the amount of crime and danger the people of Stormcloud Station deal with, I’m kind of glad I don’t work there. In this 6th and final novel in the series, more danger is afoot for one of Stormcloud’s own, Indy and undercover police officer Finn.

Finn and Indy have a connection from their first meeting, though where Finn is completely taken with Indy, Indy herself is a bit on and off about her feelings for Finn to start with. She also makes some decisions due to her being pretty headstrong that place her in unnecessary danger.

Once again Suzanne Cass has created some complex characters with issues they need to deal with and pasts that could come back to bite them. It’s a fast-paced read with plenty of suspense, action and romance. We meet some newcomers on the muster as well as the found family members of Stormcloud who get drawn into the drama of murder and drug running. Who among them can be trusted is the big question that puts some level of fear into them all. The answers show just how far some people will go for money, power or revenge.

I’m sad to say goodbye to the people of Stormcloud, but I enjoyed the epilogue which set the scene for a positive future for all.

New Release Book Review: The Opal Miner’s Daughter by Fiona McArthur

Fiona McArthur has written another wonderful outback romance which encompasses an outback opal mining town full of wonderful Aussie characters.

In this opal mining town of Lightning Ridge, some people live in the hope they will find the perfect opal, some, like Riley’s mum Adelaide, have become hooked on the whole opal mining process and love the freedom digging their mine gives them. I loved that Adelaide after retiring found something that interested her and decided to follow her heart and do something completely out of character; buying a property in Lightning Ridge with a tin shack and an old opal mine. I liked that she didn’t let her husband’s lack of interest stop her, she knew what she needed and she did it, hoping her husband would join her, but unwilling to live a life of boredom to stay with him.

Riley, an obstetrician and fertility specialist decides she needs to talk sense into her mum on behalf of her dad (never a good idea) and takes up a locum position for a month in Lightning Ridge whilst also using it as an opportunity to run fertility clinics for the women in the community and surrounds. Just as there is a lack of medical care and mental health services in the outback, Riley and the local GP Konrad find out just how needed her clinics are and how many families there are who want to start a family, but can’t and have no easy access to a fertility specialist.

Mel, a young local lady who is struggling with PTSD and has been given a safe space to heal and live by Konrad as his medical receptionist, pulled at my heartstrings with her story and her lack of belief in herself. Big changes are underway for her with a surprise pregnancy and unexpected support from the ladies. Riley and Konrad also both play important roles in helping Mel come into her own.

I really like the way Fiona McArthur brings attention to the needs and struggles of these remote communities, I always learn something new when I read her novels.

I really liked local GP Konrad Grey and liked the way Riley and Konrad connected and how they both changed in the short time they knew each other, each allowing the other to see and experience things they had been missing.

The cast of side characters in Lightning Ridge was wonderful, from crusty old Cyrus, a man who seems to have forgotten what personal hygiene is, to Desiree who knows everything that is going on and the ladies of the Friday night get-togethers who are there to support each other and the rest of the community and Toby, a young man who is going through a lot and barely keeping it together. All of these people make for a great read, one I couldn’t put down until the early hours of the morning.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.