One heartbroken woman. One bitter cop. One community to save them.
After the tragic death of her husband, single mum Isabelle Cassidy is bereft and broke. When she hears about The Peppercorn Project – a scheme that offers affordable rent in the tiny but vibrant town of Stony Creek – Issie sees it as her family’s best chance at a fresh start.
Newly single police officer Matt Robertson moved to Stony Creek to lick his wounds after a bitter divorce. Wanting only peace and quiet, Matt is against the Project, seeing it as a threat to the peace he’s found in the country town – until he meets Issie. Despite himself, Matt is drawn to the widow and feels inexplicably protective of her fragile family.
Just when Issie begins to imagine a future with Matt, an accident proves how far she has to go before she can move beyond her grief. But the citizens of Stony Creek won’t rest until they see these two broken souls find a new beginning, together.
Can Issie move beyond the pain of her past and entrust Matt with her family, and her heart?
A gorgeous rural romance for fans of Fiona McArthur, Rachael Johns and Fiona McCallum.
As much as I enjoyed the storyline, characters and the setting of The Peppercorn Project, I simply loved the concept behind this book. It was a refreshing take on the usual sea change style, city to country style books that are from the same genre as this novel. The Peppercorn Project is a community based incentive scheme, which encourages struggling families to make a fresh start in a country town location, by providing with them with a house with low-cost rent. In Australian author Nicki Edwards’ novel, we meet the Cassidy family, who at the opening of The Peppercorn Project suffer a terrible loss. Six months later, they find themselves in the tiny South Australian town of Stony Creek, making a submission with twenty other families, to be a part of the Peppercorn Project.
After a not so successful first interview, Isabelle Cassidy and her two children feel they have blown their chances of making a fresh start in Stony Creek. However, they are thrown a lifeline and are selected as one of four successful families to make the move to Stony Creek, obtaining a lucrative Peppercorn Project deal. Isabelle and her family initially find the transition to small town country life hard but time and the help of locals, sees the family soon find their feet. The Cassidy’s move is coincidentally timed with a peak in drug use in the tiny town of Stony Creek. This leads locals to point their suspicions at the newcomers, including the Cassidy family. With the help of local police officer Matt, the Cassidy’s prove their worth in their new home.
The Peppercorn Project signals my introduction to writing of Nicki Edwards. As a fan of Australian rural fiction, I will be sure to turn to Edwards’ backlist, as soon as possible after reading this fantastic novel. I really enjoyed this novel from cover to cover. The opening was overwhelmingly emotional, it definitely had me turning to the tissues. Although the prologue of the novel was upsetting, it was a necessary part of the story. The story that follows provides insight into the process of grief, experienced by both a spouse and child. Edwards looks at the inability to move on from a tragic loss, the financial burden and lifestyle changes that result from loss. She handles these issues with sensitivity and a clear sense of understanding of this difficult subject. There are other subplots that play out during The Peppercorn Project. Edwards examines a very topical and hard-hitting issue that in this current age, I feel is essential ground to cover. The town of Stony Creek, like many thousands of towns across Australia, is directly affected by the ice epidemic. Again, Edwards treats this topic with a deft hand, by focussing on the impact this drug has on small country town environments. Connected to this story thread is a line of mystery/suspense. This gives Matt, the main male protagonist and local police officer, an opportunity to put his detective skills to work, as he tries to discover the culprit of the drug distribution in the town. My only niggle with the book was at this point, as I felt that the culprit of this book has some unexplained issues as to why they were engaging in such an act, I really wanted to know more about side interesting side story!
In terms of characterisation, I did connect to Isabelle, the main protagonist. I genuinely felt her journey deeply, as well as her children’s, which was explored well by Edwards. The romance side of the novel is more of a simmering style. It felt more one-sided for half of the book but once both the characters were able to put their issues aside, it blossomed into a sweet romance. My final word on The Peppercorn Project has to end with the setting, I really enjoyed being a part of the South Australian community of Stony Creek. The setting is described superbly by Nicki Edwards, it just made me want to visit this unfamiliar–to- me part of country South Australia.
Nicki Edwards has definitely gained a new fan. The Peppercorn Project a fantastic example of Australian small town fiction. It was an immensely enjoyable read that I am happy to recommend.