The sequel to the much-loved Wattle Creek.
Former city girl Jacqueline Havelock, Wattle Creek’s newly arrived psychologist, has settled in to country life and is slowly coming to terms with the town’s quirky ways. Farmer Damien McAllister’s plans with his animal welfare venture are falling into place nicely and it finally feels like he has a future to look forward to.
But everything can change as quickly as the fickle weather – and it does. A fire challenges the community and soon Damien and Jacqueline find themselves in a situation neither had anticipated. But is their growing relationship also under threat?
Although the town comes out in support of their newest resident, is the Wattle Creek community strong enough to stand together and win this David and Goliath battle? And could happily-ever-after still be possible for Damien and Jacqueline?
I recently read Fiona McCallum’s Wattle Creek, in preparation for reading her latest book and the much awaited sequel to Wattle Creek, titled Standing Strong. It was a great feeling to be given the opportunity to return to a fictional town I love, through the experience of reading Standing Strong.
The action in Standing Strong immediately picks up where it concluded in Wattle Creek. City come country psychologist and Wattle Creek’s newest resident, Jacqueline Havelock, finds herself in a pickle. She has fallen hard for one of her former patient’s, Damien McAllister. Damien also feels the same way about Jacqueline and it seems like love is blossoming, much to the delight of the townsfolk of Wattle Creek. Damien and Jacqueline’s happiness is short lived when Jacqueline discovers she has broken strict rules in her position. These binding rules prevent her from having a relationship with a former patient for a period of 24 months, after the termination of their last session. As much as Damien feels Jacqueline is the woman for him, he realises what an asset she is to the town of Wattle Creek. He makes the extremely hard decision to end their relationship, before it really hits the ground. Jacqueline is devastated but she acknowledges that Damien has saved her from throwing years of study away. While battling a broken heart, Jacqueline is dealt another blow, when an anonymous tip is sent to the Psychology of Board of Australia. An unknown source has informed them of Jacqueline’s relationship with Damien. Jacqueline must gather all the strength she can to fight her way back to credibility. In the meantime, Damien also faces his own personal battle in dealing with his new career path and balancing issues with his family.
Standing Strong is a worthy follow up to an earlier Fiona McCallum release, Wattle Creek. Though it is not entirely essential that you read Wattle Creek to enjoy Standing Strong, reading the two novels back to back enhanced my reading experience. I liked being transported back into the town of Wattle Creek. By the time I reached Standing Strong, these characters began to feel like old friends. McCallum always does a fine job with her characters, creating main protagonists that we can easily draw comparisons from, despite not living in a rural situation. While reading Standing Strong, I enjoyed being provided with the opportunity to get to know both Damien and Jacqueline in more detail. Standing Strong also allows McCallum to explore of her main character’s background, by shining the spotlight on story threads involving their respective families. I liked the introduction of Damien’s sister Lucy and I did feel like she was left with some loose threads at the close of Standing Strong. Perhaps in the future, McCallum will give Lucy her own story and happy ending! The main conflict in Standing Strong was a realistic and emotional one. It did tug at my heartstrings many times. McCallum also uses Standing Strong as a platform to highlight issues that are relevant to country based communities, such as Damien’s venture into wildlife rescue and the lack of mental health care facilities in rural areas. McCallum always works hard at recreating the most realistic country settings as she can in her novels and Standing Strong is no exception. The use of periphery characters such as Aunt Ethel, serves to highlight how strong the community spirit and banding together really is in these rural locations of Australia.
Fans of Fiona McCallum are in for a treat with Standing Strong and new readers to this genre are in safe hands with McCallum’s writing. Standing Strong is a loveable country story that takes the reader on an emotional journey, with characters that will be sure to stay in your heart.