2017 Reviews · Australian · historical fiction · romance

Book Review: The Cedar Cutter by Tea Cooper

Title: The Cedar Cuttercedar

Author: Tea Cooper

Published: August 1st 2016

Publisher: Harlequin Books (MIRA)

Pages: 400

Genres:  Fiction, Historical, Australian, Romance

RRP: $22.49

Rating: 4 stars

From the bestselling author of The Horse Thief comes a historical story of love, intrigue and danger in the majestic cedar forests of the Hunter Valley.
Even if time heals all wounds, you still bear the scars…

Wollombi: 1855. When Roisin Ogilvie moves to Wollombi her thoughts are only of protecting her illegitimate son, Ruan, from the grasps of his powerful and dangerous father. Posing as an impoverished widow, she settles into a quiet existence as a local dressmaker. She doesn’t expect to catch the attention of Irish champion cedar cutter Carrick O’Connor, or any other man for that matter.

Carrick O’Connor may have won the coveted Wollombi Wood Chop, but his mind is on the beautiful seamstress and her son. Or rather, on who they remind him of. Determined to exact revenge for the horrors of his past, Carrick plans to return to Ireland to seek revenge on the land agent who was responsible for the death of his wife and child, and his transportation. Then, hopefully, he can return to Wollombi to start life afresh.

But a murder charge, a kidnapping, a growing attraction, and a past that refuses to stay silent will turn both his and Roisin’s lives upside down and will lead them to a hard choice. Redemption? Or cutters’ justice?

My review:

I have to concur with the statement that adorns the back cover of The Cedar Cutter by Tea Cooper. It reads as follows, “A stunning new novel from the bestselling author of The Horse Thief”.  The Cedar Cutter, as well as Cooper’s previous novel, The Horse Thief are both stunning reads. For those who love Australian historical fiction, this novel will sit very nicely in your hands.

It was initially interesting to discover from the historical note contained at the close of The Cedar Cutter that the inspiration for this book was sparked by a photograph located at the author’s local museum. This photograph of three larkakins observing a large cedar tree that had been chopped down, played an integral role in Cooper’s decision to write a novel revolving around the story of a cedar cutter. Cooper’s novel is the story of a champion cedar cutter from Ireland, Carrick O’Connor, who comes to Australia’s shores to through transportation, escaping the loss of his family. Carrick is a man haunted by his past, as his wife and son died at the hands of a man back in Ireland whom he seeks to enact revenge on. When Roisin Ogilvie and her young son Ruan make the move to Wollombi, they cross paths with Carrick. Immediately, something in both Roisin and Ruan reminds Carrick of the family. For Roisin, her attraction to Carrick is a dangerous one, as her dark past and a secret surrounding Ruan’s legitimacy stands in the way of any chance this couple has at happiness.

The Cedar Cutter was a novel I thoroughly enjoyed and I devoured the novel in just two days. For a start, The Cedar Cutter is my kind of novel. I love the genre of Australian historical fiction and the era in which the novel is set, the 1800’s, fascinates me. To discover that the main idea for this book was inspired by the author’s discovery of an old photograph, depicting a typical set of cedar cutters ,was equally compelling. These ingredients certainly set me on the path to enjoyment.

Cooper works hard at bringing her era, as well as setting alive for her audience. The research Cooper has undertaken to inform her novel is crystal clear. Although I have not had the opportunity to visit the region in which The Cedar Cutter is set, the Hunter Valley, Cooper’s writing made me feel like I was amongst the people, places and the very heart of the locale. It also enticed me to pay a visit to this region at some point in the future.

Cooper contrasts life as a cedar cutter through the character of Carrick, to life as a widow with little means by inserting the protagonist of Roisin as the central figure. I felt a strong sense of empathy towards the character of Roisin. The passages focussed in on Roisin trying to make a living from her talents as a dressmaker in a new town were of particular interest to me. Both Roisin and Carrick have compelling individual stories, which unfurl as the narrative progresses. Their back stories are full of unfairness, tragedy and heartbreak. The insertion of a particular bad character adds a sense of danger and fear, giving this story greater depth.  Cooper does ensure there are opportunities for new love and hope for these two characters and the end result was to my full satisfaction.

Tea Cooper has penned another winning title with her historical fiction novel, The Cedar Cutter. It is a novel that gave me great pleasure in reading, due to the developing romance, the appealing setting, as well as the chance to learn about the trade of cedar cutters in the 1800’s.

The Cedar Cutter by Tea Cooper was published in August 2016 by Harlequin Books (MIRA). Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.



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