2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · romance · rural fiction

Book Review: The Long Paddock by Alissa Callen

Title: The Long Paddocklong paddock small

Author:  Alissa Callen

Published: January 23rd 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia

Pages: 352

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Australian, Rural, Romace

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

A captivating love story about community and second chances.

Country-girl Cressida Knight fills her days with her farm, a mischievous pet bull called Reggie and her volunteer emergency services work. The busier she keeps, the less she thinks about the cowboy who left her behind. She’s convinced the small-town Woodlea grapevine that she’s moved on, but now it’s time to move on for real. 

Champion bull rider Denham Rigby shares Cressy’s deep love for the land and all he’s ever wanted was to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Cressy through life. But three years ago a dark family secret left him no choice but to run. Now family duty gives him no choice but to return to the bush.

What Denham hasn’t come home to do is to hurt Cressy by rekindling their relationship. He’s nothing but a liability and the beautiful, self-reliant cowgirl has to stay off limits. But when faced with Cressy’s desperation to save her drought-stricken farm, he can’t keep his distance. He joins her out droving on the long paddock. Then when Woodlea is hit by more than just rodeo fever, they are further thrown together and Denham loses the battle to lock down his emotions.

But has he left it too late to stop running? And will the woman he’s always loved be prepared to risk her heart for a second time?

My review:

A pro bull rider and a cattle farmer come together, along with a menagerie of farm animals with big personalities, in Australian rural fiction author Alissa Callen’s latest novel, The Long Paddock. Drawing from her first hand knowledge of life on the land, Callen presents her audience with a new tale woven around love, secrets and the strength of the human spirit. All this falls under the backdrop of a sometimes inhospitable region located in the fictional town of Woodlea, NSW, in rural Australia.

Cressida (Cressy) Knight is a strong young woman, who is utterly devoted to her family’s farm. Cressy is proud of the fact that her family have owned their property of Glenmore for generations. A lack of rain in the region has led to extreme drought and this has forced Cressy for find an alternative for her cattle to survive. As well as working tirelessly on Glenmore, Cressy does her bit for the local community, volunteering where and when she can as an SES officer. Cressy also fills her days with her love for the animals that live with her on her property. These include a larger than life bull named Reggie and a cheeky kelpie named Tippy, along with many other farm animals that reside with her on Glenmore. Three years ago, Cressy lost Denham Rigby, her love interest and neighbour from an adjoining property, after Denham decided to embark on a professional career in America as a fully fledged bull rider. Now Denham returns to take the reins of his family’s property. Cressy has resigned herself to the fact that she will not get drawn in again to a relationship with Denham. Meanwhile, Denham holds a dark secret close to his chest and this secret is what keeps him from rekindling his love for Cressy. However, in the fight to save her family farm from downfall, Cressy leans on Denham in more ways than one.

I really liked this story from Alisa Callen, an author who ranks highly on my list of favourite Australian rural fiction authors. The Long Paddock is now the fourth book I have read from this author and I have to say I have enjoyed each book. The Long Paddock is no exception.

Reading the author’s note at the back of this novel gave me a solid background to Alissa Callen as a writer. She is a country based author, who draws from her daily experiences of working on her own family farm. This first-hand knowledge comes across very clearly in her plotlines, which are injected with a strong dose of realism.

Whilst the romance side of The Long Paddock is not the main focus of the story, it is still obvious. Cressy and Denham have an interesting back history together, which Callen explores well in her novel. The re-entry of Denham to Cressy’s life, adds complications and angst to the mix. Their feelings for one another have clearly not been put to rest. The chemistry between the two leads sizzles at every opportunity in The Long Paddock. It is a book high in unresolved sexual tension, which occurs in each instance these two characters interact. The use of a deep seated family secret which has drawn Denham away from Cressy was an interesting one and played out well in this story. I’m still not quite sure though it was powerful enough to draw Denham so far away from Cressy.

The characters are all larger than life in The Long Paddock. Starting with the leads, Cressy and Denham, both these protagonists are ironed out cleanly. As a result, the reader is easily able to appreciate their good qualities, flaws and insecurities. Cressy is a well formed character, we quickly come to understand just how independent she is through her work on her farm and her volunteer SES role. We also learn Cressy has a vulnerable side and that she still holds deep feelings for Denham, despite her attempts to deny the fact. Denham is much more complex. I found him harder to understand, particularly the big secret, which he uses as a reason for not reuniting with Cressy. Nevertheless, Denham is an adventurous lead through his work as a champion bull rider. Denham’s sense of danger in combination with his somewhat tortured soul makes him an attractive hero.

The supporting cast in The Long Paddock are definitely worth a mention or two. From the many neighbours and community members of the small town Woodlea, where our leads reside, they combine to show us the level of resilience that exists in these communities. The downside to small town life is touched on by Callen, when she explores the power of the rumour mill in country towns. Despite this obvious negative aspect of small town rural life, the way in which the community bands together in times of need, surpasses the drawbacks of this way of life.

It is worth mentioning the wonderful animals that populate the pages of The Long Paddock. Cressy’s farm is packed full to the brim which some unforgettable animals. I enjoyed reading the passages in the book featuring Cressy’s cockatoo, bull and faithful kelpie. I don’t think I have quite come across a set of animals with so much character for some time in a book. It certainly made this book more memorable!

Drought, hardship and the mental stresses in dealing with a dependence on the country elements is what resonated with me most about this story. Callen presents her reader with an inspired fiction novel that links a romantic second chance rural love story, with the realism associated with life in our country regions of Australia. It has cemented my resolve to continue to read more releases from the author of The Long Paddock, Alissa Callen.

 

The Long Paddock by Alissa Callen was published on January 23rd 2017 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of The Long Paddock, Alissa Callen visit here.

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