2018 Reviews · Australian · dual time frame · Guest Review · historical fiction · Mrs R Review · rural fiction

Guest Book Review: Willow Tree Bend by Kaye Dobbie

Title: Willow Tree Bendwillow tree bend small

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: September 18th 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia

Pages: 368

Genres:  Fiction, Historical, Romance

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

An interrupted phone call and a mysterious disappearance brings a family’s secret past crashing into the present…

It’s 1969 and small-town girl Faith Taylor longs for the excitement of the city. Leaving her family home in Willow Tree Bend, Faith lands a job at The Angel — Melbourne’s most infamous nightclub. While Faith relishes her new-found freedom, she can’t help but notice that there are some things about the club that don’t add up. So when a policeman shows her a shocking photograph, and reveals that a former waitress was murdered, Faith realises she must help to bring down the shadowy owner behind the club’s activities.

More than thirty years later, what happened at The Angel remains a closely held secret, never spoken about. When Faith disappears, her sister Hope — now a famous movie star — is left with an intriguing, though frustrating, piece of the puzzle. But with a tell-all documentary film crew constantly by her side, how can she find where Faith is — and what she’s hiding — while making sure her own secrets stay hidden?

Faith’s daughter, Sam, is also concerned by her mother’s uncharacteristic behaviour. When she overhears a clue to Faith’s past, she’s determined to unearth the truth. What is the connection between The Angel and Willow Tree Bend? What does Faith’s disappearance mean? And what will happen when the final secret is revealed?

Mrs R’s review:

Willow Tree Bend is the latest historical fiction book by Aussie author, Kaye Dobbie. The beautiful cover got my attention initially as I was intrigued to know who this girl was and what was willow tree bend. Add to that it is by one of my many favourite authors and it was a must buy. From the opening chapter set in New York 2000, I was pulled into the lives of the three Taylor women; Faith, Hope and Sam. Told in alternating chapters in Victoria, Faith and Hope tell their side in the third person while Sam tells hers in the first person. While I usually feel a closer connection in the first person, I still got to know Faith and Hope surprisingly well.

Through Faith, Kaye explores the dark and seedy side of the swinging sixties. I enjoyed getting to walk in Faith’s shoes as she moves from the country to the city of Melbourne with big hopes and dreams. I felt myself become immersed in another decade as I read the detailed descriptions of the clothes and lifestyle. Kaye accurately portrays just how difficult and lonely it can be trying to make a living in a new place despite the perceived glamour. Faith is charmingly innocent and naive at the start of her new life in a night club that has its deadly secrets. So, it was a joy watching her grow into a strong woman who wanted to help others despite the danger it presented to herself. What she did to help her cousin, Kitty, was extremely brave and courageous. I’m not sure how many people could do just what Faith did, especially with the secrets and repercussions that will stretch for decades.

Faith’s sister Hope provides insight into the life of the rich and famous in the year 2000. A movie star on the downhill, she returns home to shoot a doco that will hopefully put her back in the spotlight. It was fascinating seeing the two personas of Hope as she turned from movie star, to country girl and back again in the blink of an eye. The doco provides its own sets of problems as it attempts to dig up the dirt on the Taylor family that Hope has kept hidden over the years. The years and distance has caused its own problems within the Taylor family too. For Hope, the big one is that she barely knows her niece, Sam, and needs to build a relationship from scratch.

The character of 29 year old Sam lets Kaye explores life in rural Victoria. I liked getting to feed the animals with Sam’s farm, create garden landscapes with her and get to know the gorgeous Lincoln. Country life is definitely not for me but I don’t mind living vicariously through a book character! I can only imagine what Sam goes through with Faith disappearance. With no explanation, just a note, for her father, Joe. I was proud of how she held herself together and got on with life the best she could under the circumstances. I also admired Sam’s detective skills as she tried put the pieces of the puzzles together of what happened to her mother with the little clues she gleamed. When they did come together, I was surprised but also a little disappointed at the lack of originality. It feels that this secret is starting to be done a little too often in books set in the 1950s and 1960s.

What are the family secrets?

Willow Tree Bend by Kaye Dobbie was published on 18th September 2017 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Willow Tree Bend, Kaye Dobbie, visit here.

Willow Tree Bend is book #2 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge


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