Title: Lawson’s Bend
Author: Nicole Hurley-Moore
Published: February 4th 2019
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Rural, Mystery, Crime, Suspense
Rating: 4.5 stars
For a long time Lawson’s Bend had held little for Henny. Almost ten years ago she’d got out and vowed never to come back. But sometimes things change . . .
In the hot summer of 2008, Henny Bolton loses her best friend on a night they should have been celebrating their futures. It’s a loss about which she remains grief-stricken.
Right after the accident, Henny flees the small country town and true to her word, she’s not been back.
Stephen Drake never left Lawson’s Bend. He once had ambitions for a different life but staying close to family became more important after that tragic night.
But when Henny’s mother dies suddenly in a fall near the old quarry, and Henny is forced to return to Lawson’s Bend, it’s apparent that questions need to be asked. Was it really an accident?
Her plan was to get out of town again as quickly as possible. But then there is Stephen . . .
‘It was a pretty place, nestled between rolling hills, long paddocks and vineyards, but to Henny, once you looked past the aesthetics there was a feeling of perpetual loss hanging over it like a great dark cloud.’
Nicole Hurley-Moore has well and truly settled herself into my list of go-to Australian rural fiction authors. With each new release, Nicole Hurley-Moore seems to be going from strength to strength, honing in on her excellent penmanship and producing a novel the tops her previous one. Lawson’s Bend is her latest and greatest creation. It is a novel that ricochets with suspense, mystery and intrigue. I loved it!
Meet Henny Bolton, the narrator of Nicole Hurley-Moore’s fifth rural fiction release. Back in 2008, Henny received a devastating blow. Henny lost her best friend unexpectedly and in a tragic set of circumstances. We learn that Henny has been unable to shift her grief since she lost her friend. Lawson’s Bend, Henny’s home and the place that defines her grief, is also where Stephen Drake resides. Stephen has remained loyal to Lawson’s Bend, choosing to stay put and support his family in light of the tragic loss that has defined this region. However, things come to head for Henny when she loses her mother. Her death is explained as a sudden accident, which took place near an old quarry, but Henny has her doubts. It also forces Henny to return to the place that has delivered so much emotional anguish over the years. Henny cannot ignore her suspicions and she returns to Lawson’s Bend on a mission to uncover what really happened to both her mother and her best friend, roping Stephen Drake in for the duration. Lawson’s Bend is a book about reconnecting with your roots, overcoming pain, seeking retribution and making plans for the future.
I always feel excited going into a brand new rural fiction novel, it is a little like making the move from the city to the country – but without the actual hassle! In reading Lawson’s Bend, I made the move from coastal city based Perth, to rural Victoria and the fictional town depicted in Nicole Hurley-Moore’s absorbing new novel.
Just like entering a new town after a move, it was great to be acquainted with two highly appealing leads. Henny is a character that I was immediately able to relate, sympathise and connect to. Henny’s predicament, both in the past and the present day, is incredibly sad. She has suffered a great deal of emotional anguish and we learn she has not dealt with the grief over losing her best friend, which occurred some years ago now. This emotional pain has wrenched her from her home town and she has been unable to reconnect with Lawson’s Bend since this shock loss. Another blow, in the form of her mother’s death, in accidental circumstances, sends Henny spiralling into both grief and anger. Henny wants answers, which is perfectly understandable. I felt the moments where Nicole Hurley-Moore had to embody Henny’s thoughts and feelings were the places where she shows her strength as a writer.
Grief is a major theme of this novel, it underpins much of the central direction of the story. This theme is handled expertly and in a perceptive tone by Nicole Hurley-Moore. I felt like Nicole Hurley-Moore was able to encapsulate the immense feelings experienced by Henny, in the wake of the loss of her mother, whilst she was still trying to find a way to move on from her best friend’s death.
‘Turning off the ignition, she sat back in her seat and tried to work up the courage to get out. She half expected to see her mother walk out of the blue door, lean on the verandah rail and wave to her, just like she’d done every afternoon of Henny’s childhood. But that wasn’t going to happen – it was never going to happen again. That damn lump in her throat started to form and Henny made herself swallow hard in an attempt to keep it at bay.’
Stephen, the male lead of Lawson’s Bend, is such a genuine man and a true Mr Nice Guy, who seems just right for Henny – if only she would let him in. He is loyal, perceptive and supportive. I enjoyed uncovering his own back story and I appreciated his interactions with Henny. I lapped up the dialogue and interactions in Lawson’s Bend, they were superbly presented by Nicole Hurley-Moore. The supporting cast also compliment the storyline and a result, we get lots of interesting interludes. Nicole Hurley-Moore also does an excellent job of portraying the small town connected living and consciousness exuded by the population of Lawson’s Bend. This was another favoured aspect of my response to this novel.
I was actually very fortunate to have met the author of Lawson’s Bend, Nicole Hurley Moore, at the West Coast Fiction Festival late last year. One of the things we chatted about was Lawson’s Bend and the level of suspense that underlines this new novel, it is much more concentrated than previous novels from Moore. I do hope this is just the start of more books to feature romantic suspense from Nicole Hurley-Moore. I felt she got the tone and intrigue level just right. I was enthralled and puzzled from the first, to the last page, which is always a good sign. I think readers will respond to the suspense moments in the Lawson’s Bend with open arms. I loved how the storyline in this area was almost gritty and meaty, while at the same time highlighting some serious issues at stake in small rural locales. I had my suspicions, but the big showdown at the end is a real treat for readers!
I am yet to mention the romance factor, but I found this part of the novel to be just to my taste. The romance the follows Henny and Stephen is more of a second chance, old friends to lovers style love story. The relationship is more about taking steps to embrace love and trust. This is my favourite style of romance and it worked within the context of the main events of Lawson’s Bend. It did leave me with a lovely warm feeling of hope by the time I finished the last sentence.
Nicole Hurley-Moore has once again proved to me that she is a trusted figure in the world of Australian rural fiction. Lawson’s Bend delivers on all fronts, providing readers with the ideal mix of small town intricacies, mystery and a hearty romance. I am hoping we can expect plenty more to come from one of my favourite Australian rural fiction novelists, Nicole Hurley-Moore.
Lawson’s Bend by Nicole Hurley-Moore was published on 4th February 2019 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Lawson’s Bend, Nicole Hurley-Moore, visit here.
*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Lawson’s Bend is book #24 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge