#aww2019 · Australian · contemporary fiction · new release · romance · rural fiction

New Release Book Review: Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell

Title: Wildflower Ridgewildflower ridge small

Author: Maya Linnell

Published: June 3rd 2019

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 384

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Rural

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

Four sisters, one farm and a second chance at following your heart

Penny McIntyre loves her life as an ambitious city professional, with a marketing team at her fingertips and a promotion just within reach. So when she’s floored by a mystery illness, and ordered back to the family farm for three months’ rest and recuperation, she is horrified to find her perfect life imploding. 

Within days, Penny has to leave her much-loved job, her live-in boyfriend, and her beloved city apartment … to return to the small country town in which she grew up. Back to her dad and three sisters, one of whom has never forgiven her for abandoning her family. And to her ex-boyfriend, Tim Patterson, who was the biggest reason she ran away in the first place. 

When Penny’s father is injured in a farming accident and Tim campaigns to buy the property, she must choose between the city life she loves and the farming dream she buried long ago. 

Wildflower Ridge is rural fiction straight from the heart.

Review:

Wildflower Ridge is a 2019 Allen and Unwin publication from Maya Linnell, a former rural journalist. This debut novel from an exciting new voice, is a very fine example of authentic and true rural fiction fare. It is a story that stresses the importance of following your heart, resurrecting long held dreams and connecting with your family roots, especially in the wake of a crisis. A book of love, life, friendship, community and hard yakka, Wildflower Ridge is a wonderful introductory novel from an emerging writer.

At the heart of Wildflower Ridge is Penny McIntyre, an enterprising young woman who has carved out a successful career in the city, which is far removed from her upbringing and former life in the country. Penny is so close to clinching a major deal and promotion within her marketing team role. However, things quickly spiral out of Penny’s control when she collapses at work, due to an unknown illness. She is ordered to take a complete break from her demanding and stressful role. A trip back to her family’s country farm is what the doctor orders. But Penny is worried about leaving her city life behind, including her lucrative marketing position and her boyfriend. When Penny returns to the country she faces a mixed bag of reactions. While her father is happy she is home, one of Penny’s sisters cannot contain her anger. She makes Penny’s return difficult, but Penny cannot understand why her sister is so pent up about her homecoming. Penny also faces outside issues. Her former boyfriend Tim, a man she has tried hard to forget, is back in her life. Tim has been working alongside Penny’s father on the farm and he makes his interest known in owning their family farm. When Penny’s father has to take a step back from the farming operations, this becomes even more pressing. Penny faces a difficult bind, although she loves her family home, she has worked hard to build a life for herself in the city, can she throw it all away for the sake of saving her family’s livelihood?

Australian rural fiction has gone from strength to strength over the years, building upon its popularity with readers. There are a number of key figures in the rural fiction field that continue to contribute to this enjoyable genre. It brings me great pleasure to introduce to a brand new voice in this category of Australian fiction. Maya Linnell is not an inexperienced writer by any means. Linnell’s background as a former rural journalist and her work as a blogger for Romance Writers Australia has put her in good standing to produce a new rural fiction novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am very much looking forward to what the future holds for this talented  new author.

Penny is a fabulous lead, I need to say that first! She experiences the great highs and lows of her career, home life, love life and health issues. I thought Maya Linnell painted all these aspects of Penny’s life with plenty of authenticity and empathy. I really felt bad for Penny as she was almost forced to abandon a life she had worked so hard to attain and return back to the country. Penny’s tussle between her obvious love for her ambitious city life, as opposed to the comforts of country home life, was handled well by Linnell. As I have lived in the suburbs my whole life I have never had to face this particular life decision, but Maya Linnell allows the reader to snuggle right into Penny’s shoes for the duration of the novel. This experience broadened my mind and enhanced my response to the novel.

There is a big focus on family dynamics in this story. Linnell explores the McIntyre family’s history, which is defined by past hurts, sibling arguments, accusations and strong reactions. This aspect of Wildflower Ridge definitely kept me on my toes. There is a tragic back story involving Penny’s family and the sense of loss that follows this aspect of the story was covered well by Linnell.

Romance is just a side step in Wildflower Ridge. I felt that Linnell allowed the other more pressing aspects of the novel take centre stage, such as Penny’s health crisis and the immediate threat to the family farm. The romance has a nice second chance love tone to it. The added complication of Penny’s not so likeable city based boyfriend adds further complications to the romance at hand. I am sure rural romance fans will lap up the love story in this novel, it is full of heart.

Maya Linnell’s understanding and expertise in the way of rural property operations, with a particular emphasis on farming, is a standout feature in this novel. It is a pleasure to come away from a rural fiction novel with an increased understanding and a sense of appreciation for the hard work our farmers put in to keep their operations ticking over. This is the case in Wildflower Ridge, when a particular incident occurs, the immediate community and family bands together to ensure things stay afloat. On a side note, I loved the quirky sayings the characters came up with during these farming sequences!

Wildflower Ridge is a comfortable read from start to finish. This brand new rural fiction novel is told with plenty of heart and lashings of authenticity. Wildflower Ridge is a really wonderful place to start your Australian rural romance journey, and I do hope this is just the start of plenty of upcoming releases from Maya Linnell.

Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell was published on 3rd June 2019 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Wildflower Ridge, Maya Linnell, visit here.

*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Wildflower Ridge is book #84 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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