Title: The Lawson Sisters
Author: Janet Gover
Published: January 20th 2020
Publisher: Mira – AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
A heartfelt and compelling story of family, secrets and second chances, set in the heart of the beautiful Hunter Valley of NSW, from an award-winning new voice in Australian fiction.
Family, fortune and holding on to what counts…
For many years Elizabeth Lawson has battled single-handedly to run the family’s historic horse stud in memory of her beloved father. But a devastating loss puts her dreams at risk. With no options left, Liz is forced to turn to her estranged sister Kayla for help.
Kayla has built a new life in the city as a wedding planner, far removed from the stableyard sweat and dust of her rural upbringing. She never thought she’d go back. But when Liz calls out of the blue, Kayla forms a plan that could save their childhood home.
Kayla’s return forces Liz to confront her past … and her future, in the shape of Mitch, her first and only love, who still watches over her from the other side of the creek.
But Liz still hides a terrible secret. When Kayla learns the truth, will the Lawson sisters find common ground or will their conflict splinter the family once again?
The Lawson Sisters by Janet Gover is a stirring family drama, set to a spectacular rural stage. The Lawson Sisters represents the writer’s thirteenth publication, with eleven of these books under her name Janet Gover and two others released as Juliet Bell. This involving new novel from Gover explores the intricacies of a broken family unit, the estranged relationship between two sisters, long held guilt and the financial pressures of keeping a rural horse stud afloat. The Lawson Sisters is an exceptional read from cover to cover.
The Lawson Sisters is a consuming family drama about loyalty, changed fortunes and promises. It revolves around Elizabeth (Liz) Lawson, a hardworking woman, who has toiled for years on her own two feet trying to keep her family’s precious horse stud and accompanying homestead afloat. Liz made a pact with her father many years ago, before he passed away, that she would always keep Willowbrook, the family’s historic horse stud in their name. Liz’s father was very clear about not selling any of the family land off. However, Willowbrook falls on tough times, Liz is confronted with the harsh reality that she may have to sell off the family land to survive. Liz’s last and only lifeline is her sister Kayla, who she reluctantly turns to for help in a last ditch attempt to save Willowbrook. For Kayla Lawson, life has taken a very different turn. She doesn’t live in or near Willowbrook, instead she has built a life for herself in the big smoke as a successful wedding planner. It takes some convincing, but eventually Kayla manages to get Liz’s blessing to open up Willowbrook to a different form of business and this could be the plan that saves the Lawson family home. Not only does Kayla’s presence at Willowbrook signal an opportunity for the two sisters to mend broken bridges, it forces Liz to confront a long held feud she has with Mitch, Willowbrook’s neighbour, and the man who once held Liz’s heart. The Lawson Sisters unveils a story of closely held secrets, lost love, the fight to survive and family relations.
Janet Gover’s new novel is a story of second chances and family estrangement, set to a rich Australian platform. I formed an immediate connection to The Lawson Sisters and my interest level remained at a constant high for the duration of the story.
The Lawson Sisters is based around the strained relationship between two sisters, Kayla and Liz, who suffered the double loss of both their parents, twelve years prior to when the book is set. The accident that robbed the Lawson girls of their dear parents has resulted in a long standing estrangement between the sisters. Kayla has forged a new life for herself in the city, working as a top wedding planner, while Liz remained home, running the family’s historic hose stud on her own. These two sisters are contrasted, both in their personalities and priorities. Gover does an excellent job in the characterisation department with these two, I thought they came across as deeply authentic and well rendered. This also goes for Mitch, Willowbrook’s neighbour and Liz’s former love. Gover rounds The Lawson Sisters off with an exceptional secondary cast. I loved that the horses present in this book had a big stage presence. This aspect of the book will be sure to appeal to horse lovers.
I’m not going to shy away from the issue that Liz is incredibly hard to like. She is standoffish, selfish, single minded, stuck in her ways, angry and she is filled with guilt, as well as pity. However, I could see why Liz behaved in the way she did, it was a protective barrier of sorts, to push people away and remain distanced, in an attempt not to get close to anyone. Liz is a broken soul, consumed by the need to honour a promise she made to her father and the guilt she carries over the incident that resulted in the loss of her parents. It takes some time and I almost couldn’t understand how Liz could go on for so long (12 years), with all those pent up emotions. However, the journey made to eventual acceptance and second chance love, as well as a repaired relationship with her sister is well worth the investment as a reader.
For those who enjoy a rural atmosphere, The Lawson Sisters will bring you much joy. I am yet to get to the upper Hunter region, the area in which The Lawson Sisters is set, which sounds very picturesque and inviting. I hope to get to the area one day in the future. Gover certainly provides a convincing case for the reader to take a sojourn to the Scone region, where the fictional Willowbrook property is set. What a shame this locale is a fictional representation! I think I would be unable to leave if this place existed, it was magical!
The business of horses plays a significant part in The Lawson Sisters. Although I loved riding horses as a teen, I have not been able to extend this interest in my adult life. However, I do really enjoy reading stories about horses. Liz has a very special connection with her horse stud and its inhabitants, which I appreciated reading. The way in which this segment of the story is presented by Gover is very enticing, as well as insightful.
I really enjoyed the format of The Lawson Sisters, the story flipped between Liz, Kayla and Mitch. This is interchanged with events in the present day, along with flashbacks that eventually lead up to the revelation of the secret Liz is holding. This was a clever narrative device that encouraged me to turn page after page in fervor. I also liked the inclusion of Kayla’s profession as a wedding planner, it worked really well for this story. The end was a happy tears style finale, which perfectly suited my mood and expectations.
Janet Gover has arranged a rural story centered around the importance of family, the ties of the past, repairing relationships and the strength to carry on in difficult circumstances. I have absolutely no hesitation in awarding this novel five glimmering stars – I loved it.
The Lawson Sisters by Janet Gover was published on 20th January 2019 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Lawson Sisters, Janet Gover, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Lawson Sisters is book #11 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge