Title: The Bush Telegraph
Author: Fiona McArthur
Published: September 1st 2020
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
The heartwarming new medical rural romance from the bestselling author of The Desert Midwife.
‘Small towns and gossip go together like trees and birds.’
It’s been more than ten years since Maddy Locke left Spinifex, the small outback town where she gave birth to her daughter, Bridget. Now she’s back to prove she’s got what it takes to run the medical centre and face the memories of that challenging time in her life. But everything’s changed – the old pub is gone, her new colleagues aren’t pleased to see her, and it’s drier and hotter than ever.
Station owner, Connor Fairhall, thought he’d left the drama behind in Sydney, but moving back to Spinifex with his rebellious son, Jayden, hasn’t been the fresh start he’d envisioned. His brother, Kyle, is drinking too much and the only bright spot on the horizon is meeting Nurse Maddy, who’s breathing new life into the weary town up the road, little by little.
Can Maddy ignore the rumours about Connor and risk her heart again? Or will the bush telegraph spread along the wire fences and stand in the way of trust?
From Australia’s renowned midwife and bestselling author of The Desert Midwife, The Bush Telegraph is a romantic drama about love, friendship, community and the joys and challenges of life in the outback.
‘I’ll do it.’ Connor squeezed her arms above the elbows. ‘Then I’ll get the bush telegraph going. Organise some blokes to form a search party for when our copper gets here. There are plenty of men sleeping out the back of the pub and plenty who will come in from the surrounding stations. Everyone in town will look.’
With endorsements from leading rural fiction specialists Karly Lane and Rachael Johns, Fiona McArthur needs no introduction. An author who continues to make leaps and bounds in the rural romance and medical drama field, Fiona McArthur treats her readers to another wonderful tale. The Bush Telegraph takes a strong and critical gaze into the high pressured environment of outback medical care. It is a story filled with compelling characters, a strong plot and a magnificent bush backdrop. I thoroughly enjoyed my latest experience of Fiona McArthur’s writing.
Spinifex is the central locale of Fiona McArthur’s latest rural romance tale, with a health care spin. We meet Maddy, a woman who is faced with a difficult return back to the small outback town where she first had a family of her own. Maddy is back with her daughter Bridget in tow to make a real go of things in this outback locale. Despite the haunting memories that Maddy has of her past life in Spinifex, she is determined to make a difference in her new position in the local medical centre. But things don’t go quite so smoothly for Maddy. There are problems to overcome and difficult faces to confront. Coupled with the draining weather conditions, Maddy is about ready to give up. For the lead male character of this new tale from Fiona McArthur, Connor Fairhall is also struggling with life in Spinfex. This former Sydneysider is carving out a new life for himself as a station owner. But troubles on the family front, courtesy of his son Jayden and brother Kyle have placed a huge burden on Connor. When Maddy waltzes into Spinfex Connor is delighted, she seems like just the thing the town needs, along with Connor. However the power of town gossip, rumour and trust issues means that this nurse and station owner may never see a happy ending. The Bush Telegraph regales a story of emotion, companionship, solidarity, support and the setbacks of life in our regional areas of Australia, which comes with plenty of raw understanding of these challenges.
Fiona McArthur is a trusted author in the field of rural romance and contemporary drama fiction, with a medical flavour. McArthur is building a great collection of novels and I know she has worked hard to secure a solid fan base. I’m sure with every new book McArthur releases she earns another new set of fans. I am convinced that this will be the case with The Bush Telegraph. I really rated the combination of engaging but flawed characters, an inspiring setting and a solid plotline.
The Bush Telegraph features two very appealing leads in nurse Maddy and station owner Connor. These two really lead the charge in the novel. I enjoyed closely following their back stories and difficult pasts, as well as their respective present life challenges. I found both leads to be resilient, strong and tolerant! But the news isn’t all good with these two key protagonists, they each have their own down sides. They each have their own hang ups and reservations, which are revealed as the book progresses. Overall, I think Fiona McArthur did an excellent job with these two primary protagonists. Scaffolding Connor and Maddy are a whole host of supporting cast members. These side characters contribute well to the unfolding storyline and they also inject some essential character dynamics to the story arc. I applaud Fiona McArthur for her consistent characterisation.
Although The Bush Telegraph is billed as a rural romance, there are a number of darker themes underlying this novel. From the deficits in medical care in rural areas, work pressures, the lack of medical resources in remote Australia, community tensions, alcoholism, domestic abuse, care for the elderly, addiction, loss, family issues, teen angst and more, this is an engrossing glimpse into rural Australian life. Every step of the way, McArthur presents these issues with personal insight and sensitivity. Fiona McArthur is also acutely aware of the hard issues that are at stake in rural composites such as Spinifex, the focal community base of this novel. I found this aspect of the narrative to be enlightening, but also upsetting.
No Fiona McArthur novel would be complete without her signature focus on the hopeful aspects of romance that flourish in her outback locales. Despite the challenges faced by her leads, we are optimistic for a happy ending. The romance is definitely understated in The Bush Telegraph, it gently underscores the main subject focus on the trials and demands of bush living, with a special focus on the medical stumbling blocks.
Overall, it was yet another pleasant encounter with Fiona McArthur and her latest medical drama. The Bush Telegraph is a novel that we should sit under the stars and read with a warm blanket, I’m taking that solid advice from fellow rural fiction novelist Rachael Johns! I couldn’t agree more Rachael!
The Bush Telegraph by Fiona McArthur was published on 1st September 2020 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Bush Telegraph, Fiona McArthur, visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Bush Telegraph is book #96 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge