Title: The Farm at Peppertree Crossing
Author: Leonie Kelsall
Published: July 2nd 2020
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Rural
Rating: 4.5 stars
Accustomed to looking after herself, can Roni now embrace a different life gifted to her from an unknown aunt and a community ready to help? Or will the strings attached be her downfall?’Everything you want in rural romance – heart, humour and hope’ Sandie Docker, author of the much-loved The Kookaburra Creek Cafe
An unexpected inheritance, a traumatic past and a family whose secrets are kept by the town
After a fractured childhood spent in foster homes, city-girl Roni has convinced herself that she has no need of anyone – other than her not-as-tough-as-he-looks rescued street cat, Scritches, and her unborn baby, who she’s determined will feel all the love she’s been denied.
Despite facing a bleak future, Roni distrusts the news of a bequest from an unknown aunt, Marian Nelson. But, out of options, she and Scritches leave Sydney behind, bound for the 800-acre property on the edge of the wheat fields of South Australia.
However, this is no simple inheritance: Marian seeks to control her legacy from beyond the grave by setting tasks that Roni must complete before she can claim the property and a life that could change her future. With everything at stake, Roni must learn to trust in the truth of Marian’s most important lesson: everyone deserves love.
A captivating story of family, friendship and forgiveness.
‘Framed by the pewter sky and the raggedy, wind-lashed branches of the peppertrees, the white-painted entry fence to Peppertree Crossing lay only a hundred metres ahead. She’s made it home.’
One of my favourite Australian authors, Sandie Docker, has put her own big stamp of approval on Leonie Kelsall’s debut rural fiction offering, The Farm at Peppertree Crossing. A truly wonderful novel full of emotion, feeling, wit and realism, Leonie Kelsall’s first foray in the field of rural fiction is to be applauded.
Roni is a troubled girl from the city who has had a difficult start to life. Living in and out of different homes and bouncing through the foster care system, Roni has no one in her life to love or trust. But Roni makes of it what she can and she is determined to protect her unborn child and beloved feline pal Scritches. Out of nowhere, Roni is issued with a bequest from a distant aunt. To claim this inheritance Roni must travel to a remote farm location out of the city. But claiming this property is no easy feat, Roni has been issued with a number of challenges set by her late aunt. These important exercises are designed to teach Roni about the core values in life, love, family and acceptance. It is not an easy journey, but for Roni life will never be the same again.
Over the years the Australian rural fiction and romance category has witnessed a steady growth. There are authors that continue to provide at least one new rural romance release a year to support this well received genre. It is always nice to greet a new face to the rural romance field and I was excited at the prospect of meeting a fresh contributor to the contemporary rural fiction scene. Leonie Kelsall does the genre proud with her debut release. The Farm at Peppertree Crossing is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed from cover to cover.
Roni, wow, where do I start? What a sad soul. When the book opens we soon learn of Roni’s setbacks, personal tragedies, upsets and disappointments. Roni is a woman who has been let down so many times and it truly broke my heart. However, on the other side of this personal pain, we see a woman with a great deal of inner strength. Roni is brave, gutsy, determined and willful. It was nice to see Roni issued with a windfall of such when her late aunt bequeaths her a rural property. I really liked this set up, it was a little different from the traditional city slicker who must adapt to the country style scenario presented in many rural fiction stories.
Kelsall is a bold and fearless writer who is unafraid of presenting her readership with a plethora of darker style themes. We are issued with problems of adoption, abandonment, foster care, abuse, violence, grief, loss, longing, fertility problems and trust as this involving story unfolds. I admired Kelsall’s approach at all points in the novel, it was authentic, insightful and sensitive in the right places. The Farm at Peppertree Crossing also reiterates the point that some many of life’s challenges are faced not only by city dwellers, but by our country based citizens too. On the flipside, I enjoyed some the humour that came from the general day to day operations of the farm and this worked to offset some of the darker situations presented in the storyline.
The Farm at Peppertree Crossing features a solid cast. From lead Roni, to love interest Matt, to the local surrounding community and finally to the gaggle of animals that support the story. Scitches and the crew were so endearing, and I’m sure they will appeal to all animal lovers! I really liked the device of Aunt Marian’s influence, which is relayed in letter form. Marion gently guides the story forward and she directs Roni’s character growth process. I loved the structure of using Marian’s letters which were carefully interspersed between the main narrative. What a great touch.
The resulting romance in The Farm at Peppertree Crossing is definitely not a straightforward hearts and roses, or instant love style relationship progression. I appreciated the slow burn, enemy style banter that defined this love story. This couple was not going to fall in love easily! There were plenty of personal baggage and trust issues influencing this love story. I think this is always the best kind of romance personally and I hope readers embrace this relationship story as much as I did.
A quick mention of the setting before I close this review. What a wonderful experience Leonie Kelsall offers through her location descriptions. With our current travel restrictions, Kelsall offers the perfect country based escape through her prose, which was littered with many enviable rural feel scenery descriptions and realistic odes to country living. And the baking, well let’s just say it was simple delectable. I was definitely inspired to whip up a batch of lamingtons!
I want to wish Leonie Kelsall a warm welcome to the rural fiction and romance fold, what a great first contribution this new author has made to the scene with The Farm at Peppertree Crossing. I am looking forward to many more enjoyable novels to come from this promising debut author.
The Farm at Peppertree Crossing by Leonie Kelsall was published on 2nd July 2020 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Farm at Peppertree Crossing, Leonie Kelsall, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Farm at Peppertree Crossing is book #103 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge