Sapphire Falls, by Fleur McDonald

Fiona Forrest sat next to her dead husband’s coffin, staring at it dully. Music played softly in the background and she could smell the roses that filled two urns on stands nearby.
The church felt exactly like she did. Cold and empty.

Fiona and her husband Charlie were really happy: working side by side on their farm, and looking forward to a long future. But when Charlie is involved in a terrible shooting accident that eaves his mate Eddie dead, he struggles to cope. When he commits suicide, Fiona is devastated, but she is determined to keep the farm going. If only the rumours that she is selling the farm would stop.

Detective Dave Burrows has been on enforced leave. When he returns he finds that the case of Eddie’s death was not properly dealt with. When he starts to investigate he realises something doesn’t add up. The deeper he digs, the more he realises that something sinister is going on – and perhaps it is linked both to Charlie’s suicide and to the series of problems that seem to be plaguing Fiona’s farm.

Sapphire Falls continues bestselling author Fleur McDonald’s trend of blending rural Australian settings with strong female characters facing adversity and¬†elements of mystery, for a unique form of crime fiction. Readers are kept guessing ¬†along with the characters, and the mystery works well alongside the development of characters and interwoven subplots.

Good stuff.

Sapphire Falls, by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760112646

Crimson Dawn, by Fleur McDonald

Sean cleared his throat and stood up. ‘Laura, we know how much you love farming and Nambina. It’s that sort of love I have never understood or had, and it’s why today we are passing the reins of it over to you, darling girl….I believe you are destined for greatness within the ag industry…we can’t wait to watch and see what happens and where it ends up.’

When Laura Murphy is handed the reins of the family property, she hopes that she can justify the trust placed in her. She sets to work building her breeding program and establishing a school to teach young women farming and property management skills. She is independent, strong and determined to succeed.

Not everything is perfect though. Laura is haunted by a personal tragedy which cost her a friendship and broke up her relationship with Josh, from the neighbouring property. Her latest batch of students have started off strongly, but seem to splintering as a group as the year goes by. And a solicitor has notified her that someone else has a claim over Nambina. It’s going to take all her strength to keep it all together.

Crimson Dawn is a rural novel of courage, family and survival. With elements of mystery and romance, and a slit narrative which gradually reveals the details of the family split which lead to the property claim, there is a lot happening in the story, but McDonald weaves the varying threads together strongly.

An absorbing, satisfying story of outback life.

 

Crimson Dawn, by Fleur McDOnald
Allen & Unwin, 2014
ISBN 9781743315316

Available from good bookstores or online.

Brumby's Run, by Jennifer Scoullar

The most important meeting of her life, and she was running late. Faith had offered to come along, but Sam had sensed her reluctance. In the end she’d gone off in a cab by herself, under a gloomy sky. It was probably for the best. This was something she needed to do, alone. The car swished through the rainy streets. Sam stared out the window, stomach knotted tight in anticipation. She was about to meet a sister she’d known about for less than twenty-four hours.

Samantha Carmichael is enjoying a carefree summer before she starts a university degree. But, over lunch, her mother delivers two stunning pieces of news – firstly that Samantha is adopted, and secondly, that she has an identical twin sister, Charlie. It seems the truth has come out now because Charlie is critically ill, and only Sam can save her.

Sam and Charlie have grown up in different worlds, but their connection is instant, and soon Sam finds herself offering to look after her sister’s home at Brumby’s Run, a propety high in the Victorian Alps, while Charlie recovers in the city. Sam knows horses, but she has never lived in the country, and now her days are filled with looking after cattle, breaking brumbies, and getting the run-down property back on track. Fortunately she has a helping hand from the handsome Drew Chandler, the son of the neighbouring property owner and Charlie’s former boyfriend.

As the time for Charlie’s return draws closer, Sam finds herself faced with an unwelcome possibility – has she stolen her sister’s life, and will Charlie want it back?

Brumby’s Run is a moving tale of family secrets and relationships, rural life, and the brumby – the wild mountain dwelling horses of the Australian alps. Whilst this is a romance, the issues dealt with are important too, and dealt with well. the exploration of the many issues surrounding brumbys is especially well handed, leaving the reader well informed.

Issues aside, the key here is that this is an accessible read, with romance at its heart.

Brumby’s Run, by Jennifer Scoullar
Penguin 2012
ISBN

Available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Purple Roads, by Fleur McDonald

Matt’s hands trembled so violently the tea slopped over the rim. The scald hardly registerd but he let the man take the cup from him and hold it to his mouth.
‘How am I going to tell her?’ he kept saying, over and over. All he could think of was his future – and that of his family – lying in the charred ashes on the road. It took a little while before he realised the guttural moans he could hear came from himself.

Anna and Matt had a lot going for them – childhood sweethearts, they’d worked hard to buy their own farm, and weren’t afraid to keep working to make it profitable. But events beyond their control start to take their toll: he seasons are unkind, then Matt’s truck catches fire and then, when the saving rain finally comes, their precious fertiliser is stolen, making it impossible to continue.

With the farm gone, Anna is determined to rebuild their life, even though it is nothing like they had dreamed of. They can start again, she is sure, even if just for the sake of their daughter. But Matt isn’t convinced. He is caught up in searching for answers. He is going to solve the mystery of the stolen fertiliser and put the wrong to right. As each works to follow their hearts, Matt and Anna’s relationship starts to crumble. Perhaps it will be too hard to put it back together again.

Purple Roads is a rural fiction tale which is an interesting blend of romance, mystery and contemporary fiction. There’s a lot going on, with Anna being revealed as a strong, resilient type who can overcome adversity and work for change, and Matt’s struggle with depression and financial adversity being explored. Both characters are well developed as are other minor ones.

An entertaining read which will appeal to those for a taste for realistic rural fiction.

Purple Roads

Purple Roads, by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Uniwn, 2012
ISBN 9781742374819

Available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.