Review

A Family of Strangers. Fiona Lowe

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Published:  Harlequin Australia
Date: 2nd March 2022
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

With a coveted promotion dangling within reach, the last thing Addy Topic needs to do is waste precious time singing in Rookery Cove’s choir. But when she’s reminded how much music meant to her late mother, she can’t say no. The building pressure raises the ghosts that sent her running from Rookery Cove years earlier – memories she’s spent decades hiding from, silencing them with work, alcohol and sex.

For Stephanie Gallagher, Rookery Cove was meant to be a new beginning in the slow lane. A place where she and her husband can embrace community, parenthood and evenly share the load. But the sea-change is changing everything. How much longer can they survive as a family?

Brenda Lambeck is finding her feet after the death of her husband when her best friend convinces her to join the choir. Beloved as a grandmother, Brenda is determined to mend the fraught relationship she has with her daughter, Courtney. But is that even possible when she continues to lie?

In the wake of a spectacular betrayal, three women are forced to face the uncompromising truths about the choices that have shaped their relationships with those they love most. The consequences will shatter their lives and all they hold dear. After such a disaster is rebuilding even possible?

Australian author Fiona Lowe has done it again. She has totally reeled me in and made me feel so fully involved in the lives of her characters. At first I found all the characters and situations a little overwhelming, but once I was in – I was in! A little bit of reader concentration and work never hurts us!

The story is told from three women’s point of view. They all live in a small town in Tasmania and while they start out not very linked, its not long before they are all interacting and enabling each other to work through the challenges facing each of them.

Addy has returned to the Rookery Cove to take up a teaching job and refurbish the house where she lived with her parents. It soon becomes apparent that she drinks heavily and that her life is not going well. She overworks and quite frankly her school situation stinks.

Brenda is in her late fifties and has just started living with her lover Miriam. But her family think Miriam is just a lodger. Miriam wants to share with others who they are, but Brenda is nervous and holding back. Plus she just doesn’t seem to get along with her uptight daughter Courtney. Her lovely grand daughter Livvy is however nothing short of a blessing.

Stephanie and her husband Henry have moved to the Cove to get more of a work/life balance. Only trouble is that just isn’t working out from Stephanie’s way of seeing it. Add to that now Zoe, Henry’s daughter has been foisted upon them by Zoe’s mother. Baby Monty is a charm but he is in constant need of care of course.

So many issues in this book that the characters are dealing with. It soon becomes obvious what the three main characters are coping with or in fact not coping with. However as a reader I wonder as I read why Zoe is acting out?

Tying all this together is the Rookery Choir, resurrected by Miriam and Brenda. It brings people together, and eventually helps bring about wondrous things. I can’t sing and would never join a choir but I can really see the benefits.

As each of the three women face into how they need to move forward, I was returning to the book every minute I had. Wanting to move through it, yet aware I was moving to the end. I loved the ending but am already missing these characters.

Review

The Women’s Pages. Victoria Purman

book coverPublished: Harlequin Australia
Date: 3rd September 2020
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

In The Women’s Pages, Victoria Purman tells us the story – the history – of the lives of those as WW2 ends in Australia. In particular she paints a picture for us of the life of a woman journalist and her family and friends.

Tilly’s husband is a soldier at war, she hasn’t heard from him since 1942, but she forever hopes, as she writes  what she is assigned. What she is assigned is not always to her passion. Women are in many ways ridiculed by the men, who take “the important” stories and the larger pay packets home.

In many ways this is a black and white picture. Victoria Purman manages to provide for us an idea of the realities of that time. It is still a time of great struggle and injustice. Men return – if they do – often physically and psychologically wounded. With images in their minds that will scar them forever.  Women have scraped and provided for their families on very little and still there is very little let up. Everywhere there is injustice.

We especially see that injustice played out in the life of Tilly’s father – a waterside worker. They worked long hard hours for little remuneration and very poor working conditions. They are asking for better and are labelled “commies”.

Tilly is a gutsy woman, she has passion and fire. Even though she suffers in little and large ways she fights on. She takes the opportunities small as they are, she sees the stories of so many women of that time and is determined to make a difference.

A very realistic and eye opening depiction of this era from a woman’s point of view. Well done to Victoria Purman.

Review

Missing Pieces. Heather Gudenkauf

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Missing Pieces
Heather Gudenkauf
Published: Harlequin Australia MIRA
Date: 1st February 2016
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 288
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating:
4 stars                           Add to Goodreads

Sarah Quinlan’s husband, Jack, has been haunted for decades by the untimely death of his mother when he was just a teenager, her body found in the cellar of their family farm, the circumstances a mystery. For years Jack has avoided returning home, but when his beloved aunt Julia is in an accident, Jack and Sarah are forced to confront the past that they have long evaded.

Upon arriving, Sarah and Jack are welcomed by the family Jack left behind all those years ago. But as facts about Julia’s accident begin to surface, Sarah realizes that nothing about the Quinlans is what it seems. Sarah dives deep into the puzzling rabbit hole of Jack’s past, but the farther in she climbs, the harder it is for her to get out. And soon she is faced with a deadly truth she may not be prepared for.

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Right from the beginning Missing Pieces sucked me in. From an idyllic country setting to a sinister murder in the first few pages. And when we cut to Jack and his wife Sarah, it doesn’t add up. Jack is not telling anywhere near the truth of that day, and Sarah has long been kept in the dark. A long time, because they have two college age daughters. 
When they return to Iowa because Jack’s Aunt Julia is lying in hospital after a fall down the stairs, Sarah begins to find little cracks appearing. She realises Jack has kept her very much in the dark. He’s told Sarah his parents died in a car crash. And as the reader you know that’s untrue and have to ask – why? Just as Sarah does. Then there is his sister Amy, who is having problems, seems highly anxious and unhinged.  As well there is Jack’s cousin Dean and his wife Celia, and aren’t those two just another little item that Jack has been keeping quiet about. It’s all very creepy and suspicious.
So who has done it? Who has murdered Jack’s mother? And what of Aunt Julia. Accident or Murder? We definitely know “that something is rotten in the state of Denmark Penny Gate, Iowa”.

Sarah seeks the truth, all the time becoming more unsure of Jack and their marriage. As a journalist she takes risks and sifts through material that might give her clues. Can she do all that before the murderer strikes again? 
A few small clues are dropped but I have to say when the final revelation came I had not put that person at the top of my suspect list. 
This one had me reading on for sure, a creepy ‘who dun it’ that I raced through.
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