A Mother’s Heart. Carmel Harrington

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Published : Bookouture
Date: 23rd  May 2022
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

“When Rachel met handsome Irish widower Lorcan it was a whirlwind romance. Her family back in New Zealand thought it would never last. But it did, and they were so happy. Bringing up two children hadn’t been in her life plan, but it had become her joy, and she was as proud of them as if they were her own.

She’d say to them “even though you didn’t grow in my tummy, you grew in my heart”, and they’d all laugh, knowing they were loved. Their little family wasn’t quite the same as everyone else’s, but it was beautiful, it was happy, it was home.

Until now. Because when Lorcan’s life is taken in a tragic accident, it feels like Rachel’s world has died with him. She knows in her heart that she wants to take the children back to the country she grew up in. Where she’d have support, because they’d be surrounded by her family. Where she could grieve and heal; and the children could have a new start.

However, she doesn’t count on the children’s own grandparents. Their blood relations, who say Rachel isn’t their real mother, and so can’t take them away from Ireland. Who say they won’t let her.

As Rachel finds herself fighting against the only people who might love the children as much she does, everyone will have to ask – what makes a parent? What makes a home? And with whom do the children of her heart have a future?”

A Mother’s Heart is a beautiful bittersweet yet heartwarming read. My heart ached for the ever gracious Rachel, who was an excellent mother to 5 year old Dylan and 8 year old Olivia. The three of them have been through the wringer with Lorcan’s death. And now one set of grandparents seem determined to take Rachel on and challenge her for the children’s care and loyalty.

As the story unfolds about this blended family, some secrets are eventually revealed that shed light where there has been mystery. Eventually things work out for them all, but not before there is much tension and heartache.

I liked all the characters. Rachel is a fantastic mother, and so giving and patient with the grandparents especially Sheila who is so picky. It was easy to feel annoyed with Sheila (as the reader) but also I had sympathy for her as well. She feels threatened and fearful of losing her grandchildren. A grandparent wants to be close to their grandchildren, it’s and important relationship.

The setting ranges between New Zealand and Ireland. Oh yes! Loved that little detail. Of course I did. Rachel is a New Zealander, I have to say I was on their side over the custard for the trifle! Rachel has family in New Zealand she is close to and her heart longs to be with them. But… her children are Irish with all their relatives in Ireland. What a dilemma.

This is a page turning, thought provoking story that encourages us to see things from all angles and to choose love and kindness and happiness, and to appreciate the wonder of family. I really loved this book.

Book Connections

Books by New Zealand Authors

Today I am sharing five  contemporary New Zealand authors I have read or intend reading. New Zealand has many authors although I confess I read only a few of them. Mainly that’s because of my taste. Another day I’ll share some of the previous NZ authors I’ve enjoyed. Some of the books have a NZ setting and some are set elsewhere.

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New Zealand author Nalini Singh is a favourite of mine as you may have guessed. I have come to love her paranormal series and I’ve read a couple of her contemporary romance.

A Madness of Sunshine  is set in the South Island of New Zealand, is a murder mystery set in contemporary times. I have read it and really enjoyed it. Published 2019.

book cover When it all Turned to Custard by Danielle Hawkins is one  I own and bought after I read a review by an Australian blogger. I haven’t read it yet but its in the queue. It too is set in New Zealand. Hmm I just see a recommendation on the back by one of my favourite Australian authors – Fiona Lowe who says ” An entertaining read full of humour, heart and soul.” I should move it up the list. Published 2019

book coverSoraya Lane has written both romance and women’s fiction. Its the latter that I enjoy. The Spitfire Girls is set overseas and is an insight into  the courageous contribution women made in both England and the USA towards the WW2 endeavours. These women were willing to put their lives on the line and take on piloting planes to where they were needed. And… they were very successful.

Soraya M. Lane does an excellent job helping us get inside the lives of such young women. Often they were up against ‘the establishment’ and the attitudes and prejudices of the populace.  Published 2019.

book coverWhat a honey of a book. I was originally enticed into this book by the US edition with its warm tones on the cover, however as I read the book I came to love this cover too. Sugar is a treasure and the amazing ‘family’ of people she gathered around her was endearing and satisfying. As it says on the cover – a novel of honey, love and manners.

So The Wedding Bees – awesome. Loved Queen Elizabeth 1 and 6. Witty, warm and charming is one way to describe this book. It does explore some important issues in a very gentle way. Well done Sarah-Kate Lynch. Raising my glass to The Wedding Bees and the Buzz-off Bride.  Set in the USA. Published 2014 Unfortunately Sarah-Kate has moved on to writing scripts for TV shows so no recent books!

book cover Finally a book I bought this week. This is by Farid Ahmed about his wife, the Christchurch massacre and his journey to forgiveness. All royalties go to St John Ambulance. As the one year date for this awful shooting and I heard about this book o the radio, I was immediately interested in reading it. Farid’s wife was killed in this massacre. I believe the book will build my understanding of the experience of another New Zealander.



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The Settling Earth. Rebecca Burns

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The Settling Earth
Rebecca Burns
Shelly Davies
Published: Odyssey Books
Date: December 2014
Format: ebook
Pages: 128
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: From the author
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Marriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant — The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land.

Sacrifices, conflict, a growing love for the landscape, a recognition of the succour offered by New Zealand to Maori and settler communities — these are themes explored in the book. The final story in the collection, written by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori perspective to the experience of British settlement in their land.

My thoughts banner
The Settling Earth is a collection of short stories, all linked, vignettes of colonial New Zealand. There are nine stories by Rebecca Burns, the tenth one is by Shelly Davies.
Each story is complete, more or less, in itself.  Yet each story carries a kernel of and a link to the previous story.  It was so interesting to see what would be the link.  It was like a window was opened on a particular event, and then closed.  The following story would do the same.  The first story opens on the Canterbury Plains, other stories move to Christchurch, then on to Onehunga in the North Island and then Auckland.  The final stories bring us back to the homestead on the Canterbury Plains.
A station owner’s wife, a station owner, a Maori man, a ‘boarding house’ girl, a woman who ‘cares’ for children that are born out of wedlock, a ‘boarding house’ owner, a mission Bible carrying lady, mothers of children, a ghost, a farm hand and his wife and two step daughters are some of the characters we receive an insight into of what life is like for them in this – to the majority of them – strange new land.
As we see into their lives we are made aware of society and how it operates, its hypocrisy and values. Many have come to New Zealand for a new life and with hope, only to find the reality tough. Women in particular are fragile and vulnerable, often ignorant and too trusting. There is often loneliness and too often pregnancy.  Some women are unscrupulous, in a chilling kind of way.  It seems there are not that many choices open to women.  The ‘haves’ are contrasted with the ‘have nots’.  
The men we mostly see are the ones with the power.  Colonial New Zealand is mostly a man’s world. A couple of the men we are introduced too, are weak bullies, abusive, insensitive and overbearing, prejudiced and unlikeable.  Contrasted with them is Haimoana, a maori trader who is an observer of this way of life and his behaviour and beliefs stand out as vastly more preferable.  
The writing is excellent, the stories evocative – opening up a time and place in New Zealand colonial history.  As a New Zealander I could identify with the settings and ‘feel’ of the stories, it rings with authenticity.  
I would recommend this to any reader who likes historical fiction, or is interested in history.  It would also make excellent reading for book clubs. I have placed a recommendation to my local library that they buy it for the library! You never know!

5 stars
Rebecca Burns is an award-winning writer of short stories, over thirty of which have been published online or in print. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011, winner of the Fowey Festival of Words and Music Short Story Competition in 2013 (and runner-up in 2014), and has been profiled as part of the University of Leicester’s “Grassroutes Project”-a project that showcases the 50 best transcultural writers in the county.
The Settling Earth is her second collection of short stories. Her debut collection, Catching the Barramundi, was published in 2012 – also by Odyssey Books – and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Award in 2013.
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Bride Flight. Marieke van der Pol

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Bride Flight
Marieke van der Pol
Publisher: University of Western Australia
Date: 2010
Translated by: Colleen Higgins
Pages: 441
Format: Large Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Source: Local library

It is 1953, and the last great transcontinental air race from London to Christchurch is about to begin, but even before the KLM plane has left the runway, it has already become famous as the “bride flight” for its cargo of brides-to-be flying out to join their fiances on the other side of the world.

Among them are Ada, Marjorie and Esther, who all have their own reasons for wanting to leave the past behind and make a fresh start. And then there’s Frank, a charismatic bachelor with big dreams for the future, whose path will continue to cross with each of the women as they build very different lives for themselves in New Zealand. It is only when they meet again, years later at Frank’s funeral, that the three women realise just how tightly their lives have been bound together by what happened on that fateful voyage.

My thoughts
Bride Flight by Marieke van der Pol was recommended to me by Jannie T, one of the book bloggers I exchanged cards with over the Christmas season. She reads most of her books, if not all, in her own language.  She recommended Bride Flight as it had been translated into English and so was accessible to me.  She was delighted to recommend it to me because the book is mainly set in New Zealand.  I found it at one of our local libraries and have now read it.
It begins with a plane race in 1953, one plane brought with it the brides from the Netherlands to join their fiances.  I was a little young to remember this, but I asked some one a little older about this and he remembered it straight away.  What fascinated me was that it was completed non stop for the travellers, the plane did stop for refuelling but as far as I remember the passengers only got off once for a 30 minute stretch and also a brief stop in Australia.  If you have flown non stop from New Zealand to Europe ( in my case Ireland) then you know how taxing it is.  This group of people were on the plane for twice the length of modern flights!
The story is the story of three women who are on that flight and one man – Frank.  They are all sitting close together and as the flight takes place their lives begin an intertwining that will go on all their lives.  The book goes between the present and the past.  It opens with the three women Ada, Majorie and Esther making their way to Martinborough for the funeral of Frank.  One of my questions was why is Majorie back in the Netherlands at this point in time?  Why did she take flight back to her homeland? Gradually as the story unfolded I came to understand why.
It was fascinating for me to see how it was for these immigrants as they came to settle in New Zealand.  The author certainly did her research well as it is very authentic in terms of that time in New Zealand – I grew up in the fifties, so it was interesting to see that time through their eyes.  It recalled many things, for example no coffee in New Zealand in the ’50’s! And how these characters missed it.
This is a very gritty, real story – not a romance in case you have been misled by the title.  Ada is on her way to meet her husband by proxy – he belongs to the reformed church, and can I just say I did not like him!!  Ada is the best looking of the three and her beauty catches Frank’s eye.  Esther is a Jew and has a background that she tries to keep the door shut on so that the monsters don’t get out. She is very ambitious and soon ditches any thought of marrying.  She wants to make a splash as a top notch clothing designer.  Majorie is a Catholic and seems to get the best husband Hans.
The complicated relationships, backgrounds and odd group of people make for a engaging read, I had to keep on reading to find out what happened when?  Why is it like this?  What did  she do? What did he turn out like?  Will this character reveal this particular secret or not?
This is not a book I would have picked up myself, so I am grateful for this recommendation, a book that helps me note how life can be complex and people too.  And also what is it like to be an immigrant in a new country where you are accepted but it feels like you are never quite ‘one of them’.
4 stars