Keeping Up Appearances. Tricia Stringer

Keeping Up Appearances

Published: Harlequin Australia
Date: 5th October 2022
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Privacy is hard to maintain in Badara, the kind of small Australian country town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. So discovers single mum Paige when she and her three children arrive from the city seeking refuge. Paige’s only respite from child care and loneliness is the Tuesday gym club, where she had feared the judgement of the town matriarchs. 

Well-to-do farmer’s wife and proud mother Briony is in full denial of her family’s troubles. Even with her eldest daughter’s marriage in ruins and her son Blake’s recent bombshell. Suddenly Briony and husband Vince have a full house again – and the piles of laundry aren’t the only dirty linen that’s about to be aired.

For Marion, the unearthing of a time capsule – its contents to be read at the Celebrate Badara weekend – is a disaster. She was only a teenager when she wrote down those poisonous words, but that doesn’t mean she won’t lose friends and family if they hear what she really thinks of them – especially as the letter reveals their darkest secrets to the world.

Keeping Up Appearances  by Tricia Stringer was for me a delightful, engaging read. It is set in rural Australia and a small community.

There is single parent Paige who has arrived with her three children to make a new start. She is not well off and everything is a bit of a struggle. However by various means she finds herself eventually very involved with the community.

Briony and Vince find themselves with their three adult children at home. And all three of them bring various kinds of headaches for Briony, who is very much all about keeping up appearances.

Marion (Vince’s sister) and Len have two adult children but they live far away. Marion is a retired school teacher and Vince still works the farm although he is nearing seventy. A time capsule is about to make its presence felt and Marion suffers much from it.

The story lines were engaging and I loved all the characters, those mentioned above and those I haven’t. They are ordinary, flawed human beings dealing with issues that are challenging. They keep secrets, some people gossip, some find it hard to accept that life is not going to turn out as they had hoped. Tricia Stringer guides them along, and as a result I felt compassion for each and delight when they stretched and grew.


The Land Girls Victoria Purman

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Published: Harlequin Australia
Date: 15th April 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley


Three women join the women’s land army in Australia during World War 2. The Land Girls introduces the reader to them and by the end of the book, each woman found a place in my heart and my very sincere admiration.

Flora is thirtyish and from Melbourne, she lives with her Dad, a brother who can’t go to war (Jack) and Frank who is fighting in the war overseas and they haven’t heard from him. A white feather given to her brother Jack on the street one day, decides Flora  to join the Land Girls – her first assignment  is picking grapes – hard work but she meets up with a delightful family. Slowly a relationship develops between Flora and Charles the owner of the farm but she is only there for a few weeks.

Lily is   18  from an Adelaide wealthy family, she has a sister a doctor working in the war overseas but Lily  hasn’t found her own niche. She finds it hard to even learn shorthand and typing. She is in love with David who is going off to war. Taking up her courage she too joins the land girls – unusual for some one from such a family. She is sent out to a place north of Adelaide to pick cherries

Betty is almost 18, friends all her life with Michael next door, she is an only child and she too decides to join Land Girls when Michael joins up in 1942 when he turns 18. She starts this life picking grapes in Mildura, many miles north of Melbourne, on the edge of the outback. She is among 20 other girls. It’s hard work and Betty is homesick. One Sunday she meets Flora who gives her words of encouragement, that really help.

I loved the Australian setting, the  realistic painting of what it was like to live in that time during war. The women who joined the land army worked hard, and it changed them in so many ways.  How worrying though for them for the loved ones who fought overseas and often when bad news came, so heart breaking.

Victoria Purman had me fully invested in each woman, each story so real. I loved the way the woman put their hands up and contributed. The way they supported each other and developed such important and memorable friendships.


Home at Last Meredith Appleyard

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Published: Mira   Australia
Date: 18th March 2019
Format:  e-ARC
Pages:  416
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley


I chose to read this book because I’ve always had a fascination with the Flying Doctor Service in Australia. I think it goes back to the years of radio when when there’d be stories that involved this incredible service.

Anna comes back to Broken Hill as a pilot for the FDS. I loved that gender roles were reversed in this novel. Anna is a very competent pilot, has had a challenging life but always seems to make something work.

She meets up with one of the FDS nurses – Nick and a relationship develops. However for both of them there are issues especially that of trust that makes things rough going for awhile. Nick has his own baggage and it all takes some time to be worked out.

The flying doctor service aspect did not disappoint, the author’s own experience of nursing with the FDS made for very authentic situations. I loved the Australian rural setting, a couple of the minor characters added some fizz to the plot.

The story deals with issues of parenthood, ageing parents, having work that is satisfying and of course working out a relationship. A good read.


The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club. Sophie Green

Published: Hachette Australia
Date: 8th August 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
4 stars             Add to Goodreads

In 1978 the Northern Territory has begun to self-govern. Cyclone Tracy is a recent memory and telephones not yet a fixture on the cattle stations dominating the rugged outback. Life is hard and people are isolated. But they find ways to connect.
.Sybil is the matriarch of Fairvale Station, run by her husband, Joe. Their eldest son, Lachlan, was Joe’s designated successor but he has left the Territory – for good. It is up to their second son, Ben, to take his brother’s place. But that doesn’t stop Sybil grieving the absence of her child. With her oldest friend, Rita, now living in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and Ben’s English wife, Kate, finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale, Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship and purpose: they all love to read, and she forms a book club.

Mother-of-three Sallyanne is invited to join them. Sallyanne dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town of Katherine where she lives with her difficult husband, Mick. Completing the group is Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land.

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The words book club might have drawn me to The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club,  and that part of it lived up to its promise, however it is the setting in the Northern Territories and the friendships and lives of the five women that kept me reading as well.
I would imagine life is hard in this area, and the challenges that the women face in this book and in actual life are enormous. The seasons of wet and dry, the isolation, the lack of the many entertainment opportunities we take for granted. And this book is set in the 1970’s and early 80’s. Yet on the other hand there is a beauty in the landscape and I am sure something that draws people to this harsh environment.
The five women were all interesting and I liked slowly getting to know them. Sybil – the matriarch is the one who starts up the book club. The book club helps to bring the women together and even if they have to have it over the radio because the weather is bad, it goes ahead. And they really do discuss the books and through them become involved more in each others lives.  Sybil already has a great friend in Rita – from early working days. Kate her daughter-in-law is English and is facing into a place so different to where she grew up. Della is a stock person and hails from Texas, and she finds the northern territories grow on her all the time.  Sallyanne really benefits from the friendships, she is  a bright, intelligent,  young woman in a marriage that is going south.  I liked her penchant for the romance genre too!
These women face into loss and grief, the hardships of the job, the pain of miscarriage, the difficulties of marriage and the absolute pain of racism. Through it all they support each other – walk with each other – and through it all make a life worth living.
An at times emotional and satisfying read, I’d be delighted to belong to the Fairvale Ladies Book Club!
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Talk of the Town Rachael Johns

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Published: Mira
Date: May 1st 2017
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 4416
Genre: Country Romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
4.5 stars        Add to Goodreads

Lawson Cooper-Jones has two priorities in life – his son, Ned, and the survival of the dairy farm that has been in his family for generations. Despite the best efforts of the town matchmakers and the determined pursuit of local girl Adeline Walsh, Lawson’s heart belongs still, and only, to his late wife.

But when a flat tyre strands Lawson and Ned in nearby Rose Hill, he’s surprised to find a woman living alone in the old general store of the deserted town. Ned immediately forms a bond with the beautiful stranger called Meg, and Lawson is surprised to find himself captivated by her too.

My thoughts banner
Talk of the Town was a book that drew me in right from the beginning and kept me engaged all the way through. There wasn’t big drama or lots of action, but relationships that mattered and caught at my heart.
Would you buy a house in the middle of a town where people no longer lived, except for someone called Crazy Archie? Live in an old house that was once a country store. Well you wouldn’t find me doing it, however that’s what Meg does, and there is an air of mystery about her that makes you wonder what led her here? What’s her past? 
Then there is a very likeable dairy farmer Lawson and an eight year old son who has his head on straight and is a total delight. Add into that mix Tabitha, Lawson’s sister who is another one who has her heart and head in the right place.  Throw in a couple of dogs, a ghost who resides side by side with Meg and a rather spiteful, but not totally lost wanna-be-girlfriend of Lawson and the scene is set.
I loved the Western Australia country setting, the romance, the twists and turns and the just downright wonderfulness of the right kind of relationships and the opportunity of second chances.  And who is the talk of the town? Read the book and find out!
Keep them coming Rachael Johns. 
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Outback Sisters. Rachael Johns

Outback Sisters book cover

Published: MIRA Harlequin (Australia)
Date: 22nd February 2016
Format: e-ARC
Genre: Rural Australian Romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
5 stars           Add to Goodreads

Cafe owner Frankie has been unlucky in love all her life. It’s hard in a small town like Bunyip Bay to meet prospective partners. Her sister, Simone, lost the love of her live years before and is now devoted to raising their two teenage girls, leaving little time for romance. When Frankie is kissed by a handsome stranger who calls her Simone, it’s a case of mistaken identity – but who is this man and how does he know Simone?

Logan Knight is in town to meet up with a woman he has met online. Although raised on a farm with his brother Angus, he has travelled the world as a journalist and is now looking forward to meeting a girl and settling down. The girl in the cafe was an amazing kisser – but not the one he thought he was meeting!

Reclusive farmer Angus wants nothing to do with Logan’s plans for improving the property’s finances and finding a partner – until he meets the sisters at a wedding. Who is attracted to whom? More importantly, can Frankie and Simone sort out their feelings for the two brothers without destroying their very close bond.

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Outback Sisters – was all that I love in a good romance novel. Add to that a good rural Australian romance. There were plenty of little twists and turns, much drama and heartache, and of course love.
If that wasn’t enough, I was also reminded of good times, when Rachael Johns mentioned The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton) which took me off in a little indulgent reminiscence. She also has two characters who love reading – Logan and Frankie, and their book talk was also a little icing on the cake. Actually these two were very good at putting icing on cakes!
Two sisters, two brothers and wires crossed. What fun! Well it did cause them some consternation and setbacks but…in the end perfection! It all started when Simone’s two girls Harriet and Grace sign up to a social media dating website as their mother (unknown to her)… and Logan comes calling.
Each of the four main characters have life issues that they are dealing with, they have past hurts and some secrets. Simone is a single parent as her husband died a few years back and it is not easy raising young girls these days. Frankie has been burned in love, Logan and Angus have lost their parents in tragic circumstances and Logan is also hiding something as well. 
Each book in this Bunyip Bay series has been stellar. This one – #4 was every bit as good as the others and I thoroughly enjoyed it. While it is part of a series you could read it as a stand alone, but this whole series is too good to miss out on.
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Outback Sisters Product Page – Harlequin Australia

Outback Blaze Rachael Johns

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Outback Blaze
Rachael Johns
Published: Harlequin Mira Au
Date: 2014
Format: Paperback
Pages: 367
Genre: Contemporary rural romance
Source: Own book
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Ruby wasn’t looking for love, Drew wasn’t looking to stay…until they found each other. Can their fling survive the darkness of Ruby’s past and Drew’s desire to move on?

Ruby Jones was always an optimist, but the trauma of her past had made her wary. So when she flees to the small rural community of Bunyip Bay to start afresh, she has her sights firmly set on establishing her horse-riding business and rebuilding her life. The last thing Ruby wants is a romance. In fact, after all she has been through, she can’t imagine she will ever believe in love again.

Police officer Drew Noble has no intention of staying in Bunyip Bay — he is just an outsider seeking temporary refuge. But as the charm of the town sways him, Drew finds himself increasingly drawn to the community and its inhabitants, as well as another newcomer, the lovely Ruby Jones.

When Drew investigates a suspicious fire at Ruby’s parents’ business, he finds himself feeling strangely protective of the girl with the flowers in her hair. As the details of Ruby’s past emerge and she comes once more under threat, Drew realises he will do all in his power to save her.

Soon these outsiders discover they have both lost their hearts — not only to the town but to each other.

My thoughts banner
Outback Blaze is #2 in the Bunyip Bay series by Australian author Rachael Johns.  I have enjoyed the first and third of this series and this one was every bit as good.  
Ruby has only been home about six months when a number of calamities hit her, you’d think one would be enough, but no, her author hit her up for three!  I am not giving anything away by mentioning the first is a terrible fire that burns her parents’ business down.  It starts off a chain of investigation as to who might have done this terrible deed.  Ruby is hit hard by two more shocking and heartbreaking events that would shake the bravest of heroines up.
The only bright light in the whole situation is the presence of Drew, just out to Australia from Liverpool.  Unbeknown to Ruby he has a whole back story that could bring an end to their budding relationship.  Drew has had a lot of tough experience policing and he is determined to find who has started the fire and… what turns up next.  
The book is full of mystery, I had even pegged the cop boss, but no he turned out to be in the clear! There are all the elements of a small town – support, gossip, prejudice – you name it, Bunyip Bay has it.  I loved meeting the characters from the other books, and just had to keep reading on to find out ‘who dun it?’ 
4 stars
Bunyip Bay
Outback Blaze  #2


Intensive Care. Nicki Edwards

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Intensive Care
Nicki Edwards
Published: Momentum Books
Date: January 2015
Format: e-ARC
Genre: Medical Romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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On the surface it looks like busy intensive care nurse Kate Kennedy has it all: a long-term relationship, a great career and a sleek inner city apartment. But appearances are deceiving, and in one fell swoop everything comes crashing down around her. In a moment of spontaneity, Kate leaves her city life and takes a new role as Nurse Unit Manager at Birrangulla Base Hospital, but her dream move proves harder than expected.

Local cafe owner Joel O’Connor finds himself increasingly drawn to the gorgeous new nurse, but like Kate, he’s been scarred by love and isn’t looking to jump into anything. Yet their chemistry is hard to deny and after a near fatal incident, Joel and Kate find themselves opening up to one another.

Just when Kate thinks she’s found love again, their fragile relationship is thwarted by their pasts. Can they both let go of their guilt and grief to move on to a bright new future?

My thoughts banner
Intensive Care by Nicki Edwards is her debut novel.  It is set in rural Australia about 5 hours west of Sydney. The setting was a wonderful little insight into this part of Australia.  There was much I really liked about this book and a few things not so much.
Kate arrives in Birangulla to take up a new job as the unit manager in the Intensive Care department. She is escaping from a relationship that has gone sour.  I found her avoidance of meeting Marcus to explain why she had left the apartment somewhat odd. Assertiveness and confrontation were not her strong points. She did grow in this a little but all in all I wanted a slightly more pushy heroine! However she did enjoy the new challenge of living in a rural setting and she is an excellent nurse. She obviously cared about her patients and more than once she shed blood, sweat and tears for them.
Joel is an Irishman whose family now live in Australia and he sure knows how to make a great coffee and is generally an all round nice guy.  However he has a background that makes him a little slow in coming forward when it comes to any new romance.  Kate also has something she is not sharing either.
For me the strong part of this book was the medical side of it.  It sounded so correct and utterly true, each time Kate was in the hospital and something was happening there I was riveted to the book.  I hope this is something Nicki Edwards will continue to include in any book she might write in the future.
In general the plot moved along at a good pace with something happening most of the time.  The romance moved slowly, there was time given for the slow build of friendship and then love for Kate and Joel.  I liked the way the relationships were shown at the Intensive Care unit and the way it was for Kate as she started her new job,it is often the way when someone new walks in to take up leadership.
I hope the author has another medical romance in the making!
3.5 stars
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The Road to Hope. Rachael Johns

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The Road to Hope
Rachael Johns
Published: Harlequin MIRA Australia
Date: 1st March 2015
Format: e-ARC
Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Nurse Lauren Simpson is known in Hope Junction for the wrong reasons – and she’s over it. Watching the man she’s always loved marry someone else is the last straw – she decides to get out of Hope. But her resolve is tested when the hot new locum doctor arrives in town.

Doctor Tom Lewis also has skeletons in his closet – including a painful breakup and devastating family news. He’s hit the road with his vintage ute and surfboard, to travel the outback and live in the moment.

When Tom and Lauren meet the attraction is instant, but for Lauren Tom threatens to be just another fling and Tom has his own reasons for hesitating. Everyone else – their friends and patients – can see how perfect they are together, but just what will it take for them to admit this to themselves?

My thoughts banner
The Road to Hope by Rachael Johns takes up Lauren’s story, we met her in Jilted where she was the one who didn’t get the guy!  She wasn’t seen in the best light either.  However this time we are able to grasp a better picture of Lauren – and it’s a good one!
I found the first part of the story moved a little slowly but once I hit the halfway mark I was fully engaged and feeling for the characters.  Lauren has decided that it’s time to have a change and she is on the verge of handing in her resignation at the hospital where she works.  She wants to make a new start.  She has had a rather loveless past growing up and doesn’t have a high self esteem.  Everyone around her seems to have a happy relationship and she is feeling somewhat out of it. Even her relationship with best friend Whitney seems to have changed.
Tom has taken on a locum job, he’s great looking and a very good doctor.  He and Frank – Lauren’s brother, have been good friends and so Tom makes himself right at home with Lauren. However Tom is running from something, he has a warm loving family, but is on the outer with them at the moment. He has also experienced a relationship turning sour and it’s made him somewhat wary and determined that love and a relationship that matters is not for him.
I loved the elderly patients at the hospital, and the way in which Lauren and Tom went beyond the job in being with them and making sure that they were treated as people who had needs and feelings. I also liked the exploration of a disease that robs people of their memory and the effect this has on a family.  When I read a book I always like something more than a romance – I want challenges and issues that might strike anyone to be taken out and looked at.  Whatever the future holds for us, it’s today and love that matter. That’s the message in this book.  It’s a good one.
4 stars