All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Blog Tour Review: The Peppercorn Project by Nicki Edwards

on June 7, 2016

Peppercorn ProjectThe Peppercorn Project
Nicki Edwards
Pan Macmillan AUS
2016, 376p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

One heartbroken woman. One bitter cop. One community to save them.

After the tragic death of her husband, single mum Isabelle Cassidy is bereft and broke. When she hears about The Peppercorn Project – a scheme that offers affordable rent in the tiny but vibrant town of Stony Creek – Issie sees it as her family’s best chance at a fresh start.

Newly single police officer Matt Robertson moved to Stony Creek to lick his wounds after a bitter divorce. Wanting only peace and quiet, Matt is against the Project, seeing it as a threat to the peace he’s found in the country town – until he meets Issie. Despite himself, Matt is drawn to the widow and feels inexplicably protective of her fragile family.

Just when Issie begins to imagine a future with Matt, an accident proves how far she has to go before she can move beyond her grief. But the citizens of Stony Creek won’t rest until they see these two broken souls find a new beginning, together.

Can Issie move beyond the pain of her past and entrust Matt with her family, and her heart?

After a personal tragedy devastates her life, Isabelle Cassidy applies to move herself and her two children from their home in Torquay on Victoria’s south west coast to Stony Creek in country South Australia as part of the ‘Peppercorn Project’ of the town. Stony Creek will be granting several families a home for a year for a nominal fee. It’s something that Isabelle desperately needs as her situation has left her with almost nothing. Her older son is at first, resentful of the move and an incident during the interview almost jeopardises their chances. Despite that, they are given the opportunity to join the community.

I think that books featuring a widow or widower are very difficult to get right. There’s a difficulty in balancing a believable amount of grief with a realistic situation of moving on. I think for me, it’s difficult to imagine the death of my partner – I don’t want to even try. Add in the thought of what it might be like to move on to someone else…. it makes it harder to place yourself in the main character’s shoes, unless of course you have that situation in common.

Issie’s widowhood is relatively fresh when she meets Matt, the police officer in Stony Creek. She chooses to keep her history a secret as much as possible, preferring instead to tell people individually what happened to her husband, rather than having everyone know before she arrives, so for a while Matt isn’t aware that she’s a widow. His interest in her is almost immediate and although they do kind of get off to a bumpy start, once Issie and her family move to Stony Creek, Matt proves himself to be helpful and seems to fit effortlessly into their lives, first as a good friend and then potentially, as more. At times it appears almost too easy – her children adore him pretty much right away with her 12yo son even going so far as to tell her that if she wanted to remarry, someone like Matt would be cool. This, less than a year after the boy lost his father, did seem a trifle swift for a child of his age.

The romance is a very slow burn – presumably because of Issie’s grieving and healing process. A large part of the book is devoted to showcasing the small community as well as Matt and Issie’s developing friendship, which proceeds along in a gentle manner. Woven in (sort of) there’s a thread of story that almost becomes a line of suspense, suggesting that drugs have penetrated the small town, which is a great idea. However, it kind of amounts to little more than a few sentences between characters, Issie witnessing one or two things and the townspeople using the drugs thing as a way to suspect the newcomers through the Peppercorn project. It also ends in a very lucklustre and quick way, wrapping up and basically vanishing from the plot but the book keeps going for a little bit longer which makes the pacing seem slightly off. I think it would’ve been really awesome if that drugs plot was expanded upon a little more, used as a way to really examine the idea of the Peppercorn project, the potential fallout as well as the “them vs us” sort of divide that seemed to spring up almost right away. Newcomers to small towns can be often viewed as outsiders, not ‘locals’ until they’ve been there generations. It’s something that could’ve definitely gone a bit further, become a meatier part of the novel. Overall the tone is light and it still could’ve stayed that way by focusing on the issues and social aspects, rather than the crime itself.

The Peppercorn Project is a sweet story of a woman who learns to find her feet again after a terrible tragedy. Issie is a very likable character, just trying to do everything she can to give her children a better life, even if they perhaps don’t really understand why they need to move. I like my romances with a little more heat but there are plenty that will appreciate the slow and gentle courtship here, especially given Issie’s circumstances. The community is well constructed and portrayed, giving that genuine small town feel. Even with the small drug issue that arises, it still feels like the sort of place you would like to live, raise a family….or heal. I think Nicki Edwards is carving out a niche for herself in the rural genre with stories that leave you feeling good.


The Peppercorn Project is published by Pan Macmillan Australia and available now –

Book #127 of 2016


The Peppercorn Project is book #28 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

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