All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Matters Of The Heart by Fiona Palmer

on September 12, 2019

Matters Of The Heart
Fiona Palmer
Hachette AUS
2019, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Western Australia, 2019: The Bennets are a farming family struggling to make ends meet. Lizzy, passionate about working the land, is determined to save the farm. Spirited and independent, she has little patience for her mother’s focus on finding a suitable man for each of her five daughters.

When the dashing Charles Bingley, looking to expand his farm holdings, buys the neighbouring property of Netherfield Park, Mrs Bennet and the entire district of Coodardy are atwitter with gossip and speculation. Will he attend the local dance and is he single? These questions are soon answered when he and Lizzy’s sister Jane form an instant connection on the night. But it is Charlie’s best friend, farming magnate Will Darcy, who leaves a lasting impression when he slights Lizzy, setting her against him.

Can Lizzy and Will put judgements and pride aside to each see the other for who they really are? Or in an age where appearance and social media rule, will prejudice prevail?

So I love Jane Austen – I think probably most romance readers do. But there’s no denying that Austen reworks can be very hit and miss. Some are brilliant, others lack anything original and don’t bother to put anything fresh on the take. However, that’s not the case with Fiona Palmer, who reworks Austen into a contemporary setting in rural Australia. This is definitely a first for me in terms of Austen adaptations. This year alone I’ve read one set in Pakistan and one featuring Muslim characters but set in Toronto but it’s great to find one with a very local flavour!

Lizzy Bennett is a passionate farmer, although things have definitely been better at Longbourn. She has recently taken the reins from her father and now most of the decisions made are hers, and she’s trying to get them back into the black. Lizzy is one of five sisters and is part of an overwhelming and boisterously noisy family. The two youngest are still teenagers in school who don’t really understand the precarious money situation. Middle sister Mary is away at university and Jane and Lizzy are the two eldest, with Jane running a nearby daycare centre ‘in town’. When wealthy Charles Bingley purchases the neighbouring property it definitely gets local gossip mills going because Charles is from a very wealthy family with numerous properties and also because he’s quite single. Unfortunately Charles comes with even wealthier friend Will Darcy who definitely gets off on the wrong foot with a lot of people in town, mostly with Lizzy.

It’s a well known plot. And this is just super fun. All the key elements are there – the Bennetts and their loud, messy, slightly down on their luck family with a bit of an embarrassing mother. Beautiful Jane and lovely Charles Bingley and sassy, determined Lizzy and socially awkward Darcy. This is really, really enjoyable reading and I read it in one sitting and loved every bit of it. It’s comfortingly familiar but also just different enough to make you feel like it’s fresh. Palmer reworks the Collins/Charlotte situation slightly and of course in this day and age, the thing that hinges P&P together, Wickham and Lydia, doesn’t work. So that gets a bit of an upgrade too. This has that laid back, rural Australian feel where it’s local rodeos and pub events. Fiona Palmer is an actual farmer so she is hugely knowledgeable which is something she passes on to Lizzy who is passionate about farming and her family property and determined to make it profitable again. She hasn’t had formal higher education but reads voraciously to educate herself on farming practices and best methods etc which means she can talk on just about any subject with skill. The chemistry between her and Darcy is incredibly good and I enjoyed their conversations and the way in which Palmer upgraded Darcy’s interest in Lizzy.

You definitely don’t have to be an Austen fan to read this either and it works perfectly well if you’ve never read P&P at all. Although the characters are based on Austen’s story, they are also fully fleshed and evolved characters in their own right and their concerns and day to day lives are completely different of course. It’s more than just a romance, like P&P was, it also gives social commentary in the same way, mostly about farming difficulties and the struggle to keep smaller, family owned properties afloat as the weather wreaks havoc with crops.

This was a lot of fun, really loved it from beginning to end! If you’re an Austen fan, a rural fan or even just a romance fan, it’s a highly engaging read that I think most will enjoy.


Book #159 of 2019

Matters Of The Heart is book #60 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2019. I’m now 3/4 of the way through my challenge to read 80 books for the year by Australian women authors.

3 responses to “Review: Matters Of The Heart by Fiona Palmer

  1. Oh this sounds very interesting!!! I agree that Austen retellings can be very much hit and miss…the majority being miss I find but I do love how this is switched up to such a different environment to the English countryside. Great review :)))

  2. Mic says:

    Great review Bree, I did love this book and agree with you completely.

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