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Review: Heart Of The Cross by Emily Madden

on September 19, 2019

Heart Of The Cross 
Emily Madden
Harlequin AUS
2019, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

From Ireland to Kings Cross, a legacy of loss and hope echoes across the generations …

Tinahely, Ireland, 1959 Rosie Hart is content leaving her home behind to follow her new husband to Australia. But she soon discovers there is no room for her or their young son in the life he has built in vibrant Kings Cross. As their marriage crumbles, Rosie will need to fight for the golden future her son deserves … until the day her world is shattered and all hope turns to dust.

Eighteen years later, haunted by her past, Rosie is determined her daughter Maggie will follow the path she has set out for her. But when Maggie rejects her plans and moves out of home, all Rosie can hope is that she has also left behind the grief that plagues the Hart name.

Sydney, 2017 When her grandmother dies and leaves Brianna Hart a secret apartment in Kings Cross, Brie wonders what else Rosie was keeping from her. As Brie chases the truth of Rosie’s past she uncovers an incredible story of passion, violence, love and tragedy.

Is the Hart family’s legacy of loss inescapable, or has Rosie gifted her granddaughter with a future of hope?

Emily Madden is one of those authors that I’ve always wanted to read but never quite gotten around to so I was happy to get the chance to check out her latest release. Set over three generations, beginning with Rosie in Ireland migrating to Australia to join her husband Tom and ending with Rosie’s granddaughter Brie having to return home to Australia from overseas after her grandmother’s death.

Rosie marries Tom Fuller swiftly after a short romance, Tom already having planned to leave for Australia. Rosie stays at home in Ireland with their young son for almost three years until Tom is ready for her. When she arrives in Australia, Tom has changed. He’s not the man she knew in Ireland and Rosie is forced to learn to survive in her own way. She meets an array of characters in their new home in Kings Cross, people who support her during her darkest times and people that she supports and comes to love. But tragedy isn’t finished with Rosie yet and in the 1980s, she is determined her young daughter Maggie not squander her potential and make something of her life. But Maggie sees Rosie’s strict love as stifling and unwanted and the two are soon estranged. And then there’s Brie, Maggie’s daughter who ends up being raised by Rosie only to spread her wings and explore the world, leaving Australia and her high school love Josh behind. Now Brie is back and she’s about to unravel the mystery of Rosie’s life and discover some secrets that have been hidden for 50 years.

I really enjoyed a lot of this – especially Rosie’s experience coming to Australia with a young child. She hasn’t seen her husband in nearly three years, he’s never met their son. For the most part, Rosie has been alone but she’s excited to join Tom and make their lives together, even though she worries that Tom’s letters have changed in recent times. It doesn’t take Rosie long to realise that things are not going to be as she expected – Tom is distant, short with their son, takes what he wants from her and spends most of the time he’s not at work drinking in the pub. He has closed world views and Rosie finds herself relying on her neighbours and the proprietors of shops nearby in order to make things work. For a while it looks as though things turn a corner for Rosie, but the greatest of tragedies awaits her.

Brie’s story coming home in 2017 to bury her grandmother and settle her estate is also really enjoyable to read. I really loved that a lot of the story is set around cafes that Rosie used to own, Brie finds herself befriended by one of the new owners and visits there constantly. I love a good, local cafe and I think that this atmosphere was captured really well in the novel. Brie finds herself a new tribe in Sydney as well as connecting with her old school friends, including the boyfriend that she left behind, Josh. There’s still a lot of chemistry between Brie and Josh but there’s also some resentment too, for the way that Brie left Josh behind, for the way that she went about it and how he found out.

There’s an intriguing mystery running through the book, about why Rosie had this secret apartment and how come Brie never knew about it. The answers are there to be pieced together as you read through some of the historical portions of the novel but the confirmation was still quite heartbreaking. This is a lot for Brie to take in coming on top of the death of her beloved grandparent, who was really the only family figure she had in her life that she can remember. She is also at the stage where this trip home kind of makes her reevaluate her whole life and what is important, which would she rather? To take a new job or to make a home for herself, a permanent base with people who love her, with friends and a partner.

However, despite how much I enjoyed a lot of the story, I still do feel that for me, there were a few aspects that needed a bit more time devoted to them or fleshing out, particularly in the case of someone wanting to contest the will. It honestly just seemed like unnecessary drama to stress Brie out and was resolved in the quickest of ways, mostly off page, which, considering the revelations, was a bit disappointing. I felt as though there was some opportunity for closure there, for a better picture. Basically the lawyer tells Brie someone is contesting the will, we won’t know who until this point in time, don’t worry about it. And then later on it’s like well, it’s all fine now. I don’t know how the person who was contesting the will thought they’d be able to do that? And get away with it? There was just a lot of unanswered stuff there that I really felt could have been incorporated into the story, that would’ve been nice. And for me personally, Jack was a problematic character, which was unfortunate as the reader is supposed to like him! But when I was reading him, he just came off as arrogance and control wrapped in a different package.  He wasn’t particularly well fleshed out either, there was a lot about him that remained a mystery to the reader and you just have to presume Rosie had more information. Also, I wasn’t really sure why Rosie chose to keep everything a secret, I guess some things are painful to talk about but there are just so many secrets that don’t really need to be. A lot of things also fell very neatly into place, in some ways, a bit too neatly as well.

This was a very good story that I think, with just a little bit more could’ve made an excellent story. I did really like the glimpse of Kings Cross, such a suburb full of character, in the late 50s and 60s and the way in which the different cultures that made Australia their home were incorporated.


Book #144 of 2019

Heart Of The Cross is book #62 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

2 responses to “Review: Heart Of The Cross by Emily Madden

  1. This is a very good and well rounded review – thank you! I am reading this one right now and I can’t put it down.

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