All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Undara by Annie Seaton

on September 23, 2019

Undara
Annie Seaton
Harlequin AUS
2019, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Within the treacherous caves of Undara, a betrayal will test the bonds of friendship and family. A page-turning new eco-adventure for readers who love Di Morrissey. When entomologist Emlyn Rees arrives at Hidden Valley she wants nothing more than to escape her marriage breakdown by burying herself in the research team’s hunt for new species of insects in the depths of the dramatic Undara lava tubes. However, little does she suspect she will be the key to solving a mystery that’s more than one hundred years old.

Travis Carlyle is initially resistant to letting some city folks tramp over his cattle station, but soon the researchers’ findings and a growing friendship with Emlyn bring opportunities to turn around his struggling farm. With a broken marriage behind him and children to care for, Travis needs to plan for the future and this could be his family’s best chance.

But when things start going wrong for the farm and around the dig site, Emlyn and Travis are at a loss to understand why. Are they cursed with bad luck, or is there a more sinister force at play? Are the tall tales of enigmatic stockman Bluey turning true? As the unseen saboteur grows bolder, Emlyn and Travis are caught in a race against time to save the station … and their lives.

Wow, so this was a heck of a read!

Firstly, I didn’t know anything about lava tubes before I read this, so this was also an opportunity to learn about that as well. The book is packed full of information about them but in a way that services the story. Emlyn is an entomologist about to undertake a research project, leaving her ex-husband behind. It’s pretty clear that Emlyn has had a really rough time lately, she’s definitely recovering from some serious injuries and her marriage has broken down, for reasons that are not exactly clear. Her ex husband is worried about her state of mind and about her being alone in such an isolated place before the rest of the team arrive. Although she is alone, the man whose property she’ll be conducting the research on, Travis Carlyle, is not too far away and he’s struggling in similar ways to Emlyn.

For Travis, the family farm has been everything. Times have been hard lately, but Travis is determined to keep going for the sake of his twin teenage sons. They live with their mother now, since she left, along with their two year old daughter and Travis’ life hasn’t been the same since. He resents the intrusion of Emlyn and her research team but he desperately needs the injection of cash they will give him for the inconvenience. It’s that or the gold mining company sniffing around and Travis is determined that the farm won’t be degraded by mining.  Although stand offish around Emlyn at first, the two come to have a sort of understanding, especially when Emlyn thinks she might’ve stumbled on the perfect answer to Travis’ money issues, as well as a way for her to heal herself. The only thing is, there’s someone determined to sabotage everything.

This story has so much in it – Emlyn is clearly grieving, she’s determined to leave her marriage behind as well despite the fact that it seems like she doesn’t really want to. Travis is in the same predicament, his wife having left him a year ago with barely an explanation. I appreciated the way this book took my expectations and turned them upside down. It made me realise how much I’ve become conditioned to expect something when reading now and at first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like having my expectations thwarted but as the book moved on, I realised just how right this path was.

I’ve never been to far north QLD or western QLD so the descriptions of the land were really interesting and provided a great grounding in the setting for me. It’s almost 3000km from where I am to where this book is set – 31hrs without stopping, google maps tells me! It’d probably take 4-5 days to drive that distance and it’d be interesting to see just how many different types of landscape you would go through on that journey. Travis’ life farming in this place isn’t easy, so much relies on the weather and he’s been struggling even more since export methods and laws changed. But he’s so passionate about it, about keeping it within his family for his boys, both of whom are interested in and enjoy working the land but also have different ambitions and thoughts about what they want for their future.

Throughout this book is a sinister sort of side plot which really steps up and takes over about 3/4 of the way through and the way that Annie Seaton built the tension was honestly remarkable. I was actually getting anxiety just reading it and it’s the sort of thing where you just want to keep reading as fast as you can so you can find out how it is all going to play out. It was really expertly done, the usage of the isolation as well as the unusual landscape (the tubes and caves) was really perfect. And the mystery from the past played into the present nicely as well.

I really enjoyed this for the clever story and also for the way it made me think about my expectations and how I think when starting a new book. I liked the challenge that this gave me and how it sort of made me reassess that about my reading habits!

8/10

Book #146 of 2019

Undara is book #63 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019


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