All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Wattle Seed Inn by Léonie Kelsall

The Wattle Seed Inn
Léonie Kelsall
Allen & Unwin
2021, 416p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Three aching hearts, a ramshackle country pub and a tangled web of secrets.

PR executive Gabrielle Moreau knows she has an easy life, but when her business partner claims she lacks career passion she takes ownership of a dilapidated pub in a tiny riverside settlement to prove she can be a success without falling back on her privilege.

Eighteen months ago, Settlers Bridge stonemason Hayden Paech had it all: a job he loved, good mates and a close family. All he needed was the right woman to come along, and he was ready to settle down. But one poor choice stole that chance and he’ll never risk caring for anyone again.

Living at Wurruldi Hotel for … goodness, so many years, Ilse has seen more changes of ownership than she can recall. Clinging to her failing memories, she’s tired of trying to protect the property her grandparents built. With the arrival of the elegant Gabrielle Moreau, however, it seems that finally an owner may recognise the importance of recapturing the grace and dignity of Ilse’s past.

For Ilse to find peace, Hayden forgiveness and Gabrielle her true passion, three aching hearts must reveal their secrets. 

I absolutely adored Léonie Kelsall’s first novel, The Farm At Peppertree Crossing, so I was so excited to read this. It’s set in the same area and readers of that first book will probably be happy to see quite a few familiar faces peppering this story, including Matt and Roni.

Three years ago, Gabrielle Moreau and her then-fiance and business partner, bought an old pub. Since then there’s been an earthquake that caused a little damage but Gabrielle now owns the pub outright and is determined to restore it to its former glory and hopefully, find her passion. On her first night in town, she meets a bunch of locals in a different pub and is drawn into their close knit friendship group. Even better, two of them have skills she desperately needs to help restore her building – her vision is for an inn rather than a pub.

Hayden Paech is damaged in more ways than one. Without his friends badgering him to stay part of the group, to go out, to live, he’d probably be a hermit, just his service dog for company. He and Gabrielle do not hit it off well due to an assumption on Gabrielle’s part and her wariness of his dog but the more time they spend together, the more something simmers between them.

I really loved the way this is told – the narrative is split between three perspectives: Gabrielle, Hayden and also Ilse, who lived most of her life in and around the pub and it was held her in family for generations. Gabrielle is from the city and is also from a wealthy background so she’s used to life being a certain way, things happening when you’re ready to offer money for services. Life in the country is different – contractors are quite happy to say they don’t work out that far or will come out when they’re ready, to give a quote. When she meets the group of locals and is able to hire cabinet maker Justin and stonemason Hayden, she also finds that friendly Sharna is willing to pitch in and Gabrielle can even do some of the work herself.

Gabrielle and Hayden get off to a prickly start, for a few reasons. Hayden is a character that is absolutely radiating with pain – both physically and mentally, which he tries to hide. His friends, especially Taylor, the local doctor, are always checking on his welfare and making sure he’s doing okay and the thoughts and nightmares aren’t getting on top of him. Hayden is suffering from PTSD and he has his service dog, who recognises the signs that Hayden might be experiencing times of high stress, and to wake him from nightmares and provide comfort. The support that the dog provides was showcased so well – he was such a part of the story he was almost a main character himself and not only does he provide that comfort and security for Hayden, looking after him when required but he also helps Gabrielle overcome her fear and wariness of dogs.

Hayden and Gabrielle both had some trauma, grief and loss in their past – and are still dealing with the after-effects of that. Hayden has a lot of guilt, for things that are not his fault. It can be hard to bear but sometimes a tragedy is just that…a tragedy. I think Gabrielle can understand those feelings because she’s had similar ones herself. I really appreciated the way their friendship developed from this snarkiness to this deep understanding of each other and all their parts. Before the end of the book, Hayden and Gabrielle have seen each other’s deep vulnerabilities, scars and raw wounds and are the stronger for it and that was something I really enjoyed reading. There’s no suggestion that this developing relationship will ‘fix’ Hayden, will change things for him but he’ll have support and love from a different direction, when he needs it.

I also really loved Ilse’s chapters. I don’t think her story is hard to discern even in the beginning but I felt it was done in a way that really worked and the slow reveal of all the parts of her story was well crafted. It gave the reader a chance to view the inn’s history, see how it had shaped lives and how Gabrielle was bringing it back.

You don’t have to have read the first book in order to read this one – it stands alone really well. But if you have read one and not the other (no matter which way it is) then I highly recommend you read both because they are both wonderful.

8/10

Book #115 of 2021

The Wattle Seed Inn is book #48 of the Australian Women Writer Challenge 2021

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Review: The Farm At Peppertree Crossing By Lèonie Kelsall

The Farm At Peppertree Crossing
Lèonie Kelsall
Allen & Unwin
2020, 4332p
Read via my local library/RB Digital

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

An unexpected inheritance, a traumatic past and a family whose secrets are kept by the town

After a fractured childhood spent in foster homes, city-girl Roni has convinced herself that she has no need of anyone – other than her not-as-tough-as-he-looks rescued street cat, Scritches, and her unborn baby, who she’s determined will feel all the love she’s been denied.

Despite facing a bleak future, Roni distrusts the news of a bequest from an unknown aunt, Marian Nelson. But, out of options, she and Scritches leave Sydney behind, bound for the 800-acre property on the edge of the wheat fields of South Australia.

However, this is no simple inheritance: Marian seeks to control her legacy from beyond the grave by setting tasks that Roni must complete before she can claim the property and a life that could change her future. With everything at stake, Roni must learn to trust in the truth of Marian’s most important lesson: everyone deserves love.

Recently I added another app my local library uses for eBooks and noticed that this one is a bit different to the other. The other one I use, books are checked out by someone like a regular print book and you have to wait for them to be ‘returned’ so you can borrow them. This app however, has books that are always available, and you can check them out any time. This book was one of them – it’s a recent release that I’ve seen a couple of reviews for and it felt like something that I would enjoy.

Roni lives in Sydney – she was raised in a string of foster homes and for the last 10 years has worked in a cafe near Circular Quay. She makes just enough to get by, barely. But her rent will soon be increasing and she knows that she won’t be able to afford the new amount, she’ll need to find somewhere else to live. Sydney is an expensive city and it’ll be difficult. A strange phone call leads to a meeting with a lawyer and Roni learns that an aunt has left her a house. Well, property really, in South Australia, as well as the means to visit it. In order to inherit, Roni must undertake a series of tasks set by her late aunt, the first of which is visiting the family homestead. Her aunt has left her letters to read at various points, including with other people, whom she has tasked to help integrate Roni into the community. Roni goes to see the property with firm intentions of doing whatever she has to do to inherit it clear, and then selling it and going back to Sydney. After all, she was raised entirely in the city, she doesn’t know anything about farming or country life. But as she and her cat Scritches settle in, the place – and some of its residents – begin to get under her skin.

I really enjoyed this book – loved it actually. I thought that Lèonie Kelsall did an amazing job at showcasing what Roni’s life in foster care must’ve been like, but without going into extensive detail about it. It’s clear that she carries some deep, deep scars from that time, specifically related to an event as well as just the general instability of it. Roni has also lived a mostly solitary life since aging out of care – she seems to have no real friends, although a decent working relationship with her boss. She works long hours and then hurries home, often in the dark, to her apartment where she also helps elderly occupants occasionally get their medications or drops in groceries to them. She’s about to face a significantly troubling situation when she receives the news that she has what could be a substantial inheritance. All Roni seems to really have in her life is her cat Scritches, whom she rescued from behind a dumpster years ago after boys were coaxing him out and then pelting him with rocks. The bond between Scritches and Roni is seriously adorable – he has huge swathes of personality and is a massive part of the story. And there is a part in this book that made me cry and it was all because of Scritches.

Roni is a fish out of water on the farm and resentful of the ‘challenges’ her aunt has left her – things like make a loaf of bread from a sourdough starter, feed the poultry and care for them, integrate herself into the local community. Despite working in a cafe, Roni doesn’t seem to have ever really cooked herself meals and is clear about her distrust of vegetables. She makes a lot of mistakes, ones that you would expect people raised in the city to make and her lack of self confidence is quite an issue as well. Roni has had very little in the way of genuine care and affection in her life, which makes her vulnerable and also shapes her personality. She’s determined….but also tentative, which is an interesting combination. I enjoyed the way she slowly evolved, the longer she spent time at the farm. When she arrives she’s paranoid – locks herself in when the sun goes down, completely thrown by the silence of the country, freaked out by the lack of traffic noise etc. She carries with her a lot of scars from her city life and it takes her a while to relax, to settle into rural life, to even begin to embrace it. I understood her finding some of the challenges annoying – it felt like a lot of hoops to jump through by someone who had known of her existence and yet had done little to make her life more comfortable and seemingly nothing to be involved in her upbringing and life. It takes time for things to be explained and there were times when I thought Roni’s vulnerability was a bit frustrating, because it’s obvious to me what is happening, that she’s in danger of being exploited. But for someone who had grown up like Roni did, it was completely understandable that she’d want to find a happy ending, a reason for her being in care, for being abandoned. It’s idealistic and she has lessons to learn about how she can go about making her life fulfilling and rich herself, rather than relying on a relationship with one person to do that.

There’s a love interest in this book as well for Roni and I thought that played out perfectly. Roni requires a deep understanding and Matt gets that, without needing to be told. He himself has his vulnerabilities as well and they compliment each other very well, especially with the knowledge and help he is willing to impart to her. I loved them together.

9/10

Book #141 of 2020

The Farm At Peppertree Crossing is book #46 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2020

 

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