Book Review: The Grazier’s Wife

grazier's wife

Book Review:  The Grazier’s Wife by Barbara Hannay

I confess to not particularly liking rural romance (or chook lit, which never ceases to make me chuckle) but happily The Grazier’s Wife turned out to be more of a family saga, with even a sprinkling of historical romance to satisfy me.

I picked The Grazier’s Wife because Barbara Hannay wrote it. I haven’t read any of her recent books (I’m pretty sure I must have read one or two of her older Mills & Boons’ titles somewhere along the line) but I thought I should make more of an effort, seeing as she lives not too far from where I live. The Grazier’s Wife is also set in this area. So instead of the urge to go on a holiday or add a place to my travel destination bucket list as I read, I felt a reassuring familiarity.

The plot also had a bit of a familiar ring to it, I’ll admit, although I doubt that was Hannay’s intention.  It involves three generation of the Drummond family.

Hugh is the current owner of Ruthven Downs cattle station. His wife, Jackie, is organising a huge birthday party for him. When arranging for a mirror to be restored as a gift for his birthday, she discovers hidden letters and pages of a diary belonging to Hugh’s mother, Stella. Stella’s story then gets told in flashback form. Stella’s would be my favourite of all the main storylines. We get to read about her time as a nurse, stationed in Singapore during World War 2, and her life afterwards on the property with Hugh’s father.

The girl who restores the mirror for Jackie, Alice, has another major role in the book. Alice has just moved to the Tablelands (to Burralea, the only fictional place in the book, which doesn’t seem to make sense, why not just say she’s moved to Yungaburra?) and meets Seth, Jackie and Hugh’s son. They have instant attraction, but Alice’s past prevents their relationship moving forward.

Hugh and Jackie’s daughter, Flora, is mentioned briefly throughout the book. Her situation mirrors her grandmother’s in some ways, and I’d like to see how it could be resolved in the 21st century. I will have to wait though, it seems, as this storyline is not wrapped up neatly at the end of the book, prompting me to assume there will be a sequel.

Stella’s other child and Hugh’s sister, Deb, also plays a minor role in the book and could quite possibly be explored in a future edition.

As I said, Stella’s storyline was the one I was most drawn into. I believed her conflict much more than any of others. In fact, I couldn’t see why Jackie was particularly worried about the revelations of the letters and diary she found. Would anyone be worried about such a thing in 2016?

Alice’s conflict that keeps her from being with Seth also seemed a little weak. Again, I think it would have worked in an earlier time period, but it’s 2016 and there’s a counsellor on every corner.

The beginning of the book had a few time jumps that confused me, so next time I’d recommend another flashback or something similar than how Hannay presented it.

I also grew a little tired of Hannay’s constant mentions of food. (You can take the Mills & Boons out of the girl…) They weren’t as lyrical or descriptive as I would expect. At times it felt like I was simply reading a grocery shopping list.

I also took half a star off for all the romance in the book being ‘young’. All Stella’s romance was when she was young, with only the tiny mention of when she grew older. We got Seth and Alice’s intimate details but nothing of their parents or aunt. Cue my sarcastic font: Publishers know best though, and that’s what people want. No one wants old people sex or falling in love…

I have to add at least half a star for the ending though. I was not expecting that at all. It was incredibly cute.

All in all I’d recommend this book, especially for people searching for Australian characters and location. I live in a beautiful place, this I won’t argue with.

3 1/2 out of 5

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