Snowy Mountains Daughter by Alissa Callen

‘Clancy Parker didn’t need to leave the rugged embrace of the high country to know who she was and where she belonged.’

The fictional town of Bundilla in Australia’s high country provides the setting for Ms Callen’s latest novel. Bundilla is a close-knit community, a place where peony farmer Clancy Parker feels at home even if she must remain alone. The man she loved is long gone.

Heath MacBride, a talented artist once called Bundilla home. He left to pursue his art, something his father would never accept. But family is always complicated, and with his father in poor health, Heath returns for a short period to support his mother. He has accepted a commission to paint a mural on Bundilla’s water tower. Clancy’s brother Rowan, Heath’s best friend, arranges for Heath to stay on the Parker family property, Ashcroft.

Meet Bundy, an independent free-spirited kelpie, who belongs to no-one but helps many. Bundy shadows Heath, helps out at the school, and is a wonderful mascot for Bundilla.  It is almost inevitable that Bundy will be part of the mural on the water tower.

And, while Clancy, Heath and Bundy are central to this story, Ms Callen has introduced a wonderful caste of supporting characters. These include Clancy’s best friend, Brenna, Mabel the local journalist, and the formidable elderly twins Millicent and Beatrice Amos. Each character has a part to play.

While Clancy can tell that Heath is troubled, she seems unable to breach the defences he has built. Why can’t Heath confide in her? Heath’s father is failing, and his mother is struggling.  Why is Heath’s father so hostile towards him?

I really enjoyed this novel, with its mixture of romance and secrets. I could imagine the Misses Amos reigning over meetings of the book club and felt great sympathy for Heath’s mother as she tries to keep her husband safe from the ravages of his dementia.

What does the future hold for Heath and Clancy and for Bundilla? Please do not make us wait too long to find out, Ms Callen.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2021

#AussieAuthor2021

Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine

‘They had to jump or die.’

Crime fiction set in Australia’s Snowy Mountains?  This book was always going to find a place on my reading list.

Human bones are discovered high on Mount Stilwell, near Charlotte Pass, by ski patroller Vanessa Bell. They seem to be the remains of Celia Delaney, a young woman who went missing from Charlotte Pass during a ferocious storm in the winter of 1964.

The case is assigned to Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder from the Sydney Homicide Squad. He’s at first reluctant to accept the case (he’d been in the area for a different investigation). But when an autopsy reveals evidence of foul play, Ryder has an old murder to investigate.

The investigation coincides with a major celebration, and not everyone wants to assist. Then a second murder occurs, and the resort is locked down.  Ryder thinks that there’s a connection between the two murders and that the murderer is still in the village.  Can he identify the murderer before anyone else is killed?

The story moves at a rapid pace.  There are several potential murderers, and a few twists in the tale.  There’s also some interesting history about an old chairlift.  Pierce Ryder and Vanessa Bell are both interesting characters, as is the detective who initially investigated the 1964 missing person case. 

I really enjoyed this novel: both setting and story held my attention from beginning to end.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

#AWW2020

#AussieAuthor2020

Adaminaby, NSW

My last full day in Adaminaby this trip. It’s lovely to see some green fields, some water in the dams and creeks. We’ve not ventured into the parts near the town burned by bushfire but we’ve seen burned patches.

The impact of the fires will be felt throughout this and other communities for years.