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Feature book: The Country Wedding

4 March 2020

The Country Wedding by Barbara Hannay

Subgenre: contemporary romance
Release date: 31 Jul 2017
Publisher: Penguin Australia
Format: ebook and print
Length: 432 pages
RRP: $12.99 (ebook); $19.99 (print)

Sometimes I read books out of series order (and my OCD side vents some alarm) – and in The Country Wedding warm-hearted Barbara Hannay invites us back to Burralea, a small township in the Tablelands of North Queensland. Happily, it didn’t matter one iota that I hadn’t read her previous romance set there. It’s always the sign of a good writer when you don’t have to scramble to keep up. Respect!

The cover is seriously gorgeous, a splash of sunshiny yellow with lovely heroine Flora looking luminous. I’ve had a peep on Amazon, and the Kindle cover is also a dreamy, romantic gift to readers. I do love a good cover.

The book starts in 1958 Burralea, with a reluctant but determined Joe bracing himself for his wedding. Everything about him screams No! but the wedding goes ahead. I instantly wanted to know what his story was, and why this wedding was obviously to the wrong woman: it’s Hattie he loves, and she loves him. Two hearts are shattered that wedding day…

Then we skip ahead to 2015 Burralea, and Flora Drummond’s return to town. Again, this scene seems uneasy. Something huge is troubling Flora, and we start to get hints that she is frightened and unsafe; that she’s left her job as violinist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and fled to her safe haven, the town where she grew up.

Cue a little heart flutter here and I’ll let you into a secret. I’m a muso too and have several keen musos in the family who love to play. I did try and play the viola in high school but sadly sounded like I was electrocuting a cat, so reading about a magnificent violinist was sensational. I absolutely loved all the music parts and can guarantee that even if you’re not a muso, the descriptions of Flora’s playing are total magic. I wanted to be there listening to her, I truly did. What a gift, Barbara, thank you.

One of the first things Flora’s asked to do is play for Mitch Cavello’s wedding service. She and Mitch grew up together in Burralea, with the then-troubled young man spending a lot of time living and working on the Drummond property as he tried to sort himself out. Now he’s matured and become a pillar of the community, a policeman, marrying a schoolteacher. Can anything be more cute? Maybe not to Flora, who’s always had rather a thing about Mitch, and tried awfully hard to get him to notice her way back in their teens …

Suddenly, Mitch is literally dumped at the altar. We get a lovely few scenes here where the locals rally around the stunned Mitch and tend to him. One of the benefits of a close-knit community!

Two Burralea weddings gone wrong… One of the themes of this book is whether or not we ever get over our first love. What would you do if you ever had the chance to try again? Would you take it?

For Hattie and Joe, the discovery of human bones on his old property brings them back together. Now in their 70s, is their attraction still hindered by ghosts and past history?

For Mitch and Flora, is it even possible they can have a second chance at love when their ‘first chance’ wasn’t even really a chance? How can this even work, with Flora’s undeniable musical talent destined to take her away from rural Burralea?

Humming through the book is also the menace of domestic violence. I won’t say with whom, but it does add extra depth and makes you truly care for the person involved – and again be thankful for small town protectiveness of its own. In the acknowledgements at the end of the book, Barbara Hannay mentions Rosie Batty, 2015 Australian of the Year, ‘who so courageously and powerfully raised our country’s awareness of domestic violence’. Well said.

This is a lush and lovely read with people you care for and want to see happy.

Reviewed by Malvina

A review copy of this book was provided by the author.

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