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Feature book: Magpie’s Bend

22 September 2021

Magpie’s Bend by Maya Linnell

Subgenre: rural romance
Release date: 1 Jun 2021
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: ebook and print
Length: 368 pages
RRP: $12.34 (ebook); $29.99 (print)

The third in Maya Linnell’s series about the McIntyre sisters.

Never underestimate community spirit, and the rural town of Bridgefield is one shining example.

One of the hubs of a community is always the local general store/post office, where the daily home-made pies are delicious and habit-forming, and the local newspaper and gossip are sweet extras.

Nurse Lara McIntyre walks into the store one morning to discover the elderly owner injured under a tumble of heavy boxes. As she gives first aid, she calls on the other person present, journalist Toby Paxton, to call the ambulance and assist. To her dismay he snaps some photos of her working on the injured woman—something that hits her hot buttons. They clash when she immediately asks him to delete them. To Toby’s mind, one photo in particular is a potential award winner, and he can’t understand her request, particularly as she hasn’t even seen them.

Lara is a victim of domestic abuse. We are not told much about her ex-husband, just enough to get the horrors. Toby’s unthinking action and reluctant reaction to delete the photos when she requests it ignites Lara’s distrust of pretty much most men except those in her family. Not a good start between these two.

To keep the vital store open, Lara becomes embroiled in an onslaught of plans. Something she didn’t expect! Suddenly she’s drawing up volunteer rosters to man the store, including herself. Delightfully, the townsfolk rally. They know the importance of keeping such an icon in their town.

Sadly, the elderly owner can’t recover easily, and decides to sell. There follows a parade of fairly amusing (to the reader) potential buyers who are totally out of their element in a country town. You just know how wrong they would be in the rural environment (e.g. the chap called Tarquin).

Lara’s pushed on by the sadness in the community at potential disaster if the store is sold to the wrong person. She has the brilliant idea of the town itself raising the money to buy the store, including the flat above it. Omigosh, the fund raising is huge in this book! And so inspiring! And so exhausting! How Lara keeps on top of it is astonishing. A raffle! A fun-run! A ball! Lara is a strong, determined lady as the town gathers behind her.

And what’s the best place to write features and promotions and whip up even more community spirit? The local newspaper of course, with Toby at the helm. Slowly but surely, he proves his mettle, time and time again, and gains the respect of the town and Lara’s family. His teenage daughter and hers get on like a house on fire. Lara almost believes he is possibly one of the good guys when something happens to wreck her trust in a flash.

This book has such a big heart, curled around Lara and her big McIntyre family, Toby and his daughter and the newspaper, and the whole community. Minor characters—including a magpie called Vegemite and a dog called Basil—provide loads of fun, and you really want the town to succeed in its quest to save the store. But will it really be possible? And is there a chance for Lara and Toby? It doesn’t seem like it … but … maybe, possibly?

One final word, oh my, on the baking. Maya Linnell, you tempter! So much delicious baking in this book you’ll be ready to fire up your own oven and whip something up as soon as you finish reading. Or sit down with something while you read … Enjoy!

reviewed by Malvina

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

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