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  • Caitlyn Lynch

Book Review: Cotton Field Dreams by S.E. Gilchrist

First in a seven-book series by various authors, Cotton Field Dreams introduces the small outback Australian town of Mindalby, where the town’s existence is strongly tied to the local cotton mill. When the mill closes suddenly, the town is thrown into turmoil. The residents must band together to survive, even as tensions drive them apart.

Sasha’s a newcomer to town. Working in the mill’s accounts department, she’s the one who fills in the workers’ payslips, which automatically makes her a target for their anger and suspicion, even though she has no more idea than any of the others what’s going on. Cole, a local cotton farmer working a second job at the mill to make ends meet, seems to believe in her, at least. But when planted evidence starts pointing in her direction, will Cole stand by her, or let her fall?

This was a really good read. There’s a growing market, particularly in Australia, for romance marketed as women’s fiction - it’s even being called Akubra hat fiction for the sole woman wearing an Akubra who tends to be on the cover, and this book (and series) fit the niche perfectly. There are serious issues addressed about small country towns and how they live and die by their industries, and how farmers are dependent on many factors, any one of which failing can destroy livelihoods in the blink of an eye. Rural depression and suicide are mentioned, though not gone into in any particular detail.

Sasha, the heroine, is suffering from PTSD after being caught up in an incident in the Middle East while working for Doctors Without Borders. It manifests in her claustrophobia, to an extent that she can’t actually get into a car, and I felt it was really realistically portrayed, inhibiting and limiting her, frustrating her that she can’t overcome it with willpower alone.

The only potential issue with this book is that it might be a bit over-the-top Australian for an international readership. I’m an Aussie so I know what King Gees are, but Americans would definitely be confused. The ‘ocker’ factor seemed to be particularly prevalent in the first chapter, after which it toned down to a more manageable level, so I’d say definitely stick with it, but you might need a ‘Strine’ dictionary on hand!

A beautifully written story, this is a great starter for the series, and I’m really looking forward to more. Five stars.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.

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