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  • Caitlyn Lynch

Book Review: Starting Over by Susanne Bellamy

I’m really enjoying this series of Australian romances about Mindalby, a small outback town whose residents all depend in one way or another on the local cotton mill for their livelihoods. When the mill suddenly closes down unexpectedly and the owner goes missing under a cloud of suspicion, the residents must find ways to survive and figure out a way through the crisis.

While this is a series, each of the books can be read as a standalone. There are a few characters who appear in several books, and a few events too such as the mill closure as they all seem to be happening in approximately the same time frame.

In Starting Over, a newcomer to town arrives at just the wrong moment, when tensions are running seriously high. Serena is a fashion designer from Sydney who has created a range for the upcoming Cotton Festival, now in serious doubt. She does have an ulterior motive for coming to Mindalby in person, though, searching for the father she’s never known.

When she meets up with saddler and leatherwork artist Paul Carey, who she’s commissioned to make accessories for her range but never met, sparks fly right away. The path to true love is definitely not going to run smooth with an entire town in turmoil, though, and there are lots of interesting twists to the story as Serena tries to work out who her father is (Paul’s father is even, briefly, a potential candidate!) and Paul tries to work out how he’s going to survive in the town with no business coming in.

I’ve lived in a small country town completely dependent on one major business and this series has, so far, depicted perfectly how the population react the moment there’s even the hint of a threat to their livelihoods. The authors writing the series are doing a tremendous job of covering those gritty realities and not letting escapist fantasies take over - it would be terribly easy to have a billionaire move to town and fall for a local girl, investing to solve everyone’s problems, but that’s not the way things happen in the real world. Instead, people get angry, they drink too much and make reckless decisions, their loved ones make desperate interventions and at the end of the day perhaps, working together, they’ll find their way to a happy outcome.

It’s rather like how real-life relationships work… there are bumps in the road, but with patience and love, you can pull through and find a happy ending. The realism in these stories makes them wonderfully vivid, and I’d highly recommend to anyone who wants a taste of real life in an Australian outback town. Five stars.

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

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