Country vet Ella is happy in the quiet little town of Woodlea. Even the town matchmaker knows to keep her nose out of Ella’s business. Her distracting new neighbour is making her rethink all her dearly-held beliefs about being happier single, though. Except Saul obviously has his own demons in the past.
This is a story about two people overcoming their own personal demons individually and together. Both Ella and Saul have difficult pasts, though I did think they were a little overblown in both of them thinking they could never find love again. Yes, ugly breakups happen. Most people* realise that it sucks, take some time to get past things, and are aware even at an early stage that this too shall pass and one day, hopefully, someone better will come along. (*The exceptions, and reasonably so, being victims of relationship abuse who Do Not Want another relationship Ever, but that wasn’t the case with either of these two). I’m not that fond of the I WIll Never Love Again But Whoops There You Are trope because it makes the character an unreliable narrator, and in this case it was both of the protagonists, something which made me pretty impatient with them.
This is Alissa Callen’s seventh book in the Woodlea series, and I haven’t read any of the others, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on too much by jumping in here. Woodlea is a vividly painted community suffering in the grip of the drought, even if it does appear a little too perfect to those of us who know what Australian farmers are currently going through, that’s forgivable because gritty financial struggles, depression and dying stock do not make a great background for romantic fiction. Instead Woodlea is the sanitised, prettified version of an Australian rural town we’d all like to see, inhabited by lots of friendly folks many of whom I suspect had their own books in the series already (there’s a wedding here for one couple). Still, there’s angst and tension aplenty, not least while Ella and Saul investigate the disappearance of a teen girl twenty years earlier to try and give her mother closure.
There were parts of this book I really loved: Callen does a great job of bringing rural Australia to life in her story and the way of life in a small town felt extremely realistic, especially with the town busybody poking her nose into everyone’s business. The community as a whole was really enjoyable to read about, it’s just that I didn’t feel all that invested in the romance at the heart of the story. Overall, I’ll give it four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.