We all know I love a good cosy romance at Christmas time, and this year I’ve kept the love going outside of the festive season. My favourite romance subgenre – outside of the Christmassy stories – would have to be Aussie rural romance, so of course I was keen to get my hands on Maya Linnell’s debut novel Wildflower Ridge.
I have been lucky enough to get to know Maya a bit through Instagram, and you might remember she very kindly did a Q&A here with me at Christmas time (you can check it out here if you missed it). I have to admit that it is a bit nerve-wracking to read a book by someone you know, with a view to reviewing – because what if you hate it? Luckily this wasn’t an issue with Maya’s Wildflower Ridge, which I enjoyed from start to end!
What is Wildflower Ridge about?
Penny McIntyre loves her life as an ambitious city professional, with a marketing team at her fingertips and a promotion just within reach. So when she’s floored by a mystery illness, and ordered back to the family farm for three months’ rest and recuperation, she is horrified to find her perfect life imploding.
Within days, Penny has to leave her much-loved job, her live-in boyfriend, and her beloved city apartment … to return to the small country town in which she grew up. Back to her dad and three sisters, one of whom has never forgiven her for abandoning her family. And to her ex-boyfriend, Tim Patterson, who was the biggest reason she ran away in the first place.
When Penny’s father is injured in a farming accident and Tim campaigns to buy the property, she must choose between the city life she loves and the farming dream she buried long ago.
My review of Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell
This books has a lot of the romancey tropes I love – big city business person comes back to their country home town (leaving behind their terrible boy/girlfriend), high school sweethearts reunite and everyone can see they should be together except them. But, just when I thought this was all banter, baking, and biceps, the story took an unexpected turn and got quite thriller-y.
I felt like there were three distinct parts to this one – Penny’s arrival and the beginning of her recuperation, her father’s accident, and then what happens next. The story flowed pretty naturally through, although in the end I felt like maybe it wrapped up a little to quickly – but then I’m never quite sure whether this really just means I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the characters yet!
There is a lot to love about this book, and about Maya’s writing!
I felt like the relationships were all so well written – I could feel the love between family members (the scenes between Tim and his Nanna Pearl are so lovely!), and she also totally nails the way that your family can really get under your skin like no one else (even when on the inside they really want what’s best for each other). The idea of ‘baking yourself well’ really speaks to me – I love nothing better than losing myself in a familiar recipe if I’m feeling out of sorts, and I really liked the way that baking her mum’s recipes helped Penny re-establish that connection to her home and family. Also, the setting for the story is really well written – both in terms of the farms and surrounding land, but also the country town and it’s inhabitants. I felt like that balance in small towns of gossip and support was really spot on.
While this is largely a fun and sweet romance, it isn’t always light. A number of more serious themes are explored, and I do want to give a content warning for domestic violence – it isn’t exactly a main theme in the book, but it is there.
Overall, Wildflower Ridge made excellent beach reading, and would be the perfect companion to curl up with by the fire for some cosy winter reading too. I’ve heard a rumour Maya is working on something new, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she’s got in store for us (and the McIntyre girls!) next!
Wildflower Ridge by Maya Linnell
Out now from Allen and Unwin
You can now check out reviews for all four McIntyre sisters’ stories here on BookishBron.com – following the links below for the other 3 books.