I loved Maya Linnell’s debut novel Wildflower Ridge, so I was super excited to get my hands (and eyes) on her next one Bottlebrush Creek, which picks up the story of Angie McIntyre – sister to Wildflower Ridge‘s Penny. Having a copy in my hands (a bit early, thanks to the lovely team at Allen & Unwin) was extra special, as the praise for Wildflower Ridge inside the front cover includes a quote from my review (which you can read in full here). It was super exciting to see my name in print! Enough about me though – now let me tell you about Bottlebrush Creek and Angie (who might just end up being my favourite of the McIntyre sisters). Here’s the synopsis…
Between managing a bustling beauty salon, hectic volunteer commitments and the lion’s share of parenting two-year-old Claudia, Angie McIntyre barely has time to turn around. And with each passing month, she feels her relationship with fly-in, fly-out boyfriend Rob Jones slipping through her fingers.
When Rob faces retrenchment, and the most fabulous fixer-upper comes onto the market, Angie knows this derelict weatherboard cottage will be the perfect project to draw their little family together.
There’s just one catch: the 200-acre property is right next door to Rob’s parents in south-west Victoria.
It doesn’t take long for rising tensions to set a wedge between the hard-working couple. Angie and Rob have to find out the hard way whether their grand design will draw them closer together or be the very thing that tears them apart.
Like in Wildflower Ridge, I just think Maya does such a wonderful job of writing about families and relationships – and the that the people we love the most can also be the ones who most get under our skin. I really liked the way that the closeness of the McIntyre family contrasts with some of the issues between Rob and his family, and the challenges Angie faces as she navigates joining a family with all its history will be relatable to a lot of readers. Something I really appreciate about Maya’s writing is that she goes beyond the tropes/stereotypes we often see in media about family life to take us into the heads of the characters and their motivations. So, while Angie feels like she’s ended up next door to an interfering mother-in-law, we also get to see things from Rosa’s perspective. This not only helped me empathise with Rosa (and endeared her to me – she might almost be my favourite character in the book) but also gives us a look at how easy it is to misunderstand someone else’s good intentions. This is also really well done with some of the issues that come up between Angie and Rob – getting to see bits and pieces from Rob’s perspective added a lot to the story for me.
In case it isn’t quite clear from the above, this is definitely a story about relationships rather than renos, but I loved the peek we got into Angie and Rob working on their dream home. I couldn’t help picturing this as Maya’s own gorgeous home, and I enjoyed imaging how everything was coming together. I’ve never done any renovating myself, but knowing how challenging even a trip to IKEA can be I really felt like this gave a credible source for some of the tension that comes up as the couple work together!
I am generally not that keen on weight loss/dieting bits in books, since I feel like they are often thrown in with out much thought (perhaps to make characters feel more relatable?) but in this case I felt like this aspect of Angie’s story was well done and had a valid place both in Angie’s character and the way her story progresses across the book. My biggest issue with this was actually that it meant that Angie didn’t do nearly enough baking in the book haha.
Overall, reading this one was a delight. I loved being back with the McIntyre family – it felt a bit like visiting with friends. Maya strikes a wonderful balance of lightness, fun and humour with some more serious issues and just a bit of steaminess, all in a charming rural setting that just always feels authentic to me.
Also, I just wanted to note that while Angie was introduced in Wildflower Ridge, and we do check in with the other sisters in Bottlebrush Creek, I don’t think you necessarily need to read them in that order – Bottlebrush Creek can definitely be read as a stand alone (there are some minor spoilers for how Wildflower Ridge turns out, but nothing I think that would really ruin the story).
As hinted in my intro, I can’t quite imagine any of the other sisters overtaking Angie as my favourite now, but I can’t wait to get back together with the McIntyres to find out what they’re up to next!
Bottlebrush Creek by Maya Linnell
Out now from Allen and Unwin
Source: Free copy sent to me by Allen and Unwin (thankyou!). All views are my own.
Category: Contemporary Australian rural romance fiction
Themes: Family, relationships, home renovation
Australian RRP: $29.99