After a fractured childhood spent in foster homes, city-girl Roni has convinced herself that she has no need of anyone – other than her not-as-tough-as-he-looks rescued street cat, Scritches, and her unborn baby, who she’s determined will feel all the love she’s been denied.
Despite facing a bleak future, Roni distrusts the news of a bequest from an unknown aunt, Marian Nelson. But, out of options, she and Scritches leave Sydney behind, bound for the 800-acre property on the edge of the wheat fields of South Australia.
However, this is no simple inheritance: Marian seeks to control her legacy from beyond the grave by setting tasks that Roni must complete before she can claim the property and a life that could change her future. With everything at stake, Roni must learn to trust in the truth of Marian’s most important lesson: everyone deserves love.
I do love a rural romance, and The Farm at Peppertree Crossing was a very satisfying one!
This book is a little bit darker than many books in the (rural) romance genre – as described in the synopsis above protagonist Roni has had a difficult childhood growing up in the foster system, and is in a terrible relationship at the start of the book. We see bits and pieces of this as the story unfolds, and while these are some heavy topics touched on I felt like they always added to my understanding of Roni, and helped me get to know her better rather than being at all gratuitous. This also means, of course, that there is some difficult content in the book that readers may want to be aware of before going in, including in particular around domestic and sexual violence (off the page) and the some fertility issues are touched on too.
I thought the characters in this book were wonderful – both in terms of being quite lovely people (mostly) but also how well I felt like we got to know them. Everyone felt like they had some depth to them, including the aunt who has recently passed away and left the property to Roni (sort of). I loved the way that the story of Roni’s family unfolds through her aunt’s letters, with us as readers learning more as Roni does. I also really liked the scavenger hunt vibe to the challenges Roni’s aunt set her – not only were they fun, but I think that the way Roni is learning more about herself at the same time as we do helps to create a sense of intimacy with her. I thought it was really interesting to see how Roni was accepted – or not – into the local town. One of my favourite things about rural romance (and books with rural settings more generally) is the way that food and baking often offer a way into a new community (I could actually talk about food and baking and how they help characters heal and find themselves and their place all day!)
I don’t always have favourite characters in books, but in this case I just couldn’t help but fell drawn to a couple of them, including a friend of her aunt’s that Roni meets quite early on. I liked the way Roni’s relationships with the people around her developed, and the sense of ‘found family’ we got from some of them. I also absolutely loved the animals (especially Scritches the cat and Goat the sheep!) and the setting seemed so tangible to me that Peppertree Crossing felt like a character. too After reading this one I just wanted to pack my things and move to Peppertree Crossing myself! I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a quick trip to the country while we can’t go anywhere!
Léonie has very kindly answered some questions I had for her about this book and her writing more generally – I’ll be back to share those tomorrow, so please make sure you pop back and check it out!
The Farm at Peppertree Crossing by Léonie Kelsall
Out now from Allen & Unwin
Source: Free copy sent to me by Allen and Unwin (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Contemporary Australian rural romance fiction
Format: Paperback (432 pages)
Australian RRP: $29.99