Ok, I have some big feelings about today’s review! I have been with Maya Linnell and her warm and wonderful (and fictional) McIntyre family since the first book, Wildflower Ridge, came out in June of 2019. In fact, Maya was kind enough to join me here on my blog to chat about Christmas in December of 2018! So I’m not sure how I feel about having read the last book in this series about these wonderful women! (Although I’m thrilled to have seen on her social media pages that Maya is working on something new for next year).
I feel like each of these books has been such a joy to read, and the McIntyres are always such fun to spend time with. I’ve laughed with them and cried with them, and occasionally wanted to have words with Maya about what she has put them through. With each book, as each woman’s own story unfolds, we have gotten to know and love them, and I think this has worked so beautifully as the series progressed. It has always been fun to get into the head of a character we’ve only seen from outside, and also catch up with and check in on the sisters we already know a bit better. And if a series must end (and I guess we all know it must) then Paperbark Hill has done a wonderful job of providing that final chapter of the McIntyre family story, with all the same warmth and heart and authenticity Maya has written into each of the other three books.
I’ve popped the synopsis of Paperbark Hill below, and then you can read on for my review of this lovely Aussie rural romance. I’ll leave links to my reviews of the other books below too, in case you’d like to check them out!
What is Paperbark Hill about?
Like I mentioned above, Paperbark Hill tells the story of Diana McIntyre, the last of the McIntyre sisters to have their turn as the protagonist in one of Maya’s books. Here’s the blurb from the Allen & Unwin website:
Diana McIntyre and her four boys have had a tough eighteen months but with the love and support of her family, she believes their lives are finally back on track. Diana’s dream of starting a flower farm has been the perfect diversion, with an elderly dahlia expert showing her the ropes. She won’t have to do this alone.
Locum pharmacist and single dad Ned Gardiner hasn’t called Victoria home for years. However his father’s death forces Ned to return to the family farm, a place that holds few happy memories for him. Dealing with his estranged mother and sorting his father’s affairs, he plans on leaving as soon as possible, but what will it take for Ned to put down roots?
With six children between them, can this pair juggle families, farms and an unlooked-for romance?
My review of Paperbark Hill by Maya Linnell
It’s probably pretty obvious from what I’ve already said that this book was another hit for me. Maya has a knack for dropping her reader right into a compelling story, in this case there was such a sense of urgency as we raced ‘home’ with Ned and his kids, and this had me hooked from the very opening chapters. One of the things I really enjoy about this sort of rural romance is the way that more serious or heavy themes are also present in the plot, and Paperbark Hill is no exception. Alongside the growing relationship between Diana and Ned, there is a strong theme of grief and loss through this story, which I feel like is written about in a really sensitive and respectful way, and that I think a lot of people will to be able to relate to. The book also touches on issues like alcoholism, loss (of parent/partner/child), family break ups, and tough parenting moments in general, all of which I think is done really gently and well.
Something I have loved in all four of Maya’s books now is the authenticity of the characters and setting and dialogue. There are definitely some cracker aussie expressions in here, but it isn’t done in a cliched or stereotyped kind of way. I grew up in a tiny country town in Victoria, and these stories always feel a bit like coming home to me. I can hear the voices of Maya’s characters, and picture her towns so well, because they remind me so strongly of people and places I know. I also always love the joy of baking that comes through in these books – there were a bunch of times where I stopped reading to see if I had a recipe for the latest old favourite treat that Diana was whipping up! (I actually think maybe this deserves a bake-along and a post or two of its own!).
I don’t want to say too much more, because I always love discovering little joys in the details as I read a book myself, but I have to mention that seeing Diana’s use of Instagram was fun, given that I feel like part of such a wonderful bookish community and have made some lovely friends there myself (including Maya), so that felt really relatable and fun to me. AND I just have to mention that when my copy arrived I was absolutely stoked to see a little quote from my review of Magpie’s Bend inside the cover, so you can only imagine my delight when I discovered there was a character called Bron in the book, and a cat named Jinx, just like my sweet old kitty who we lost over Christmas – thank you Maya – what a lovely surprise!
If you are already a fan of this series you are obviously not going to want to miss this one, and I’m sure that you’ll love it too. If you haven’t picked up one of Maya’s books – or any Aussie rural romance – before then this would be a great place to start. While there is a chronology to the stories, starting with Wildflower Ridge and ending with this one, it isn’t the kind of series where they must be read in order and I think they work just as well as companions.
Biggest congratulations and thanks to Maya on the release of Paperbark Hill, and for sharing these stories with us! And thank you to Allen & Unwin for sending me a free, early copy for review!
Let me know in the comments if you’ve got this on your tbr, or if you’ve read any of Maya’s other books!
Paperbark Hill by Maya Linnell
Out now from Allen & Unwin
Source: I received a free copy from Allen & Unwin for review (thank you!). All views are my own.
Category: Aussie rural romance fiction
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
You can keep up with the latest from Maya online on her website here, and her Instagram account here.
Paperbark Hill on Goodreads
My review of Wildflower Ridge
My review of Bottlebrush Creek
My review of Magpie’s Bend