Aussie Book Review : The Sunburnt Country by Fiona Palmer

The Sunburnt Country
My Rating:               4 / 5
Format:                   Paperback, courtesy of Penguin Australia
Publication Date27/02/2013
Category:                Rural Romance
ISBN:                       9781921901294
Imprint:                    Michael Joseph
Extent:                     301 pages
RRP:                       AU$29.99

The Blurb

“Jonelle Baxter is a young woman in a man's world – a tough, hardworking motor mechanic from an idyllic country family. But lately things in her perfect life have been changing, and her workshop isn't the only local business that's struggling.

Daniel Tyler is new in town, posted from the city to manage the community bank. As he tries to rein in the spiralling debts of Bundara, he uncovers all sorts of personal dramas and challenges. The last thing Jonny and Dan need is an unwanted attraction to each other.

It's going to take more than a good drop of rain to break the drought and to keep this small but very colourful community thriving.”

Overview and Thoughts

From Fiona Palmer comes this story of life in a drought-stricken rural town, Bundara, where even the town mechanic hasn’t managed to escape the extreme pressures of financial hardship.

Jonelle “Jonny” Baxter, Bundara’s town mechanic and a racing car fanatic, has grown up in a close-knit family whilst being surrounded by wonderful friends, whose relationships have endured from childhood.

Ryan is one of those friends. Still trying to come to terms with the desertion (and monetary demands) of his wife in these drought-stricken times of hardship, which have affected his capacity to make repayments to the bank, he feels almost hopeless in his quest to make it on his own.

When Daniel Tyler arrives in Bundara from Perth to take up his two-month assignment as temporary bank manager, tragedy strikes as he begins the arduous task of making arrangements to recall defaulted bank loans. A big city banker, who’s used to dealing with faceless people, he’s about to realise that small towns operate differently and that love can be found in the most unexpected places.

With no hidden mystery to be uncovered and drawing on her own experience, Fiona managed to keep me engaged with her dynamic main characters. Jonny drew me in from the beginning with her warm personality and sweet nature and while she struggles financially to keep her mechanical shop open, she also has to deal with the trauma of a tragic accident and try to decipher her growing feelings for Daniel.

I felt that Daniel was the character I most connected with because he had the most to learn. Captivated by both the sense of community he experiences in Bundara as well as the local female mechanic, as the friendship between him and Jonny grows, he begins to see first-hand what it means to be part of a family, which only brings his own family’s shortcomings to the fore. In searching for his own identity he seemingly takes the biggest risk of his life but, in facing his father, doesn’t allow the fear to stop him from reaching out for what he wants and discovers that a mother's love transcends all time.

While this is my first Fiona Palmer novel (and won’t be my last), it is not the first I have read where our small rural communities are often almost defeated by the effects of prolonged drought. In touching on the more serious issues such as financial hardship and suicide, Fiona has offered us an unflinching glimpse into some of the challenges which face our farmers on a daily basis.

With a narrative that is moderately-paced, heart-warming and fraught with emotion, this story is a reminder of the power of true Aussie grit emphasising the fact that there is durability to be found in a community who stick together in times of adversity, with nothing but the bonds of hope binding them together.

About the Author

Fiona Palmer lives in the tiny rural town of Pingaring in Western Australia, three and a half hours south-east of Perth. She discovered Danielle Steel at the age of eleven, and has now written her own brand of rural romance.

She has attended romance writers’ groups and received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm.

Fiona has extensive farming experience, does the local mail run, and was a speedway-racing driver for seven years. She currently writes while looking after her two children.

My thanks goes to the Publisher, Penguin Group Australia (Michael Joseph) for providing me with a hard copy for review.

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