Aussie Book Review: Heartland by Cathryn Hein

Book Cover:  Heartland 

My rating:               5 / 5
Format:                  Paperback courtesy of Penguin Australia
Publication date:    24 April 2013
Category:               Rural Romance
ISBN:                      9781921901331
Imprint:                   Michael Joseph
Extent:                    344 pages
RRP:                      AU$29.99

Earlier today I had great pleasure in hosting Cathryn Hein on my Blog in celebration of the release of Heartland and for a bit of "get to know you better", along with my first ever give-away.

I am now pleased to present you with my review of this fine rural romance.  Enjoy!

The Blurb (taken from Penguin Australia’s website)

“A moving love story from the bestselling author of Promises and Heart of the Valley.

When Callie Reynolds arrives at Glenmore, the property she's recently inherited, the last thing she wants is to be saddled with a warty horse, an injured neighbour and a mad goose. Haunted by her sister's death and her fractured family, all she wants is freedom.

But Callie hasn't counted on falling for Matt Hawkins, an ex-soldier determined to fulfil his own dream of land and family.  Nor could she predict the way the land, animals and people of Glenmore will capture her heart.

Callie is faced with impossible choices.  But she must find the courage to decide where her future lies, even if it costs her everything she holds dear.

Praise for Cathryn Hein
`Not since my introduction to Nora Roberts has an author had me so completely and utterly spellbound.' Mission: Romance

`A moving love story about passionate, strong characters who are vulnerable in their own ways.  A lovely addition to the rural romance genre.' The Australian Bookshelf

`Books like this one, written by an author with genuine rural pedigree, are authentic and full of hope.' The West Australian

`Hein has joined my ever growing list of must-read Australian women writers.' Book'd Out

Summary and Thoughts

Cathryn Hein’s Heartland takes you on a bucolic journey to far western Victoria in this heart-warming tale of love, loss and new beginnings.

At 26, Callie thinks she’s living the life she was meant to in Airlie Beach, along with her two house mates and not much to concern her besides earning enough to pay her share of the rent.  With her life seemingly planned out for her, it comes as a shock when she receives a distressing letter in the mail informing her that her beloved Nan has passed away, adding to the guilt which already consumes her because she never got a chance to say goodbye, thanks to her self-imposed exile after the death of her sister, Hope, and the subsequent rift between her and her parents.

Arriving at Glenmore with the intention of cleaning up, putting it on the market and getting away just as fast, Callie doesn’t count on her Nan and Pop’s former pride and joy being in such a state of disrepair, nor the onslaught of emotions for the loss of happier times which threaten to overwhelm her and, after her own melancholic re-acquaintance with what was, she’s hardly ready for a reunion with the inimitable, rather cranky and most vociferous “Honk”, the goose, whose longevity astounds her and had me laughing out loud at his antics, calling to mind some of my own encounters with the geese we once owned.

Her “joy” is short-lived when dour old Wal Graney arrives with a surprise delivery announcing in no uncertain terms that “he” belongs to her but shortly after making his announcement has an accident which has her reeling in shock.  Eagerly awaiting news in the hospital waiting-room, an old acquaintance makes his appearance in the form of Matt Hawkins, Wal’s great-nephew.

Battle-scarred Matt, after doing several tours in Afghanistan, is back on his great-uncle Wal’s farm with the intention of saving and learning as much as he can from the cranky old coot so that he can one day purchase his own farmland and settle down.  With his own rather complicated family dynamics, he, too has some raw memories of his childhood and, while not quite as fractured as Callie, holds a closely guarded secret which he must keep at all costs.

With thoughts of selling Glenmore still foremost in her mind, Callie enlists the assistance of the local real estate agent, Anthony, who just happens to be Matt’s cousin, but hesitates when he gleefully advises her of the possibilities for Glenmore’s future.  Promising to contact him when she's ready, Callie forlornly begins assessing the amount of work which needs to be done before Glenmore can be placed on the market, and realises that her idea of  a fast getaway is not on the cards.  Still adamant that her happiness doesn't count, and after applying for a few jobs, she takes up employment with the local pub as a means of earning some extra cash for the task ahead of her instead of dipping into Nan’s cash reserve – after all, there’s a foundation which requires every penny of her inheritance which is essential to absolving the guilt she carries for the part she played in the tragedy surrounding Hope – or is it!

While Wal lays in a hospital bed, Callie feels responsible for the surly old codger and her time is filled up with visits to him, working at the local pub, renovations on the property, fitting in her favourite pastime of fishing and tracing the original owner of “Warty-Morty” who reminds her all too painfully of the “Phantom” she abandoned.

Still battling with the resurrection and analysis of extremely painful memories and trying to exorcise the ghosts from her past, her own war of “wrongness” wages in her heart, and as she tries to fight off her growing feelings for Matt, she attempts to deflect his attentions from her by reminding him that she won’t be around much longer and for that reason isn’t prepared to get into any kind of relationship with him.  What she doesn’t realise is that Matt is just as determined as her, and the soldier in him loves a challenge!

Let it be shown, however, that, along with human intervention, spiritual (and animal) forces appear to be at play and it seems likely that there’s a conspiracy from beyond the grave when Callie suddenly finds herself helplessly drawn into her old life, experiencing unadulterated love for the animals who surround her and investing in a young girl’s fear of horses, all while encountering some steamy moments with the sexy Matt.

The first thing that struck me when I began reading this novel was the awesome sense of place which immediately transported me into Callie’s world.  Cathryn so skilfully combines atmosphere with location, creating a world which offers authenticity and a full range of sensory stimuli.  As I felt the sun stinging my shoulders, the red dust settling on my tongue and licked the saltwater from my lips, I was immediately pulled in by her fluid and easy writing style and a narrative which has a well thought-out pace, enabling this reviewer to live vicariously through her well rounded human (and animal) characters.

The aggravating factors, family dynamics and sexual tension are real and brilliantly devised and if you have a look at the Author Q & A which I posted earlier, I’m sure, after you’ve read this novel, what Cathryn found to be one of the most distracting parts of writing Callie and Matt’s story, will come as no surprise!

By no means “just another love story”, Heartland has a lot more to offer in a genre which is fast becoming popular.  With lots of laugh-out-loud and heart-warming moments, issues of drug-addiction, themes of fear and courage apparent, this is a story that will leave you pondering the power of love, the heartache of loss, the courage to overcome it and the new beginnings which can be created if we release ourselves from self-inflicted guilt, enabling us to close one door, and open another thereby finding our heartland.

My thanks goes to the publisher, Penguin Australia, for providing me with a paperback copy of another fine Rural Romance.

If you've enjoyed this review, feel free to read an extract of Heartland here, courtesy of Penguin Australia and don't forget to go to the give-away post, here, for a chance to win 1 of 3 copies of this meaningful rural romance.

Ooooh, and another one for my growing list toward the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013:


  1. This is such a great review Marcia... I completely forgot to mention about the goose in my review but I loved this aspect of the story! It reminded me of the two geese in our ag plot in high school who used to chase all the students around the dam and quite often they caught them!

    1. Thanks so much for that lovely comment Lauren ... I just had to mention Honk, I fell in love with the little darling that I wished there were more encounters like the first with him. Geese sure are cheeky creatures and I remember how we used to walk with a broomstick to steer their snapping beaks away from us. Loved Wal too ...


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