Aussie Book Review: The Outback Heart by Fiona Palmer

My Rating:              4 / 5
Format:                   Paperback courtesy of Penguin Australia
Publication Date:    25 September 2013
Category:               Modern and Contemporary Fiction
ISBN:                      9781921901447
Publisher:               Penguin Australia
Imprint:                   Michael Joseph
Extent:                    352 pages

The Blurb

“Indianna Wilson is a country girl through and through. She’ll do anything she can to save her beloved home town from disappearing off the map – even if she has to die trying. She brings Troy Mitchell to her tiny outback town, with hopes that he can bring a breath of fresh air to the Saints football club and lift the wider farming community.

He’s just the spark they need in Hyden, but it’s the fire that he ignites in Indi’s heart that takes her by surprise. She knows he’s feeling something too – why, then, does he insist on pushing her away? What is it from his dark past that’s preventing them from sharing a future?

As the town rallies together and their fighting spirit returns, Indi and Troy discover that sometimes life offers up a second chance – you just have to brave enough to embrace it.

The most heartfelt and moving story yet from favourite Australian rural writer Fiona Palmer.”

Summary and Thoughts

The Outback Heart is Fiona Palmer’s fifth contribution to the Australian Rural Romance sub-genre.  After reading her fourth novel, The Sunburnt Country (my review here), and thoroughly enjoying it, I didn’t hesitate to devour this latest offering when it presented itself and was definitely not disappointed with this heart-warming and, at times, tear-jerking story of one woman's quest to save her small town’s footy club and one man’s determination to steer clear of all attachments.

Indianna Wilson (Indi) loves her small home town and, unlike so many of the young people she grew up with, has no plans to ever leave!  With her “finger in many pies”, she works hard, holding down a full-time job as well as running the household she shares with her father and two brothers, while going out of her way to volunteer for a variety of other organisations she feels need her help to keep their town going – organisations who benefited from her mother’s assistance before her passing.  The loss of her mother two years previously still haunts her and, while she goes out of her way to make a difference in the lives of her father and brothers, her passion lies in footy!  So it’s no surprise that when the town’s club finds itself deteriorating to the point of becoming non-existent, she decides to do her best to keep it going and enlists the help of a former footy player as coach.

With not many great relationship prospects around town and rumours about her sexual preferences abounding, when Troy Mitchell arrives, she’s not expecting the visual feast which presents itself nor the depth of emotion and passion he ignites in her.

Unfortunately, Troy has only one goal in life and that is to steer clear of any form of relationship with anyone, including his own family!  Still trying to come to terms with a loss that he has suffered as well as the event in his teenage years which changed his life forever, Troy is pretty much a loner who has resigned himself to the hand that life has dealt him, preferring to never settle in one place for too long.  He doesn’t feel that he will ever be ready to make a commitment which he is afraid he may not be able to keep!

Initially aloof and indifferent to Indi’s attempts at conversation and friendship, a tentative rapport begins to develop between the two of them when they find themselves working together as coach and assistant coach of the newly revived footy team.  While we see Indy’s bubbly personality and her commitment to rejuvenating her home town’s footy team  - not to mention her sexy little body – begin to draw him in, we also see him withdrawing whenever he gets too close.  However, he never bargained on Indi’s tenacity.

I am a known sook when it comes to stories that touch my heart and, to my mind, this is a story that did just that.  I became so invested in the lives of Indi and Troy, thanks to Fiona Palmer’s expertly crafted characters, whose lives are propagated by real-life issues which went a long way to creating great emotional depth thus pulling me in to the immediacy of their lives.  Indi’s passion and spiritedness had me cheering her on and turning the pages in anticipation of the outcome, while Troy’s indifference had me wound so tight that, by the time I reached the end, my heart was almost broken.

Despite the fact that the central issue of this novel is a serious one, Ms Palmer doesn’t burden the story with needless scientific jargon, but rather goes into just enough detail to assure the reader that she has done her research, while her depiction of Australian small town life and the landscape are brought into vivid clarity, providing the reader with a real sense of place and confirming that she writes what she knows.

Told with warmth and humour, this is a story of hope, courage and the ability to recognise and embrace second chances, even while knowing that a single day could change our lives forever.

I wish to thank Penguin Australia for providing me with a paperback copy of another fantastic addition to the Australian Rural Romance sub-genre.

A Little 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 Steele at the age of eleven, and has now written her own brand of rural romance.  She has attended romance writers' conferences and received an Australian Society of Authors mentorship for her first novel, The Family Farm.  She has extensive farming experience, on occasion does the local mail run, and was a speedway driver for seven years.  She loves helping out in her tiny community in between writing and looking after her two children.


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