Aussie Book Review: Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney

“English dog trainer Beth Poole is having trouble getting her life back together after beating a life-threatening illness and divorcing her husband. When her Aussie-soap-obsessed grandma sends her to Australia to recover, it seems a great opportunity for some rest and relaxation while she figures out what's next.

But when Beth arrives in Australia things get off to a rocky start. To begin with, she's on the wrong coast and there are deadly creatures everywhere. And if that weren't enough, her neighbours are driving her crazy. She's staying in the beautiful Margaret River wine region, right next door to a family-owned vineyard. It should be perfect, but the boisterous Hardy clan just don't seem able to leave her alone. The usually reserved Beth is soon reluctantly embroiled in their family disputes and romantic entanglements. And eldest son Clayton Hardy is proving surprisingly persistent.

The more Beth gets to know Clayton and the Hardys, the more she sees what she wants for her future. But as the end of summer approaches, her past comes back to haunt her and will test her newfound relationships to the limit.”

In Summer Harvest (which is loosely linked to both the author's prior books Irrepressible You and Fly in Fly Out), Georgina Penney takes her readers into the life of Beth Poole, a dog trainer who lives in England. Beth recently lost her sister to the Big C and has herself been in recovery after discovering that she too had breast cancer – and then there was the fact that her ex-husband couldn’t handle her diagnosis. After all her grief, loss, pain and suffering, she has become a shadow of her former self and lives for working with her various four-legged clients and spending time with her own furry friend.

Living with her inimitable grandmother Violet (who I absolutely loved!) and grandfather Louis eases her pain somewhat as they make her comfortable and shower her with lots of love … and some pretty quirky gifts too!

Their latest gift to her? A ticket to the land down under, a place that the Aussie-soap-addicted Violet is fascinated with … and Beth is terrified of – after all, Australia is home to the most dangerous animals in the world!

It soon becomes apparent however that the Margaret River wine region, even with its host of scary creatures, is also salve for Beth’s soul and she begins to relax, socialise, make friends her own age – and somehow manage to get two men to vie for her attention.

Enter Clayton Hardy who is the turning point in Beth’s life when their tentative friendship turns into something more. She slowly begins to reawaken as her and Clayton get closer but as her holiday draws to an end, all her negative body-image issues and old doubts about herself as a woman and person re-surface – was Clayton just enjoying a no-strings attached holiday fling and will any man ever be able to accept her for the woman she has become?

After reading Georgina Penney’s second novel, Fly in Fly Out (my review here), I just knew that she was going to be an author to watch and one that I would seek out when I needed a comfort read. I’m happy to say that she has lived up to this expectation and her latest didn’t fail to draw me in and keep me entertained throughout.

I think what I enjoy most about Georgina’s novels are that her subject choices are almost always close to real life and her characters so three-dimensional that they appear to be plucked right out of our own world. I related to Beth on so many levels, but one of the things that really got me going was her fear of Australia’s “dangerous animals” because I, myself, had the same fears before we immigrated to Australia and I couldn’t help giggling each time she encountered one of our lethal creatures and I became privy to the confusion in Clayton’s mind.

Georgina also captivates her audience early on by creating some fantastic secondary characters to help Beth along her way – of course, there’s Beth’s eccentric grandmother Violet who thrives on gossip, no matter where you are in the world; Louis, her lovable and always-willing-to-please grandfather; Laura, who can talk the hind legs off a donkey; Jeff, who may or may not be competing for Beth’s attentions; and who could forget Fred the stoner who may just have had something to do with a sheep driving a tractor!

All of these characters (and more) help to bring the novel full-circle and, by adding a further sub-plot involving Clayton’s father, Rob, and Gwen who comes to work for the winery, Georgina makes the story that more interesting - but I’ll leave this exciting little tid-bit for you to discover.

Narrated in a light-hearted voice, Summer Harvest does take on a heavy theme and, whilst Beth’s emotional well-being is despairing, Georgina’s novel is not because ultimately it is a story of hope, self-discovery, self-acceptance and moving on. Yes, there are poignant moments scattered throughout (one scene in which Clayton studies Beth’s facial features comes to mind – Say. No. More.) but with Georgina’s apt descriptions, steamy sex scenes and hilarious dialogue, it takes this novel to new heights and will have you turning the pages long into the night to see if they do or if they don’t.

If you’re in the mood for a great rom-com with an issue at its heart that this accomplished author has delicately and sensitively dealt with, then Georgina Penney is definitely an author you need to seek out. Her books are guaranteed to give you lots of reading fun and leave you with hope in your heart and a smile on your face.

I wish to thank Penguin Australia for providing me with a hard copy ARC for review.

About the Author

Georgina Penney first discovered romance novels when she was eleven and has been a fan of the genre ever since. It took her another eighteen years to finally sit in front of a keyboard and get something down on the page but that's alright, she was busy doing other things until then.

Some of those things included living in a ridiculous number of towns and cities in Australia before relocating overseas to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Brunei Darussalam.

In between all these travelsl, Georgina managed to learn to paint, get herself a Communication and Cultural Studies degree, study Psychotherapy and learn all about Hypnotherapy. In the early days she even managed to get on the IT roller coaster during the early noughties boom, inexplicably ending the ride by becoming the registrar of a massage and naturopathy college. There was also PhD in the mix there somewhere but moving to Saudi Arabia and rediscovering the bodice ripper fixed all that.

Today she lives with her wonderful husband, Tony, in a cozy steading in the Scottish countryside. When she's not swearing at her characters and trying to cram them into her plot, she can be found traipsing over fields, gazing at hairy coos and imagining buff medieval Scotsmen in kilts (who have access to shower facilities and deodorant) living behind every bramble hedge.


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