Published March 1, 2013 by Random House Australia.
Many thanks go to the publisher and NetGalley for the ebook I received to review.
Rural fiction, and romance fiction for that matter, is a thriving genre that is dominating the mainstream market currently in Australia; and with good reason. One only has to look as far as emerging authors such as Loretta Hill and Rachael Johns, or long standing authors such as Rachael Treasure, Bronwyn Parry, Helene Young and Karly Lane just to name a few, to understand why. With the widespread acceptance of romance writing as a genre and is recent popularity in Australia, it’s no wonder that readers are now flocking to the ‘newer sub-genre’ of rural fiction.
Personally, I’m new to the genre of Rural fiction and I must admit to absolutely loving the new voices and novels that I am reading because of it. Although I’ve been reading many Australian takes on the genre recently, I can not see no obvious reason why Rachael Herron (an American) will not be as successful in Australia as her local female Australian counterparts. Her characters are strong, the setting vibrant and the story is engaging and universal allowing it to blend across nations despite its American setting.
Cora’s Heart is my first novel by Rachael Herron and I can confidently say it won’t be my last. I devoured this entire book in just one day and was still left wanting more at the end of it. At its core, it’s a story about unrequited love and missed opportunities and it features a somewhat messy love triangle and let’s face it many of the best romance stories do.
Cora is a young widow just getting by on her husbands property. She doesn’t have a traditional nine-five job, instead she lives off the land by making a range of traditional and touristy commodities and for some, that makes her somewhat of an outcast. She doesn’t mind though for the most part, because she knows who she is and she’s happy living life the way SHE wants too. Having learnt to be self-contained and a fighter from an early age, Cora believes she knows how to face just about anything life can throw at her; be that a bomb scare (she has a bunker built in her yard), a water crisis (fresh water and food is stored and regularly checked) or a devastating earthquake (she has a list of the safest places to stand, where to get help and what is likely to fall first). The only things she’s found herself not prepared for was the young death of her husband to a brain tumour and the return of Mac Wildwood. With Mac’s return to town, Cora finds herself struggling with the emotional overhaul of everything she has ever suppressed.
Mac Wildwood is well liked by everyone, despite having completely removed himself from his family land and business. Desperate not to fall victim to his families’ weakness – gambling; at just eighteen years of age, Mac left town headstrong and determined to make a name for himself in a professional capacity as a vet. And although he has far succeeded his own ambitions and those of his family, he still finds himself coming short when it comes to a certain redheaded Cora Sylvan. The same Cora who has been the object of his affection since he was seventeen, and yet somehow married his cousin. Returning home was never going to be easy for Mac, for despite his cousin no longer being in the picture, he’s return home is not motivated by personal reasons but rather by business gain.
In a strange twist of tragic and traditional, Cora’s Heart is essentially a story of missed opportunities and mistaken identities, of young love that refuses to die and heartache that knows no bounds. It’s a story encompassing second chances and what ifs. It is beautifully written and told in such a way that the narrative constantly keeps the reader guessing what might happen next. Big obstacles must be overcome before either our heroine or hero fully understand where they belong, all of which makes for an exciting read. The narrative had the capacity to overrun on drama, but it appears to take a step back when things get heavy, allowing the reader and its characters to re-think what is happening and in part that is what made this novel so readable for me. I simply couldn’t put it down. At every page I was left wanting to know more. I needed to know how Cora would react, or what Mac was going to do next to prove his loyalty and make up for lost time. I was desperate for the secrets that lurk just below the surface to be revealed, and yet I was grateful that Rachael Herron is such a master of narrative pace, that nothing was drawn out or left lingering too long just out of reach.
My only regret and disappointment with this novel, despite giving it five stars, is that I really wanted to see the idea of place and the rural land setting play into the story a bit more. Sure the characters are clearly from the country, and you have your stereotypical town, but the use of the land setting was sparse and mostly left me feeling almost uninspired. In fact, the rural nature of the story and the community where Cora lives is universal in many ways. Although it is a big knitting town – an unusual twist I quite enjoyed – there didn’t appear to be much difference apart from this that separated the setting of this particular town from another town in another book set somewhere completely different. Sure the land and rural community and characters are there, but the place setting doesn’t shape the story as much as those employed in Helene Young’s, Bronwyn Parry’s or Loretta Hill’s narratives. In those works, the settings themselves define the narrative as well as the characters just as much as the underlying story does. The setting is evident in everything the characters do and say, the way they see the world etc. But in this narrative, while the country land is acknowledge as home and their way of life, it is mostly left ignored making the characters the driving force behind the narrative. While there is nothing wrong with a character driven novel, I just wanted a tiny bit more from the story to really cement the rural qualities of it. I understand that it is slightly unfair to judge the book on a trait of the Australian rural fiction genre, but the differences appear very obviously throughout the narrative. That said I still highly commend Rachael Herron on her work and I do still stand by the books five stars.
Cora’s Heart is an entertaining and quick read (I read the entire thing in one day) that keeps its readers on their toes without overdramatising or running the risk of losing its readers along the way. Although the setting may not be as unique or contemporary as Loretta Hill’s Pilbara, nor as exotic as Helene Young’s tropical locations; it is still a gripping story that leaves you wanting more, thus making it a must read for all rural and romance fiction fans. I’ll definitely be searching for Rachael Herron’s previously published books now. If they are anything like this one, I can’t wait to devour them as much as I did this one. You won’t be disappointed that you picked this novel up.
This review also appears on Goodreads.