Published by Escape Publishing on August 12th 2017
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Still waters run deep in Wongan Creek...
When spray drift ruins his crop and throws his ability to hold on to the family farm into question, Harley Baker wants to confront his neighbour and shout his rage and worry to the sky. But arguments are tricky when the woman whose herbicides killed his crop is also the woman he’s loved his whole life.
Tameka Chalmers knows that her father’s farming methods are outdated, inefficient, and even dangerous, so when Harley charges her with the loss of his livelihood, she can only accept the blame. There’s so much she would like to do differently, but her father’s rule is absolute and if she wants to keep working the farm she loves, she must do as she’s told.
But the simple action of speaking with Harley, the man she wants but can never have, starts an unexpected chain reaction of events that throw everything she’s ever known into question: her past, her family, her life. Dark secrets come to light and when Tameka is injured in a house fire, she and Harley have one small chance to seize a lifetime of happiness, if only they are able to rise from the ashes and claim it.
It’s easy to get lost in Juanita Kees’s take on the Australian rural communities. Essentially Kees does a wonderful job of setting up the Wongan Creek the way of life, how farms are run and the challenges they face especially when the secrets each family has come to light in the worst way possible. There’s as always, a touch of suspense and a whole lot of mystery when it comes to Harley and Tameka’s families whose lives are so intertwined that these bonds have the power to heal as well as to burn.
Unfortunately, I found myself liking this book less than its predecessor, even if Kees does try to write about an abused, downtrodden woman stuck in the middle her warring loyalties. Nonetheless, it was difficult to sympathise with someone who could not to speak out against what she knew was wrong that had her languishing in the doldrums for years. Although I understood Tameka’s need to defend her family ties, I didn’t like her way of burying her head in the sand and carrying on with the reasoning that it was best to go on that way because everything was already so badly screwed up, while being ridiculously hurtful to people around her who just didn’t deserve her appalling behaviour.
It only had to come to a head for Tameka to see the error of her ways and it had to take the entire community—or at least the family that she believed she’d wronged badly—to extend that forgiveness first before she decided not to run and push. While I liked that Hayley didn’t give up on her, I honestly thought he deserved better than Tameka who’d built so much concrete around her heart that she was nothing but rude, self-pitying and stubborn to do any better, lashing out first to prevent others from seeing all the things she’d not made right. Throw in a completely evil man made only of cruelty, and well, the villain of the hour couldn’t get any clearer.
I’m rather mixed about this story overall; the rural setup is what appealed to me most here, though I couldn’t say the same of the characters. Yet Kees’s Wongan Creek is a series is something I’d love to see developed and I’m sort of eager to see what else is in store here.