Author: Juanita Kees

Secrets at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees

Secrets at Wongan Creek by Juanita KeesSecrets at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees
Published by Escape Publishing on August 12th 2017
Pages: 142
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two-stars

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Tameka Chalmers knows that her father’s farming methods are outdated, inefficient, and even dangerous, so when Harley charges her with the loss of his livelihood, she can only accept the blame.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.

two-stars

Whispers at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees

Whispers at Wongan Creek by Juanita KeesWhispers at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees
Published by Escape Publishing on November 15th 2016
Pages: 155
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four-stars

Travis Bailey may as well be Wongan Creek. His family has farmed canola for generations, and he sometimes feels like he holds the community together with his bare, dirt-stained hands. Between caring for the farm, his orphaned niece and his elderly, ailing neighbour, he doesn't have time for himself. He doesn’t have time to fall in love.
Social worker Heather Penney is living on borrowed time. When her mother died of Motor Neurone Disease, she took the initial blood tests and now nothing is guaranteed, let alone a future with a family and a home and a child. Wongan Creek, and its resident protector, might be getting under her skin, but she can't afford to get attached.
But even as a new mine revitalises the small town, old secrets threaten resurface, and Travis and Heather find themselves fighting to save the farms and the futures of Wongan Creek's long-time residents—and possibly their own lives.

This is a lovely read that brings the rural setting of a small Australian town vividly to life and two unlikely people together, while perfectly capturing the strong ties that the characters have to the land and the struggle that they face as it undergoes the inevitable development that comes. But as with small towns, some secrets stay murky until something catastrophic forces them to come to light.

I loved Travis Bailey and the heavy sense of responsibility that he has tried to shoulder from the start. The mystery and the slight suspense surrounding Heather Penney, his niece’s lineage and his twin’s death that Juanita Kees adds to the story gives it a shimmering layer of depth and excitement I hadn’t felt in a long time while reading a ‘rural romance’ so to speak. And even if I scoffed at Heather’s cowardly act at the end (whose grovelling felt too easy), I still found Kees’s pacing excellent, the scenes building up to the climax (which isn’t really as explosive as it is) feeling like a tightening noose that I almost dreaded. There are twists and turns in the plot which surprised me right up until the end, yet Kees wraps it all up quite nicely that is quite worthy of a Hallmark movie.

four-stars

Home to Bindarra Creek by Juanita Kees

Home to Bindarra Creek by Juanita KeesHome to Bindarra Creek by Juanita Kees, Belinda Holmes, Amygdala Designs
Series: A Bindarra Creek Romance #6
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on December 11th 2015
Pages: 240
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five-stars

When fate brings together two lost souls, it's time to leave the shadows behind and come home to Bindarra Creek
Alice Pritchard has learned to live with her haunted past. She's comfortable in her cocoon in sleepy Bindarra Creek, but with rejuvenation of the town, she has let go of the memories. Dan Molyneaux roars into her life in his high-powered V8 and reopens the Riverside Pub forcing her to face her ghosts. Slowly he melts the ice around her heart, but love always comes at a cost.

I couldn’t be more surprised and amazed at this short, but emotion-rich read. The books that I’ve read of the Bindarra Creek series thus far have been quite the revelation, giving me my requisite dose of Antipodean writing. Juanita Kees’s writing – wonderfully balanced storytelling with eye-popping characters that feel real enough to touch – however, lifts this particular series to a new high.

five-stars