Just a little bit country: Wattle Creek

I think it’s fair to say that the Australian country-side is naturally pretty romantic, the outback mysterious and beautiful. And for this, it should probably not be that big of a surprise that rural romance, otherwise known as country lit or ‘chook lit’ has become such a popular new genre.

Over the past couple of years, rural romance novels have experienced great success, their popularity increasing four-fold with new titles being released regularly and being very well received.

One of today’s most well known outback romance writers is Fiona McCallum’s who’s Wattle Creek (Harlequin Books) I’ve just recently read. A story full CWA meetings, small town gossip, bush fires and handsome young farmers, it’s chock full of country charm.

Fiona’s novel is the story of Jacqueline, a young woman who finds herself making a home in the small town of Wattle Creek, and Damien, a young farmer struggling:

Damien McAllister is a man on the brink. Spending long, hard days on a farm he has no affection for; and nights ignoring the criticisms of his mother, Damien can no longer remember what he’s living for. But in a small town like Wattle Creek, there are few people to turn to – and Damien learned long ago to keep his problems to himself.

Until Jacqueline Havelock, a young psychologist escaping her own issues, arrives fresh from the city and makes Damien question everything he has know about himself… also igniting a spark in his lonely heart.

Refreshingly, although Jacqueline and Damien’s fledgling relationship is the core of this story, it is a gentle romance, growing slowly and pleasantly. There’s no heaving chests or throbbing of any kind, it’s just a lovely story of two people finding in each other something that they both desperately need.

Ultimately Damien needs companionship and support, and in his story, the author is able to share a really  authentic tale of bush challenges. It explores the issues of isolation and relentlessly hard-work, and of the psychological challenges that many farmers face silently. Loneliness, depression and thoughts of suicide are all struggles faced by rural men, and this story considers them all.

Jacqueline faces her own demons, and finds out that running away doesn’t always work to exorcise them. To do that, she needs a champion…

This is a lovely novel. It is an easy read, nice and quick to get through. It’s a little cliched in parts, but other than that it’s well written and very readable. For me, I found it a really wonderful introduction to this relatively new genre, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Fiona McCallum has two earlier books Paycheque and Nowhere Else, both available through Harlequin Books.

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