Author: Margareta Osborn
Bantam Australia RRP $32.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Mountain Ash is a breath of fresh air, delivering heartfelt rural romance packaged in distinct Australian atmosphere. It’s the first book I’ve read by Australian author Margareta Osborn, and now I wonder why I haven’t discovered her work earlier: her writing is warm, inviting and more-ish … just like freshly baked scones in a country kitchen.
All romances need conflict to move them along, to create a sense of tension that makes the climax even more satisfactory. Mountain Ash sets up a devastating conflict, which the reader sees long before the characters, and can only hope there is a way towards the requisite happy ever after. A young woman, a single mother craving security after giving up on love and passion, has to decide whether to settle for a wealthy, controlling and much-older widower, or to put her trust in a cowboy she meets at a rodeo.
Should Jodie put her need for security and stability first, and settle for Alex McGregor, a man who she knows, deep down, is not her heart’s desire – a man with outdated ideas of a wife’s place who she feels no chemistry with? Torn between head and heart, she heads to a rodeo in the Snowy Mountains with her friends for a weekend of chilling out and much-needed space. She doesn’t factor in meeting Nate McGregor … or on the way he makes her tingle … and the way their short but ever-so-sweet affair will leave a lasting impact on her life. Instead, she walks away from Nate, back to Alex, telling herself that trusting another cowboy is not a good move. When Nate turns up for her wedding to Alex, everything falls into place … and tears apart.
I really enjoyed reading Mountain Ash. The storyline is full of heart and honesty – Jodie’s emotional dilemma was one I am sure many women can relate to – should she choose someone just to have someone … or should she wait for the right man? I know what it’s like to raise children on my own, but I do remember thinking I wasn’t interested in having someone just so I wouldn’t be alone (and I count my blessings that I found the right man). I liked Jodie as a character and wanted to shake some sense into her when she downplayed Alex’s attitude – why wasn’t she listening to the warning bells, I wondered. Osborn set up this relationship well – it was one of mutual benefit (or so both Jodie and Alex expected). In contrast, the meeting between Jodie and Nate heralded an entirely different relationship – one with many possibilities, one with heat, heart and love. Again, Osborn set this contrast up beautifully, creating tension by the bucketload; I wanted them to get together and stay together.
Romance and conflict aside, Mountain Ash also delivers the best of Aussie rural atmosphere; it’s brimming with community spirit and mateship (and Ariat jeans and campdrafting, neither of which I’d heard of before), moving from vast outback stations, to the gorgeous high country, to small country towns. A bushfire scene towards the end is a stark reminder of the harshness of the Australian landscape, as well as the incredible, inspiring efforts of those who fight the fires, saving lives and properties where they can. There’s a familiarity about some of the minor characters – nomadic Wallace, CWA man-eater Beryl, uptight Mrs Muldeen – characters readers would recognise in any small town, fictional or not. For me, there was the added bonus of “visiting” places I hadn’t been to in a long time, now that I’m living on the other side of the country; it gives me a buzz, because I think, I know that place! I can take myself there with the characters. Do others ever feel that way?
Refreshing, romantic and real, Mountain Ash captivated me from start to finish. Osborn skilfully captures the dilemma of being a single parent who wants to do the best for them and their child/ren, wrapping the experience in a well-paced story with plenty of plot twists and burning chemistry. I’m looking forward to reading more from Osborn, and I’ll be seeking out back copies of her earlier books. I have a feeling we’re going to become well acquainted.
To read an excerpt, click here.
Available from good bookstores and Random House Australia. My copy was courtesy of Random House.
Bookish treat: Scones. It’s the second time today I’ve thought of scones. With home-made jam … and cream.