RED SAND SUNRISE
Author: Fiona McArthur
Michael Joseph RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Fiona McArthur is well known in the rural romance genre, but Red Sand Sunrise is the first of her books I’ve read. In many ways, it’s a classic case of “write what you know”. A clinical midwifery educator, McArthur has worked as a rural midwife for more than 25 years and has extensive experience working with midwives and doctors in remote and isolated areas. She has also written more than thirty romances. In both cases, her experience shows in Red Sand Sunrise, which I found to be a refreshing and surprising novel.
Through three sisters – Callie (a doctor) and her stepsisters Sienna (an obstetrician) and Eve (a midwife) – McArthur explores a range of issues surrounding pregnancy, childbirth and ante-natal care in the outback, including lack of services, long distances, and isolation. After their father dies, the sisters are brought together in Red Sand, west Queensland, with differing degrees of reluctance. Callie and Eve jump at the chance to become involved in the establishment of the area’s first medical clinic; Sienna only becomes involved when her Melbourne hospital sends her north on a research mission. However, whatever their reasons for coming to Red Sand, the hospital is the catalyst for getting to know each other and working out their real priorities in life. And as much as getting to know each other is key, so too is getting to know themselves and the men who come into their lives.
Red Sand Sunrise is everything I’d expect from a rural romance, and then some. The core issue – healthcare in the outback – was treated with insight and depth, giving an authentic view of how things really are in the outback … and for city dwellers like me, it’s illuminating. Having to travel hours and hours to the nearest major city to give birth weeks, not hours, ahead of time. Even thinking about the logistics involved is mind-boggling. Community spirit is another strong theme, and it’s particularly well embodied in the scene where a tragic road accident occurs. As for romance, each of the sisters has her romantic journey (and each one has its own hiccups along the way); McArthur did an admirable job weaving together the three sisters’ stories, bringing them through conflict to resolution in a believable and heartwarming manner. Of the three romantic stories, my favourite was the one with Sienna and the “fine dude to have beside you in a dark alley” Sergeant McCabe; I loved his cool reaction when she made a play for him … and he made it clear he wasn’t that easy. Here’s a snippet of the tables-are-turned banter (the whole scene made me laugh aloud):
Then he said the unexpected. ‘How about you seduce me?’
Goody. She stepped in closer and he held up his hand.
‘Not with your body. With you.’ That amused but dismissive glance that infuriated her. ‘You could make me like you.’
Insightful, refreshing with a good dose of red-blooded romance, Red Sand Sunrise is a worthy book to add to your rural fiction pile. I’m looking forward to reading more from McArthur.
Available from good bookstores and Penguin Books Australia. My copy was courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.
Bookish treat: Some cheezel holes may have been consumed during the reading of this book. OK. The rings … not the holes. I tried.