THE MAXWELL SISTERS
Author: Loretta Hill
Bantam RRP $32.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
Loretta Hill burst onto the Australian contemporary romance scene in 2012 with The Girl in the Steel-Capped Boots. Her fresh, engaging style won her a swathe of fans, all of whom should be delighted by Hill’s newest book, The Maxwell Sisters. This one moves away from the mining outposts of Hill’s first three books to the beautiful south-west of Australia – the Margaret River wine region – and is as refreshing as a glass of crisp white wine on a hot summer’s day.
Three sisters, all living separate lives, are reunited ahead of the youngest sister’s wedding. Tash, Eve and Phoebe Maxwell were always close, but the past few years have led to some distance, both physically and emotionally. Tash, who lives in Sydney, has not told her sisters about the emotionally challenging issues she’s been facing – one being her estranged marriage. She’s also not talking to Eve, the middle sister, after a fall out over Eve’s failed restaurant on the family winery (Tawny Brooks Winery). Eve has never admitted her true feelings for her best friend Spider, who just happens to be engaged to her younger sister, Phoebe. And all Phoebe wants is for everyone to reconnect before the wedding. It’s complicated … but then, most family dynamics are, right?
The impending wedding acts as a catalyst for the sisters to reexamine their relationships with each other, their parents, and with their significant others (and an interfering mother-in-law-to-be). Meanwhile, romance blossoms for one sister and falters for another. And since wine vintage waits for no one, the family must pull together in more ways than one.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting is familiar for me, given that I live two hours’ drive from the beautiful Margaret River region (if you haven’t been there, put it on your bucket list). Hill captured the relaxed foodie atmosphere of the region beautifully. Food and wine plays an important role in the book, with many significant moments happening around the dinner table, at cafes or in the restaurant kitchen. I loved how the girls’ mother plies the family with food, showing her love for her family through delivering hearty, tasty meals accompanied by carefully selected wines. All of this played into my own love of food and family. Here’s a lovely food metaphor used by John, the girls’ father, that made me nod in agreement:
‘Marriage is like a vine … The wedding is the part where you’re planting. There’s so much to do, so much to organise. You’ve got to prepare the soil so it’s not too rich and acidic. You’ve got to set up your trellises in neat rows and, when the shoots come up, twine them about the poles of the trellises so they grow in the right way. After that, you’re all set. Ready for vintage. Now all you’ve got to do is wait for those magic grapes to appear. Wrong. The truth is, the work has only just begun …’
Warm, reassuring and refreshing, The Maxwell Sisters is my favourite of Hill’s books. There’s a maturity about it that shows her continued growth as a writer. If you’re looking for a book that explores themes of self-discovery and sisterhood, with a healthy dose of romance thrown in, put The Maxwell Sisters on your to-read list.
I read this as part of a blog tour organised by Random House, with an e-copy courtesy of Netgalley. To check out some other tour reviews, see Sam Still Reading, whose review appeared yesterday, or check Book’d Out tomorrow.
Bookish treat: Some of Eve’s divine crepes and a glass of white.