Author: Maya Linnell
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: 2 June, 2020
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

I have had Linnell’s debut novel on my shelf since it’s release and it has such a gorgeous cover I keep meaning to pick it up, but haven’t quite got there. So when Bottlebrush Creek arrived I knew that I couldn’t let it suffer the same neglect and picked it up immediately, I’m glad I did and I will definitely be pulling Wildflower Ridge down to delve into sometime soon.

Bottlebrush Creek is rural fiction filled with heart, humour and no shortage of tension. I loved the characters, the setting was enviable and the renovation project was enough to make me glad that we are tackling our home improvements one small job at a time.

Angie and Rob were thrown into the deep-end of the relationship scale when they became parents very soon after becoming partners. Rob is a FIFO worker who has spent most of their relationship on mining sites as much as he has at home and Angie feels that he may be slipping away.

Retrenchment from the mines offers the perfect opportunity to embark on the project of a lifetime and purchase a weatherboard cottage on property that is packed with potential, and sees Angie fall in love at first sight.

Luckily for some, Angie has already fallen in love when she discovers that the neighbouring property is Rob’s parents dairy farm because that news certainly adds a new dimension to the purchase.

Angie takes the opportunity to sell the beauty salon that she’s poured years, blood, sweat and tears into and embarks on a new chapter as a stay-at-home mum builders apprentice. Rob renews his builders licence and they set out to transform a rundown, overgrown cottage into their dream home. Like any job of this magnitude it isn’t without its challenges and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.

A new location signifies the beginning of a new chapter and Angie decides now is the time to transform herself as they transform the cottage. She wants to become fitter, stronger and less inclined to volunteer for everything that comes across her path. Though I could completely understand where Angie was coming from on this one and Linnell explored it so well, with insight and sensitivity as well as some great contrasting characters, I really felt for the position she put herself in. A new chapter can be a great thing but watching Angie deprive herself and turn her back on so many of her loves looked more like losing herself in the search for her ‘New Me’. Her new friends seemed almost to be embodiments of who she was striving to be, and who she was and it was questionable where she would find her happiness. There were a couple of revelations that came through this journey that I wish Angie had come to sooner.

A renovation project is bound to be fraught with tension, especially when undertaken by an owner/builder pair and it is made even trickier by the fact that Angie and Rob haven’t been together that long and find that they still have a lot to learn about each other.

The tensions were not eased by their proximity to the Jones dairy farm, and the leftover tensions from Rob’s past with his family, and the well-intentioned meddling of Rob’s mother Rosa.

Bottlebrush Creek is filled with colourful characters, some you love and some you will love to hate; a wealth of cute animals and amusing anecdotes. It is a novel filled with love in all its forms that explores family, friendships and letting go. A tale of learning how much you don’t know about the people around you and learning to start fresh when you realise what is really important to you.

This is a novel that I loved, there were times that I wanted to throttle some sense into more than one character. rob and Angie had more than their share of hurdles to overcome in both their relationship and the renovation project; and they came to the crunch more than once but so much of their tension could have been avoided by effective communication. Sometimes conversations were opened that weren’t handled well and the situation was made worse rather than better, and sometimes things weren’t taken as seriously as maybe they should have but more talk and less shutting down and shutting out would have helped them move forward much quicker, though it wouldn’t have made for as entertaining a story.

Linnell explores two very different family dynamics in the McIntyre’s and the Jones’ which does demonstrate a lot of what Angie and Rob had to overcome but there were also many other relationships explored that served as great examples for Angie and Rob in some of the ways that you can work towards a fruitful family future.

I look forward to checking back in on this couple when Linnell releases a book about the next McIntyre sister, because I’m sure that Angie will have a place in the story.

Bottlebrush Creek is book #17 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2020.

Follow Maya on Instagram and Facebook @maya.linnell.writes 
Or sign up to her monthly newsletter at www.mayalinnell.com/newsletter

Bottlebrush Creek is available now through Allen and Unwin and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold. In these uncertain times it would be great to try and support a local bookstore, many of the ones in my area have put systems in place to fulfil orders even though their physical stores may be closed to the public.