Author: Leonie Kelsall
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication Date: July 2, 2021
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
I have just finished The Wattle Seed Inn and absolutely loved it, for so many reasons. I haven’t actually reviewed Kelsall’s debut offering The Farm at Peppertree Crossing yet but I am trying to get back on track so I’m determined to get this one written.
There are a lot of things I found to love about this story and I’m not sure where to start. I love the setting, I can’t pinpoint the exact location but the fictional Settlers Bridge is not too far from where I live.
The bakery that keeps popping up, and the favourite menu item, are far from fictional and it makes me smile every time they get a mention because they are my favourite bakery. I get such a kick out of recognising the places that I read about and can relate a little closer too. Maybe one day I need to take a bit of a road trip around my backyard and see if I can find just where the Wurruldi Hotel is.
The Wattle Seed Inn shares some crossover characters with The Farm at Peppertree Crossing but they are very much stand alone novels. This isn’t a series but I do hope to see more books set in and around Settlers Bridge, there are a couple more characters that I would love a closer look at.
The Wattle Seed Inn is written from three very different perspectives but it was easy to follow the different voices and I found that I connected with all of the characters.
Kelsall draws on her background in counselling to tackle some hefty issues with insight and heart. I found The Wattle Seed Inn to be a beautiful story but it also has quite a dark side and explores trauma, PTSD, grief and loss.
Gabrielle is one half of Smart & Sassy, the PR firm she built with her then fiancé Brendan Smart. When Brendan accuses her of having no passion she sets out to find a change and a challenge, settling on the abandoned pub they had purchased together years ago as an investment and left to fall further into ruin.
Gabrielle soon discovers that it takes more than a vague dream to make things happen in the tiny settlement of Wurruldi. She set out from Adelaide with a plan to turn the pub into a boutique destination B&B without actually checking out it’s condition first, and first impressions were a little underwhelming.
Her first night in the area sees Gabrielle having to head to Settlers Bridge where she comes across a group of friends in the pub and more first impressions are less than glowing. There was one person she made a positive first impression on and Sharna becomes quite a close friend.
Hayden is suffering and without the support of his close friends and his family he would be struggling an awful lot more. Kelsall explores grief and guilt and self-loathing in a sensitive manner as we get to know Hayden and understand his struggles. He has taken a huge step back in the last couple of years and can’t afford to let anyone else in his circle, it’s hard enough for him with the number of people he already cares about, and is petrified to lose. He is only slowly coming back out of his hermit like life and often will avoid social contact.
Our third voice in The Wattle Seed Inn is Ilse, an endearing older lady that we come to know slowly and who takes a while to work out.
The Wattle Seed Inn has a bit of mystery that unravels throughout the course of the story. A mystery that I found quite heartbreaking to be completely honest.
Gabrielle has always had her wealthy upbringing to fall back on so none of her ventures have entailed risk really, she never stood to lose because money was no object. She wants to prove that she can achieve something outside of that and the further she delves into the renovations the more she finds her passion growing and her vision for the place becoming clear.
Kelsall’s characters are vivid and relatable, their stories believable and sympathetic. The themes of appearances and the way they affect self perception was insightfully and sensitively done. The fear of being different in a small town was explored effectively. The romance in the story is low key and slow burning, and believably done.
The real beauty in the story is the transformation of the dilapidated Wurruldi Hotel into the beautifully restored Wattle Seed Inn.
The Wattle Seed Inn is a book that I would recommend to lovers of Contemporary fiction and rural reads.
Thanks for another great read Leonie, I look forward to the next one. Thanks to Allen and Unwin for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Wattle Seed Inn is published July 2nd by Allen and Unwin and is available where all good books are sold.