In brief: The Maxwell sisters, once so close, are now divided through distance and disagreements. Can Phoebe’s wedding bring the sisters back together? (Read more here).
The good: It’s a warm and witty story – none of the Maxwell sisters are ever boring.
The not-so-good: I really didn’t know what to think of Spider (Phoebe’s fiancé) for most of the book.
Why I chose it: I’ve enjoyed all of Loretta Hill’s previous novels, so there’s no way I would go past this one. Thanks to Random House for the eARC.
Pages: 400 (eARC)
Publisher: Random House (Bantam Australia)
Setting: South West Western Australia
My rating: 9.5 out of 10
Loretta Hill is the queen of FIFO (fly in, fly out) romance with her books set in rugged areas of Australia, such as construction sites for the mining industry (The Girl in the Hard Hat
is one of my favourites). She’s also awesome at contemporary romance (One Little White Lie is a wonderfully funny novella). I am pleased to say that her latest book, The Maxwell Sisters just as brilliant.
Now, for those of you not keen on mine sites, The Maxwell Sisters is set in a much more desirable region, the south west of Western Australia. This area is world famous for its wine and beaches and is also a foodie heaven. Think chocolate, cheese, great restaurants with picturesque views of endless vines…it’s a great place to visit (in fact, probably half of Perth is there right now). But what about living there?
The Maxwell sisters (Phoebe, Eve and Natasha) did just that. They grew up on their family’s winery, Tawny Brooks (near Yallingup) with their father (‘Mad’ Maxwell, so named for his belief in moons and tides relating to what should be done on the vines) and well-meaning, but overeager mother Anita. The sisters were close (they used the term ‘club members only’ to describe things just for them) right down to sharing clothes. (Amazing!) But something happened as the girls grew into adulthood…Tash now lives alone in Sydney, unemployed, separated from her husband and nursing another secret from her sisters. Eve has a secret, as well as a guilty conscience for burning the winery restaurant and Phoebe…she’s a happy girl, about to be married, but she has a secret too. Phoebe’s determined to make things right (she’s just that sort of girl) so she plans to bring her sisters and her future parents in law to Tawny Brooks to plan her wedding to Spider. They’ll all chip in together, get the restaurant up and running and help with the wedding prep. It’s a good bonding exercise, right?
Of course not! Tash’s husband turns up at the winery to her surprise and Eve catches fire. Lucky that Adonis, er Adam, is there to put out the flames as the new winemaker. Phoebe’s got suspicions about Spider and their dad is being weirder than usual. It’s never boring in the Maxwell household – all the sisters have something going on, whether it is love, lust, doubt or trying to keep something quiet. The story alternates chapters between the three girls, but it never feels contrived or out of place. The story flows beautifully and there are many humorous scenes (such as one sister’s lingerie in another’s car) and there’s a big mishap towards the end, which should be scary but almost seems like another day for the Maxwell sisters! All the girls were likeable – Phoebe wasn’t endlessly perky, she had doubts and fears like any bride. Tash is like Phoebe, but without the (nearly) eternal optimism. When the reader finds out why, it’s handled sensitively and realistically. Eve’s the odd one out because of her lack of confidence, but she’s not annoying for it. She’s got spark, it just takes Adonis – sorry, Adam- to bring it to the forefront.
You might be thinking that Adam was my favourite of the boys the way I keep referring to him as Adonis. Hey, it’s not only my problem – Eve’s got a bad case of it too. He’s a damaged hero, but a man with a good heart and good abs. He’s patient with the girls’ dad and the darling of their mother (mainly by always accepting her offers of food). Heath was a bit more of the strong and silent type, but he shone in the end when he began to talk with Natasha about the collapse of their marriage. The only fly in the ointment for me was Spider, Phoebe’s fiancé. I really wasn’t sure what this guy’s agenda was – good? Bad? Or just weak and easily led? I don’t think this was a flaw in the text, I think Ms Hill set it up this way. Will Spider be redeemed? You’ll have to keep reading. The interactions between all the characters were incredibly realistic – there wasn’t a line of dialogue that felt clunky or a scene that felt out of place. I think it would be very difficult to plot a novel with so many characters and so many plot threads, but it’s done brilliantly. Plus, I never forgot at what point of the journey each sister was at. The story was memorable, and I continue to be a big fan of Loretta Hill’s work. I’m looking forward to reading more of her books set down south. I might even have to visit soon for research purposes!