Rose River by Margareta Osborn

In brief: When Jaime takes on a housesitting job in the high country of Victoria, she never imagined that a life in the country would prove to be more exciting than the city. Nor that she’d fall in love or have a number of humorous adventures…

The good: It’s funny, sexy and sweet in equal measures.

The not-so-good: I had to travel the width of Australia and back to get time to finish it!

Why I chose it: I love Margareta’s books – so much so that I bought my own paperback after starting to read the eARC given to me by Random House Australia.

Year: 2015

Pages: 351

Publisher: Random House

Setting: Victorian high country, Australia

My rating: 9.5 out of 10

Mountain Ash by Margareta Osborn was a standout read for me in 2014, so of course I was eager to pounce on her latest release, Rose River as soon as I could lay my hands on it. For those of you who have read her novella A Bush Christmas, you will be delighted to see familiar faces in this novel as it takes the beginning of that story and turns it into what is a wickedly funny and tender novel. While Mountain Ash was all about the drama, Rose River is more light-hearted and proves that Margareta can nail a fish out of water story.

The story opens with Jaime deciding to do a spot of housesitting in the high country. Having recently lost her job, she can no longer afford the luxuries that were once common place, like a flashy apartment on the river and Jimmy Choo shoes. It’s a wild thing to do, but getting out of the city is a priority for her. This will be a perfect place to escape Christmas, which is a difficult time for Jaime after the death of her father. No way will she be spending it with her mother and her new husband. Everything was going so well until the appearance of Marble Man. (His real name is Stirling, but Marble Man describes this man so well). Jaime never expected to find a man in the back of beyond, but will Stirling help to heal the pain of missing her father? He’s a gruff man originally, but the two turn into friends with the possibility of something more until Jaime’s most ardent fan Marty turns up along with Stirling’s ex, Tiffany. It’s a comedy of errors as the wayward lovers try to explain their feelings but are thwarted at every attempt in the tiny community.

I loved Rose River. The only thing I didn’t was that it took me from Perth to Melbourne to Canberra and back to Melbourne to finish it! It’s the type of story that makes you think, ‘just one more chapter…or two’ but I read this on the way to the Australian Romance Readers Convention and I simply ran out of time and energy in between things to finish it in a big greedy lump! The bonus was that I did get to meet Margareta, and tell her in person how wonderful her stories are. Plus I got my copy of Rose River signed – thanks Margareta! (And thank you for the cattle tag and bookmark).

What really amazed me about Rose River was how funny it was, taking Jaime’s fish out of water status in the country and having her fall into nearly every trap possible. There’s an incredible scene that involves a goat and dogs in a kitchen with a load of groceries that made me laugh and laugh as poor old Jaime had to try and herd the animals outside. It wasn’t funny to Jaime, but it was hilarious for the reader. The community events also accurately represented the larrikin behaviour that can occur (like trying to talk Jaime into a game of cricket while conveniently neglecting to tell her it’s nude cricket). There’s the committee of women who try to endlessly organise everything (leading to a mishap for Jaime with a sponge until Stirling saves the day) and there’s the good hearted folk who welcome newcomer Jaime.

At first I thought Jaime was a little immature, but she really grew on me during the course of the novel. She grew up too, learning to stand up to various people (such as Marty, who just won’t believe that Jaime isn’t his perfect match) and learning to be part of community rather than acting in the best interests of the individual. But I think it was her determination in the end to let Stirling know how she felt that really captivated me. The finale is perfectly wonderful. As for Stirling – well, at first I thought he would be the silent, brooding type but as he opened up to Jaime I could see that there was much more to him. His warmth and generosity shone through as Jaime got to know him and I was determined that Tiffany was not going to walk away with him! I loved Stirling’s family too, as they were quirky but were still a close, loving family. Tiffany, as Jaime’s rival, was hideous enough to make me hope she’d just disappear and Marty was like a really annoying little brother (I did admire his determination to win Jaime, but not the method). You can tell that the characters in Rose River really captured my heart – as we’ve been cross country together, I feel like they’re old friends.

This is a wonderful story, full of warmth and humour that celebrates all that is good about rural communities. I loved it.

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