In brief: A new job in the Outback is just what Tess needs to escape from her life. Her landlord Soretta welcomes the newcomers with open arms, until new pilot Charlie reveals his ulterior motive…
The good: I enjoyed reuniting with Soretta and the gang from Mica Ridge, as well as following Tess’s role as an outreach breast cancer nurse.
The not-so-good: I devoured this in just a few days.
Why I chose it: The Homestead Girls was loads of fun, thanks Penguin Australia for the copy.
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Setting: Outback Australia
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
Fiona McArthur’s novels are always a heart-warming read for me, as I know that there will be tears, sadness but ultimately a joyful ending. Heart of the Sky is no exception to this, and it also has the added bonus of reuniting the reader with the women of The Homestead Girls. There are also what I’d consider to be two main characters in the novel, but they’re not the hero and heroine. It’s the story of two women, one familiar to the reader and one not, who find joy in unexpected places.
The first person we meet in Heart of the Sky is Tess. She’s an oncology nurse, looking for a new outlet after the tragic death of her husband. From a calendar image, she gets the idea of moving to outback Australia to assist cancer sufferers there. This starts a new journey as Tess becomes an outreach breast cancer nurse in the red dirt country of Mica Ridge. She’s based at the Flying Doctor Service so she can fly out to women on stations to offer support and nursing assistance. Of course, this means that we get to reunite with the other characters from FDS, such as Billie, Daphne and Mia. It’s not long before Tess is living at Blue Hills with Soretta and her grandfather making them welcome. The other new boarder is Charlie, relief FDS pilot, who has a secret up his sleeve. It’s not long before he and Soretta become firm friends, but when his secret is revealed, it deeply affects people she’s come to love. Can Tess and Soretta find their way to happiness?
I enjoy books with an oncology thread to them (I know, it’s a bit odd) because I get to experience the human contact side of it all. I can honestly say that this is the only place I’ve read or heard about knitted knockers (aka knitted prostheses to be used after a mastectomy). Tess’s determination to provide the best care possible regardless of distance is inspirational and even the little touches like tea in her office show how thoughtful and caring she is. There are tips from her practice that others could use in real life to make these women (and men, breast cancer is not exclusively female) to feel more comfortable.
It was also great to get to know what makes Soretta tick. She was determined and even a little bit fiery in The Homestead Girls. She is a bit more comfortable financially in this book, so she let her guard down to Charlie. I enjoyed reading about her mixed feelings and loyalty to her friends and family. The latter part of the book where both her feelings and her wits were tested was great to read. There was a sense of urgency in terms of plot, but Soretta was very level headed in emotional and practical terms. This made me warm to her even more as a character. Like Tess, she wants the best for those she cares about.
Overall, Heart of the Sky is a lovely story, full of characters you will love instantly and with enough drama to keep reading through the night. That’s why I never miss one of Fiona McArthur’s books!