The Last McAdam by Holly Ford

In brief: Tess Drummond’s job is to turn around fading farms fast for large company Carnarvon Holdings. But Broken Creek is different. The head stockman is the same man she hooked up with at a wedding and the other workers have deep backstories. Can Tess keep her heart at bay to complete her business?

The good: The majority of the story is action packed with a hint of romance.

The not-so-good: I didn’t understand all of the landscape/farming terms at first (thanks Google).

Why I chose it: Thanks to Allen & Unwin, I’m part of this book’s blog tour.

Year: 2017

Pages: 292

Publisher: Allen & Unwin (available now, RRP $29.99)

Setting: New Zealand

My rating: 7.5 out of 10

I would say that I’ve read quite a bit of rural fiction/rural romance, but I can’t say that I’ve read any set in New Zealand. That all changed when I read Holly Ford’s The Last McAdam, which is set in the high country in New Zealand’s south island. It opens with the hero and heroine meeting and getting close at a wedding until Tess thinks better of it and speeds away in her Hilux. Things then turn back to normal, with Tess moving on to her next farm to turn around. Tess’s job is for a big multinational farming corporation that buys up struggling farms and turns them into profitable properties. She’s used to making the hard choices but when she arrives at Broken Creek, everything turns upside down.

For starters, the head stockman (and stepson of the former property owner, i.e. the last McAdam) is Nate, who she hooked up with at the wedding. The staff are all broken in their own way, but Nate is determined to show Tess their redeeming qualities. He is certain that this won’t be a slash and burn job, as he’s still invested in the land and its people. Tess is normally sure footed, but in Nate she’s found her match. The more she explores Broken Creek, the more positive aspects she can see for both the land and its occupants. How can she fix this without egg on her face?

The Last McAdam fits solidly within the rural fiction genre for me, as it’s contained the most realistic farming scenes and events that I’ve read in a novel. The only downfall is my farming knowledge is based on flat land and wheat/sheep rather than high country cattle so I didn’t understand all the terms initially. As the story continued, I began appreciate the harmony of life on the farm and the gradual growth in the relationship between Tess and Nate. I liked the slowness of the romance with its bumps and twists, as the reader got to see the beginning of trust in the relationship. (I really enjoyed the dancing scene between Tess and Nate in the homestead. The follow-up, between Tess and her boss, who she’s been lusting after for some time, was a great contrast).

In the second half of the book, the action really dominates. (Who knew that farms could have so many epic events?) I found I enjoyed this much more as it brought some of the supporting characters to the fore, so we could find out about their backstory. (I think there would even be potential for a series here, starring Mitch the pilot with a past, followed by young Harry). Holly Ford writes the action scenes brilliantly, conjuring up urgency and vivid scenes.

If you’re after rural fiction in a different setting with a healthy dose of action accompanied by a gentle romance, you’ll like The Last McAdam.

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