Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date: September 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Third-generation farmer Adam Burton has always tried to keep his family together, but twenty years after his little sister went missing from the family farm he’s losing hope. His dad has walked out, his mum is as reclusive as ever and he still blames himself for his sister’s disappearance.
When Stella Reynolds and her young daughter arrive from the big smoke to stay at the holiday cottage on their farm for the summer, Adam is immediately attracted to the beautiful single mum. Although he’s always steered clear of children and doesn’t believe he deserves love or a family of his own, he finds himself spending time with Stella and her young daughter, Heidi, and enjoying it.
As the twenty-year old mystery begins to unravel, Stella wonders if she should take her daughter and run. But doing so is easier said than done, because Stella just might be falling in love with Bunyip Bay and a gorgeous, but hurting, farmer.
Outback Ghost is #3 in the Bunyip Bay trilogy by Rachael Johns. While it is part of a series it can easily be read by itself. Right up front I will just say I loved this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it - characters, plot and setting. I am sure at the end of the year I will be highlighting it as one of my top favourites of 2014.
Stella and her daughter Heidi (love that name) arrive in Bunyip Bay for a well earned summer break. Stella is a single parent with an adorable seven year old daughter who you can't but help fall in love with right away. Heidi's warmth and love of life filled the book up with light. I felt sad that her grandparents never got to know her, what a huge gift they turned their back on. Ever since Stella has been nineteen she has been raising Heidi by herself with no support from her family. What a fabulous mother she is. They have been living in the city, but now Stella wants to give Heidi a taste of farm life. And so she rents a cottage for a couple of months on Adam's farm.
Unbeknown to Stella people don't usually stay here because of strange bumps in the night and whispers of hauntings. We soon learn that seems to have some truth and Heidi makes friends with a certain LilyBlue. Adam the farmer has lived with the trauma of at one minute playing with his younger sister and the next moment looking up and finding her gone. He has always blamed himself, that day he lost his mother too. She withdrew into herself and as the book opens her husband is on the verge of leaving her.
What helped me love this book so much? The love of a mother - Stella for Heidi, the heartache of a mother - Esther for her daughter snatched away one sad day. The heartache of a husband who can no longer cope with the greyness of a wife who still grieves the loss of her daughter. The guilt and love of Adam who while feeling somehow responsible for the loss of his sister goes on living as best he can, yet robbed of desiring his own children for fear he will not be able to protect them. I loved the animals - Mutton the young puppy, Whiskers the cat and all the others to a lesser degree.
The story moved along at a good pace and slowly the mystery unfolded with its impact on the various characters. I liked the exploration of being a parent of a child with special needs. I smiled, laughed and choked back tears as I followed the ups and downs of Stella, Adam, Heidi and Esther. I rejoiced as a sense of closure was reached.
My only complaint about this book is that it had to end!