Book Review: ‘Lake Hill’
by Margareta Osborn
When Margareta Osborn’s new novel, ‘Lake Hill’ arrived in the post, I was busy planning a family wedding and finishing a manuscript of my own. Reluctantly I put the book aside, awaiting a time when I could read it at my leisure. Last weekend, with the wedding successfully over and my own book safely in my agent’s hands, I gleefully hunkered down by the fire, ready to escape into Margareta’s latest rural romance.
The beguiling cover sets the mood, while the vivid descriptions of glistening lakes, lush pastures and big skies will transport you to Gippsland, a place so lovingly described in all of Margareta’s novels that it verges on being a character in its own right rather than a mere backdrop.
But there’s much more to ‘Lake Hill’ than the scenery – this is a novel that straddles genres, encompassing romantic elements but also some seriously dark issues as well as a good dose of mystery and suspense.
Two decades ago, teenagers, Julia Gunn and Rick Halloran, went their separate ways after a fleeting summer romance. Now in her thirties and recently widowed, Julia has decided to start a new life running a café at Lakes Entrance. On her way to the coast, a rockslide damages her car and she finds herself marooned in the mountain village of Lake Grace. After hitching a lift into town, she has no option but to stay at the local pub until the car is fixed. And guess who owns the pub? None other than Rick Halloran, who’s now a celebrity, thanks to his famous mother and his own success as a sculptor.
Reunion stories offer unique possibilities for creating dramatic tension. That’s because the two protagonists will bring a heap of emotional baggage to the reunion – their shared back story and the lives they’ve led independently in the time they’ve been apart. And if one or both has been carrying a torch for the other, well, that makes the reunion even more poignant and emotionally charged.
When Rick walks into the bar of the Lake Grace pub, Julia recognises him right away, and old memories come flooding back. For his part, Rick takes a considerable time to realise that the attractive woman with the fancy (albeit damaged) car is actually the shy bookish girl from his past. And when he does work it out, he’s not exactly happy to see her. In fact, he’s just plain surly.
What really happened all those years ago? Why did they go their separate ways? What has happened to each of them in the intervening time? And will the spark they felt as teenagers still be simmering twenty years later? The answers to those questions make for a meaty page-turner.
The dialogue is snappy, the characters nuanced, and the descriptive passages evocative. But what really grabbed me were the ‘knock-you-for-six’ twists. I can usually sense a plot twist coming chapters away, but not this time.
In a nutshell, ‘Lake Hill’ brings us a gripping and bittersweet story of second chances and lost opportunities. And if you’re the kind of reader who enjoys a blend of romance and mystery set against a bucolic backdrop, this novel could be the perfect addition to your reading list this winter.
Margareta’s website: http://margaretaosborn.com.au/
Buying details: https://penguin.com.au/authors/49-margareta-osborn
26 June, 2017