Neve Fitzpatrick, an occupational therapist, moves to the outskirts of Woodlea, a little town in the Australian outback in the delightful rural romance The Round Yard, by Alissa Callen.
Neve was the primary carer for her ill mother and after her passing, she is desperate to learn more about her roots and find her family’s friendly little home town.
Tanner, a city slicker, adopted as a baby and leading a somewhat privileged lifestyle, decides to head for Woodlea, his birth mother’s home town, after his adopted mother dies. His stern father cannot cope with his decision to not utilize his law degree.
With his tall, athletic good looks and easy-going demeanour, Tanner is the most eligible bachelor in Woodlea, yet, even so, Neve cannot understand why her stomach lurches when she looks into Tanner’s eyes for the first time.
Settling into life in the community, Neve and takes on the delightful task of caring for five-year-old Maya and three-year-old Kait, for their widowed father. The little redheaded girls are full of energy and fill Neve’s days with love and laughter. Her life is about to be turned upside down though when the local vet Ella persuades her to agist a small pony and a donkey. When Neve cannot contain them in her yard, she calls upon Tanner’s expertise as she worries that her charges could cause damage, or worse, unwittingly hurt the little girls in her daily care.
Tanner finds that he is unusually uneasy around Neve, although he has always been popular with the opposite sex, regularly escaping their attention by leaving town to go droving. His birth mother loves him, but he struggles to let her or anyone too close. It hurts him to see the smile not reach his mother’s eyes, each time she says goodbye to him. It seems Tanner has been hurt more than once in his lifetime and cannot bring himself to think about having a close relationship with anyone. Why then, when he drives out to tackle her misbehaved animals, does his heart race each time he looks at Neve?
Maya and Kait take an instant liking to the cowboy, which causes Tanner to be more on edge. Neve and Tanner form a friendship and both realise there is a connection but decide not to act on it. Neve feels she is not ready for a relationship and Tanner has reasons of his own. They find that sometimes things are “easier said than done”.
Woodlea has a wedding to prepare for, the town races and a new playground to build, so everyone is kept busy and Tanner and Neve are thrown together constantly. Edith, the town meddler, seems hell bent on protecting Tanner from the young smitten women of Woodlea, for her own reasons. Tanner becomes increasingly uncomfortable and uneasy and struggles to cope with the attention he is receiving and the lack of attention he gains from his Sydney-based father who won’t forgive him for abandoning his career as a lawyer.
As Neve searches for answers in the small town about the surprising first marriage of her grandmother to a British airman, the lives of the small rural town residents, Tanner and herself become entwined.
The Round Yard is a delightful love story, set in a place that could be any rural Australian town. As I turned the pages, it brought back memories of locust plagues, meddling mothers and country living. I love that Alissa Callen uses not one, but several women as key characters and the men in their lives as a compliment to those characters. A great read.
The Round Yard, by Alissa Callan, is available in printed and digital editions from the publisher, HQ Fiction