Where There's Smoke by Meredith Resce
After three years, Chris is returning home because of a bushfire crisis
threatening his family farm. The danger level is extreme both to himself and the property, almost as extreme as the danger that his heart will be broken all over again. Sally hasn't seen Chris in three years, and she hasn't forgiven him for just disappearing with no explanation. But he chooses today - the day when their neighbouring properties are in the path of a raging bushfire - to return. She wants to demand an explanation, but with the smoke and flames bearing down on them, now is the time for defending their homes and stock, and each other.
I was very interested to read this novella by Meredith as novellas are not my first choice for reading. This is different from Meredith's other books, not only in being shorter, but also because it is in no way overtly Christian. If fact there were moments in the story where I felt Meredith was making it quite clear she was writing from a different perspective. Given that, I found the story very entertaining and engaging. The characters are well-formed, which seemed to me a great feat in such a short story.
It is set in South Australia, so places such as Mt Remarkable and Melrose will be familiar to Australian readers, and the setting for the story - a raging bushfire - is a very credible one, which Meredith describes very well. As a reader I could almost smell the smoke and feel the heat of the flames. The sense of fear and tragedy which Australians face in this circumstance was well portrayed. Of course this story is based on a real bushfire event, so the scope of danger and potential loss for farmers and those whose lives are dependent on the land is very realistically evoked.
The romance in the story will be a drawcard for many readers and the tension of an emotive love triangle makes the story a page turner.
As an avid reader of novels - the fatter the better - I found it all finished too soon and I could imagine the ongoing story as well as lots more details of the backstory, but I guess that's partly what makes the novella so entertaining. The reader can fill out much more of the story in their own imagination.
I think Meredith has done a good job in meeting the challenge of drawing a reader into a story quickly and leaving a reader with a sense of satisfaction, a sense of having entered into the lives of the characters and learned something significant about Australian life.
Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels, Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream have been re-released by EBP. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website