#SheReviews Maya Linnell’s Paperbark Hill

June 6, 2022

I excitedly look forward to each new book from rural romance author, Maya Linnell. Maya is a Victorian author, who has captivated the hearts of romance readers, with her honest stories of life in the country. Her delightful series tells the stories of the four McIntyre sisters. This latest novel and fourth in the series, Paperbark Hill , sees us back in Bridgefield where elder sister, Diana is following her dream of creating a flower farm. 

If you follow Maya you will know that she is a keen gardener, who lives on a flower filled farm in Victoria. In fact the farm on the cover of Paperbark Hill is one of Maya’s own photos of her home. The cover seems too pretty to crack, but once you enter the pages your will find a tale filled with family drama, food, friends, flowers and country charm. I found it difficult to put down, as after reading the whole series, it felt like having a cuppa and piping hot , homemade scones with old friends. 

Paperbark Hill is Diana’s story. Diana is Mum to four sons and a fledgling flower farmer. She particularly loves dahlias. Though the family have had a rough eighteen months Diana hopes that with the help of her elderly green thumbed friend, Colin her dream will finally reach fruition. 

Ned Gardiner is a locum pharmacist and single dad who hasn’t called Victoria home for years. However, his father’s death forces him to return to the family farm, a place that holds few happy memories for him. Sorting out his father’s affairs and dealing with his estranged mother, he plans on leaving as soon as possible, but what will it take for Ned to put down roots?

With six children between them, including a brooding teenager, can this pair juggle families, farms and an unlooked – for romance?

Diana’s story is very real and resonates with me as I have three sons and remember those days of endless cooking, laundry and ferrying to cricket. Throw in school, community and family events and there is not room for much else. Romance for Diana is on the back burner. Diana’s work ethic and struggle with juggling her fledgling flower farm and family life was portrayed in an empathetic and real way. 

Both families in the story are dealing with loss and navigating the way forward in the midst of grief and a new normal for them all. It’s the rituals that can often hold families together and Maya has included a good dose of family dinners, baking, community events and camping trips into the mix. These bring an authentic touch. 

Although at its heart there is all the uncertainty and giddiness of a new romance, there is also humour and relatable country style common sense. The landscape is one Maya knows and writes beautifully, but it is the well drawn characters who will stay with you long after you close the last page. I loved Ned’s sweet daughter Willow, the curmudgeonly Reg and the sassy sexpot Sarah. All the secondary characters had personalities of their own and were so well drawn. I think I may have a little crush on the lovely Ned.

The bonds between the McIntyre sisters is always a joy to read and I love the scenes where the family rallies around each other, whether it’s to help a neighbour rebuild their home, save the fledgling flower business or enjoy a raucous family dinner. Animals also feature with pets, free range chickens, piglets and puppies all adding to the fun.

Maya does not shy away from some of the issues found in a rural community. She tackles addiction, family breakdown, grief, loneliness and changing circumstances with empathy and kindness. Her stories are always written with a tender touch that will tug on your heartstrings. 

Baking and nurturing is a big part of Maya’s persona which is dotted through her books. I defy you to not to bake a batch of scones, muffins or yo-yo biscuits as you read along. It really is a mouthwatering read. Maya often shares her recipes on her website for those keen to recreate the mouthwatering treats from the story. Perhaps there’ll be a country cookbook one day. 

Growing and gifting dahlias is another of Maya’s passions and she has embraced the flower farming concept of ‘ grown, not flown ‘ in this story. I have recently visited a local flower farm and spoken with growers, so this aspect resonated with me as a reader as well. For anyone who loves flowers, as most people do, it is a fascinating look at this burgeoning micro industry, which encourages flower buying that is in tune with the seasons.

I have watched Maya’s development as an author from her early days as a fledging romance writer. She has certainly grown from strength to strength. You can see her confidence blossom with each new work but she never loses sight of her roots and where she comes from. I will miss the McIntyre sisters but so look forward to seeing where Maya will take us next.

For your fix of relatable and authentic Australian romance , country charm and an unforgettable family, grab your copy of Paperbark Hill. Look out for Maya’s other titles – Wildflower Ridge, Bottlebrush Creek and Magpie’s Bend. This greedy reader devoured this latest novel at lightning pace and was sad to reach the end. It truly is my favourite in the series so far. 

It may be the flowers, the lovely main characters or the fact that if you read carefully you might find a sneaky mention of ‘’ Michelle from The Gap” that makes this novel one I will be dreaming about and recommending for weeks to come. This pitch – perfect rural romance was released on May 31 and can be found in all good bookstores. Congratulations to Maya Linnell on another stellar story.

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