Stevie Dunsford is an accountant working in London with an enviable lifestyle & a boyfriend who is eager to get married. Then she gets a call from Cecil who works on the family farm in Devon. Stevie’s father has had a stroke & the farm is falling into ruins. The local vet is threatening to prosecute Stevie’s father for neglecting the cattle & he’s involved in a feud with his closest neighbour. Stevie had reluctantly left the farm when she was 18 after her father refused her the opportunity to work with him because she was a girl. He favoured her brother, Ray, who showed little interest in the dairy business & who has since left the farm. Stevie’s estrangement from her father has lasted over ten years & she’s only returned once, for her mother’s funeral. She wasn’t even aware that her father had suffered the stroke. However, she agrees to go home & assess the situation with her boyfriend, Nick.
The situation is even worse than she feared. The local Welfare Officer has given Stevie’s father, Tom, a deadline to sort out Nettlebed Farm but Cecil is elderly & Tom is unable to do much except sit in the kitchen & threaten intruders with a rifle. He’s also not happy & not grateful when Stevie turns up to help. Stevie loves the farm & soon realises that this is what she was meant to do with her life. The mammoth task she’s taken on soon consumes her every thought & her niggling doubts about her relationship with Nick soon become overwhelming. Stevie realises that she was always meant to be a lady farmer rather than an accountant & Nick, who is so very much a townie, just doesn’t fit in. She grits her teeth & tries to ignore her father’s hostility & relies on Cecil & his wife, Mary for support. She also finds the locum vet, Leo, very attractive & although they get off to a bumpy start, their friendship soon looks set to develop into romance.
Stevie’s hard work slowly begins to pay off & she meets the welfare deadlines for the animals. She begins to relax into her role as lady farmer & starts to build bridges with the neighbours & suppliers that her father has antagonized. She also starts to work on a plan to diversify from dairy & put in place a plan for the long term viability of the farm. Her breakup with Nick was difficult but necessary & her slow burning relationship with Leo looks set to take off. Then, a life changing event puts all these plans in jeopardy & Stevie has to make some hard decisions.
Country Loving is a lovely mix of comedy, drama & rural romance. I don’t know if it’s a worldwide trend but there’s been a recent fashion here in Australia for outback romances. the covers are all the same – a young woman, usually blonde with long hair & wearing an Akubra, gazing into the dusty distance with a windmill in the background as you can see here. The setting of Country Loving fits right in to the genre although there’s less of the sunburned country & more West Country lushness about the location. What sets this book apart from many of the other novels about women moving to the country is the depth of knowledge that Cathy Woodman obviously has of farm life & especially veterinary work. Not surprisingly as she started out as a vet & has previously written a series of romantic novels featuring vets. Stevie has a lot of problems to overcome & the rural setting seemed very realistic to me. Her fractured relationship with her father & the difficulties she faced in fitting in to the rural community were certainly not sugar-coated. Stevie realises that the ten years she spent away from the farm have made some things easier but nothing can overcome the need for hard work, tact & a lot of luck when it comes to dealing with the people of Talyton St George.
I read Country Loving courtesy of NetGalley.