Author: Karly Lane
I am a big fan of Karly Lane’s writing style and storytelling abilities, since discovering her back in 2012 I have tried to keep up with all of her new releases but with so many great books being released it’s not always possible. I do have her on my wishlist for when I have time, one day I want to catch up on all of the ones I have missed. I’m doing okay, I’ve read more than I’ve missed.
When I finished this book at bedtime last night I had so many things to say about it but this morning I’m not sure where to start. I follow Lane on Facebook, both her personal and author pages, so it’s no surprise to me that she has a pretty intense love of horses; which means I was not surprised by the role of horses in this book. At the same time, the title kind of indicates that horses may play a large role in the story.
Let’s start with the horses then. Lane has done some fabulous research about the wild horses of the Guy Fawkes National Park and their ties to the horses that were used in the Boer War and The First World War. This historical aspect of the story was fascinating, and at times terribly sad. Horses are a majestic animal that hold a special place in the hearts of horse lovers; they really do become much more than just a pet or a working animal, they become friends, they become family. Yet to those who don’t share that love they can be an unnecessary expense in times of drought and the brumbies are viewed as a pest.
Horses are used as therapy animals and though that’s not how the horses fit into this story you could certainly see the effect they had on Lane’s characters.
Sophie Bryant is a paramedic with a mild case of PTSD, not only is she grieving the loss of her husband but she is also recovering from a near fatal injury inflicted in the line of duty at a domestic dispute. Her method of coping is to throw herself back into work but this time it wasn’t going to work, and it could endanger others. On the advice of her boss and mentor she takes up a role in a small rural town that is in need of a full-time paramedic.
Hilsons Ridge banded together as a community and fought to keep their ambulance station open when the health department wanted to close it down and centralise services to larger townships, all over an hour away. The community passionately believed they needed their station to give patients the best possible chance in the event of an emergency. Sophie takes on the position as a temporary break from the fast-paced life of a paramedic in Sydney hoping it will help her reconnect with the love she had for her job before her injury.
The peace and tranquility of the small town and tight knit community help Sophie to recover from the grief and trauma of her recent past. A rundown old house on the outskirts of town calls to her and no-one is more surprised than Sophie when she decides to buy the property on the spur of the moment.
Sophie has never really been one for spur of the moment decisions and she never thought she would be happy in a small quiet town, she’s a city girl who thrives on the fast pace. But she can’t deny that things start to feel right when she arrives in Hilsons Ridge. Soon after moving into her new house she discovers a brumby on the property but it’s quite shy and won’t let her get too close; until it gets injured and comes to her for help.
Life for a rural paramedic isn’t as quiet as Sophie was expecting but there was certainly a difference in the type of callout but Lane explores the differences and the similarities with sensitivity and insight. The Hilsons Ridge team has been running on just volunteers for three months and we learn why people join the volunteer ambulance service and how they manage to work it in with their everyday lives. In a rural setting the ambulance can be the first one on scene and back up isn’t as easy to call in as it is in the city. Lane has painted an admirable picture of both volunteer ambulance officers and paramedics, and certainly made me appreciate the job and the sacrifices these people make a little more.
The property that Sophie buys belonged to a lonely military veteran whose only family live overseas so the house was never emptied out completely. Sophie comes across a military trunk when emptying out the shed, it doesn’t belong to the previous owner but an earlier ancestor. The trunk holds his uniform and his journal, a document offering an insight into the life our First World War veterans lived. I loved the historical element and the way that Lane tied the past into the present.
Sophie headed to Hilsons Ridge for a healing break but she found a home that she didn’t know she was looking for, and a healing that she wasn’t ever expecting.
If Wishes Were Horses is a completely engrossing read that offered elements of romance, history and an otherworldly charm.
If Wishes Were Horses is book #23 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.