Book Club: Suddenly One Summer

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Author: Fleur McDonald
ISBN: 978-1-76029-395-6
RRP: $29.99
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Fleur McDonald has made a name for herself in the rural genre but the novels I have read of hers have been more suspenseful. Suddenly One Summer is her tenth novel and another colourful rural fiction heavy on suspense.

I finished reading this too long ago and let life get in the way, now I’m unmotivated and procrastinating so have spent too much time thinking about some of the characters in McDonald’s work.

The leading lady in Suddenly One Summer is Brianna Donahue, a West Australian farmer, wife and mother whose own mother mysteriously disappeared when she was just three years old. Her body has never been recovered so there has been no closure for Brianna and her father Russell as they continue to farm in Merriwell Bay where she disappeared from.

Brianna is spread thin with her work on the farm and raising the boys almost single-handedly while Caleb is a fly-in fly-out criminal lawyer in Perth.

In a horrific birthday disaster her eldest son Trent goes missing early one sweltering summer morning. The search is heart-breaking and enough to bring back memories of a long ago search that didn’t end so well. Trent is found but this sparks a series of events that leave us questioning much of what is going on in the story.

Across the border in small town South Australia Detective Dave Burrows, who has featured in previous novels, receives a call from an elderly farmer reporting stolen sheep. The first visit to the farm shows Dave and his parner that the farmer is beginning to show signs of dementia, and he is living all alone. Detective Burrows is not one to turn his back on someone who is clearly in need and does his best to try and find help for him.

Detective Burrows is the character I spent too much of the afternoon thinking about because I know he is a recurring character in at least some of McDonald’s novels but I’m not sure just how many. These novels are all stand alone, there is no series, but Detective Burrows and his wife Kim have featured in multiple though I’m not sure how many.

Alternating chapters tell the unfolding story of Brianna, her rocky marriage and life on the farm; and the interesting case Detective Burrows is investigating of the missing sheep. All the while you are left wondering how the stories are connected.

As if speculation about the connections between Brianna and the Burrows case isn’t enough to keep you turning pages long after lights out there is also the scattered snippets about a mysterious badly beaten woman found wandering the highway with complete amnesia.

McDonald has written a suspenseful jigsaw of a story that doesn’t fall into place until the final long held secrets are brought to light.

I live in a small country town, it’s a town that’s growing and isn’t that far from suburbia, but I really have no idea about life on a farm. I know that things are different on a farm and life for kids is different, there are different responsibilities and different rules but I couldn’t get past the ages of the children in this one, I feel that I would have connected better had they been a few years older. This may be normal freedoms for farm life but I couldn’t get my head around it or come to grips.

Suddenly One Summer was a book that kept me guessing with suspenseful storylines, slow burning clue drops and a big finish. I really enjoyed it and it was another one that made me want to go back and catch up on all the novels in her backlist that I have missed.

Suddenly One Summer returns McDonald to her rural roots after the release of The Missing Pieces of Us earlier this year. She is definitely not an author to miss and I will be keeping her on my watch list. Her next release is another novel with Det. Burrows and I will keep it on my radar.

Suddenly One Summer is book #47 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Fleur McDonald loves to hear from her readers and you can find her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Suddenly One Summer is published by Allen & Unwin and available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Allen & Unwin 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading Suddenly One Summer so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

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19 thoughts on “Book Club: Suddenly One Summer

  1. Fleur McDonald is one of my favourite authors and Suddenly One Summer certainly didn’t disappoint, right from the first page I was sucked in!!!
    Brianna Donahue works the family farm with her father Russell in Western Australia’s Merriwell Bay as well as raising her two sons single handedly a lot of time whilst her husband Caleb flys in and out with his job as a lawyer in Perth.
    Set during a scorching summer Brianna’s young son goes missing one hot summers morning, as neighbours and friends gather to frantically search for Trent, Brianna realises her marriage is in trouble. Adding to the stress is the memories the search stirs up for Russell when 30 years a go a similar search was mounted for Brianna’s mother who went missing without a trace and has never been found.
    Then in Barker, South Australia Detective Dave Burrows meets an elderly farmer Guy who has reported stock missing, Guy has the early stages of dementia, when doing some searching if Guy has any family Dave’s wife mentions a sister that may or may have not existed.
    Intigued by the rumours around Guys family history Dave decides to do some digging. Dave’s investigation will have direct impact on Brianna’s world, but just what does he uncover?
    Meanwhile Brianna continues to farm, her one constant whilst her personal life is becoming tattered.
    A bushfire brings everything to a head, just what has Dave discovered, what happened to Brianna’s mother all those years ago and will her marriage to Caleb survive?
    Suddenly One Summer crosses between the two states and story lines easily without leaving you confused, always keeping you intrigued and guessing with the little clues that are given along the way.
    I love how Fleur brings Dave in to each of her stories tying them altogether with a common character.
    Huge thanks to Allen & Unwin and Beauty & Lace for the chance to review Suddenly One Summer, it’s a read I’d highly recommend.

  2. This book was that good, I had this one finished in 2 days. I just couldn’t put it down as was not predictable with Briannas boys accident and why it happened and who was involved…… Some very clever writing here from Fleur that’s for sure.
    Had me thinking I wish the ending was different and was wishing and hoping until the epilogue delivered what I had wanted.
    I am so thankful to all that made it possible for me to read this as it was high on my book of, “REALLY LIKED AND ENJOYED”
    I would recommend it to anyone who wants a book they find hard to put down, to definitely pick up this one. I will be handing it over to one of my friends knowing she’ll love it.
    This one will keep you guessing and just when you think you are on the right track, it will surprise you….. Well it did me anyway.
    Fleur is an author of talent and definitely a top favourite of mine now. Will be reading more of hers.
    Thanks Beautiful beauty and lace and Allen and Unwin, you made my weekend full of great reading and relaxation.

  3. Thankyou Beautyandlace and Allen&Unwin for allowing me to read and review ‘Suddenly One Summer’ by Fleur McDonald, truly and amazingly great read.
    Brianna is mother to eight and six year old boýs referred lovingly by all as ‘the terrors’.
    She is married to Caleb a lawyer who commutes from Merriwell Bay where they live, to Perth. This is putting a strain on their marriage, and the fact that Caleb is never there when she needs him the most!
    Briannà’s life is farming her father Russell is also on a farm and they are very close as he has brought her up àfter her mother going mìssing when she was three years old.
    The farming side was so interesting bringing back to me, memories of invòlvement in that lìfe.
    The descriptions in this book were wonderful and the characters so reaĺ. There is just so much going on, many characters interwoven with their own stories to tell.

    I have read other books written by Fleur all interesting and absorbing, her plots are clever and you can never predict the outcome. She’s a super author and one I’ll còntinue to follow!

  4. ‘Suddenly One summer’ is an easy read and one that keeps you guessing.
    Brianna is a farming Mum with two ‘terrors’ 8 year old Trent and 6 year old Beau. She is married to Caleb a high flying lawyer who is a partner in a law firm in Perth. Caleb flies in and out of Merriwell Bay and Brianna is wondering if her marriage is going to work. The stress and the loneliness of doing it all on her own is wearing thin.
    On Brianna’s birthday Trent goes missing and this really makes Brianna realise all is not well with her marriage. Neighbours and friends set out to find Trent with Brianna and her father Russell; who farms the family land with his daughter. The search for Trent brings back memories for Russell and Brianna of her mother going missing and never being found well over 30 years ago. Brianna is very close to her father and loves living on the family farm.

    In an alternate story in a small rural town in South Australia Detective Dave Burrows is called out to check on an elderly farmer, Guy Wood. Guy claims several hundred sheep have been stolen but it appears he may have dementia. Dave talks to his wife Kim about Guy and she recalls a strange events related to the family. Dave becomes intrigued and starts researching the history of the family.

    How does this link back to Brianna? How does the lives of 2 complete strangers intersect.

    A terrifying bushfire is the catalyst to finding out what Dave discovers; what really happened to Brianna’s mother and whether Brianna’s marriage will survive.

    There is mystery and intrigue and it really does keep you guessing. Suddenly One summer is quite a gripping suspense novel which I really enjoyed. Highly recommend it. 4/5

    Thanks to Allen and unwin and Beauty and Lace for the chance to read. Review also appears on Goodreads.

  5. Thank you to the Beauty And Lace Book club for allowing me to read and review this book.

    I found Suddenly One Summer to be a page turner which had many twists and turns which made for interesting reading.

    I would recommend this book to anybody who enjoys books based in rural Australia. I will definately be on the look out for more books by Fleur McDonald to read in the future.

  6. Suddenly One Summer!
    Mixed emotions reading this story and all the while trying to work out the links between the different characters living in diferent areas. From Merriwell Bay, Western Australia to Barker, South Australia to Port Augusta. Fleur McDonald has written to keep you interested in the characters which include Brianna and her family, her father Russell and his girlfriend Annie, Dave the Detective and his investigative skills including each story character as a main part of the novel. A story with a difference, outback Australia, characters, suspense, intrigue, family values and relationships are all part of this unigue story.

    Sad the way of the ending but I see happiness as a new adventure and now hoping for more! A novel worth putting other things aside for so you can enjoy the story.
    A terrific story by a terrific author!

  7. Brianna Donahue is a hard-working farmer (and detests the term ‘farmer’s wife), married to a lawyer named Caleb who is often away in Perth for work purposes.
    Together, they have two boys aged 8 and 6 and reside in WA.
    When Brianna was only 3 years old, her mother went missing and her body was never found. The mystery surrounding her disappearance is something that Brianna and her father Russell find difficult to accept.
    On Brianna’s birthday, she realises that her son Trent has gone missing, and she is of course frantic with worry. Thankfully, with the help and support of her father and friends, Trent is found alive and safe.
    But it makes Brianna realise that life is short, and that there are problems in her marriage that may not be worth fixing.
    We then cross to Detective Dave Burrows in SA, who investigates a report from an elderly gent named Guy who is showing signs of dementia. But as the Detective looks further into Guy’s past and family history, there are mysteries that he wants to solve.
    The two stories piece together towards the end, and it is a story that definitely kept me turning the pages.
    My only issue with the story was that I found there wasn’t enough information about Brianna and Caleb’s relationship ie. reasons why Brianna would want the marriage to end. Apart from Caleb having to fly in and out for work, he came across as a loving father and decent man, so I would’ve liked a little more insight into that. Also, the two boys seemed way too mature for their ages. I found it hard to believe that they were only 6 and 8, and expected their actions, dialogue, and thoughts to be not so adult like.
    Apart from that, I really enjoyed this story and would gladly recommend it.
    Thank you for the opportunity to read and review Suddenly One Summer

  8. Thankyou so much Beauty and Lace ,Allen&Unwin and Fleur McDonald for giving me the opportunity to read Suddenly One Summer. Definitely 5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️book. I think this was my favourite book of the year.
    Several stories within one, with very distinctive characters so the reader could almost believe that they are people you know well .
    Following Brianna’ s life with her two young sons and very absent husband one couldn’t help but feel her time was very stretched, But for her wonderful father who was also her partner in their farms and her great neibours and friends who made her work on the farm so rewarding..
    Brianna and her Dad miss terribly her mum who went missing many years before. Although Russell has another partner in Angela, both father and daughter find they have many issues with the way Angela behaves especially concerning the two young boys..
    The other side of the story involves a police station and the enquires taken by the two offices attached to the stationin SA..
    The curiousity of how these two stories collide is why it is so hard to put this book down.

  9. Thank you Beauty and Lace for the offer to review this book. Suddenly Last Summer by Fleur McDonald. This is Fleur McDonalds ninth book about life in rural Australia, and being a farmer herself she knows about what she is writing about very well.

    Brianna Donahue is a mum to two children, whose ages are eight and six. She is married to Caleb who is a lawyer and his work takes him often to Perth from Merriwell Bay Western Australia where the family lives.

    On Brianna’s birthday a hot summer day, her son Trent goes missing. Neighbors join in the search for Trent including Brianna’s father Russell. It brings back memories for Russell from thirty years ago when his wife went missing and was never found.

    In South Australia Detective Dave Burrows talks to an elderly man called Guy whose memory is failing him from dementia. It is interesting to read how the two stories interwine.

    I found the ending sad but a great novel to read. I would recommend this book to everyone.

  10. Full of suspense and intrigue, Suddenly One Summer by Fleur McDonald is such a great read!

    We follow Brianna’s journey through life as an almost single mother of two young children as her husband, Caleb, is a fly-in fly-out criminal lawyer in Perth. Caleb is rarely home and their already rocky relationship is tested further when Brianna’s son has an accident and is missing for a while. Memories of Brianna’s own mother who went missing years ago come flooding back to her and her lovely father Russell.

    What is the connection between Brianna’s story and Detective Dave Burrows who lives in South Australia and is intrigued by an elderly farmer who claims his sheep and wool have been stolen?

    The mystery surrounding these two stories will have you keep turning the pages until the very end. With very descriptive scenery and true to life characters, Fleur McDonald’s novel captured my attention right to a number of twists at the end. Thank you very much for the opportunity to read and review this book. A great read by such a great author!

  11. Thanks for the opportunity to read Suddenly One Summer by Fleur McDonald.

    This is a great book f anyone wanting an engrossing read over Christmas – or anytime of the year for that matter!

    The seemingly unrelated stories of Brianna and her family in Western Australia and Detective Burrows in country South Australia are both interesting and intriguing in their own rights.

    Fleur McDonald paints a vibrant picture of the trials of country life for our farmers and the work of the police in country towns. Added to this is the tension in Brianna’s marriage and the realisation that things are quite what they seem.

    The characters are well written and totally – undeniably – believable. The twists of the plot make this a page turner that will keep you guessing to the end.

    Do yourself a favour – read Suddenly One Summer!

  12. Suddenly One Summer by Fleur McDonald

    This is the first book of Fleur’s that I have read. The book seemed to have three separate stories; one involving Brianna and her lawyer husband and their two children who lived and worked on an outback family farm with her father; the other about Detective Dave Burrows who was investigating a farm related theft; and lastly a woman who finds herself badly hurt and without any memory of how she became in this predicament. It was only at the very end that it all came together and linked all the characters and their stories.

    It was skillfully written and I really didn’t predict the ending. An engaging read that will keep you interested throughout.

    Thank You Beauty and Lace Book Club and Allen & Unwin for another great read that I am happy to recommend.

  13. If you are looking for a book that takes you through the Australian Outback and throws in some twists and turns , Suddenly One Summer by Fleur McDonald is the book for you.
    This book describes the hardships of those working on the land. It’s through the story of Brianna that we see what it’s really like.
    It’s a very thought of story which I thoroughly enjoyed.
    I would recommend this book to a friend.
    Thank you Beauty and Lace.

  14. Thank you for the opportunity to read Suddenly One Summer by Fleur McDonald.

    It is the story of Brianna who works a farm in WA with her father, while her husband is a fly in, fly out lawyer. She has two young sons and near the start of the book one of them goes missing. This parallels her own mother’s disappearance many years earlier, except her mother was never found. While her son is found it highlights problems in her marriage.

    There is another story going on of a police officer in rural SA investigating the theft of sheep and/or wool. Guy who reported it does not seem to be coping too well and there are a few questions about his ability to thrive on his farm alone. This leads to talk of his family and we find out they were fairly secluded and there is a secret.

    There are also snippets of a story about a lady who wakes up in a shed with no memory of her life or who she is.

    I love the way these stories are interwoven and that there were secrets to come out even at the end. Brianna seemed overwhelmed, but her story was told realistically, so I could sympathise. The police officer Dave was thorough and really suited to country policing, knowing how to get the best out of people.

    I really enjoy Fleur McDonald’s writing and this book was another keeper.

  15. I enjoyed reading this book immensely, the storyline wasn’t predictable and I loved the twists that were added, definitely a pageturner for sure.

    There were some parts that possibly could be altered such as the age of Brianna’s children as I know having children that age myself, some things they get up to aren’t necessarily believable but it all still makes for a good read.

  16. Suddenly One Summer by Fleur McDonald was an enjoyable and intriguing read. Having read a couple of Fleur mcDonalds books before, I really wanted to read this one and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
    The book tells us two different stories that are set in Australia in different states. The first, set in Western Australia, is the story of Brianna and her family who live on a farm. The second is set in South Australia and features Detective Burrows , who is also a recurring character in a few of Fleur Mc Donald’s novels. These are told in alternating chapters. Each chapter keeps you guessing as to how the two stories will connect. And WOW! when they do.
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely recommend it to others. Thank you Beauty and Lace and Allen & Unwin for giving me the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book.

  17. This book gripped me from the first page. Usually I can very quickly predict how books will end, this one, however, kept me guessing until the very end. Just when I thought I’d figured it out it twisted again.
    This is the first book from this author that I have read and I have to say that Fleur is a wonderful, very talented, storyteller. The descriptions made me feel like I was there and yet didn’t overwhelm the story, the characters were authentic, although I must admit I did wonder about the maturity and freedoms given to the Terrors – although that could just be me as a city slicker.
    Overall a fantastic book that I’d highly recommend and I can’t thank Beauty and Lace Book Club and Allen & Unwin enough for choosing me to receive a free copy to read and review. Fleur McDonald will definitely be added to my favourite authors list and I can’t wait to read more of her books.

  18. Suddenly One Summer by Fleur McDonald
    What a wonderful read… This is a story for anyone who wanders what life in the country is like. I was able to really connect with the story as only days ago I drove through country NSW, VIC and SA. It has always been a mystery to me how the people live in the country and this story satisfied my curiosity.
    This story draws us into the life of Brianna Donahue, a young mum with two adventures boys, who is trying to juggle life on a farm and a challenging marriage.
    Brianna’s life is turned upside down with any mothers worst nightmare- her son goes missing. This leads to twists and turns and a side story of a detective that has you guessing right up to the end.
    I would recommend this book to anyone.

  19. SUDDENLY One Summer is not your average rural book. Fleur McDonald leaves you questioning right up to nearly the end of this novel. This is not the kind of story that you can guess what happens from the first chapter.
    Brianna Donahue’s mother disappeared when she was just three and her body was never found, and now Brianna works the same land with her father Russell while raising her two children, with her husband being a fly-in, fly-out lawyer in Perth.
    When Brianna’s son goes missing, Brianna questions the strength of her marriage and whether her husband is finding romance elsewhere.
    McDonald’s longtime character, Detective Dave Burrows, returns in this story and he travels more than 2000km to interview elderly farmer Guy who is in the early stages of dementia. Dave and his partner Jack question whether Guy really has had sheep stolen or whether it’s the dementia making him believe there were sheep. Dave’s wife, Kim – also a longtime character of McDonald’s, gets involved as she researches Guy’s family history.
    Guy’s story and Brianna’s story becomes entwined and, as Brianna battles bushfires threatening her family’s property, secrets will come out that will change their lives.
    This is one novel I couldn’t put down and had me guessing until the end. It is suspenseful and exciting and heartwarming, all at once.

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