Book Club: The Long Paddock

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Author: Alissa Callen
ISBN: 9781489214508
RRP: $29.99

Alissa Callen is a prolific Australian author who writes beautiful country tales weaving love and community; The Long Paddock is the first of her books I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Cressida Knight is working hard to save the family farm, it’s been in her family for generations and she is determined to see it successful again. The problem is that at the moment the property is suffering a pocket drought and things are looking grim. Her father sold off a parcel of land to the neighbouring property and it is the one piece of land that may have helped save her livelihood.

Cressy is a strong and independent woman working her farm and keeping company with her menagerie of pets; Reggie the bull, Kevin the cocky, Tippy the kelpie and of course the farm animals. Her animals are full of personality and entertaining characters in their own right.  She is also a member of the local SES and loves her small town of Woodlea, even when the grapevine causes her grief.

The neighbouring farm is owned by the Rigby family, and after the death of his mother champion bull rider Denham returns to take the helm at Claremont. Denham and Cressy shared dreams of a bright future together but a dark family secret saw Denham decide to run and chase a bull riding career in Montana.

Cressy has convinced the town, and herself, that she has moved on from her feelings for Denham and that’s much easier to maintain when he is on the other side of the world; but how is that going to go now that he is back.

The Long Paddock is a touching story about many different issues facing those making a living in the country and off the land. Callen has written a tight knit small town community that looks out for one another; and has a thriving gossip mill that is thrilled with the return of their bull riding champion.

I enjoyed the story and the characters were well fleshed, my only real disappointment was in the dark family secret. The chemistry was palpable every time Cressy and Denham were close to one another; you could feel the heat at those times where they made physical contact and we were shown over and over how much these two still mean to one another. Denham told us countless times that he had to lock down his feelings because after discovering the dark secret in his family he could never be with her, he had to put her happiness first. My mind went into overdrive thinking about the possibilities and coming to a number of different conclusions, none of which were even close; when the secret was finally revealed I found it to be quite anti-climactic and it didn’t really make sense to me. I understand the gravity, I understand Denham’s fear but I don’t understand how he thought this was the best solution. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to give it away, I also don’t want to give the impression that I thought it was a trivial issue because it is far from that.

Cressy’s first priority is Glenmore and trying to keep the place afloat while she waits for the rain that is so desperately needed. In an attempt to keep her cattle fed Cressy takes the herd out droving on The Long Paddock, a stock route that was traditionally used to move herds between properties or to markets. It has been kept as Crown land to help farmers in times of drought, they apply for a permit and spend a couple of weeks walking their herd along the route allowing them to graze at their leisure. She can only hope that on her return to Glenmore the property has received some rain to help things look less bleak. Her fortnight of droving is far from uneventful but it certainly helps with feeding the cattle.

Disaster strikes Woodlea on the rodeo and campdraft weekend which helps put things in perspective as the town bands together.

We see more than just one dark secret come to light and free a cast of characters for second chances and new beginnings.

The Long Paddock is a tale of resilience, determination and the struggles that come with drought and life on the land. The book brings together a host of colourful characters, both people and animal. Callen’s animal characters have big personalities and are central characters in their own right.

This is a fantastic read that has introduced me to another fantastic Australian author I will be sure to keep an eye out for in future.

The Long Paddock is book #1 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Alissa Callen can be found on Facebook and her Website.

The Long Paddock is published by Harlequin Mira and is available now from Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

Thanks to Harlequin Mira 20 of our Beauty and Lace club members will be reading  The Long Paddock so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

19 thoughts on “Book Club: The Long Paddock

  1. I was really looking forward to reading this book and a good Australian Drama. I received it on a Friday and by the end of the weekend I had finished.

    I did enjoy the book as a whole and the rodeo/cowboy story was something I had not really encountered before. Cressy is an interesting character and certainly a strong one, rounded by her life in the country and her responsibilities that she has taken on. Denham was a bit more complex but a dream boat by the sounds of it and all a woman needs in a man. Of course this created a beautiful love story marred by life and events that gets in the way.

    The whole story line was easily related to as everyone has had a death in the family and everyone deals with it in certain ways. I did find the constant bringing up of the grief and how Denham reacts to it a bit repetitive but it did not take away from the book.

    There was never a bad character in this story so I think a bit more in depth and meanness streak could have shown in Sean. The twist with Tanner was a beaut, didn’t see that one. I wondered where his story wove into all of it.

    Thank you Alissa Callen for your writing The Long Paddock and I hope to read more!

  2. The main characters in this story are Cressy and Denham, who own adjoining farms in country NSW. The area has not seen rain for a long time. Denham’s farm has a river running through it, so he has water for his stock, but Cressy’s farm is getting drier and drier as the rain doesn’t come, so she decides to take her cattle to graze along the roadside verges where there is food for her stock.

    The Long Paddock refers to the grazing of cattle along roadside verges – a practice which now requires a permit, and a set of rules to follow. Cressy hooks up her old caravan and sets off with her cattle, her dog, and her motorbike to find feed for her herd.

    She is a very independent woman, and her past history with Denham has made her wary, but he comes to her assistance when she needed him, so their previous feelings for each other are rekindled. But Denham remains distant, and won’t give Cressy the reason as to why they can’t be together. He is fearful that she will learn of his family’s dark secret, and all he wants to do is protect her.

    But sometimes love is all the protection one needs. Cressy and Denham have to sort out what means the most to them.

    The story is filled out with other neighbours and friends, and the farm animals which have their own quirky characters. All this added to the depth of the tale, which I enjoyed. It tells of life in a small country town in a warm, up to date way. I liked the way that other townsfolk had their own stories woven into this too, it made the story feel real.

    Thank you Harlequin books, and Beauty & Lace book club for allowing me to read and review this book by Alissa Callen.. I will be sure to look out for others that she has written.

  3. Having just moved to a country town, I found the raw, honest emotion of The Long Paddock by Alissa Callen really resonated with me.

    The author has a knack for capturing the very essence of rural life. The countryside is described with a real knowledge of the land and the endearing but gossipy nosiness of a small town. And all of the characters (both animal and human) are depicted with great heart, wisdom and wry humour. Tippy the egg stealing dog and Reggie the lovable bull with a carrot addiction are delightful, and often provide comic relief, giving some breathing space from the tension of the main story about the unresolved romantic relationship between cattle farmer Cressida and champion bull rider Denham.

    This is a gripping read, and is far more than just a rural love story. The Long Paddock, gives a glimpse of the realities of living off the land, from the camaraderie that emerges between neighbours who have battled the land together and shared hard times, to the loneliness and mental anguish of those who have stoically tried to keep their problems to themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

  4. A love story which is a common theme in the country where land owners struggle to keep their heads above water and still strive to maintain dignity. This is how I see Cressy when she struggles to keep the family farm afloat. A story about Denham, her love, who had left suddenly top pursue his career as a bull rider only to return when his mother passed away. Return to run the Digby farm, trying to keep the real reason why he left Cressy to himself, while still being in love with her. Cressy determined she wasn’t going to be hurt by him again does her best to keep her farm going while being part of the local SES within the community. Going through drought, droving, no income and being in love also with Denham makes a strong story which is very common in small farming communities.
    I love this story, it’s many twists that you are not prepared for and some you hoped for.
    I look forward to more from Alissa Callen.

  5. What a wonderful story!
    The Farmers living at the mercy of Mother Nature on the driest continent on earth Australia!
    Farmers are tough independent people and this story is about a Farm girl who is no exception to this rule the characters are charming (even the animals) and though all the hardships and gossiping people can rise above it all and find each other!
    This is a fantastic book! I recommend it to everyone.

  6. “The Long Paddock” is a light Australian romance. There aren’t any big surprises in it, but it’s an enjoyable journey to take with the characters.

    Cressy Knight is the last member of her family to work her farm – her parents are dead, and her big sister moved to the city. She’s busy, though, and it seems she’s never considered doing anything else. Years ago, though, her heart was broken by Denham Rigby, and now he’s back in town.
    Denham never stopped loving Cressy, but family secrets meant he felt he had to leave her for her own good. Now he’s back to run the family farm, and despite his good intentions to stay away from Cressy, fate seems to have other plans.

    There were a few small things about this novel that jarred with me. For example, I’ve always associated “cowboys” and “cowgirls” with America – it’s not a term that I’ve heard used often in Australia. Perhaps this is just my lack of awareness of certain aspects of country life, though. And towards the end there is a major revelation, and within about ten minutes and one phone call, a decades old situation has been resolved. I can’t say more without spoilers, but this particular sequence seemed less than credible for a number of reasons.

    More importantly, Cressy herself was a little bland. I didn’t get a sense that she had any real passion for the land – she just seemed to be going through the motions on the farm. She had one friend her own age. She had no hobbies, no interests. In short, she seemed to be just sitting there waiting for a man. There was nothing particularly wrong with her, but she also wasn’t a character that offered a lot.

    However, this was still an enjoyable and undemanding romance. The sparks between Cressy and Denham are realistic and well drawn, and the kind of crises they face together and separately are a genuine reflection of life in the Australian bush. The depiction of life in a smallish country town will probably ring true to many people, and it’s one of the strengths of the novel – a variety of characters who are drawn vividly and with affection.

    Romance readers will find a lot to like here – it doesn’t break new ground, but it’s lively and well written, and delivers exactly what it promises.

  7. This novel is set in country NSW in a fictitious town called Woodlea. Cressida Knight (known as Cressy) has a farm there, is also an SES volunteer and 3 years ago her then boyfriend Denham Rigby broke her heart when he suddenly left her without any explanation to go to America to join the pro-rodeo circuit and subsequently became a champion bull rider. Denham left her because of a family secret, which he felt left him with no choice but to go away. Denham’s mother has passed away, Cressy knows that he will be back for her funeral and doesn’t know how she will cope with seeing him again. What she doesn’t know is that he is back to run the family farm, which is his now – this property adjoins hers. Denham is determined to keep his distance from Cressy as he doesn’t want to cause her any more hurt. As Woodlea is a small country town there is no way that Cressy and Denham will not continue to run into one another. The area is drought stricken and Cressy’s farm is severely affected as all her dams are dry, so she gets a permit to go droving with her cattle on the long paddock to help keep them alive. With the desperation that Cressy is facing to save her drought-stricken farm Denham finds that he cannot keep his distance, but will that mean that they will get back together again? What is his family secret?
    I found this novel very difficult to put down, it is an amazing story and I definitely do recommend it.
    Alisa Callen has detailed the hardships and struggles of a country town in this extremely well written novel and I am looking forward to reading more of her novels.
    Thank you Harlequin Mills & Boon and also Beauty & Lace for giving me the opportunity to read this novel.

  8. This is the first book I had read by Alissa Callen. I am a great supporter of Australian authors, but I feel that Rural Romance is starting to sound a little tired. The formula for this book was boy loved girl but left her with no explanations. Years later he returns but she is not prepared to be hurt again. He is harbouring a deep secret family curse, but still has feelings for her. Will they or won’t they? You will have to read to find out.

    I enjoyed the book, but I felt that it had too many characters that were really unnecessary to the general plot of the book, and their storylines really went nowhere. The tension between Denham and Cressy was very prolonged throughout the book until they eventually sorted that out. The story was interesting about cattle droving and crown land reserves that do exist in country Australia, but otherwise I felt I had read similar books before. The family curse that was spoken about was a real anticlimax and could have been made more exciting, it really fell flat for me.

    Thank you very much to Harlequin and Beauty and Lace for providing me with a review copy. 3 stars.

  9. I enjoyed The Long Paddock, the storyline was believable and the authors knowledge of country ways was good. The shared past and tensions between the main characters, Cressy and Denham was well written but became overly repetitious in talking about their feelings. I still became involved in the story and found myself moved to tears towards the end.. Thank you for the book to review.

  10. Interesting & in depth read about the struggles & farm life of a typical country town trying to survive drought & a hard life.

    Cressy as the main character is strong determined but also full of love for people & even the animals that she cares for bring Denham into the mix & for a while everything goes haywire what with the towns gossip line & her feelings tugging at her heart what will be the conclusion!

    A great down to earth country read which the author Alissa Callen has really nailed making it easy to picture the story & characters in my head.

    Thank you to the author & Beauty & Lace for giving me the opportunity to read such a enthralling book

  11. I love a good country romance and couldn’t wait to get reading. Set in Woodlea , rural NSW – which Alissa Callen describes in such a way that I could easily picture it. We follow Cressy a country girl trying to keep the family farm from going under, when water is scarce and money is getting tight. Her character is lovely, she’s determined and strong. The love of her life Denham Rigby, champion bull rider returns after leaving abruptly 3 years prior and breaking her heart. Then they do the will they, won’t they get back together type situation which I (at times) found a bit tedious. I found this book to be quite similar to the many other country romance books I’ve read but in saying this I always return to reading them because it’s a plot that works.
    Easy read, Great backdrop, characters where good. Overall 4 stars.
    Thank you Beauty & Lace, Alissa Callen and Harlequin Mills & Boon for that chance to read and review this novel. 🙂

  12. This book about country life and the ups and downs of the weather, and the close knit community really tugs at my heart strings.
    Alissa Callen does such a wonderful job of writing that I can fully picture and understand throughout the book, exactly what is happening.
    The story of Cressy and Denham is very heartfelt, filled with regret, mistakes and longing, but also love and warmth and familiarity.
    Cressy is left in charge of the family farm, and experiences the very tough, dry weather that Australia offers. She really struggles to keep the farm from going under, and is often too proud to accept any help. The love of her life Denham, who previously left to pursue his dream of rodeo champion (that also left her dreams shattered), returns to the small town after his mother passes away.
    The both of them go through many mixed emotions from the past, whilst dealing with every day life.
    I love how easy this book was to read and the mental pictures that it provided me.
    What will happen in the end? You will have to read it to find out.

  13. This book gave me things to laugh over, things to shed a tear over, things to ponder and certain things that I could identify with.
    Real small town life where everyone knows everyone else and secrets are hard to keep so the fact that Denham holds a secret and is able to keep it from Cressy is something that you can understand she would have been very surprised to find out. I love that we took that journey with her.
    This book deals with some of the sadder issues of living off the land. Not just problems that are isolated to outback/farming life so if your life has been touched by things like alcohol abuse, mental illness and things along those lines then im sure there will be times when reading this book that you will feel as if you have been grabbed by the heart.
    There are things to giggle over such as the antics of Cressy’s much loved animals and yarn bombing.
    Things to feel thankful for such as how those in small towns all pull together to help each other out.

    I really enjoyed this Book and found that even though I was reading it while in Medical Professionals waiting rooms I was totally lost in the book and forgot all that was happening around me.
    I will be sure to keep an eye out for more of Alissa Callen’s works.

  14. I absolutely enjoyed ‘The Long Paddock’. It was engaging, entertaining and painted a true picture of rural life and problems farmers face from the elements.
    Cressy Knight is such a strong character who is strong willed and loved by those who know her. How can anyone not fall in love with her. Even her ‘pet bull’ , Reggie is not immune. Even her first love, Denham Rigby,, finds himself further in love with her. In his eyes his ‘secret’ is the reason he must stay away from her if he is to protect her but secrets have a way of coming out . I really enjoyed Alissa Callen’s ‘Long Paddock’ and am interested in reading more of her work. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin Mills & Boon, for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.


  15. I loved the way the author managed to write into this story the non-fictional reality of the hardships that Australian farmers face, especially in times of drought. Callen raised issues that truely exist and managed to incorporate them into a somewhat romantic tale.
    Cressy struggles to keep the farm of her ancestors afloat, keeping to all the traits valued by her grandfather before her, being true to herself. If that wasn’t hard enough, the man who stole her heart, and raced away with it to Montana, returns due to a family death.
    Denham, returned from the American rodeo circuit, thought only to have returned to deal with the family death, it turns out he has returned to stay. Taking his part in the small town responsibilities and commitment and neighbourly support, this was always going to put him and Cressy in close proximity, time and time again!
    The chemistry, electricity and passion that the two hold for each other, being held at bay by sheer will power, was sure to make a good story and plenty of tension. For something that seems so natural and primal, his family “secret” is what holds them back. Less of a secret but more of a family disappointment or shame, I agree that this lacked the impact of other secrets my mind had dreamt up.
    I still loved the small twists and turns through the story, the town spirit, the truthful small town gossip grapevine. It reminds me of our own Western Australian small towns. A good, cheerful read! Thanks for the opportunity.

  16. Thank you for the chance to read The Long Paddock.

    This is a nice, country romance with Cressy trying to keep the family farm going with little water and no rain. There’s also Denham who lives next door, has been in her life for a long time in one way or another, but he did run away to become a top rodeo bull rider. After a family tragedy back and there’s no denying the chemistry between them, but there are also secrets keeping them apart. There is a lot of to and fro which is broken by interesting side characters with their own stories to tell. I enjoyed these and would have liked to see more on some.

    Cressy takes her cattle to the long paddock (public land) to get more feed and has some adventures here which tie in to the rest of the story.

    I enjoyed the story and romance, and the reason Cressy and Denham couldn’t be together was different.

    Thank you again.

  17. THAnks so much for the chance to read ‘the long paddock ‘

    I did enjoy this book.. but I also felt the characters lacked depth. I thinking they may have been able to show some more passion which I found quite frustrating! Overall I still thoroughly enjoyed it and think it was well written.

    Cressy certainly let Denham walk all over her initially and I wanted to stop reading!!

  18. ALISSA Callen brings to light the struggle graziers are having to keep stock routes open, in a novel that tells of struggles, heartbreak and determination, with an ultimately happy ending.

    Cressida Knight is content to focus on keeping her family’s property alive, tending to the animals she loves, including a pet bull called Reggie, and Kevin, a guard cockatoo that she’d rescued.

    Adding to that, she loves her work with the SES. The last thing she needs is for her former love, Denham Rigby, to come riding back into Woodlea and disturb her life.
    Three years ago, Denham had ridden out of her life chasing rodeo dreams in the US and Cressy had blamed herself as being the reason he’d left. Little did she know that a family secret, or what Denham saw as a curse, left him little choice but to leave Cressy behind before she suffered, too.

    When Denham has to return due to family circumstances, of course their paths cross again (after all, they live on neighbouring properties), and, well, you can guess the ending. This is not some soppy love story, though.
    Along the way to finding happiness, Denham and Cressy are met with unending challenges from both within themselves and outside forces. They are fighting to keep properties going, fighting to help farmers dealing with stress and the dark cloud of suicide, and then a storm hits, throwing many people’s lives into chaos.

    As well as being a rural romance, Callen tells the tale that farmers are living all over the country as they also fight to keep their way of life intact from city bureaucrats. The author has a way of writing that draws you in from the first page and keeps you hooked until the last word.
    The Long Paddock is one of those stories that will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book – you don’t want to put it down to find out what happens next, but it will leave you feeling sad that it’s over.

  19. The Long Paddock by aussie author Alissa Callen was an enjoyable and easy read. The story revolves around 2 main characters Cressida and Denham and their small rural hometown of Woodlea. These 2 were in a relationship several years earlier however, Denham pretty much up and left to pursue a career in bull riding without a second glance back, or so it seemed. Cressida never realised that there was more to his departure than just his career. Now he is back and the flame has definitely been rekindled however, Denham is worried that his dark family secret that made him leave once before could be his undoing again. I really enjoyed reading about the township and wished that there had been more about it as well as some of the characters that I felt were only hinted at at times. Felt this might have given a little more depth to the overall story. The buildup to and including the rodeo was really interesting and I could feel the excitement and how it brings a community together. I was also really fascinated to read about the actual Long Paddock and am very curious to find out more about this now! Overall I really enjoyed reading the book but felt it was a little light on at times meaning I couldn’t lose myself completely in the storyline. I didn’t think the dark family secret was all that much, despite it being a serious topic, it just didn’t seem realistic with how Denham dealt with it so was a bit disappointed there. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to read this book, I will be keeping an eye out for more of Alissa’s books.

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