Author: Mandy Magro
The Wildwood Sisters is Mandy Magro’s sixth novel and the third I have read. It is heart warming rural romance with quite a sinister twist.
Renee Wildwood fled her home town of Opals Ridge 9 years ago when her life was threatened, 6 short months after her twin sister disappeared. She was just seventeen years old and she had to run without saying goodbye.
Scarlet disappeared without a trace, though the investigators eventually found enough blood to conclude she had met with foul play though never recovered a body. Six months later Renee is threatened and her grandparents convince her to leave town, without looking back and never coming back.
Renee moves and builds a new life for herself in Melbourne but she never forgets her home, her family or her first love. She is a country girl through and through so never finds complete happiness in Melbourne and she can’t move on with her love life because no-one compares to her first love.
Her Nan has a serious heart attack and Renee decides it’s time to go home, against the wishes of her grandparents, to look after her… and see what she can uncover about her sisters disappearance.
Returning to Opals Ridge is filled with trepidation, not only for the fact that whoever threatened her still walks free but also because in the six months before she left town Renee threw around some pretty wild accusations; she’s not sure how warm the welcome home will be.
The Wildwood Sisters is told by Renee and Dylan Anderson in alternate chapters. Dylan Anderson is, of course, the first true love that Renee skipped out on without even a goodbye and on the heels of a huge argument. There has been no contact in the time they’ve been apart. Renee has only kept in touch with her Nan and Pa, who didn’t know they were seeing each other, so has heard nothing of Dylan in the time she’s been away.
Renee and Dylan have both been dealt a pretty rough hand, suffering depths of heartbreak many of us will never know. Renee lost her twin to disappearance but years before that she lost both her parents in a car accident. Dylan had his heart shattered by Renee leaving, is fighting to be free of his Dad’s reputation and lost his wife to a freak accident. Now Dylan faces financial hardship on the farm and someone is doing their best to make his life difficult by cutting his fences and letting out his livestock.
Dylan’s finances see him looking for work a couple of days a week on other properties and where does he end up but at Wildwood Acres, just after Renee comes home. The two are determined not to be ruled by their feelings though it doesn’t take long for them to realise their feelings never faded.
Alongside the sparks flying between Dylan and Renee is her continuing search for answers about her sister. A search that could land her right back in the danger her grandparents were trying to spare her.
I am not going to say anything about Renee’s search because I don’t want to risk spoilers. Magro manages to capture Renee’s tendency to jump to conclusions beautifully and had me jumping at my own shadow too. The pacing was perfect and the suspense was spine tingling. Magro put enough doubt and enough options in the story that it was difficult to form a watertight conclusion.
The settings were just glorious and there is no denying the deep love Magro feels for the Queensland countryside. You can feel it in her descriptions.
The characters are three dimensional and relatable, and the inclusion of a gorgeous child is always going to melt my heart. I think my only issue with this one, and it’s my issue, is that I didn’t really feel the dialogue.
Magro has written a gripping tale of romance and suspense sure to delight.
The Wildwood Sisters is book #61 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge.