BOOK CLUB: East of Alice

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[Total: 5 Average: 4.8]

East of Alice by Annie Seaton is a suspenseful mystery, with a touch of romance and an insight into
pioneering settler’s lives, joys, and hardships in the Australian outback.

In 1886, William Woodford and his wife Rose traveled to Australia to settle in Ruby Gap, east of Alice
Springs. William plans to make their fortune fossicking for rubies.

In the present, Gemma Hayden, William and Rose’s great, great-granddaughter, has returned to Alice
Springs – this is where she feels at home. With university behind her and now a teacher, Gemma has taken a job at a local school.

Six years earlier Gemma’s life fell apart. Her twin brother Ethan disappeared, her boyfriend left town without an explanation, and her parents divorced. Gemma now doesn’t let anyone get too close because that way you don’t get hurt!

Saul Pearce has also returned to Alice Springs. He has been transferred from the Darwin Parks and
Wildlife Office. Some hikers have reported a dumped car in a remote part of the National Park at Ruby
Gap. Saul is quite familiar with Ruby Gap as he and his best mates would fossick for rubies and camp at the ruins of Ethan’s family’s hut.

Ethan’s great, great, grandparent’s land has been subsumed by the National Parks to create a nature park. Saul finds an old land rover half buried in the river bed. It was Ethan’s vehicle, and in the glove box is a note written in code addressed to Gemma. Saul decides not to give the note to the police, but find Gemma and gives it to her.

Saul has the difficult job of telling Gemma that her brother’s Land Rover has been found, but there’s no body to go with it.

There is no way Gemma can investigate and solve the mystery of Ethan’s disappearance without enlisting Saul’s help. What had Ethan been involved in or stumbled across?

Together Saul and Gemma search for clues, putting themselves in danger. As they work together, will the feelings they once had for each other resurface?

The historical accounts of Rose and William’s pioneering years, the harshness and the beauty of the
land, and the love Rose had for her children gave the story a second timeline into the past.
While in the present, life with sat navigation and solar power allows a very different existence in the remote outback.

Annie Seaton has done extensive research into the history of the area, and her descriptive writing
brings the outback to life, it is as if you were there.

East of Alice is a great read, fast-moving, with plenty of action, suspense, and unexpected twists before the truth is exposed.

Five stars!

A selection of our members are reading East of Alice by Annie Seaton. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

12 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: East of Alice

  1. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin fiction for my copy.
    This is my first Annie Seaton book and I really like the story and her style of writing.
    The story is mainly set in Alice Springs and also features Ruby Gap and Annie’s Gorge which are nearby.
    The story has a mostly dual timeline starting in England in 1886 and ending up in the Australian desert from 1887 to 1890 featuring Rose and William. The other timeline is in the present day featuring the main characters of Gemma and Saul. Another lesser mentioned timeline is like a flashback to six years before the present day when Ethan and his friend Screw go fossicking and end up disappearing.
    The story starts as a kind of slow burn romance with the introduction of the main characters and builds to an exciting adventure when Ethan’s 4WD is found with a coded message to his sister Gemma. From this point I found the story got really interesting and then built to a mystery with some danger and bad characters thrown in. You never really know who can be trusted in this story which adds to the suspense, as does not really knowing what shady dealings are going on in the remote desert.
    I really liked the two main characters of Gemma and Saul and their chemistry, plus Gemma’s dad Tony was also a favorite.
    Overall, the story is easy to follow without having too many characters, it’s never confusing, flows well and has a nice twist/surprise that I didn’t see coming.
    I would describe this as a romance suspense novel set in the desert.

    4 stars

  2. East of Alice is the latest novel from Annie Seaton who is known for her gripping novels which strongly feature the Australian landscape. Previous novels include ones based around the Great Barrier Reef and Undara in Queensland. East of Alice is set in the Northern Territory, in the national park around Alice Springs, specifically in Ruby’s Gap. The main character is Gemma Hayden who has just returned to her hometown of Alice to teach in the local primary school. She and her family had left the area after her twin brother went missing. Her love interest is Saul Pearce, they were lovers as teenagers, but Saul suddenly left the town before Gemma’s brother Ethan disappeared. Saul is a park ranger and discovers Ethan’s abandoned car and so he reconnects with Gemma and together they set off to discover the truth behind Ethan’s disappearance. Along the way they encounter danger in many forms from wild animals to armed drug dealers. Interwoven in the novel is the story of Ethan and Gemma’s great grandparents and their hard life mining for rubies.
    I found it hard to put this book down, the story was enthralling, and I particularly enjoyed hearing about Rose’s life and how she adapted to life in outback Australia in the 19th century. Its clear that the author has great knowledge of the outback, and the description of the landscape captures its beauty and its challenges.
    Having thoroughly enjoyed this novel I am now keen to read other novels by Annie Seaton. Thank you to Beauty and Lace Book Club and Harlequin books for the opportunity to read this novel.

  3. Gemma refuses to believe her twin brother, Ethan, is dead. She returns to her home town and reunites with her first and only true love, Saul. A great love story interwoven with intrigue as the lost twin brother is actually found alive and well.

    A parallel story follows the family ancestors who were the first to settle in the town. This background story reveals the basis for Ethan’s disappearance.

    A fascinating read that highlights the region around Alice Springs and its surrounds.
    A must read novel! Congratulations Annie Seaton on creating such a story that grips readers from beginning to end.

  4. Annie Seaton`s books will always be on my bookshelf (or in my hands reading) as it was a very hard book to put down. I have never read Annie`s books until now so this is my very first one and I must say I`m very impressed as a lot of historical research must have been put into this wonderful story.
    Gemma was a twin, and her twin brother was presumed dead, but Gemma thought he was still alive as surely, she would know as his twin sister.
    Gemma, her brother Ethan, Saul, and Jed (Screw) all used to live in Alice and Gemma went back to her hometown to teach while Saul was sent back there for work reasons. When Saul discovers a mysterious link to the past, Gemma starts questioning herself and can`t rest until she knows the truth.
    From the past is the story of Rose and how she got married to William (Gemma`s dad`s Great Great grandmother and grandfather) in Berkshire England and them both taking the journey to the Australian outback, leaving her sister and father to become a family in Ruby Gap. What a hard journey, but Rose made it work as she kept loving her husband and was such a resilient woman.
    At first, when the story went back into the past I had to go back and check a name that was mentioned to connect the dots and from then on, I was immersed in the journey that was unfolding.
    Adventure, loss, mystery, greed, and truth were all that this book had me wanting to seek the answers to, and with so much deceit it was hard to know whom Gemma could trust.
    Such an emotional book with some great outcomes and answers to tie the past to the future to give a deeper understanding of what was and what is.
    I don’t want to give much away but it is a must read!
    Thankyou Beauty and Lace and Annie Seaton who is such a wonderful writer who captured me from beginning to end! Loved every page of this book!

  5. Thank you Beauty and Lace bookclub for the opportunity to read my first Annie Seaton novel East of Alice. I found I couldn’t put it down and loved the parallel story of Gemma and her great grandparents set in the 1800’s and today. The story has it all – romance and murder/mystery – Gemma returns to Alice Springs after leaving 6 years earlier after her twin brother goes missing – everyone believes he is dead but Gemma believes she would feel differently if that was the case – throw in some shady characters and all in all a thoroughly enjoyable read. I would give this book 5 ⭐️And I’m off to find some more Annie Seaton to read.

  6. “East of Alice” is an interesting novel; utterly absorbing while I was reading it, but I didn’t feel strongly driven to pick it up again after putting it down for a while.

    Like Seaton’s previous novel (“Osprey Reef”), this is something of a slow burn. It’s the characters that draw you in strongly, and it’s a few chapters before you start to know them well.

    Gemma Hayden has returned to her hometown of Alice Springs. She never wanted to leave, but allowed her mother to drag her across the country after her parents divorced. (I actually found this very hard to understand. Gemma was in university at the time so why on earth would she let her mother force her to move unwillingly, including changing university?)

    Within days of her return, a hiker reports finding an abandoned jeep hours from town. It’s soon identified as the jeep belonging to Gemma’s twin Ethan, who’s been missing for six years. Many believe he’s dead, but Gemma has stubbornly stuck to her belief that she’d know if he’d died. He’s alive somewhere.

    Her conviction is shaken by the discovery of his jeep, clearly abandoned for almost as long as Ethan has been missing. Her reaction is complicated by the fact that the park ranger sent to investigate is Saul Pearce. Ethan’s good friend and Gemma’s first love, she hasn’t seen him in years and their complicated history flares as they try to work out how and why Ethan’s jeep wound up where it is, near remote Ruby Gap.

    Again reflecting “Osprey Reef”, the storyline flips between Gemma’s search and the life of her ancestors who first settled at Ruby Gap. I found the historical plot line a bit boring and for me it didn’t add a lot. The novel would have been just as enjoyable without it. However, other readers may feel that it adds depth by filling in some of Gemma’s discoveries, and adding things she couldn’t know.

    Gemma and Saul are well rounded and empathetic characters that most readers will engage with. Their hesitations and reservations, as well as their attraction, are realistically and believably drawn. I liked that Seaton didn’t draw this out unnecessarily and started them working out their issues fairly early on, rather than having a last minute revelation.

    Seaton writes about the outback vividly and well, working environmental concerns and information into the story subtly. Her appreciation for this difficult landscape comes through, and it’s not hard to understand why Gemma and Saul love it.

    I did enjoy this novel, despite my reservations about the historical timeline. It’s well written, with a (largely) interesting plot and strong characters. The romance is well balanced with the mystery, and the ultimate unwinding fairly credible. It’s written in a smooth and flowing style that made for easy reading.

    If you’re looking for a character based novel which respects and appreciates the Australian outback, this is likely to suit you. I’d recommend it to a broad range of readers.

  7. Thank you so much for this book review, loved it so so much!
    This is the first book I’ve read by Annie Seaton and it will not be the last.
    This is such a complex, emotional story of love and loss, mystery, twists and turns; written with two different time lines that intertwine.
    I ended this book with happy tears and feel very satisfied with the ending. 5/5 stars !!!

  8. This is the first novel by this author and certainly won’t be the last. It was well-written, characters well developed and had many twists and turns, I loved the backdrop of the harsh Australian landscape, and how difficult it must have been for the pioneers.
    I highly recommend this novel!

  9. I love Aussie authors but will admit I actually hadn’t read any Annie Seaton novels as yet…. so this was the first but won’t be the last.
    The author captured the scenery and landscape through her writing, I always love past and present timeliness as they always take you on a complete all encompassing journey through past and present….the characters were all interesting and developed well throughout the story.. I didn’t think it would have so many twists and turns which I love….a great story..very well written!

  10. Once again Annie Seaton knows how to engage her readers with another dual timeline mystery – East of Alice – published by HQ Fiction.

    I was lucky enough to read this one for Beauty and Lace, Annie is one of my favourite authors since I was introduced to her writing many years ago via the Beauty and Lace platform.  I find Annie’s books easy to read and they always have fabulous storylines that feature our beautiful countryside. East of Alice is based in Alice Springs and surrounding areas Ruby Gap National Park and Arltunga with some reference to England with the dual timeline.

    Uniting the two stories is gems in particular rubies or are they garnets (you will need to read the story to find out) for both storylines they bring danger and heartache.

    Gemma Hayden has returned to Alice Springs, her hometown after taking a position at her local school as a teacher. It has been six years since she has been home after her twin brother Ethan went missing, she still struggles with his disappearance.
    Saul Pearce is also returning home after studying and working away making a better life for himself. A friend of Ethan’s and love interest to Gemma he is also hurting after leaving quickly six years ago just before Ethan’s disappearance.
    Gemma is still trying to find out what happened to Ethan and returning home is the first step in trying to solve this mystery.  Saul finds a wreck out at Ruby’s Gap in his duties as a Parks and Wildlife officer and he discovers it is Ethan’s. This brings the two back together as they are both determined to find out what happened to Ethan.

    The dual timeline gives us the history of the area and how it drew fossickers to Ruby Gap in the early 1880’s. Ruby and William are newly married; he sets sail for Adelaide, and she joins him once he is established – they make the very hard and challenging trek to the Northern Territory. They hope to make Australia home and strike it lucky with a Ruby claim.  I found it interesting learning about this part of Australia’s history. I find Annie’s books often get you researching to find out more of what you have been reading about. 

    I found it a real page turner; I highly recommend Annie’s books including this one. If you have the chance to see her on one of her book tours, make sure you do, she is an engaging and fantastic speaker.

    Thank you, Beauty and Lace, for the opportunity to read and review East of Alice.

  11. East of Alice by Annie Seaton

    In 1886 in England Rose married William and the plan was to move to Australia to mine rubies to make their fortune at Ruby Gap east of Alice Springs. Rose did not realise how her life would change moving to the other side of the world with a man she really didn’t know. No matter what happens she wants to make the best of her new life, she has two sons and plans did not go as expected.

    Now we move to the present time. Gemma Hayden returns to Alice Springs. It has been six years since she left after the disappearance of her twin brother Ethan. When Ethan disappeared it tore her family apart. Now on her return she has a new job at the local primary school and is happy to return to the place she calls home.

    On her return she runs into Saul Pearce who also moved away from Alice Springs, he has also returned and is now a ranger for Parks and Wildlife. Saul is given an assignment to go out and look for a car that has been reported in the National Park and what he finds is the car that belonged to his best friend Ethan Hayden.

    Now all he has to do is solve the mystery of what happened to Ethan when he disappeared six years ago.

    The story was full of drama, suspense and even love. I really enjoyed the read and look forward to reading more books by Annie Seaton.

  12. Outback Australia, an interesting and vast expanse of a place to get lost. That is what Gemma thought happened to her twin brother. Their family past, the rubies of the great Australian north all hanging over them, is this the reason he went missing, Ethan?
    Rose and William moved to Australia to find Rubies, before the gold rush and in a time where the value of rubies was challenged by those already in the market. The move a huge deal to Rose, leaving all she knew, all that she valued, to join a husband she barely knows in a land of unknown and vastness she could only imagine. But a home, a family and life they make in the desolate NT near the now Alice Springs. At least that was until William returned to England to value his gems and never returns. Her world comes to a header and their life a history of the Hayden family.
    Returning to Alice springs, after years away, felt like coming home for Gemma. Her mum moved her away after the disappearance of Ethan and the disintegration of their family. Her dad consumed by the loss, her mum running away. She was finally finding herself, teaching and giving back to the Alice Springs community that she values, being that bit closer to Ethan, where ever he is.
    Saul moves back to NT as part of the park service. He was once great mates with Ethan, even fancied his sister, but to be of value to anyone he had to make something of himself, to be of value. So away he went, not knowing the hurt that he would cause leaving Gemma, returning only briefly when Ethan went missing, but what could he say then?
    Saul is sent to investigate a car in the gorge, familiar to him instantly, Ethan’s car. Is this the missing link, where was Ethan, does this mean he was dead or alive. And this means his distance from Gemma, it was time to come to an end.
    Follow along with Gemma and Saul, while they try to figure it out, try to piece it together, find the links to the past that will open the way to the answer behind Ethan’s disappearance.
    Romance, betrayal, suspense, danger, happy and sad endings, this book has it all. A heart warming story that has you hoping the whole way through. Thank you Beauty and Lace & Annie Seaton for this great read.

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