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.

8 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!

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