Book Review: If Wishes Were Horses by Karly Lane

Title: If Wishes Were Horses

Author:  Karly Lane

Published: May 1st 2017

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 348

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Rural

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4.5 stars

This captivating story of two people recovering from terrible tragedy and loss, and the importance of community, friendship and the power of love.

Already struggling to come to terms with the tragic death of her husband, Sophie Bryant nearly loses her own life while attending a domestic dispute as a paramedic. Diagnosed with a mild form of post-traumatic stress disorder, Sophie decides to accept a posting to the remote township of Hilsons Ridge.

Soon after her arrival, Sophie decides on a whim to buy an old house on the outskirts of town. There, she discovers the diary of a light horse trooper from the First World War, which she finds fascinating.

Local vet, Zac Conway, is also struggling in the wake of losing his life partner. So when Sophie brings an abandoned horse to him for treatment and they get to know each other, Zac is surprised to feel emotions he never hoped to experience again.

The peace and tranquillity of living in her new community sees Sophie gradually recovering from her trauma and grief. As she discovers more about her farm’s history, she realises that the past and the present are irrevocably connected and, just like love, it waits for the right person to come along to unlock its secrets.

If Wishes Were Horses is a totally captivating novel combining romance and history with a dash of suspense. 

My review:

Karly Lane is well known for her fictional narratives that focus on small town country life in Australia. If Wishes Were Horses is another charming rural novel from Lane and it also marks her ninth full length fiction release. A fan of Lane’s work since 2013, when I devoured her novel Poppy’s Dilemma, I am proud to say I have read all her releases, except one to date. If Wishes Were Horses reminds me of the first book of Lane’s I read, Poppy’s Dilemma, as both have a compelling historical subplot contained within their contemporary narratives.

Lane’s leading lady in her newest novel is Sophie Bryant. Working on the front line in her city job as a paramedic, Sophie takes a routine call out to attend to a domestic dispute and she gets more than she bargained for. This terrifying incident nearly robs Sophie of her life and leaves her with a case of PTSD. Her caring boss and mentor suggests she take a sabbatical. This leads Sophie to the tiny country town of Hilsons Ridge, where she takes up a temporary position as a full-time paramedic for the town. Sophie finds that Hilsons Ridge is exactly what her soul needs at this point in her life. As well as recovering from her horrific attack, Sophie is also still grieving the loss of her husband. As Sophie settles into the community fold of Hilsons Ridge, a spur of the moment impulse buy changes her life forever. Sophie decides on a whim to buy an empty property on the outskirts of Hilsons Ridge. There, she encounters two things that help her in her healing process. Firstly, the discovery of an old trunk belonging to a man who once owned the property she currently lives on, brings to light a story from the past involving a light horse trooper in WWI. Secondly, the appearance of an injured wild brumby on Sophie’s new property brings an unexpected form of healing into Sophie’s world. The story that follows is a mixture of romance, history and a whole lot of healing, under the backdrop of typical Australian small country based community.

Lane has dazzled me once again with her latest release If Wishes Were Horses. I wasn’t entirely sure from the beginning if I was going to love this book, as the title alluded to the story focussing primarily on horses and I don’t really consider myself a horsey person! If Wishes Were Horses is a story that looks at the pivotal role of horses in our lives, both in the past and present, but it has so much more to offer the reader.

For instance, Sophie, the main protagonist of the story has a captivating life story from the very opening of the story. The beginning sequence, featuring Sophie’s terrifying call out that nearly ended her life, gave me a deeper appreciation for the bravery shown by paramedics serving on our front lines. It also gave me an immediate insight into Sophie’s character, allowing this reader to develop an admiration, as well as attachment to the heroine. Lane deftly handles Sophie’s storyline with sensitivity, as well as increasing our understanding of a young woman simultaneously trying to deal with grief over the loss of her husband and PTSD.

Sophie’s need to move from the city to country, in order to find a sense of solace, is depicted well by Lane. The introduction of the community of Hilsons Ridge in Sophie’s healing process tied in well to this character’s journey. As we come to expect with Lane’s books, her flair for getting the details, as well as atmosphere right in capturing her small country town setting, is ever present. In particular, I liked how Lane showed us how communities, such as Hilsons Ridge, often struggle in their fight to retain essential services. The banding together of the Hilsons Ridge community in keeping their ambulance service close to home was handled well by Lane.

Beautifully intertwined within the contemporary narrative of If Wishes Were Horses is a historical thread that draws on our serving men during World War I. Sophie, the main protagonist in the present era experience of unearthing a trunk containing a soldier’s uniform and a journal detailing life during the World War I, gives the reader a worthy picture of the reality of fighting for our country. It also draws on what life was like for these returned soldiers and how their absence was felt at home by loved ones, while they were away. This part of the book really cut deep emotionally for me, particularly the plight of the horses. Be prepared to shed a tear.

Finally, I come to the romance in this novel but it tends to take a backseat in If Wishes Were Horses. The romance only featured in the foreground of this novel, rather than being the focus and I believe it worked well. Sophie’s story is more about the tests she faces to her spirit, rather than her love life. Her relationship with love interest Zac Conway, a Hilsons Ridge local, is developed well by Lane throughout the progression of the novel. However, what I gained from this novel was not the rural romance that plays out between Sophie and Zac, rather the memorable historical thread, which forms the very heart of this novel.

There is much more I can find to say about this book but what you do need to know is that you are guaranteed captivating read when you are placed in the capable hands of Karly Lane. With an involving plot, great lead and supporting characters, as well as a truly fascinating historical thread, If Wishes Were Horses has it all. A sure fire must read!

If Wishes Were Horses by Karly Lane was published in May 2017 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of If Wishes Were Horses, Karly Lane, visit here.



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