One heartbroken woman. One bitter cop. One community to save them.
After the tragic death of her husband, single mum Isabelle Cassidy is bereft and broke. When she hears about The Peppercorn Project – a scheme that offers affordable rent in the tiny but vibrant town of Stony Creek – Issie sees it as her family’s best chance at a fresh start.
Newly single police officer Matt Robertson moved to Stony Creek to lick his wounds after a bitter divorce. Wanting only peace and quiet, Matt is against the Project, seeing it as a threat to the peace he’s found in the country town – until he meets Issie. Despite himself, Matt is drawn to the widow and feels inexplicably protective of her fragile family.
Just when Issie begins to imagine a future with Matt, an accident proves how far she has to go before she can move beyond her grief. But the citizens of Stony Creek won’t rest until they see these two broken souls find a new beginning, together.
Can Issie move beyond the pain of her past and entrust Matt with her family, and her heart?
I loved The Peppercorn Project and I read it in one sitting. The characters are well developed and the emotional depth drew me into Issie and Matt’s story world. I will confess I’m not usually a big fan of the grieving widow romance trope. One reason being the heroine is distracted by her amazing late husband and it can detract from the developing romance with the hero in the story. How can the hero compete with the amazing dead husband?
What drew me into this story was the way the author handled the emotional fallout from losing a loving life partner in tragic circumstances. The story opens with the prologue and we experience in real time Issie’s very painful loss, the roller coaster of emotions, and the consequences for her young family. Issie’s need to stand on her own two feet and establish a new life for her children leads her to the small town of Stony Creek.
Issie and her children are interviewed by a committee of townsfolk for a coveted peppercorn lease. The idea is to provide people with an affordable home for a year to help them get back on their feet financially in a supportive small town community. Issie is desperate for a financial break and willing to move from coastal Torquay near Melbourne to a small town in the South Australian Flinders Ranges to put a roof over their heads.
Matt is a city cop who moved to Stony Creek when his marriage fell apart. Burned by his experiences with his ex-wife, he’s a confirmed bachelor and resisting the efforts by well-meaning town matchmakers to find him a new wife. He’s intrigued by Issie and drawn to her despite his reservations concerning the wisdom of the peppercorn project concept.
The minor characters add flavour and colour to the story, and an authenticity to the idyllic rural romance setting. Matt is a cynical city cop who knows it’s only a matter of time until the Stony Creek community will have to face the challenges of the illegal drug trade. A subplot relating to the ice (methamphetamine) epidemic that’s facing many Australian small towns was realistic and well handled. Issie is a nurse and we journey with her as she faces many professional challenges in a medical context.
The romance between Issie and Matt was centre stage and their emotional journey to love was full of obstacles and baggage from the past. A loving intimate scene between Issie and Matt toward the end of the book was beautifully written and contained emotional rather than physical descriptions that will pull at the reader’s heartstrings. The perfect happy ending for two people who had grown to love each other, and Issie’s adorable children, during the story.
I highly recommend The Peppercorn Project to romance readers who enjoy sweet medical romances set in small town rural Australia.
Many thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a complimentary advanced reader copy of the book.
To learn more about Nicki Edwards and her books, please visit her website.