Rocking Horse Hill by Cathryn Hein - global cover

Rocking Horse Hill

Who do you trust when a stranger threatens to tear your family apart?

When Emily Wallace-Jones’s brother Digby arrives home with a secretive new fiancée, no one knows how to react. The Wallace-Jones are old-money rural aristocracy and Felicity Townsend is from a very different side of the tracks.

But Em is determined not to treat Felicity with the same teenage snobbery that tore apart her relationship with her first love, Josh Sinclair. A man who has now sauntered sexily back into Em’s life and given her a chance for redemption.

As Felicity settles in, suspicions are raised about her intentions toward Em’s beloved Rocking Horse Hill, the historic family property that Digby owns but has promised will be Em’s home for as long as she wishes. Though worried for her future, Em sides with her brother and Felicity, until a near tragedy sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

An emotional story of family turmoil and second-chance love played out against the dramatic landscape of rural South Australia.

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I absolutely loved Rocking Horse Hill. Aussie author Cathryn Hein has created a masterpiece with this novel, her best yet in my opinion. A wonderful novel which I have no hesitation in recommending highly.

– Goodreads Librarian, Brenda

I think with each novel, Hein takes a step forward. Hers have always contained exploration of family dramas and emotions but she’s refining her skills and creating more depth and trying new things. The romance is strong in every book but it’s never just the focus – there’s always so much more going on and the talent is that everything blends together seamlessly without feeling crowded and the focus never feels uneven. I think that without a doubt, this is her best book yet.

– 1Girl2ManyBooks

Excerpt – Rocking Horse Hill

Em sighed, carefully placed her pen down and recapped the ink bottle. Ruined parchment scattered PaperPassion’s counter. No matter how hard she concentrated her hand refused to remain steady. As they had often since the day before, her thoughts drifted towards Digby and Felicity. Em rarely felt sorry for herself but since Felicity’s arrival she’d become increasingly aware of the hollow that Trent’s lost love had left, and wished that she, too, had someone to share her life with, whose protective strong hold forged an armour against loneliness.

Thanks to improved weather the street was busier than it had been in weeks, yet the space between customers felt infinite, and Mondays were commonly slow. She’d survived the morning, had even found it enjoyable. It had taken a good deal of experimentation but Em had finally managed to string PaperPassion’s new stock up with fishing line, transforming this season’s jewel-coloured notebooks into swooping birds and hovering butterflies. From the street, where the line couldn’t be seen, her new window display appeared a life-filled terrarium. She’d draped off-cuts of satin dress linings in varying shades of green behind it, creating a bower of lushness. More satin sheathed the floor, the surface scattered with silk orchids and fern fronds. But it was the notebooks that made the window spectacular, glowing with the promise of tropical pleasure, a tease for those seeking warmth from winter.

Of everything she and her mother had in common, it was their artistic streak that dominated. Em channelled hers into her calligraphy, illuminations and gardening, Adrienne into cooking, fashion and home decorating. It was a good Wallace gene to inherit, and Em was proud of it.

With another sigh, she tucked the parchment into piles and stared out through the shop’s glass door at the street. A woman halted to admire the display before glancing at her watch and moving on. Em checked her own watch. Hours remained, and caffeine would help her through the rest of the day. Giving the street a last scan for approaching customers, she headed into the storeroom.

The bell over PaperPassion’s entrance door tinkled as she sugared her tea and added a drop of milk. Unconcerned, she took a sip. The stock was safe enough. It was probably someone she knew and PaperPassion wasn’t exactly a shoplifter’s paradise. Kids occasionally stole a fruit-scented eraser or coloured pencil but even that was rare, and the cost negligible. The worst shrinkage occurred from rough handling, when customers tossed notebooks back into racks without care, bending pages and denting covers.

With a welcoming smile on her face, she rattled apart the bead curtain and stepped back into the shop. A man stood with his back to her at the front shelves, flicking through a sky-blue B5-sized hardcover notebook. His hair was light brown and slightly too long, curling over the edge of his collar. A navy fleece jumper fitted snugly across his wide shoulders, before tapering to hug narrow hips. He wore light khaki cotton-drill trousers, the sort favoured by tradies, and though loose they couldn’t hide the muscularity of his legs. His boots were brown suede and thick-soled. Framed against the artificially bright wall of stationary, he appeared earthy, solid and very, very familiar.

She checked his left hand. Three fingers, from the little to the middle, were missing, severed at the second knuckle.

Em placed her mug down behind the counter, her nerves sizzling. She knew that agonising boyhood injury. She knew those legs, those shoulders, that hair. She knew everything about this man and more.

Joshua Sinclair turned and smiled the same smile that had pierced her cool as a teenager. The smile that had made her first give him her heart, then her body, and let him preciously tend both until the day she’d snatched them back and broken two people in the process.

His eyes hadn’t changed. The lids still tilted at the edges, giving him a thoughtful, almost sad, expression that Em had considered mysterious and deeply sexy back then. He had a way of holding her gaze with a toe-curling intensity, his molasses-coloured eyes not moving from hers. It was as if she possessed something he coveted but didn’t know how to take.

For a heady moment, as his eyes widened in recognition, she felt that gaze again and her heart lifted with the hope that perhaps time had led to forgiveness or, at least, perspective. Then his smile died,  and with it her dream.

‘Emily.’ He looked away, his mouth compressing, before staring straight back at her.

And everything in his stony expression revealed that no matter what emotions the years had softened, bitterness wasn’t one of them.

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