Heart of the Valley
A vivid, moving and passionate story of love and redemption set in the gloriously rich landscape of Australia’s Hunter Valley.
Brooke Kingston is smart, capable and strong-willed, and runs her family’s property with dedication and skill. More at home on horseback than in heels, her life revolves around her beloved ‘boys’ – showjumpers Poddy, Oddy and Sod.
Then a tragic accident leaves Brooke a mess. Newcomer Lachie Cambridge is hired to manage the farm, and Brooke finds herself out of a job and out of luck. But she won’t go without a fight.
What she doesn’t expect is Lachie himself – a handsome, gentle giant with a will to match her own. But with every day that Lachie stays, Brooke’s future on the farm becomes more uncertain.
Will she be forced to choose between her home and the man she’s falling for, or will the very things that brought them together tear them apart?
“Heart of the Valley is a novel about letting go and moving forward that mixes tender romance with heartfelt drama. I finished Heart of the Valley with a contented sigh for a story well told and a longing for a horse of my own. Cathryn Hein has joined my ever growing list of must read Australian women writers.”– Book’d Out
“The Heart of the Valley is quite a moving love story about passionate, strong characters who are vulnerable in their own ways. A lovely addition to the rural romance genre in Australia. I will definitely be checking out Cathryn Hein’s first novel, Promises.”– The Australian Bookshelf
Excerpt – Heart of the Valley
Kingston Downs, Hunter Valley, NSW.
He pulled up next to the yards. The dark-brown horse was gone from its enclosure. As they stepped out of the ute, a slim girl in checked, suede-seated riding breeches and a dark-blue jumper with hay caught in the knit led a saddled and heavily booted Sod from the barn. She stopped and regarded them warily, messy bob swinging around her heart-shaped face. The horse raised a hoof and pawed at the ground before bunting her in the head with its nose.
One glance and Lachlan knew he’d imagined her perfectly. No question, Brooke Kingston possessed the look he knew too well. Blemish-free skin, shiny, perfectly cut – albeit untidy – hair, and the haughty bearing of a person who considered herself better than him. She stared back with eyes the colour and clarity of aged cognac, which widened, as everyone’s did, when they took in his size. Lachie stood 195 centimetres in his socks, with shoulders like an axeman and legs muscled from hard work and sport. People stared, women especially, and normally he took it in his stride, but something about Brooke Kingston’s gaze, the way her lips parted as she slowly raked the length of his body, made him tense. It reminded him of Tamsyn, and look where that landed him. Dumped and broken-hearted, that’s where.
Angus kissed her cheek. ‘Hey, Brooke.’
‘I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.’
‘I thought Mark called.’
She shook her head, a sudden expression of distress flicking across her features before flattening to thin-lipped composure.
Angus gave her shoulder a squeeze. ‘It’ll be all right, I promise,’ he said softly before turning aside to introduce Lachie. ‘This is Lachlan Cambridge.’
He held his hand out. ‘Nice to meet you.’
As she reached forward to shake it, the horse snaked its neck forward, huge teeth bared and snapping. Lachie jerked back just in time, leaving the animal’s teeth clenching only air. ‘Shit!’
She batted the horse away. ‘Sorry. This is Sod, who likes to live up to his name.’ Giving the horse another push on the nose, she held out her hand again.
He eyed the horse and then took it, surprised at the firmness of her grip. As he let go, Billy gave a yap. He nodded at the dog. ‘This is Billy.’
She eyed the terrier and then him, a slight smile quirking her mouth. Immediately he felt defensive. So Billy wasn’t a collie or kelpie, but he was a good dog and better than that savage horse.
To his surprise she crouched down and reached out for Billy, who wagged his tail in greeting before flopping onto his back to have his belly scratched. Laughing, she obliged, tickling his side until his leg beat crazily and his little body writhed from side to side in ecstasy.
‘Cute,’ she said, standing, and for a brief moment her smile made her very pretty, the sort of girl he’d look twice at if he saw her in the street or a bar. Then the wariness returned, and her lips compressed once more. She turned to her brother. ‘Are you staying?’
Angus shook his head. ‘I need to get back. We’ve five runners at Randwick tomorrow.’
She bit her lip. ‘Maybe come up to the dairy for a cuppa? When you’ve finished with the manager.’
That thumped him back to earth. He should have remembered girls like her didn’t associate with the hired help. Angus led her away, speaking quietly. Lachie turned aside, shoved his hands into his pockets and surveyed the drive, wondering if he shouldn’t collect his stuff and get the hell out of there.
Except where would he go? Not Delamere, and he couldn’t face going back to more labouring. He was a qualified agronomist, but he knew from experience good jobs were hard to come by. Plus he had Nick to think of. Lachie didn’t want to see him struggle like he had at uni, trying to balance work and study and barely succeeding at either.
Nope, he was staying, whether Brooke Kingston liked it or not.