Return to Rosalee Station with bestselling Australian author Mandy Magro’s touching story of a search for belonging, love and healing.
City girl Melody Harrison finds herself questioning everything in the wake of her mother’s deathbed confession of a long-held secret – a secret that drives her far into the outback, to the wide-open skies of Rosalee Station…
Matt and Sarah Walsh have finally reached a time in their lives where they are at peace, but their happiness is again thrown into turmoil when Matt answers the door to a young woman with shocking news. But what is the truth? Only by offering her sanctuary at Rosalee Station will they find space to come to grips with each other.
Long ago accepting he’s never going to fit in with his wealthy family, Zai Wellstone has finally landed his dream job as head stockman at Rosalee Station. It’s here he crosses paths with the most intriguing woman he’s ever met, Melody, the new camp cook. Sparks fly between them from their first encounter, but will the secrets she’s keeping stand in their way?
Rosalee Station is the place where love is found and family ties mean more than anything – will its magic once again show a heartbroken young woman her way forward, to the healing and connection she craves?
The fresh scent of the thousands of eucalypts the Blue Mountains were famous for lingered upon the air as dust-speckled dawn sunlight was snaking its way across the timeworn timber boards of the one-bedder farmhouse Lucy Harrison had called home for almost seven months. Her job as cook at the roadhouse out the front paid the rent.
She knew eighteen was too young to have a baby. She also knew she should have thought of that when she’d fallen into the charismatic stockman’s swag at the B&S ball, a virgin and more drunk than she’d realised, but clued in enough to lie to him, both about her age and the fact that she wasn’t on the pill. It wasn’t his fault she was in this predicament. She’d wanted him to want her, had spent half the night trying to woo him. If he didn’t live thousands of miles away, she might have told him she was pregnant. In hindsight, she should have, but it was too late to harbour those kinds of regrets now. She’d made her decision and now she had to follow through with it. She just wished she had someone to hold her hand right now, to tell her everything was going to be okay. But she was very much alone, and terrified of what lay ahead.
Hopefully, the ambulance she’d called would be arriving soon because the contractions were coming faster, detonating inside her like fireworks. With each wave of primal pain, a deep intrinsic need to protect her baby grew, to the point that she knew now she couldn’t put the child up for adoption. Her innate need to raise this child was almost overwhelming, ridding her of all her worries about not being able to handle motherhood.
Caressing the mound of her belly, she took in deep lungfuls of air, vowing to make her baby girl her life’s purpose. Her girl would know nothing like the hellhole she’d grown up in, with a drunkard father and an absent mother. Her baby deserved the best life she could give.
With the next swelling contraction seizing her, she bent forward and gripped the verandah railings so she didn’t buckle beneath the pain. After eight months of pretending, of covering it up with oversized clothes, it was really happening – she was going to be a mum. A single parent.
One day she would move to the big smoke to be reunited with her best friend, Sally, and start a new life. But for now, this ramshackle house was her home, and would soon be her baby’s home too.
One step at a time.
Melody Harrison hated the fact that today was her twenty-third birthday.
She didn’t want anyone to say the word ‘happy’ to her. She wasn’t happy, not in the slightest. Her mother was dying, her marriage was in ruins, she’d lost contact with her closest friends because of her insufferable husband and she was so bone-tired, she felt like curling into a ball and sleeping for a year. But she had to soldier on. One step at a time.
Finding a free seat amidst the chaos of commuters, she sank down and blinked back another onslaught of tears. Where had the strong, confident, happy young woman she’d been when she’d met Antonio four years ago gone? She’d give almost anything to find her again.
She was having a really hard time coming to terms with what the marriage counsellor had told her after their last session, on the quiet.
‘Even though he’s denying it, Antonio is a covert narcissist, Melody, and a very clever one. So don’t blame yourself for not seeing it earlier, or for his cheating. I know you’re hoping for a miracle, but he won’t change. They never do. Even when they say they will. It’s all a ploy to keep you tangled in their web. You can leave him, if that’s what you feel you want to do. You’re a strong woman. You can do this.’
Even though she’d lived through it, day in, day out, the words had been overwhelming in the moment. What was she meant to do with such information?
Once the fog had cleared, Melody had got to work. With a clinical diagnosis, she started researching on the web for countless hours. Now she was starting to very clearly understand the demise of her marriage … and of her self-worth. The intense love bombing, the devaluing, the breadcrumbs of false ‘I’m sorry’s and ‘I promise to get help’s, blow after blow to her trust, the crushing heartbreak, confusion, self-doubt. Then, when she was at her lowest point, manipulating her to believe in him again.
Even the fact that he had declared his love so quickly, and they’d married within months, only for him to change tune the minute she moved in, going from ‘I love you’ to ‘I choose to love you because you’re hard to love’. Now she saw the pattern so very clearly.
Her heart had been crushed when she’d discovered that her husband wasn’t the big romantic at heart he’d led her to believe he was. As a young married woman, she’d still held on to her high hopes for a happily-ever-after, even though a big part of her had screamed to run for the hills. So she’d stayed in the hope the romantic man she’d met would resurface. And here she was, years later, still waiting.
Golden sunlight and engulfing darkness mingled as the Sydney metro train sped through a maze of graffitied tunnels intermittently broken up by flashes of wintery fog, banked-up traffic and high-rises. Turning up the bluegrass melody playing from her AirPods, she sighed wearily. If only the view was instead of the endless countryside in which she’d spent her childhood. Her days spent exploring the wilds of her backyard, the Blue Mountains, on foot or horseback had been filled with so much happiness. She and her mum had spoken about moving back there one day, if she ever unravelled herself from the clutches of Antonio and her beloved café, but then, in the blink of an eye, everything has changed. Her mum had been given the devastating diagnosis and everything in Melody’s world had been tipped upside down and inside out. How was she meant to get through this? How could she come out the other side unbroken? The world was going to be a very lonely place without her mum to turn to.
She twisted her wedding band around her finger, and then, as she had many times the past couple of weeks, almost slipped it off. But as it wedged on her knuckle, she stopped herself. The thought of the mess that would follow if she asked for a divorce stopped her – she didn’t have the strength for such turmoil right now, nor did she want the weight of it on her mother’s already heavy heart. There were way bigger fish to fry in her turbulent life.
Melody was well aware that her focus needed to remain on her mum because as much as she didn’t want to believe it, she knew they didn’t have long left together. With that timely reminder, she found herself choking back sobs again. She’d made a promise to herself that she wasn’t going to cry today, and a stickler for never breaking a promise to herself or anyone else, she had to try and hold it together. She owed herself that much.
Feeling as if the weight of the world was upon her small shoulders, she breathed in deeply then sighed it away. She’d never taken so many desperate deep breaths in all her life. Having sardined herself between an elderly lady with her nose buried in a book and a clean-shaven man in a suit whose attention was held fast by the glow of his laptop, she felt safe enough to allow her heavy eyelids to drop. She recalled Aunt Sally’s advice and did her best to envision lying on a white-sand beach, the rolling waves ebbing and flowing, seagulls floating on the gentle breeze above her. As nice as that fantasy was, it was tough to remain in such a beautiful place for long when her mother was living in a daily hell of pills and chemo and the spectre of imminent death.
With her heart squeezing tighter, she tried to ignore the almost unbearable weight of fear and heartache. How she was going to handle the next chapter of her life was beyond her comprehension, but her mother had taught her from a very young age that it’s one step at a time. That’s all she could do.
Opening her eyes, she realised they were almost at her station. Standing, she tossed her handbag over her shoulder and, reaching up on her tippy toes, steadied herself with an overhead handhold as the train screeched to a halt. With the morning rush hour at its peak, as soon as the door slid open, she was propelled forwards. Elbows out to protect herself, she squished out among a sea of commuters. Then, one foot after the other, she turned left and strode towards the stairs that led up and onto the street. Racing up the stairwell and into the mayhem of Sydney’s CBD, she glanced skywards as another crack of thunder reverberated off the skyscrapers engulfing her. After weeks of tempestuous weather, she yearned to feel the caress of sunlight against her skin. As if mimicking her tortured soul, the slate-grey sky was heaving with ominous black clouds aching to dump their heavy load. She sympathised with Mother Nature’s need to unleash her vehemence, because she too felt like she was a pressure cooker about to explode. Or implode. She wasn’t sure which would be worse.
The past three months had been her worst nightmare, and still, the worst was yet to come. She dared not focus on it right now. That would come in the dead of night, when she lay awake, staring at the ceiling through teary eyes.
Frenzied people brushed past her, almost all of them walking blind with their gazes glued to their phones. If she had a choice, she’d toss her mobile in the bin – in her opinion, it had taken away people’s need to really connect, eye to eye, heart to heart, soul to soul. The only reason she had the damn thing was for important calls, and to keep up with the social media avenues she used to promote her gastronomic masterpieces, or food porn, as Marianna, her business partner and mother-in-law, liked to call it. Posing and taking selfies for all the world to see to then tally up how many likes she got was worse to her than cutting off a finger. There was more to life than what other people thought of her. As long as they felt her emotion in the food, that was all that mattered. She’d made a name for herself in foodie circles, and people came from far and wide to taste her culinary skills – ones she’d first learnt from her mum, then finessed in the years of her apprenticeship.
Antonio was well aware she was the reason their café was so successful – it was her only saving grace according to him. Whenever anyone asked what her secret was, she always said itwas the love she poured into everything she cooked, and she firmly believed that, because in the grand scheme of things, love was what made the world go round.
As if on cue, her phone chimed her message tone – The Dukes of Hazzard horn. Had her mother taken a turn for the worse? Her heart leaping into her throat, she yanked her phone from the depths of her handbag, relieved to see it wasn’t a message from Aunt Sally – not her real aunt but her mother’s best friend – but from Antonio.
Hey, Lorenzo has called in sick and we’re run off our feet. You were meant to be here already. Are you far away? See you soon?
Melody quickly checked the time. She was barely running five minutes late. Far out. She gritted her teeth and groaned. No ‘hope you’re okay’ or ‘how is your mum?’ No, even though she didn’t really want to hear it but it was the principle that he’d clearly forgotten again, ‘happy birthday’. Antonio Calabrese could be so damn selfish. The man she knew now was a far cry from the one she’d fallen for as an eighteen-year-old. Young love was so hopeful, so heedless. So naïve.
Strutting faster now, she shoved her mobile back into the seemingly endless pit of her handbag. Stuff him, she wasn’t writing back. She was only minutes away and trying to walk and text would only slow her down anyway.
Her boots feeling as heavy as the eyelids she was fighting to keep open, she jiggled on the spot while waiting for a crossing to give the green go-ahead. After a sleepless night spent by her mother’s bedside, she really didn’t want to be doing this today, but she didn’t have a choice. Her share in the café was the only thing keeping her sane, as if life could somehow continue on through the hardest of times. She needed the distraction of it to ground her. As her beautiful mother would say, you got this, my darling.
But did she?
The Road To Rosalee by Mandy Magro will be available in-stores and online from the 1st of December 2021
PRAISE FOR MANDY MAGRO:
‘Seasoned Australian rural romance novelist Mandy Magro gifts her readers with another genuine read told from the heart…Mandy Magro is a novelist who continues to go from strength to strength and Home Sweet Home is another earnest story from this big-hearted storyteller.’ Mrs B’s Book Reviews