Sneak Peeks

The road to love is a rutted dirt track … Read a Sneak Peek from A Home Among the Snow Gums by Stella Quinn


The road to love is a rutted dirt track … Read a Sneak Peek from A Home Among the Snow Gums by Stella Quinn

The road to love is a rutted dirt track for the other vet from Snowy River … An unmissable, funny, feel-good romance from the author of The Vet From Snowy River, Stella Quinn.

Hannah Cody grew up sunny, carefree and loved in the Snowy Mountains town of Hanrahan, but a vicious prank at university in Sydney changed that. Instead of studying medicine, she moved to a small regional centre, switched to veterinary science and swore off romance for life. Ten quiet years later, she’s settled. She’s safe. And yeah, she hasn’t left Hanrahan in years, but that’s not agoraphobia, is it? It’s not hiding if you’re happy.

After many years abroad as a naval analyst, Tom Krauss is drawn home by his estranged father’s deteriorating health and his own secret injury. But as soon as he sets eyes on Hannah again, he realises that he’s never forgotten the engaging little sister of his best friend. He loved her when he was a teenager, and now he knows he never stopped. Problem: romance is a no-go. There’s a piece of shrapnel wedged against his spine, and the countdown is on for him to make a surgical decision that could free him from pain … or paralyse him.

But the Hanrahan townsfolk have other ideas: it’s time for Hannah to work out that living with your heart wide open is worth the risk, and it’s time for Tom to learn that love is messy and wonderful and necessary. Change is afoot in this small town, and these two will have to work out if they can be brave enough to make changes too…

‘Knitting possums?’

Hannah Cody was on her second (okay, maybe third, but they were stingy pours) paper cup of prosecco, but surely she hadn’t heard Marigold correctly.

‘Knitting pouches for possums, my love. Orphaned baby ones. All knit no purl, so it’s a perfect beginner’s project. Craft is like honey, isn’t it, Vera? Sweet for the soul, balm for a wound.’

Vera De Rossi, Hannah’s soon-to-be sister-in-law, was smooshed up against Hannah’s brother Josh on the weathered trunk of a fallen snow gum, a fat brown dog sprawled over her boots. She was gazing up at the stars above Lake Bogong and avoided being drawn into the conversation by pretending she hadn’t heard.


‘I’m sweet enough, thanks, Marigold,’ Hannah said. A lie, and everyone on the rocky lakeside within hearing distance knew it.

Best not to think about wounds, either. Not tonight. Marigold had been in her ear all week, wittering on about New Year’s Eve being ripe with change and possibilities and, somehow, like a pernicious dose of tinnitus, the town’s busiest senior citizen’s words had stuck.


The idea that change might be possible, and wounds could be left behind, was why Hannah was here at the lake, mingling like a socialite while green and gold fireworks fizzed and popped in the night sky, rather than celebrating the closure of another safe year in the traditional way: in her bathtub with a book.

A clutch of kids raced past, the sparklers in their hands jumping and weaving like star puppets long after the kids’ silhouettes had dissolved into the darkness. Hannah’s heart grew a little heavier in her chest.

Marigold was right.

Not about the knitting. But about her desire for her life to change.

Safe had become boring. And lonely. And very, very dull.

Hannah followed Vera’s gaze up to the night sky and wondered if Josh’s fiancée saw the same things she saw. Vera had made her home in the lee of the mountains only recently, but Hannah? Hanrahan had always been her home. The sand was coarse and familiar under the heels of her old boots, and the stars above burned like the porch lights of old friends, brighter even than the driftwood bonfires along the lakeshore.

And beyond the lake, the mountains.

She couldn’t see the Snowies now, of course, but she knew they were there. She felt them. Strong, resolute, steadfast: they were the backbone that she pretended to have oh so much of.

‘Pondering your resolutions, love?’ said Kev, Marigold’s husband. He’d dressed up for the lakeside festivities in a double-breasted plaid suit that made him look like a newsreader on the television, back before colour was invented.

‘Hi, Kev,’ she said, and glugged down another mouthful of the cheap prosecco she’d bought from one of the food trucks up on the grass. ‘I’ve already picked one,’ she said. ‘Make sure Josh gets more of the vet clinic’s middle-of-the-night callouts.’

Her brother pulled a face at her then went back to nuzzling his fiancée’s neck.

Revolting. Okay, fine, it was sweet. Yay them.

‘I’ve been giving Hannah some suggestions but she’s proving to be a little stubborn,’ said Marigold.

Josh snorted. ‘There’s a surprise.’

‘Joining my craft group is not only social and fun, it’s useful, too.’ Marigold was on a roll. ‘Dawn yoga is always an option, of course. There’s nothing like saluting the sun under the watchful eye of the pied currawongs to give your day a little zhoozh. Life hacks, I believe these sorts of resolutions are called these days, by the young and the trendy.’

Hannah grinned. ‘I’m not that trendy.’ Then her grin slipped; she wasn’t that young, either, now that she thought about it. Her birthday was only a few months away and as much as she’d been trying to not think about the age she’d be turning, her headspace was not cooperating and the words thirty-two, thirty-two, thirty-two had been playing in an annoying loop.

‘You rode dressage when you were a youngster, as I recall,’ said Kev.

That was quite the conversational segue. ‘Um, yeah. Fancy you remembering. Tubby and I took it very seriously when I was about eleven or twelve. But then his owner came back from boarding school and Tubby didn’t need me to exercise him anymore, so that was the end of my competitive horse-riding career.’

‘Maybe not.’

‘What are you getting at, Kev? I’m starting to wonder if you’re going soft in the head,’ said his doting wife.

‘Now, now,’ he said. ‘I’ve had one of my ideas.’

‘Oh,’ said Marigold, delighted. ‘Let’s hear it.’

‘That horse of yours, Hannah, that’s been living in our back paddock these last coupla months ever since you had your tantrum up at Ironbark, sticking his head through the fence rails and helping himself to my apple tree … I reckon he’s got some skills.’

‘I do not have tantrums,’ Hannah said, sinking her nose into her paper cup of warming wine in case it decided to grow an inch. How did Kev know about that, anyway? She’d spun a totally feasible story about why she’d had to move Skippy to a stable nearer to town. It hadn’t been a tantrum she’d had up at Ironbark, anyway. It had been a crisis … um, no, that wasn’t right. It had been a shock and alarming and out of the freaking blue, but also weirdly thrilli—

She kicked the back of the log Josh and Vera were snuggling up on, making the lump of a dog grunt in annoyance. Whatever The Incident had been, it was Tom Krauss’s fault, and she’d spent a goodly time since instructing herself to block out the memories. She wasn’t about to relive them now, right when she was on the cusp of putting all that … stuff … behind her and starting a new year.

She answered the part of Kev’s statement that hadn’t started her insides churning. ‘Of course Skipjack has skills. He spent his youth mustering sheep at a station out past Ruffy in country Victoria. He probably knows more about sheep and kelpies and barber’s pole worm than I do.’

‘Han, no-one wants to hear about barber’s pole worm.’

Huh. Josh could apparently listen and canoodle and be handfed morsels of some delicious-looking dessert from the tin on Vera’s lap. Life was so not fair.

‘This resolution you’re deciding on,’ said Kev, ‘I reckon campdrafting’s the one you’re after.’

Even Marigold was silenced by that announcement.

‘Pony competitions as a kid don’t really qualify me for cutting cattle from a herd on horseback, Kev. Besides, I’m not too flush with cash or time. I can’t buy a horse float or spend my weekends traipsing all over New South Wales and Victoria.’

‘None of that matters, pet. You can ride, can’t you?’

She narrowed her eyes. ‘I can ride the pants off you, old timer.’

Kev chuckled. ‘Now, don’t get all antsy. What I’m saying is, there’s a lot of campdraft tournaments hereabouts in Tumbarumba and Adaminaby and Bombala. You’ve got a horse who’s not so long in the tooth he won’t enjoy a little excitement once in a while. And—as it happens—I used to compete myself back in the day. Be happy to teach you the timing rules when the roses at the hall aren’t calling out for their Uncle Kev.’

‘That’s super sweet of you, but I—’

‘You’ll be wondering where we’ll scratch up some cattle to practise with, but don’t you worry about that. I’ve got plenty of space to agist and plenty of mates to assist.’

Kev was serious about this. Learning a new sport? Doable. But competing against strangers? Complicated. Travelling out of Hanrahan, where the looming peaks of the Snowy Mountains weren’t there to back her up against failure?

Yeah. That was the issue. Travelling away from home had, over the years, become somehow heart-poundingly difficult.

She must have looked as overwhelmed as she felt, because Marigold gave her arm a pat.

‘No rush to pick,’ she said. ‘It’s not midnight for hours yet, plenty of time to narrow down your choices.’ Marigold lifted a hand and started ticking off on her fingers. ‘Campdrafting, which will be outside, the wind in your hair, your horse’s mane in your hand. Crafting a snuggly safe space for orphan possums, which—’

Hannah decided to stop her before one of the tantrums she’d just told the world she never had started brewing. ‘If you’re going to start talking about the joy to be found in preserving historical whatnots or the wonder of double triple treble crochet, you’re going to have to find your own patch of Lake Bogong foreshore, Marigold.’

A massive hip bumped up against Hannah’s. ‘But you’ve bagged the good spot close to the bar.’

She chuckled. ‘True.’

‘And much as I love a little creativity in my craft group, I feel obliged to point out that there is no such thing as double triple treble crochet. A double treble is a triple. Just FYI.’

Whatever. The minutiae of craft terms was something Hannah had zero desire to master. She was only marginally more interested in the rules of campdrafting.

‘Besides, pet, you won’t know how wonderful a new interest can be until you try it. Saluting the sun is the best part of my day.’

‘I get to salute the sun often enough. I’m usually in a paddock at the time, half frozen and covered in muck. Fancy a vino?’ she said, waggling her paper cup in Marigold’s direction. ‘My shout.’

‘I’ll have what you’re having. Kevvy?’

Armed with drink orders, Hannah picked her way up the foreshore to where the food trucks were serving up a storm under the party lights. As she was paying for two beers, a water and two proseccos, a border terrier with a lead trailing behind it like an angry snake tore past her.

Wait. Was that—?

It was. A new client, who she’d met last month after an escape attempt through rusty barbed wire led to an intervention involving pliers and a tetanus jab. The owner was currently on the list Sandy, the clinic receptionist, had taped to the wall above the photocopier in the back office with the heading CAUTION: HASN’T PAID VET FEES.

‘Millie,’ Hannah called. ‘Millie! Come!’

The dog stopped. Its shaggy body was heaving and its face wore the pop-eyed look that she didn’t need a vet degree to know meant it was terrified. Fireworks. The border terrier wouldn’t be the only dog in town currently being sent loopy by the noise, but hopefully she was the only one who had done a runner.

Ignoring the drinks that were now lined up on the counter, Hannah took off after the dog, who had bounded past a stand selling sparklers and glow-in-the-dark bracelets and was on a trajectory to crash headlong into a woman who had a baby on her hip and a kid swinging from her hand.

‘Millie!’ Hannah called again and lunged forward to put her boot on the trailing lead.

Just as she landed on it, a large figure loomed in the corner of her eye from the far side of the sparklers’ stand. Their boot landed smack bang on top of hers.

‘Oof,’ she said, fighting to recover her balance, while a hand (most definitely not hers) landed on her rump and set her upright.

‘Sorry,’ said a deep voice in her ear that was delicious and totally irritating all at the same time, and which eroded every thought in her head other than Bloody Tom Krauss. Even the pulverised toes in her left boot forgot they were in pain.

‘It’s gonna bite me! It’s gonna bite me real bad!’ wailed a high-pitched voice.

‘I’ll get the dog,’ said Tom.

Bossy and dictatorial as ever. She shot a look up at his face and—yes, damn it—he hadn’t grown ugly since she last saw him, which was bloody selfish of him. Uglying himself up a little was the least he could do after the way he—

Well. No need to dwell on The Incident. That was in the past, but for the love of god, why couldn’t he just stay up the mountain so she didn’t have to feel this weird thing every time she saw him? And, hang on just a darned minute, she was the animal professional in the vicinity.

‘I’ll get the dog,’ she said. ‘I’ll have the owner’s number back at the clini—’

Too late, Tom was hauling in the uncooperative dog like he was reeling in a marlin. Hannah turned to the mother, who was attempting to bend down to the boy. The little bloke’s knee was skinned and he was sitting on the grass having himself a good noisy cry.

‘You okay?’ Hannah said to the mum.

‘Do I look okay?’ said the woman, who seemed as flustered as Hannah felt, although for different (she assumed) reasons. She was a local, Hannah knew her face, but she couldn’t place her. ‘Here, take Margot, will you?’

And before Hannah knew what was what, she’d been given a baby.

‘Oh, I’m not sure I know how to look after your kid—’ She stopped talking as the baby put up a hand the size of a cat’s paw and patted her cheek with it. That was kind of sweet. She did an experimental sway from side to side, the way she did when she had a fractious pup on her hands who was objecting to being separated from its mastitisinflamed mother. The baby gurgled, which was also sweet, and way nicer to listen to than the wails coming from the bigger kid.

She looked over at Tom. He had somehow managed to get the naughty dog to sit down beside the toddler, and he’d lowered himself onto one of the copper log barriers that demarked the carpark from the foreshore.

He wore a faded plaid shirt and well broken-in jeans and his hair had grown out since she’d last seen him. He was blonder. Thinner. Paler. He also looked annoyingly adorable, perched on the rail next to the kid and the dog.

‘You need to learn to keep a hold of your dog, mate,’ said the mother, who was patting the kid’s bloody knee with a tissue that she had just—OMG—spat on. Really, did the general populace know nothing about germs?

‘I’m not the owner,’ Tom said, but he wasn’t paying much attention to the mother. ‘Hey, kid, what’s your name?’

The kid stopped wailing like he had an on/off switch. ‘Barney.’

‘You want to pat the dog, Barney? She’s being good now.’

‘She knocked me over.’

‘That’s because she was scared before, like you were. Now she wants to make it all better.’

Hmm. Tom was handling the kid crisis. Well, he could handle the lost dog, too, and with a bit of luck, she’d be long gone from the beach before he returned from tracking down the owner.

‘You see that man?’ she said into the baby’s tiny ear like she was sharing a secret—which, in fact, she was. ‘The hottie with the scruffy cheeks and the blue, blue eyes? Well, him and me in the same place is bad news.’

The baby burped and it sounded like a question. Who knew babies were such excellent confidants?

‘He cuts up my serenity,’ she said. ‘And I’m too chicken to ask myself why.’

Hannah lifted her head as Marigold swooped up beside her like a flying fox, her floaty top puffing up and out like wings. ‘Came to see what was taking you so long, and here you are tripping up handsome men in carparks and pilfering babies.’

‘Sorry. Runaway dog drama. I left the drinks on the counter.’

‘And who’s this little tacker?’

The baby gave a happy squeal then burrowed into the crevice between Hannah’s shoulder and neck. Her head was warm and velvety, and sort of strong and soft all at the same time. Like a little cavalier King Charles spaniel. No, like a spring lamb. No, wait … she took a scientific sniff, and soap and milk and babyness wafted up her olfactory nerve.

Like a little person.

Hannah forgot about the awkwardness of bumping into Tom. She forgot about her irritation with Millie’s owner for losing the dog again. That was all so silly. ‘So silly,’ she whispered into the soft hair.

She’d just had an epiphany, and it had tripped her up as surely as the dog had tripped up that toddler. Her subconscious must have been working on it for months, waiting for the right opportunity to pop it out, fully formed. Fully actionable.

She’d been feeling jealous and crotchety about so many things and hadn’t stopped to wonder at the root cause. Josh had been devoting himself one hundred per cent to Vera. Her bestie Kylie had taken over the town mechanic’s workshop and could rarely be prised from her spanners. Her niece Poppy had started ghosting her (or studying for exams, whatever) when usually she could be relied upon for daily texts and funny memes, and even Graeme, the chattiest person in Hanrahan, had lately had the temerity to preference his partner’s company to hers.

It was so obvious. She breathed in another long whiff of baby. So obvious!

She wanted a family of her own. She wanted some mess and fun and love and texting and spanners and handfed morsels of cake of her own. Which meant change. Action.

Personal growth.

Huh. No wonder her subconscious had waited until she was tiddly on prosecco to spring the trap.

But what was the alternative? Did she want a future that involved endless lonely hours soaking in her bathtub, looking up at the pattern of daisies and ribbons in her plaster ceiling? Did she want to be a pity project for Marigold and Kev to workshop, year in and year out?

Being alone for pretty much the whole of her adult life had been safe, so that was a factor to consider. Being alone had also given her time to build her vet practice and win back her parents’ trust and claw back a little (a smidge, if she was honest) of her self-respect.

But had being alone been fulfilling? For a while, yes.

But not lately. Not since The Incident, in fact.

She closed her eyes and felt the warm, heavy head of the baby resting against her neck. This was what fulfilment could feel like. A family of her own that hurdled the whole messy couples’ thing and leapt straight into parenthood.

It would be change, but it would be safe change. Personal growth without the drama.

‘You’re looking all flushed, Hannah,’ said Marigold. ‘Are you all right? Maybe we need to head past the paella truck on the way back to the beach and soak up some of that vino.’

Hannah was barely listening. ‘It’s the perfect resolution.’

‘You’ve decided? Excellent.’

Crap, she’d said that aloud, and within Marigold’s nosy orbit, too.

‘So what’s it to be? Yoga? Crochet? Possum pouches?’

The mother had calmed the toddler—or Tom had, but Hannah had averted her eyes from the sight of him being all cute with the dog and the kid—and was now back in front of her, plucking the baby off her chest.

‘Thank you so much. Sorry about snapping at you before.’

‘Sure. No worries,’ Hannah said as the mother took her warm little bundle away. Before she knew what was what, Marigold had her hand under arm, and was herding her to the food trucks and gabbling on about gussets and needle eyes and the pros and cons of thimbles for the stitchers who found themselves plagued by arthritis or trigger finger or tendonitis.

She needed to think.

She needed to get away from this craft chat. No way could she allow Marigold to assume control of her non-working life; her ears would explode first, followed by what little she had of patience.

And no way she could reveal the truth of the resolution she’d just—in a moment of clarity almost as blazing as the fireworks in the sky—decided on.

She needed a whatchamacallit, though, to keep the Hanrahan locals from meddling … a misdirection, some wool over the eyes, a diversionary tactic that was doable and that she wouldn’t totally hate. Thank heavens for Kev and his bright ideas.

‘Campdraft,’ she announced.

Marigold stopped talking. ‘Excuse me?’

‘That’s the resolution I’m making. I, Hannah Cody, will be taking up the sport of campdrafting in the New Year.’ She was committed now.

Marigold gave her a hug. ‘Oh, I am pleased, pet. Kevvy’s going to be over the moon. What with me flat strap on my committees, he needs a little something more in his week, and helping you learn the ropes will tickle him pink.’

Wow. That was a lot of cliches. Maybe she wasn’t the only one who needed to soak up some prosecco with paella. But—

‘Wait. I thought you wanted me to join your Wednesday evening craft group?’

Marigold winked. ‘And have my merry crew contaminated with your double triple trebles? Oh, please, Hannah. What kind of a fool do you think I am?’

On Sale: 03/05/2023

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