Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 29 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

“’The Troopie had two flat tyres. We’ve only just changed them.
. . . they both had a slow leak. There was a pebble in two of the valves. . .
Someone’s put them there to cause a slow leak.’”

The Troopie is the fond nickname Aussies use for the popular 4wd Toyota Troop Carrier, a go-almost-anywhere vehicle that with its stablemate, the 4wd Landcruiser truck, has helped Aussies get around the country for many years.

Emlyn is a scientist, staying at a cattle station in FNQ, (Far North Queensland, for the uninitiated), where she plans to investigate possible new insect species in the Undara Lava Tubes (underground – mostly – tubes/tunnels formed from volcano spills).
You can learn more here: https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/un...

This is a good read for those who like to learn a little something while following a family story with a bit of a mystery to it. Nothing spectacular, but entertaining and informative.

We have tension between Emlyn and Travis, the owner, who is estranged from his wife, who lives in the city with his sons. Emlyn is estranged for her husband, for reasons which are only hinted at in the beginning.

“‘She’s coming around.’ The unfamiliar voice was calm. She fisted her fingers into the sand to lift herself, but firm hands gently pushed her shoulders back. ‘It’s all right, Mrs Barber.’ No. There is no Mrs Barber. Not anymore.”

We don’t know what she’s “coming around” from or why there’s no Mrs. Barber anymore. No matter. She’s a strong, independent entomologist, intent on carrying out her research in spite of the rather cold reception she receives when she finally manages to reach the property in her rented Troop Carrier. And just as well she didn’t go for a modern sedan. The track is long, rough, and in wet weather, impassable.

She has shut herself off from people, so Travis, and his rather odd brother, Gavin (always on his computer) find her distant.

“ ‘She talks like she’s up herself a bit.’ Gavin laughed as he started his bike. ‘But she’s pretty.’ Impatience curled in Travis’s gut. ‘I didn’t notice.’”

I tend not to be fond of phrases like that last one about impatience, but perhaps that’s my problem.

The overall story and the danger later to Emlyn in the caves kept me turning pages. The author knows how to pull all her people and her loose ends together, and I suspect fans will be delighted.

I did feel compelled to find out more about the lava tubes – something new to me, and we had an extinct volcano on our property many years ago (no tubes, that I know of, though). I found a few images online that show what astounding feats of nature they are.

From the air, or the top of Mt Surprise, this is how they look.

My Goodreads review includes a photo captioned: Undara lava tubes from the top of Mt Surprise

There are bats. Emlyn knows to stay still so the bats can use their radar to avoid her, but it’s a hard concept for others to grasp.

My Goodreads review includes a photo captioned: Entrance to a lava tube with a few bats exiting at night

There is a story from 1879 when two farm children were lost, probably having fallen in or explored the tubes. Some entrances are small and hidden behind vines or are even holes in the roof of the cavern, so you’d want to tread carefully. The entrance below is a big one, but you can imagine what’s beyond.

My Goodreads review includes a photo captioned: Entrance to an Undara lava tube with some modern-day ‘explorers’

All in all, an enjoyable read. Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for the preview copy.
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Wow, so this was a heck of a read!

Firstly, I didn’t know anything about lava tubes before I read this, so this was also an opportunity to learn about that as well. The book is packed full of information about them but in a way that services the story. Emlyn is an entomologist about to undertake a research project, leaving her ex-husband behind. It’s pretty clear that Emlyn has had a really rough time lately, she’s definitely recovering from some serious injuries and her marriage has broken down, for reasons that are not exactly clear. Her ex husband is worried about her state of mind and about her being alone in such an isolated place before the rest of the team arrive. Although she is alone, the man whose property she’ll be conducting the research on, Travis Carlyle, is not too far away and he’s struggling in similar ways to Emlyn.

For Travis, the family farm has been everything. Times have been hard lately, but Travis is determined to keep going for the sake of his twin teenage sons. They live with their mother now, since she left, along with their two year old daughter and Travis’ life hasn’t been the same since. He resents the intrusion of Emlyn and her research team but he desperately needs the injection of cash they will give him for the inconvenience. It’s that or the gold mining company sniffing around and Travis is determined that the farm won’t be degraded by mining.  Although stand offish around Emlyn at first, the two come to have a sort of understanding, especially when Emlyn thinks she might’ve stumbled on the perfect answer to Travis’ money issues, as well as a way for her to heal herself. The only thing is, there’s someone determined to sabotage everything.

This story has so much in it – Emlyn is clearly grieving, she’s determined to leave her marriage behind as well despite the fact that it seems like she doesn’t really want to. Travis is in the same predicament, his wife having left him a year ago with barely an explanation. I appreciated the way this book took my expectations and turned them upside down. It made me realise how much I’ve become conditioned to expect something when reading now and at first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like having my expectations thwarted but as the book moved on, I realised just how right this path was.

I’ve never been to far north QLD or western QLD so the descriptions of the land were really interesting and provided a great grounding in the setting for me. It’s almost 3000km from where I am to where this book is set – 31hrs without stopping, google maps tells me! It’d probably take 4-5 days to drive that distance and it’d be interesting to see just how many different types of landscape you would go through on that journey. Travis’ life farming in this place isn’t easy, so much relies on the weather and he’s been struggling even more since export methods and laws changed. But he’s so passionate about it, about keeping it within his family for his boys, both of whom are interested in and enjoy working the land but also have different ambitions and thoughts about what they want for their future.

Throughout this book is a sinister sort of side plot which really steps up and takes over about 3/4 of the way through and the way that Annie Seaton built the tension was honestly remarkable. I was actually getting anxiety just reading it and it’s the sort of thing where you just want to keep reading as fast as you can so you can find out how it is all going to play out. It was really expertly done, the usage of the isolation as well as the unusual landscape (the tubes and caves) was really perfect. And the mystery from the past played into the present nicely as well.

I really enjoyed this for the clever story and also for the way it made me think about my expectations and how I think when starting a new book. I liked the challenge that this gave me and how it sort of made me reassess that about my reading habits!

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Thrilling story, great plot and characters that keep you guessing right til the end.  Great for fans of this genre.  Really enjoyable.
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Annie Seaton, what a story my goodness this one is a page turner, so much happening, fabulous characters and the setting is awesome. I loved getting to know Travis and Emlyn and learning about their lives and what bought Emlyn to this part of the world and the history of Hidden Valley which meant so much to Travis. This is a book that I highly recommend.

Emlyn Rees is an entomologist and has been through a terrible tragedy, separated from her husband David she has decided it is time to get on with her life as a single woman and has taken on a position to research the Undara lava tubes, looking for new species of insects. Arriving at what will be their base camp on a private cattle station Hidden Valley the Owner Travis Carlyle is not all happy to have them there.

Travis Carlyle runs the cattle station Hidden Valley that has been in the family for over one hundred years, the history is rich in mystery and hard -working people, but times are hard and his wife Alison has left him and taken his three children, he needs money and with a brother Gavin not pulling his weight letting the university in to research will help in a small way.

Emlyn and Travis don’t start off on the right foot with their first meetings, but as things start to go wrong for both the farm and the research group they form a friendship and plan a future for Hidden Valley that will keep the station going. Bluey the aboriginal stockman who has worked on the land for many years gives warnings of danger and as danger escalates they need to work hard to find the saboteur.

I loved this story, edge of your seat suspense, emotions that had me in tears and the ending is just the best I was cheering and smiling so much, truly Travis and Emlyn and all of the characters in this story came to life on the pages, fabulous story really it is one not to be missed.
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Set in the present time. Emlyn is recovering from an accident. She travels to Hidden Valley to prepare accommodation for her team who will be helping on a scientific investigation of insects in some lava tubes near Undara National Park.
Travis Carlyle owns the property where the scientists are working and proves to be very difficult to negotiate with. Travis would prefer not to have strangers on his property but he needs the fee the scientists are willing to pay as his property is running at a loss.
Mysterious accidents happen and Emlyn will need help.
This was a mystery about the Australian outback, families, relationships and Undara Lava Tubes. I loved the way the lava tubes were described and how the scientists prepared each time they entered the tubes ensuring everyone’s safety.
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Undara by Annie Seaton was something different from this author and a really great read. A dual timeline read based around a phenomenon called the Undara Lava Tubes which are in Queensland and which I had never heard of before this novel. They are fascinating and I have added these to my list of places I want to see.

This novel is full of mystery, friendship, grief, healing, misunderstandings, crime, family drama and the land. The tubes are as much a character as the people. One of the main mysteries which will be solved dates back 100 years and involves the disappearance of 2 children. This is a rather heartbreaking mystery.

Emlyn arrives at Hidden Valley to set up for her team to research and explore the Undara Lava Tubes, she is struggling with grief and guilt and the breakdown of her marriage. Travis who owns the land is a struggling farmer with family dramas of his own and has only allowed the research team on his land because of the money they are willing to pay, he is not happy about them being there.

These two characters go through a lot of emotional changes through working with each other, they form a friendship that will help them both to heal. They will also set in motion events that are totally unexpected and that will lead to danger for Emlyn and big repercussions for everyone.

The exploration of the lava tubes in search of insect life was fascinating, Annie Seaton has done some incredible research into this phenomenon and it shows in the details that she includes in the story.

The land of Hidden Valley is in itself a character, the descriptions of this often barren landscape due to lack of rain were so well written, I could easily see the place as if I were there. Annie delves into the struggles farmers are facing in these uncertain times as well as the greed of mining companies just out to make a dollar.

There is a lot going on in this novel and it all ties together extremely well, leading to a book that was hard to put down.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia HQ Fiction for providing me with a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.
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Emlyn Rees has come to Hidden Valley Cattle Station to study the caves and tubes on the property as part of a university study. She has had a major incident in her life and she’s trying to put herself back together. The research looks promising but little things keep happening that shouldn’t.

I really enjoyed this book but what I loved about it most was the obvious research by the author into the lava tubes. I had no idea that the Undara lava tubes actually existed, so that’s gone onto my list of must visits as I found it fascinating.
There was a bit of tension in the book for me with knowing that someone was actively sabotaging the family farm and I felt for Travis Carlyle as he kept on coming up against obstacles and bad luck. And I also appreciated the different ‘romantic’ angle this book had, which made it refreshingly different in the rural romantic suspense category.
Well worth a read.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a ARC.

Sent from my iPad
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Set in outback Queensland, Undara is a contemporary rural romantic suspense. The story evolves on a struggling cattle property where owner Travis has reluctantly allowed a group of university researchers to investigate the lava tubes that cross parts of his property in search of new insect species.
For me the shining star of this story was the amazing detail that author Annie Seaton has included. I was able to clearly imagine the property with its run down farmhouse, fencing forever in need of work and the earth broken up here and there by stands of vegetation where the roof of a lava tube had partly collapsed.
This story developed beautifully on an emotional level as Travis and researcher Emlyn dealt with the turmoil of their lives and slowly healed. At the same time the suspense grew, one strange incident after another leading to suspicion and fear. This is not a traditional romance by any means. Both Travis and Emlyn are separated from their spouses and each has a deal of work to do to sort out their marriages. That’s one of the things that I really liked about the story. The final thing that really appealed to me was the sense of family that pervaded the story. Were I to go into more detail I’d give away half the plot and ruin the story for others. Suffice it to say that I found this story thoroughly engaging on numerous levels.
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I had the pleasure of reading Annie’s ‘Whitsunday Dawn’ and thoroughly loved it. So it was with great anticipation that I came across her next read, ‘Undara’.  According to Queensland (Australia) Parks:

	‘Undara’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘long way’. The park protects one of the longest lava tube cave systems in the world. About 190,000 years ago, a large volcano erupted violently, spewing molten lava over the surrounding landscape. The lava flowed rapidly down a dry riverbed. The top, outer-layer cooled and formed a crust, while the molten lava below drained outwards, leaving behind a series of hollow tubes.

How fascinating! Annie has certainly done her research on this one! I had never heard of it and aside from the fictional narrative, I was blown away by the non fiction research and detail provided in this read. Undara has certainly made it onto my travel bucket list now! So it really is a moment of genius to set a thriller/mystery around this fantastic natural phenomenon. There was so much to learn not only about the tubes themselves but, as in Annie’s previous book, the present day scientific work going on there is also well worth a mention. 

‘Emlyn looked up at the sky; the stars out here were incredible, and she held her breath as she gazed at the glowing pinpricks of life that formed a solid band of light from east to west. It soothed her and put everything in perspective. As a speck of microcosmic dust, her life was insignificant, her existence miniscule, so there was no point giving in to her emotions.’

The story itself is a good one! It is a slow build up but once it gets going the escalating tension will easily see you through to a satisfying end. The two main characters, Emlyn and Travis, are on their own journeys and I was really glad of the way Annie lay out their relationship. Romance is in no way the focus here and the way the storylines play out is most realistic. I also appreciated the minor step back in time with another mystery from last century which unfolded alongside the present day one. It added a nice touch with a fitting conclusion for closure. 

Undara is certainly a book worth looking into on a number of levels. Annie takes the reader in directions they certainly would not be expecting. I highly recommend this book and for no other reason than Emlyn insists on drinking tea out of a cup as we do here at Great Reads & Tea Leaves! 

‘David had always smiled at her insistence that you should only drink tea out of fine china. She picked up the cup and twirled it around. It had come from a Royal Albert tea set that Gran had left to her, and she carried it everywhere she went. The gold rim was chipped, and the once-bright flowers had faded, but holding it always soothed her.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.
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Book blurb...
Within the treacherous caves of Undara, a betrayal will test the bonds of friendship and family. A page-turning new eco-adventure for readers who love Di Morrissey. 
When entomologist Emlyn Rees arrives at Hidden Valley she wants nothing more than to escape her marriage breakdown by burying herself in the research team's hunt for new species of insects in the depths of the dramatic Undara lava tubes. However, little does she suspect she will be the key to solving a mystery that's more than one hundred years old.
Travis Carlyle is initially resistant to letting some city folks tramp over his cattle station, but soon the researchers' findings and a growing friendship with Emlyn bring opportunities to turn around his struggling farm. With a broken marriage behind him and children to care for, Travis needs to plan for the future and this could be his family's best chance. 
But when things start going wrong for the farm and around the dig site, Emlyn and Travis are at a loss to understand why. Are they cursed with bad luck, or is there a more sinister force at play? Are the tall tales of enigmatic stockman Bluey turning true? As the unseen saboteur grows bolder, Emlyn and Travis are caught in a race against time to save the station ... and their lives.
My thoughts… 
Once again Annie Seaton has dived into another story that highlights an environmental issue, this time going deep (literally) to tell a story involving the fascinating lava tubes found in Undara, Qld.

The usual romance you find escalating throughout Annie's books is missing in Undara, replaced by a very contemporary relationship--two, actually—which I enjoyed more than the full-on fling thing. Expertly plotted and handled, the relationship part will still appease Annie’s fans who love a happy (almost happy, kind of happy, happy-for-now) ending. 

The focus of this story is the female protagonist who has plenty of issues--realistic and well-handled. As a reader I felt for her situation and wanted that all-important resolution.
Largely told in present day, but with an insightful splash of the past, Annie’s story of Undara has added the lava caves to my bucket list.
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There are so many places in the world that I would like to see and now I have added another one. Undara is a real place in Queensland, Australia known for its lava tubes - like caves but caused by volcanic action a very long time ago. Definitely sounds worth a visit!

Undara the book is also worth a visit and it is a good read. There is some romance which the author takes in a different direction than you may expect when you start the book. There are two mysteries, one from the past and one in the present. The current day one is easy to solve but it develops fast and things get very tense in the last part of the book.

I enjoyed the Australian setting and was very happy that we did not experience a single bush fire or flood. There were many other problems but it is nice when an Aussie author can find other ways to stir up the action in their book.

So all was good and it was a very enjoyable read.
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I really enjoyed this story, it takes us on a slow ride at first, then when  it picks up you won't want to put it down. Just over half way my heart was in my throat, the tension was building and something dire may have been about to happen.
The author took us on a fascinating tour of areas of Australia that I've never been to. The landscape was stunning in a harsh way. The characters were on their own paths of pain and I was so happy with they way their journeys ended.
Parts of the book took us back in time, the author slowly unraveled the mystery as past and present came together. Wonderful tale, I highly recommend it.
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In North Queensland there is a network of caves formed from lava flows, these spectacular underground tubes are in a region known as Undara. Close to the tourist haunts entomologist Dr Emlyn Rees is headed to a private cattle station, where, with a team of scientists, she will be conducting research on the insect life in the tubes, and looking for new species. 

Emlyn is recovering from a terrible tragedy, one that has her estranged from her husband David, and this trip looks like just the thing for her to bury herself in her work and to try to put the past behind her. Unfortunately the family who owns the property don't want her there, and make their feelings known, but money is tight on huge cattle stations, and struggling farmers must do what they can to make ends meet.

As the search for bug life is looking promising Emlyn forms a tenuous friendship with station owner Travis Carlyle, who is suffering from his own personal problems having separated from his wife. As the two look into a plan that could make the station more profitable, a series of incidents starts to occur, and start to escalate in nature. Somebody really doesn't want the research team there. But who? And why? And what really did happen to the two children who went missing on the property all those years ago?

I found Undara to be a gripping unputdownable story of suspense and intrigue. The developing relationship between Emlyn and Travis is sympathetically and subtly done. And why it's quite easy to figure out who is trying to stop the team and why, this doesn't detract from the story at all. A first class read.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The long journey from Townsville was almost over for entomologist Emlyn Rees and when she arrived at Hidden Valley she was exhausted. The owner of the cattle property she and her team were about to conduct research on, Travis Carlyle, was a grumpy and unwelcoming man, but Emlyn wasn’t too worried. She needed peace and quiet after the past twelve months or so with all that had happened to her, and before the rest of her team arrived, so to just clean the dongas and rest was her plan. 

The lava tubes and caves of Undara were about to reveal new species of insects and the financial grant for the scientists would help Travis with his farm. His wife had left him two years prior and taken their children with her, so now it was just him and his brother to manage the property, along with the crusty old stockman, Bluey. But there were problems ahead – the property suffered some losses and the researchers had some minor issues – it all looked like sabotage. But why? And who?

When Bluey told Emlyn the history of the gravestones she was saddened. The mystery had never been solved – would answers come to light now? But with someone determined to cause major problems, and stop at nothing to get what they wanted, was Emlyn’s life in danger?

Undara is a fascinating and original novel from the pen of Aussie author Annie Seaton which I thoroughly enjoyed. Intriguing, different – set in far North Queensland among the Undara lava tubes in the Australian outback, the author has done her research well. I had never heard of this phenomenon but it’s apparently a tourist attraction (https://www.undara.com.au/) which would be wonderful to see. Setting the mystery around this area is a masterstroke and I have no hesitation in recommending this novel highly.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
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