The Landowner's Secret

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Set in New South Wales, Australia in 1885, The Landowner’s Secret provides a slow-moving but captivating tale of a marriage of convenience between classes.

Alice Ryan is awakened in the night by intruders lurking outside her modest cabin. Her parents are dead and her brother, currently absent, has a history of involvement with criminals. Alice is terrified and, realizing she is going to have to save herself, runs into the wilderness. The next morning, local landowner Robert Farrer discovers her, feverish and unconscious, as he is surveying the countryside for signs of the felons. He brings her back to his home and his staff nurse Alice back to health. Robert is a lone bachelor in the house (his sister Elizabeth is away in Sydney) and he is pressured by other landowners to quickly return Alice to her home.

Alice, however, is not fully healed and Robert cannot in good conscience return her to her small cabin in light of the recent criminal activities in the area. Robert’s delay comes at the cost of the respect of one of his key investors and he soon finds himself pressured to wed Alice. Robert needs this investor so he can’t just dismiss the idea, and he slowly starts exploring it. He spends more time with her as she recovers, taking her on drives and walks through the countryside. Robert proposes and Alice considers:

She thought about those meals, and the way a physician came when he was needed...It was such a luxury. She thought about how pretty her new frocks were, those that Elizabeth had talked her into trying. He thought about that funny way her stomach now turned when she was near this man. And she thought about how when she was younger she couldn’t help but steal glimpses of him from afar as he rode along the town road with a strength and grace that snagged her attention and wouldn’t let go. And then she thought about her little house that was running low on firewood. And - God help her - she did say yes.

A marriage of convenience ensues. Alice dreams of more, but she is extremely pragmatic and decides early on that she will not hope for Robert’s love, only his respect and the respect of their neighbors. Alice is a delightful combination of common sense, intelligence, optimism, and naïveté. She understands her small place in the world but is woefully uninformed about the greater one. Robert is drawn to the paradox she presents. He is an honorable, kind man and sees beyond Alice’s meager beginnings to the real woman beneath her circumstances.

The Landowner’s Secret offers the reader the picture of a gentle and slow unfolding of a marriage. In spite of the drama with bushrangers that continues throughout the book, it is a quiet novel with the relationship between Robert and Alice being the main draw. The setting of the novel, in New South Wales, was original for me and I enjoyed Ms. Heaney’s rich descriptions of the enchanting yet harsh countryside where snakes and spiders lurk around every corner. The writing is well done and I especially appreciated the beautiful depiction of a wedding night between a gentle, experienced man and a curious, no-nonsense virgin.

At two hundred pages, The Landowner’s Secret is a short read. The advanced copy I received didn’t have page numbers and my kindle didn’t show how much was left, so I was surprised when the story ended. Not dissatisfied, just surprised and disappointed that we weren’t going to see more of how Robert and Alice’s marriage unfolds. For me, the progression from acquaintances to friends to spouses and hopefully to lovers is always an interesting tale. This story is like a snapshot in time of that progression - just covering a few months of their lives together.

If you are in the mood for a well-written story focused on the development of romance after the ‘I Do’s’, then this is a book you should pick up. This is Ms. Heaney’s first novel and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more from her.

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‘The Landowner’s Secret’, presents the reality of the Australian outback, with its vividly described landscape. The harsh nature of the outback is well detailed, yet its beauty is also clearly evident. Having grown up in an Australian country town, I could appreciate Alice’s fear of spiders throughout the book. The story begins with Alice fleeing her home, when she hears men outside in pursuit of her missing brother. When Robert Farrer, the nearby landowner finds her, she is injured by what is later thought to be a spider’s bite. Robert insists on her staying on his property, worried about the threat of bush rangers in the area. Given the scandal of remaining in his home, he proposes marriage to Alice and it is the relationship that develops between two people of different social standings, that made for an interesting read.

Sonya Heaney has delivered two quite fascinating characters. Alice is a strong woman who despite her pragmatic nature about her marriage, soon finds herself wanting more from Robert, whilst rising to her new responsibilities as the landowner’s wife. Robert, despite his reasons for marrying Alice, also begins to appreciate her strength and outlook on life. However, he struggles to reveal his feelings, which is understandable given the period. The development of the relationship, given the nature of how it came to be, was delivered in a manner to give it credibility.

This is a great debut novel and I look forward to reading more from this author. I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
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A thoroughly enjoyable trip to the Australian countryside! The late-1800s time period and the rural Australian setting made this a great escape from "ballroom" historicals. Throw in a slow and sweet romance and a dash of mystery and this was a lovely little read that I'm glad I took a chance on - proving that advertising can work, I saw this in a sidebar ad on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and liked the cover, so I requested it on NetGalley.

Alice Ryan, our heroine, is trying to make ends meet on her homestead when she's woken by a gang of men and flees into the night. Robert Farrer discovers her the next morning and brings her back to his house to recuperate, scandalizing the town and setting off a whole chain of events that includes arson, stagecoach robbery, marriage, cats, gardening, and wine-making. Alice is under twenty in this book - I don't remember an exact age being given, but I imagined her as 18 or 19 and she certainly doesn't read like a modern New Adult heroine, having had to take care of herself from a young age. Robert is older, I think in his mid to late twenties, having been to university in England and come back to Australia to start a business.

I liked Alice's practical approach to the world and her determination, even when she was determined to do things that probably weren't in her best interest (running away on a swollen ankle, for example!). I feel like I didn't get to know Robert as well, but he seems like a solid man who's trying to provide for and protect those in his household, and probably needs someone like Alice around to help him loosen up from time to time. Their romance doesn't follow the conventional path, but I appreciated that they were (mostly) honest with each other about how they expected their relationship to go, and that even though they weren't expecting it, they were able to find love together. While there are intimate scenes between Alice and Robert, they're not explicitly detailed in the normal way, but I did like how they were mainly from Alice's POV and how the focus was on her sensations and feelings at exploring this whole new act.

The mystery/suspense element is the other driving force behind the plot and I thought it was relevant to the characters and the setting. It's fairly non-violent and the mystery isn't much of a mystery, since the characters know that it's likely bushrangers causing all the trouble and we're just waiting to see exactly who's involved and what the big finale will be. There is indeed a big finale and Alice gets to do her own rescuing, but that's all I'm going to say about that.

Australia and its wildlife are also a large part of the setting, and I thank Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries for helping me paint a mental picture, haha! But really, the casual mentions of birds like parrots, cockatoos, and currawongs (along with spiders and snakes) and the sheer difference in place names helps anchor the story in a specific setting that is so different from my own experiences living in the Midwest and Northeastern US.

Congratulations to Sonya Heaney on a great debut novel; I look forward to reading more!
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When Alice Ryan wakes to find thugs surrounding her cottage, on the hunt for her no-good brother, she escapes into the surrounding bush.
It is wealthy landowner Robert Farrer who finds her the next morning, disheveled, injured, and utterly unwilling to share what she knows. With criminals on the loose and rumors that reckless bush rangers have returned to the area, Robert is determined to keep Alice out of danger.
What Robert doesn’t expect is his growing attraction to the forthright, unruly woman staying in his home. Before either of them can settle into their odd new situation, their home and wellbeing come under threat.
Can these two trust each other enough to survive?
This is a well written debut novel with a great deal of mistrust and passion.
I was rather surprised by the quality of this novel from this new on the scene author. Now I am looking forward to more.
I gave this debut effort a lofty 4.3 of 5.0 stars for story line and characterization.
This is an unusually good book for a first time author.
I received a complimentary copy to read via NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of this book which i read and reviewed voluntarily.
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This was so good. I read it in one sitting. It has the romance, action and mystery. I loved it and will read more by this author.
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I don't know what it is about Australia-based romance, but every time I read one, I feel like we need more Australia in our lives.  The history of Australia is one that I don't think is taught enough in American schools, and I find it so rich and fascinating.  This being a historical romance taking place in the late 19th century, you get an idea of what life was like back then, the different social classes among the people in the Australian bush, and how much of English society was brought over into the local society.  Sonya Heaney did a superb job bringing 19th century Australia to life.

When Alice Ryan hears a man's voice outside her home and realizes that it's not her brother, she knows she's in danger.  Living alone in New South Wales is not wise for a young woman, and with her brother off doing God knows what, she has only herself to rely on.  In her haste to escape the men surrounding her home, she ends up on Farrer land, owned by a wealthy young man named Robert Farrer.  Recognizing Alice as his neighbor, Robert takes her in and ensures she is safe in his home.  However, neither expects the drama that ensues from such a scandalous arrangement, and soon they are forced to take drastic measures to ensure their futures are secure.  Danger and secrets abound in this story of two people from entirely different worlds who find strength in each other and in themselves.

Alice was a riot!  I loved her strength, her sense of humor, and her willingness to accept people for all their flaws.  She was a lovely, admirable character, even though her youth definitely shone through on occasion, in how she handled certain situations.  Her determination to persevere in spite of the challenges she faced endeared her not only to the reader but also to the hero, Robert.  Robert's character was shy, generous, and forgiving, wanting to think the best of others and willing to lend a hand and ear to anyone who needed them.  It was only natural for him to assume the role of protector for Alice, even if she didn't think she needed him at times.  Their loves was a slow, gentle thing, but I loved how it blossomed into a strong relationship.  It was amusing to see them interact as their lives progressed from mere acquaintances to much, much more.  

Definitely an author to keep my eye on!  I loved her writing style, her unique characters, and her wonderfully educational setting for her story.
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From the first paragraph, the author captured me and left me wanting to continue reading, to find out what happens to this like-able, fierce female protagonist.  I look forward to reading more of Heaney's works.
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I've been following Sonya Heaney's blog for a couple of years and when she said her first book was going to be published I was looking forward to reading it.  But Wow! I did not expect a first book to be this good!

 The story is kicked off with a life and death run through the Australian Bush and then it is a stubborn Alice vs a rather level headed Robert. Back in 1885 Australia there were the usual Victorian ideas of propriety and Alice under the roof of a bachelor was a big no-no.  Robert's business partner decided to bring pressure to Robert to marry Alice or send her home.  Sending her home is not an option.  This is a marriage of convenience story with a slow building romance. There is enough action that I stayed up to the wee hours to finish and then didn't want the book to end.  The characters are so well drawn and personalities are so well written that they come to life on the page.

I highly recommend this book!
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I was able to read an early copy of this book.

This was my first read from Sonya Heaney. It is set in 1880s Australia and is the story of Alice and Robert. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the story. However, I did not get a lot from the building of the relationship. I saw the affection, but there wasn't a lot of display of love. There also wasn't a lot to the secrets aspect of the story. Alice was pretty forthright and Robert had something from his past that he did not talk directly about, but there wasn't a lot of drama or anything around it.
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I loved Heaney's unlikely heroine/hero pairing in The Landowner's Secret. Set in rugged South Wales, the novel follows Alice Ryan, a spitfire orphan with a rogue brother. When her brother's band attacks her house late at night, Alice runs-- and ends up straight in the care of local landowner Robert Farrer. Farrer plays into many of the uppercrust, educated expectations of a landowner, but sets himself apart with his sense of humor, his love of wineries, and his past.

This book is so well plotted! Between the drama between Alice and Robert and trying to figure out the plans of the villains that threaten the whole community, I was totally engaged. Good love story, good insight into a place and time I hadn't thought much about, and good prose! What more can you ask?
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It's my first time reading a historical fiction based in Australia. A change in scenery from the usual is always nice, and I'm glad for all the descriptions of the country. The characters are pretty likeable too; hardly anything to find fault in, other than the fact that there's nothing special about it.

It is in the middle of the night when Alice Ryan is awoken from her slumber. Men have arrived at her home to find her brother, who has gone missing. To save herself, she decides to run into the bushes. That's where she will reside until the next morning, when Robert Farrer finds her injured and dishevelled. He is determined to protect her from the dangers the criminals pose even with the scandal it might cause, and takes her to his house, large and sturdy compared to Alice's run-down farmhouse. Eventually, after much convincing, Alice has agreed to stay. But danger of the bush rangers continues to linger even as their feelings for each other grows.

Alice is the best thing that can ever happen to this book. Having the chance to get into her head, knowing her thought processes, as well as the way she holds her conversation, I know she's the reason why I smiled so much when reading The Landowner's Secret. The experience is rather humorous, and that makes her all the more charming when coupled with her strength. She is so hard-working that I couldn't help rooting for her all the way. Her innocence as a young woman is, most of the time bearable (I expected worse), but there is a point in time during Alice and Robert's marriage night that caught me unawares. Yes, I understand if a woman didn't know anything about something so intimate in the past until someone had to tell them outrightly (vaguely) on the day of the marriage itself or whenever, but... I find it a bit far-fetched when she actually wondered what the act was for. But other than that, Alice Ryan is a realistic character who fumbles at being suddenly shoved into the world of the rich. Although it seems easily done for her, as we don't see her being so ruthlessly outcasted by higher society, we can see her trying her hardest, and it's her strength that allows her to succeed as Mrs Farrer.

Robert, on the other hand, is an okay man. You and I both know that when it comes to a relationship, being honest is always better than hiding something through omission. And that is Robert's worst mistake. I also find it a little... bothersome that he always finds Alice's innocence amusing ⁠— but who am I to say that when I find Alice's own musings interesting to read? All that said, Robert Farrer is a nice, rich man, a character that is almost perfect, rendering him boring compared to Alice.

Albeit the author's writing style is extremely easy and comfortable to read, the plot in here is lacking. My reading experience of this book is pretty much average, and I can tell it won't leave a lasting impression. The romance is sweet, but again, everything about the couple's relationship is too smooth. The conflict is fairly nonexistent, resolved in an instant. With the blurb and the title going on about these secrets that Alice and Robert keep, I expected something more impactful, but they are mundane, and I don't see how keeping them could ruin their lives (just quoting the blurb there). Plus, the secret Robert keeps isn't properly concluded, in my opinion. The mystery of the bush rangers is not at all impressive too, even if I appreciate Heaney's effort in including it.
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Alice Ryan has been living on her own. Her parents are both deceased and her unreliable brother has left her to fend for herself once again. Late one night, she awakes to the sound of men surrounding her cottage, knowing the danger she is in, she makes a run for it into the nearby bush. Eventually she is able to lose them, but she spends the night huddled in hiding.

The following morning, Robert Farrer, with the help of his dog, stumble across her. She is largely unresponsive and clearly ailing from some form of injury. He carries her back to his estate to protect her from any lingering danger in the area and so that she may be seen by a physcian.

With Alice recovering and the continuing risk in the area, she stays on in his home. But Alice is harboring secrets and the state of a couple of unmarried and unrelated young people residing in the same home is causing a bit of trouble for Robert and his business ventures.

Spending so much time in one another's company has spurred on an unexpected attraction betweent the two. With more danger threatening in the area they will be forced to confide and place even more trust in one another if they are to ensure the safety of their home and of those around them.

*****

I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but the beautiful cover cuaght my eye on NetGalley and the synopsis really intruiged me, so I interested in giving it a read. This is the first historical fiction set in Australia that I have ever read, so I was very curious.

Alice is very independent, if a bit stubborn, and enjoyed that about her character. She was determined to do everything she could to try to protect the people around her and wasn't willing to simply sit around waiting for someone else to act. She took the responsibilty into her own hands and held her own quite well.

I liked Robert's character as well, but I do wish that he had been more upfront with her about his past. Alice was very upfront about being from a different background from him and that she wasn't sure if she could be the type of wife and mistress expected of such a wealthy man and estate. I wish he had been better about leveling with her. Only after being confronted and having to face such drama and risk is he able to clear things up for her. 

This story was a slow burn and all the better and more believable for it. The author built their relationship very well.

This was a enjoyable read and I would recomend it to fans of historical fiction with a bit of romance and a touch of mystery (basically my favorite type of book). I would also recommend this book if, like me, you have not come across many Australian historical ficitons and are looking for something a bit different to read. 

Many thanks to Escape Publishing for sharing an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, this is my honest review.
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Can two very different persons, from both side of the fence find a way to another’s heart?

I confess I didn’t know what to expect from this book, it was my first time reading a romance set in Australia, if I forgot some books by Colleen McCullough 2/3 decades back and it was no historical.
I just loved it, I was unable to put it down until I turned the last page.
Mrs Sonya Heaney brought her characters to life with her vivid and colorful descriptions of the flora and fauna in these newly inhabited lands. The wildlife is much part of the story as are the personages in this lovely tale which took me on a journey in the wild of the New South Wales, with two persons from different standings trying to figure out a common ground when circumstances push them on the same road.

Alice is no lady nor damsel-in-distress, she is made of bones of steel, she uses her brain and acts. Sure her stubbornness might cause her more wrong than good but she is also able to accept when she is a path. She has no big dreams but some hope for her future if she can leave her actual place but everything is derailed when her home is ambushed.
After being rescued, she still seek for a better tomorrow. So Robert comes as a surprise, with not an once of romanticism but she is pragmatic and after warning him so no well-bred girl, she accepts his proposal.
I smiled at her outlook of her wedding night, it was very refreshing, no steam nor hot sex, just the wonders and interrogations of a young woman learning the meaning of the marriage bed.
Robert is a nice sort man, he respects people and refuses to let Alice go back home when he fears for her security. But his work is his first concern, after his sister’s wellbeing. Even if he cares for Alice, when tricked he used her for his gain. And when she comes clean with all her “secrets” on their mariage day, he still hold back some details of his past life that might hurt her if she get to know it.
I adored Alice forthrightness, at time she does not always knows how to ask or tell but she always finds a way. When she is open, Robert is closed with his feelings and he struggles to express them.
It is these kinds of flaws that bring blood and flesh to paper characters, their inner conflicts, their inability to speak plainly or too bluntly and that not everyone get its right reward.
It is not a sizzling romance, it is more on the long run side as it is daily life and tiny details here and there that brought them to see another on a different light, and slowly they will come to love another.
5 stars for this lively tale.

I was granted through Netgalley by the publisher Escape Publishing an advance copy, and I purchased my own too. Here is my true and unbiased opinion.

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The Landowner's Secret is set in Australia in the 1880's,  Alice Ryan is a young woman who is on her own and runs  into trouble with friends of her absent brother.  Her wealthy neighbor, Robert Farrer comes to her aid and takes her in.  Despite their differences in social status they wed.  Alice must learn her new place in society as Robert tries to unravel the mysterious men who chased Alice from her home and threaten the safety of the town.  

As they try and build their relationship, they slowly learn more about each other and learn to care for one another.   
This was just average for me, overall it was a simple story that came together too easily.  It lacked deep character development and could have benefited from some additional conflict between Alice and Robert.
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"The Landowner's Secret" is the story of a couple finding love in 1880s colonial Australia, despite being from quite different social classes. Robert Farrer, wealthy landowner, rescues Alice Ryan, a poor woman living nearby, and takes her to his home for her own safety.

The description of the flora and fauna of Australia is lovely and evocative, giving one a real feel for the location. Where I live there are flocks of geese or crows; here there are flocks of cockatoos. Alice, although ignorant of many things, really knows her flowers. This is all very enchanting, if one can ignore the spiders and snakes, that is. Ugh. At least bushrangers are a thing of the past!

While I came to like Alice more and more, sadly I liked Robert less and less for awhile. Secrets and a past are one thing. However, denying knowledge of one particular thing (no spoilers here) not only doesn't make sense, it smacks of dishonesty. He really is a good man, though.

Still though, this is a well-written shorter novel with a minimum of grammatical errors.  There is a non-graphic sex scene in the book; otherwise it was clean. Actually, Alice's thoughts, some verbalized, are pretty humorous. I look forward to more from this author.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this novel.
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This is my first time reading a historical romance set in Australia and it was amazing. I felt utterly transported there. I had a hard time putting this one down. This was a slow burn with a bit of suspense mixed in. 
Alice awakes as thugs surround her cottage looking for her brother. She escapes into the surrounding bush and the next morning Robert finds her injured and unable to communicate what she knows. With outlaws somewhere out there roaming the bush Robert is intent to keep her out of danger, even if it causes scandal.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

#TheLandowner'sSecret #NetGalley
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