Book extract: Family secrets revealed in new Callen novel

Day 31: The final extract in our month of sneak-peeks is from a book that will available from Febuary 3. Snowy Mountains Daughter is a compelling story of homecoming and family secrets from bestselling Australian author Alissa Callen. Her books are characteristically heartwarming, authentic and character driven. Every day this month we’ve published an extract from a book by an Australian author with the hope of inspiring you to read more books by Aussies writers.

Extract from Snowy Mountains Daughter by Alissa Callen:

CHAPTER 1

Clancy Parker didn’t need to leave the rugged embrace of the high country to know who she was and where she belonged.

She smoothed a hand over the warm neck of the palomino gelding who’d needed an afternoon ride as much as she had. A crisp breeze washed over her, carrying the chill from the white caps that glistened on the jagged peaks. Earlier an eagle had soared in the air-brushed canopy overhead, but now voluminous grey clouds rolled eastwards. Only last week the sky had glowed orange and a red film coated the snow as a wall of dust had blown in from out west.

She breathed in the scent of the approaching storm and made a wish that spring rain would fall in the drought-affected areas beyond the mountain range. After a last long look at the play of shadows across the Brindabellas, she turned Ash for home.

As volatile and capricious as Mother Nature could be, she felt far safer exposed to the elements than she ever had in the shelter of a city. Her cattleman father’s golden rule had been to respect the bush and the ever-changing weather. Her own was to always exercise caution. She’d leave the risk-taking to her brother, Rowan.

Ash’s pace quickened and when his pale creamy ears pricked forward, she smiled. The gelding was already thinking about dinner. She glanced to her left. For a moment all she could see were her brother’s Hereford cattle grazing on the green carpeted foothills. There weren’t yet any calves but going off the barrel shape and full udder of the closest cow, there soon would be.

A black-and-tan kelpie dashed out from a stand of graceful white gums. The kelpie more often than not ignored any attempt to call him by name. She didn’t blame him. Being called after the local town of Bundilla wasn’t exactly original, even if his name had been shortened.

‘Ready to go, Bundy?’ Her words thinned as the wind caused leaves to shimmer and grass to ripple.

Tongue lolling, the kelpie wagged his tail and raced ahead. His glossy coat shone as dark as obsidian in the waning sunlight. If he stayed still long enough she’d take a photo. The free-spirited kelpie, who refused to be tied down to any one master, had his own social media page. Tourists drifted through town hoping for a sighting of the dog who had a following the envy of any influencer.

No one knew where Bundy would appear next or who would come out from a shop in the main street to find him waiting on the back of their ute. At least half of the district had had him visit over the past five years. In summer he’d sit in tractor cabs when the swathes of lucerne would be baled into hay, while in winter he’d be a regular inside the pub asleep near the open fire. He’d only ever stayed with her once, when he’d arrived with the local mail contractor.

Clancy urged Ash into a canter. It wasn’t so much the drops of rain on her cheeks that she needed to escape but the ache of loss. Bundy’s steady presence had helped her through the fog of grief when three years ago her parents’ cruise on a stormy and flooded Budapest river ended in tragedy. The kelpie had slept on the rug beside her bed for a month before he’d jumped into her brother’s ute and headed into town.

An icy wind lashed at her but she didn’t tug the collar of her oilskin coat higher. She welcomed the cold slap of reality against her skin. Bundy hadn’t been the only one to bring her comfort. While the town had rallied around her, it had been a pair of strong masculine arms that had anchored her and brought solace, even if they’d also magnified her pain. Her parents’ funeral had been the only thing to bring Heath MacBride home in the past ten years. Except no sooner had he held her than he’d left again.

Even now the memory of being fitted against him retained its bittersweet power. Heath had been the only man she’d ever wanted. Her chin tilted. Not that she indulged such feelings in the light of day. She was grateful for all that she had and all that her life was and would be. She didn’t need a partner to feel complete or fulfilled, no matter how much the well-meaning members of the quilting group played matchmaker. She had her brother, her friends and her flower farm. She looked back at the now cloud-shrouded peaks. She also had her precious high country.

Snowy Mountains Daughter published by Harper Collins (RRP$ 29.99) will be available from Febuary 3.


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