Book Review: The Artist's Secret by Sonya Heaney

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When I saw Sonya Heaney's name on the cover of this book, I knew right away this was going to be a great read! After her debut novel, The Landowner's Secret, I was suddenly enthralled with historical Australia. It's a setting that's not often highlighted in historical romance novels, and honestly, folks, there is seriously untapped potential there. It has the feel of the American wild west but while I know a lot about that as an American, I know next to nothing about Australia's history. Sonya Heaney slowly educates her readers, so that by the time you are finished reading, you have learned something vital. Each book shows that to the readers, so once you've read one, you'll be itching to read the next.

Peter Rowe has taken on the new land manager's position on a wine-making estate in Barracks Flat, a land farther south in the colony than he has ever been before. Used to the hustle of Sydney, he is both bewildered and charmed by the small town he finds himself in, and it doesn't hurt that his employer's sister has caught his eye. However, he has a dual-purpose in being there, and a dalliance isn't in his plans. Elizabeth Farrer, an artist of growing acclaim, has felt lost in her creativity as she feels more and more trapped in her brother's home, now that he has married and the household doesn't need her. Her new sister-in-law loves her, and they all get along splendidly, but lately Elizabeth has been considering a big change - a move to England, where she was born and her parents now live. Her decision becomes more complex as she realizes she is falling for Peter, and while they both resist the pull towards each other, each day that passes brings them closer together.

Peter and Elizabeth were a cute couple from the beginning, with her anxious to make a good impression and him putting her at ease as she bumbles her way through an introduction. It was interesting to learn more about Peter's heritage - you'll guess it early on, as it's not a big secret, but it's not something he talks much about either. I would be interested in knowing if Elizabeth's outlook on it was particularly progressive in Australia, since I know how it would have been perceived anywhere else during that time. They were both such good people, though not without their flaws, and they complemented each other so well. Peter was kind, generous and clearly in love with Elizabeth, but he was also fighting to keep her reputation safe. Elizabeth was cautious at first, given her history with romance, but she soon knew that Peter was the love she had been searching for. It was a beautifully written relationship, and there was only one instance in the book where I felt there was a bit of conflict that seemed out of character for the both of them. It was resolved fairly quickly, and I think it would have been even better to have delved into it further. However, it was sufficiently there to peak my interest and learn more outside of the book.

Once again, I leave one of Sonya Heaney's books eager for the next one to be published! I hope we don't have to wait too long.

**I received a free copy via NetGalley and this is my honest review.**