Zoe Porter is a typical Brisbane girl with typical 20-something problems in Barbara Hannay’s new book Zoe’s Muster. Her high-tea catering business is going well but the early excitement of creating the perfect cupcake has rather worn off. She loves her family but feels out of sync with their picture perfect and successful lives. Her father, Rex Porter, is a career politician and absentee parent who nevertheless manages to exude his influence on the family. While her mother and sister are able to meet Rex’s ideals of standards being successful, supportive and beautiful, Zoe resents Rex’s uneven influence and the pressure to live up to his idea of how her life should be.
Then one day she suddenly discovers that Rex isn’t her biological father. A passionate affair as a young women on a North Queensland cattle station left her mother pregnant but unaware of her condition as she rushed into marriage with Rex. Now, almost 30 years later, their shocking discovery has the power to unravel their entire lives. Desperate to meet the family she might have had, Zoe takes a job as a station cook for the cattle muster on the same property her mother visited as a music student and without thought or plan rushes off to meet her father. Her mother, desperate to avoid any scandal and fearing for the repercussions of her youthful mistake, makes Zoe promise to not mention her real identity to anyone.
Arriving at Mullinjim Station, Zoe picks up life as a station cook as quickly as she took to shortbread and salmon sandwiches and everything seems to be going well on her adventure into an alternate life. However, it doesn’t take long for Zoe to realise that she hasn’t thought through her time with her new family and it becomes increasingly more and more difficult for her to conceal her terrible secret as she realises the devastation she may cause to a small and loving community. None of this is helped by her half-brother (not that he knows that) taking a romantic shine to her. The Mr Darcy-like dark and brooding neighbour Mac McKinnon sees right through her from day one and is nothing but an unwelcome – then a welcome – complication.
Meanwhile back in Brisbane, Zoe’s mother is wrestling with the revelation of Zoe’s parentage, as the drama of an upcoming election brings home to her everything she sacrificed to be a politician’s wife and an almost single-mother. She begins to re-evaluate her marriage and how different her life might have been if she’d stayed on the station with the great love of her young life. We all know you can’t go back and change the past, but if you had the chance to do it all over again, would you make the same choices?
Zoe’s Muster is a light-hearted romp through the passionate holiday romances of youth and the life-changing decisions we make when we say yes or no. Barbara Hannay’s characters are simple but delightful people and the mess of their lives as they question identity and choice can be understood by anyone living through a watershed year or who, after 30 years of marriage, questions what else you might have done in those years. This makes the story engaging and easy to enjoy.
Written for maximum enjoyment from her loyal fans, Zoe’s Muster is a fun read with just the right amount of drama and passion thrown in.
Available now: Penguin RRP$19.99