Aussie Book Review: Queen of the Road by Tricia Stringer

Queen Of The Road Queen of the Road by Tricia Stringer

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Harlequin Mira, December 2012

 Synopsis- Juggling two jobs, raising her four-year-old daughter alone and drowning in debt, Angela Ranger is struggling to survive. So when Angela’s father offers her a job driving trucks in the tiny rural town of Munirilla, she accepts. After all, it’s only temporary…

Despite taking to the road with ease, Angela finds moving to Munirilla may not be the godsend it seemed. Her accommodation is dingy, her fellow truckies are less than happy to see a woman on the road, and the locals are reluctant to use her services.

There is one local who’s glad to see her, though — fill-in farm manager and loner, Coop, resists his natural tendency to avoid personal connections when he meets the efficient and gorgeous, Angela. But Coop has problems of his own — sheep are going missing, his neighbours are acting strangely and the demons of his past are urging him to move on again.

In Munirilla, both Angela and Coop will face the ultimate test of character. Will they follow reason and leave? Or follow their hearts and build a home in the small town…together.

 Review- Queen of the Road is Australian author Tricia Stringer’s first novel with Harlequin Australia. Angela Ranger is struggling to make ends meet in Melbourne; swimming in debt and working two jobs while trying to maintain stability for her young daughter Claudia. As a last resort she accepts a temporary job driving the Big Red- for her father’s trucking business- between Adelaide and the small rural town, Munirilla.

Angela has a big job on her hands, not only does she have to prove to the town that she can do the work just as well as any man, but both her and her daughter have to adjust to life on the road. Angela is determined to keep her father’s business in Munirilla afloat but the odds are stacking up against her when she discovers stock is going missing, jobs are getting mixed up and her work is being poached by another trucking business in town. Angela also strives to bring stability to Claudia’s life and feels her parenting capacity is being judged by her step-mother Janice and Claudia’s biological father. Angela works hard and begins to put down roots in this small town quite easily, leading her to question whether there was anything left in Melbourne to return to.

Angela finds friendship with the quiet, yet dependable Coop- a local farmer and occasional trucker- who is looking after his employer’s farm while she is recovering from illness in Hospital. Coop’s not very open about his past, there’s plenty he’s ashamed of and tends to live life on the move, not settling down anywhere for too long. But two years on the same property and the entrance of the enticing duo Angela and Claudia and Coop begins to wonder whether he’s finally found a place to call home. Could it be Munirilla?

Queen of the Road is a rural fiction story with romantic elements. I was intrigued by the premise and really loved the author’s exploration of life on the road in the trucking business for a woman, let alone a single mother. Angela is a hard worker and I enjoyed seeing her challenge the views of women truckers in Munirilla.

To be honest, it took some time before I warmed to Angela. At the outset, she seemed much younger than her years and her unreliability and impulsiveness didn’t quite fit with the perception of a struggling single mother. I felt she was selfish in her decision-making at times and quite dismissive of Claudia’s inquisitiveness which was appropriate to her age. Angela seemed to externalise the blame for her problems in life and it wasn’t really until the second half of the book that she really started to take some responsibility for changing her lifestyle. She certainly grew as a character and I was glad she began to see the situation from Claudia’s perspective and how her choices may have affected her.

Coop is a likeable guy, he’s quiet and doesn’t reveal much of himself but he is clearly dependable and smitten by not only Angela but Claudia too. They brought energy into his life, and something to look forward to- something he hadn’t experienced before.

The romance between Angela and Coop is slow-building and realistic and I liked how the author explored their conflicts0 both internal and external- throughout the course of the story even though there was so much other stuff happening in their working lives. The suspense is amplified in the final quarter of the book and the pressure was on for both Angela and Coop to re-assess their priorities and to confront their feelings for one another.

Queen of the Road is a fairly lengthy book (420+ pages) for this genre, but I think it worked well for not only the plot development but also the growth of the characters and the relationship that develops between Angela and Coop. I especially love the unique premise of life on the road for a female truck driver. When I went on a road trip twelve months ago with my partner and our dog from Sydney to Perth via the Nullarbor, I was certainly intimidated by those big road trains and a little nervous at those sometimes seedy truck stops. So I really admire Angela’s strength and the ease in which she did this job. I’ll definitely be seeking out future books by Tricia Stringer and recommend this one to fans of contemporary and rural fiction.

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

Queen of the Road can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2012 challenge:

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