Monday, May 30, 2016

Interview and Book Recommendation ~ The Peppercorn Project by Nicki Edwards

Narelle here. I'm thrilled to welcome my friend Nicki Edwards to our blog. Nicki is a multi-published Aussie contemporary romance author who writes rural medical romances set in Australia.

Narelle: What was your inspiration for The Peppercorn Project? 

Nicki: The idea for the story came about in early 2014 after I read something on the internet about offering families $1 per week rent to dilapidated farmhouses to help rescue dying country towns across Australia. I decided to turn that idea on its head by asking myself what it would be like if, instead of families coming to rescue the dying town, the town rescued the families?

In The Peppercorn Project, families doing it tough are offered $1 per week ‘peppercorn leases’. The idea is that the people who make up the vibrant community of Stony Creek will band together and offer love and support to help newcomers get back on their feet.

The inspiration for the character of Issie came after my friend Kate tragically lost her husband Rob in a hang-gliding accident three years ago. Kate’s journey through her early days of grief was courageous and transparent and I wanted to honour her for her faith and strength in the midst of those dark days. She is an inspirational woman.

Narelle: Please tell us about the Australian rural romance genre.

Nicki: Can you picture the blue skies, the beaches, the red dust, the lush pastures and the snowy ranges in Australia’s big, beautiful country? That’s what makes Australian rural romance unique. Our country is as large and vast and different as the books that make up a genre that shows no sign of slowing down.

Some books are set in the red dirt outback, others in sleepy towns on the coast and others in larger regional inland centers, but the appeal of the books is that of authenticity – many are penned by women who live on the land or come from the land.

Books in this genre cover everything from suspense to mystery to medical (which I write) to family sagas. What makes them similar is they will take the reader on an adventure of passion and life on the land and the dramas that come with living in small country towns.

If anyone is interested in finding out more about the genre, I highly recommend you check out where 35 of Australia’s best known authors gather together and work together to promote this fantastic genre.

For American readers, if you enjoy ‘Western’ romance, I guarantee you’ll love Aussie Rural Romance. Why not give it a try?

Narelle: How has your faith influenced your writing?

Nicki: As a committed Christian, my faith is an important factor in my writing. Above all else I want to honor God with the gift I believe He has given me.

I write general market romance, not Christian or inspirational romance, but because of my faith and beliefs I choose to write “behind closed door” sex scenes and there is no swearing in my books. Some people call this ‘clean’ or ‘sweet’ romance. It is both of those things, but I like to term it ‘heartwarming’. I believe my books appeal equally to both Christians and non-Christians.

I received a lovely letter from a reader who has recently experienced the tragic loss of her husband. She told me she only ever reads self-help books that will help her spiritual life/ministry. She bought my books because she was a nurse and wanted to support a fellow nurse! She said she planned to read them one day, but that day came sooner than expected when her husband became unwell just before he passed away. One day she was feeling tired and emotional and took the time to sit and relax. She said that although my book hasn’t been written for a Christian audience, she found ‘jewels’ in the words and found the book was uplifting. She wrote and asked if my books were bathed in prayer. My answer? Absolutely.

A lot of people have asked if I’ll ever write inspirational romance. My answer is I’ll never say never to anything because I know as soon as I do, God will open that door and point me in that direction!

Book Description:

One heartbroken woman. One bitter cop. One community to save them.

After the tragic death of her husband, single mum Isabelle Cassidy is bereft and broke. When she hears about The Peppercorn Project – a scheme that offers affordable rent in the tiny but vibrant town of Stony Creek – Issie sees it as her family's best chance at a fresh start.

Newly single police officer Matt Robertson moved to Stony Creek to lick his wounds after a bitter divorce. Wanting only peace and quiet, Matt is against the Project, seeing it as a threat to the peace he's found in the country town – until he meets Issie. Despite himself, Matt is drawn to the widow and feels inexplicably protective of her fragile family.

Just when Issie begins to imagine a future with Matt, an accident proves how far she has to go before she can move beyond her grief. But the citizens of Stony Creek won't rest until they see these two broken souls find a new beginning, together. 

Can Issie move beyond the pain of her past and entrust Matt with her family, and her heart?

Narelle's Thoughts:

I loved The Peppercorn Project and I read it in one sitting. The characters are well developed and the emotional depth drew me into Issie and Matt's story world. I will confess I'm not usually a big fan of the grieving widow romance trope. One reason being the heroine is distracted by her amazing late husband and it can detract from the developing romance with the hero in the story. How can the hero compete with the amazing dead husband?

What drew me into this story was the way the author handled the emotional fallout from losing a loving life partner in tragic circumstances. The story opens with the prologue and we experience in real time Issie's very painful loss, the roller coaster of emotions, and the consequences for her young family. Issie's need to stand on her own two feet and establish a new life for her children leads her to the small town of Stony Creek.

Issie and her children are interviewed by a committee of townsfolk for a coveted peppercorn lease. The idea is to provide people with an affordable home for a year to help them get back on their feet financially in a supportive small town community. Issie is desperate for a financial break and willing to move from coastal Torquay near Melbourne to a small town in the South Australian Flinders Ranges to put a roof over their heads.

Matt is a city cop who moved to Stony Creek when his marriage fell apart. Burned by his experiences with his ex-wife, he's a confirmed bachelor and resisting the efforts by well-meaning town matchmakers to find him a new wife. He's intrigued by Issie and drawn to her despite his reservations concerning the wisdom of the peppercorn project concept.

The minor characters add flavour and colour to the story, and an authenticity to the idyllic rural romance setting. Matt is a cynical city cop who knows it's only a matter of time until the Stony Creek community will have to face the challenges of the illegal drug trade. A subplot relating to the ice (methamphetamine) epidemic that's facing many Australian small towns was realistic and well handled. Issie is a nurse and we journey with her as she faces many professional challenges in a medical context.

The romance between Issie and Matt was centre stage and their emotional journey to love was full of obstacles and baggage from the past. A loving intimate scene between Issie and Matt toward the end of the book was beautifully written and contained emotional rather than physical descriptions that will pull at the reader's heartstrings. The perfect happy ending for two people who had grown to love each other, and Issie's adorable children, during the story.

I highly recommend The Peppercorn Project to romance readers who enjoy sweet medical romances set in small town rural Australia.

Many thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a complimentary advanced reader copy of the book.

NICKI EDWARDS is a city girl with a country heart. Growing up on a small family acreage, she spent her formative years riding horses and pretending the neighbour's farm was her own. After spending three years in a regional city in New South Wales, Australia, her love of small country towns was further developed. One day she plans to escape to the country with her husband Tim and live on land surrounded by horses, dogs, cows and sheep. Until then she lives vicariously through the lives of the characters in the rural romance novels she loves to read.

In 2006, when Nicki's youngest child started school, she returned to university, juggling full time study, part time work and raising four small children, to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse. Always a voracious reader, Nicki's other dream was to be an author.

Nicki writes medical rural romance for Momentum and when she isn't reading, writing or dreaming about rural life and medical emergencies, she can be found working as a Critical Care Nurse in a busy Intensive Care Unit, where many of her stories and characters are imagined.

Nicki and Tim reside in Geelong, Victoria with their four teenage/young adult children. Life is busy, fun and at times exhausting, but Nicki wouldn't change it for anything. Visit her at

A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, NARELLE ATKINS was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle's contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia.

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins


  1. Congratulations, Nicki, on your release. And well done you for helping drive a genre: 'rural romance'. What I love most about this insight into you is your openness to the Lord and your desire to obey His leading.

    May the Lord be glorified in your continued writing and the Peppercorn Project.

    Thanks, Narelle, for chatting with Nicki and inviting her onto the ICFW blog.

    1. Thanks Ian. I appreciate your support. My prayer is always that God's name be lifted high in my life and in my writing.
      Let's hope Peppercorn Project exceeds expectations!

    2. Hi Ian, I've learned a lot from Nicki about the Aussie rural romance genre :)

      Hi Nicki, thanks for visiting ICFW :)

    3. Hi Narelle, thank you so much for inviting me and for your great questions! I hope non-Aussie readers will give Australian rural romance a try!

  2. I love the description of this genre. I definitely need to check it out, and one day want to visit your country! Congrats on the new book. Sound like a wonderful story!

    1. Hi Lisa, I hope you'll have an opportunity to visit Australia! :)

    2. Hi Lisa, I'm biased of course, but Australia is awesome! I hope you get to check it out but until then you might have to pick up some Aussie lingo by reading some rural romance books - starting with mine of course ;)

  3. Thanks Nicki and Narelle. I have enjoyed two of Nicki's novels and this one sounds intriguing. Love the blurbs from both of you. Must get it on my Kindle soon.

    1. Hi Rita, I hope you'll have a chance to read The Peppercorn Project soon. The print version is also available in Aussie stores including Dymocks, Big W, Kmart, Target :)

    2. Hi Rita, I hope you enjoy this one too - it's a little different from my other books. Thanks for your comment. x

  4. Brilliant premise. I love stories "plucked from the headlines."

  5. Great interview, Narelle and Nicki! I can't wait to read the Peppercorn Project. It's sitting on my Kindle calling out to me as I type!