Renee Conoulty: The Peppercorn Project by Nicki Edwards *Guest Post, Excerpt and Review*


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Peppercorn Project by Nicki Edwards *Guest Post, Excerpt and Review*

Hey Everyone!

I'd like to introduce you to Nicki Edwards, who is on tour with her latest novel, The Peppercorn project. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll recognise Nicki's name. I've read, reviewed and loved 

Connect with Nicki via

Guest Post

Hi Renee. Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog.

One of the most difficult things I found about writing The Peppercorn Project was getting into my heroine’s head and finding her ‘voice’. Thankfully I’ve never lost my life partner like Isabelle has, but in a pastoral role working alongside my husband, and also as a nurse working in Intensive Care, I’ve had the privilege of holding hands with countless people, including very close friends, who have walked their own journeys of grief and loss. Hopefully through these shared experiences I have faithfully portrayed my heroine’s heartache.

One of those friends to have suffered loss is my friend Kate who lost her husband Rob in a tragic hang-gliding accident in May 2013. Words cannot express how much I admire the way Kate is bravely and courageously raising four phenomenal children on her own.

In the months following Rob’s death while I was writing this book, Kate’s honesty and transparency in her grief was inspiring. I worried constantly that I wasn’t expressing Isabelle’s grief correctly until Kate reminded me that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way grieve.

At times writing this book was very hard because every time I imagined myself in Issie (or Kate’s) shoes, I shed bucket loads of tears. Staring at a screen while trying to type isn’t very easy. My poor family gave up asking if I was okay as the tears streamed down my cheeks.

One of the most poignant scenes for me was when Isabelle was packing up her house in Torquay to move to Stony Creek.
Isabelle drew packaging tape across the final box and sighed deeply. Standing, she straightened her back, feeling the tired ache of her muscles. She looked around her, seeing the ghosts of memories everywhere. There wasn’t a corner in the house that wasn’t filled with them. She slowly twisted her neck from side to side, feeling the tension ease.
The sun shone through the open doors, and in the distance waves crashed relentlessly onto the sand. Not long now and the town would double in size with tourists. Isabelle gazed lovingly at her garden before remembering it wasn’t hers any longer – it belonged to the bank, and soon a lucky new owner. The garden became her sanctuary after Dan’s death and she would mourn its loss.
Isabelle stepped onto the timber deck and leaned against the veranda post. From her vantage point, she could see the ocean. She was terrified of leaving the house, with its ocean views. She was
terrified of leaving Torquay with its familiar front beach. Most of all she was terrified of leaving behind the memories of Dan.
She closed her eyes, willing her mind to remember the way he smelled, the sound of his laugh, the stubble of his beard against her cheek when he hadn’t shaved for days. On countless nights, they stood side by side in this exact spot. He would drape his arm across her shoulders, smelling of sand and surf, and they would talk for hours. Isabelle inhaled. She could still smell the ocean, but the heaviness across her shoulders wasn’t from his embrace.
She wished she could talk to him. Wished she could pick up the phone and ring him. Chat. More than anything, she wished she could tell him about this strange new life and the new journey she was embarking on.
She remembered the words she spoke at Dan’s funeral – the only words she’d managed for most of the day.
‘Over the years you have shaped me in ways I cannot comprehend. From the first moment we met, to the last time I saw you, you continue to shape me.’
Now it was a new day. A new season. Time to discover who she was on her own. Isabelle Cassidy. No longer ‘Dan’s wife’. Just Isabelle. Single Mum. Widow.
Pain gnawed at her chest. ‘I’ll never forget you, Dan,’ she whispered.
The doorbell chimed, breaking her reflection. With heavy steps and a heavier heart, she went to greet the removalists. As difficult as this day was, deep down she knew that if Dan were here, he would tell her to go for it.
She inhaled deeply and drew her shoulders back. It was time to move.

The purpose of the $1 a week Peppercorn leases are for families like Isabelle’s to get back on their feet after tragedy or hardship. I chose a tiny town in South Australia to become my fictional town of Stony Creek. Instead of portraying a dying country town, I wrote about a town that is vibrant and flourishing and filled with wonderful characters who all want to help Isabelle and the other Peppercorn families start again. Even better if they can partake in some matchmaking!

Obviously The Peppercorn Project is a romance novel, but I hope readers will understand that before Isabelle can move forward in her relationship with Matt, she must first move through her painful stages of grief. She must also put the needs of her children, Fletcher and Mietta, first. This is why the romance between Matt and Issie is very slow to develop and they don’t get together until towards the end of the book. Matt is adorable. He’s a gentle giant teddy bear of a man who does everything he can to protect Issie and her children. Most of all, Matt understands the need to take his time to win Issie’s heart and her trust.

The pivotal scene when Isabelle removes her wedding and engagement rings was written through tear-filled eyes and I hope readers can imagine the pain of that one simple act.

I love all the other characters in the town too – the other Peppercorn families, Rachel, the organizer of the Project, her sister Leah (who is crying out for a love story of her own), old Hilary, Doctor Hugo and of course Matt. I hope you do too.

The Peppercorn Project by Nicki Edwards

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?

A gorgeous rural romance for fans of Fiona McArthur, Rachael Johns and Fiona McCallum.

Hey! Here's my review

Nicki Edwards brought tears to my eyes. Tears of sorrow from moments of grief. Motherly tears from the sweet things kids do. Tears of laughter from one liners. 

I loved the Aussie setting and insight into small town living. The romance was sweet and not rushed. Nicki dealt tactfully with the issue of coping with grief and moving on after loss. She also tackled the issue of teenage drug use in small towns and gave me a better understanding of how this can happen. 

I've read all Nicki's books and I love her blend of medical rural romance. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.

  • Where: NetGalley and Publisher
  • Format: ebook and paperback


  1. Renee, thank you so much for having me on your blog. You are an awesome supporter of Aussie romance. xxx

    1. It was a pleasure having you as my guest today.

  2. Lovely interview Renee and Nicki!

  3. Great post and review Renee! :-)