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Dinner at Rose’s by Danielle Hawkins

Written and set in a small country farming town in King Country, Dinner at Rose’s is a new novel with a big heart. Otorohanga-based writer Danielle Hawkins’ quintessentially Kiwi chick-lit straddles the boundaries of romance, comedy and tragedy with ease, and provokes plenty of laughs and tears along the way.

Jo Donelly has fled her life in Melbourne to take up a temporary job as a physiotherapist in her North Island home town. The memory of her disastrous last relationship is fresh in her mind, particularly the moment she walked in on her boyfriend and best friend in a compromising position. With her confidence dented, she retreats into the company of the person she cherishes and respects most – her honorary aunt, Rose.

Rose is one of life’s wonderful eccentrics; middle-aged and proudly single, she loves nothing more than a drink and a gossip, and is prone to putting together poorly conceived, inedible dinners. She lives in a dilapidated villa – “the door in the living room has to be wedged shut with a 1972 copy of the Woman’s Weekly” – with a pet piglet, four dogs and two stubborn old sheep as flatmates.

Her devoted nephew Matt is a regular visitor – and also happens to be Jo’s childhood buddy and sometimes-crush. Tanned, muscular and with a charming personality to boot, Matt fulfills everyone’s favourite fantasy-farmer stereotype – he’s less Country Calendar and more pin-up of the month.

When Rose falls ill, Matt and Jo are brought together once again – and you can’t help but hope that this time, they’ll make a real go of it. With a handful of well-drawn supporting characters who help build a believable smalltown atmosphere, Dinner at Rose’s is a world-class slice of Kiwiana.

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