Wildwords Publishing (independent), 2019
Known for her rural romance fiction, with this fifth novel, Cross My Heart, Pamela Cook moves into new territory. Not only is the subject matter different, the book is also independently published.
The story explores the inter-generational consequences of child sexual abuse. Two promises made in adolescence and young womanhood drive the plot – one to keep a terrible secret and the other to take on the foster-mothering of her friend’s child should the need arise.
Tess De Santis and husband Josh live a high-powered career-oriented life in the city and the decision to honour the promise of foster parenting changes everything for Tess. Looking after the traumatised Grace leads her to move back to the child’s home and in doing so to become part of a small rural community.
Her own adolescent trauma bubbles to the surface in the process and both woman and child are drawn into equine therapy to find a way through suffering to personal strength and ultimately triumph. Thankfully, it’s not neatly tied with a bow, but it is nonetheless a story of the capacity of the human soul to heal.
Essentially this is a book about the importance of family. The complexities of loving family relationships are sensitively and insightfully explored. The comfort of friendship, along with its obligations, is also a key theme.
The demands, sorrows and joys of parenthood are also well painted, not just in Tess’s struggles with Grace, but also in the characters of her own parents, who try to do the right thing for her without being fully in the picture until the end of the story. Pamela Cook gives us a forthright but sympathetic portrayal of the turmoils of parent-child relationships.
Whilst darkness and violence are elements of this story of abused power, the resolution is satisfyingly heroic. This is a highly readable novel which manages deftly to avoid over-sentimentality and romanticizing, whilst at the same time engaging the reader emotionally.
Clearly the issues were of great personal interest for Pamela Cook to step outside the corporate publishing world into her own venture.The book is available at online stores and from the author via her website https://www.pamelacook.com.au/