Title: Meet Me In Bendigo
Author: Eva Scott
Published: July, 2021
Content Warnings: cat fishing, COVID-19
I received a copy of Meet Me In Bendigo from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Small-town Australia meets You’ve Got Mail in this rural romantic comedy about online dating, second chances, and following your heart.
Small-town sweetheart Annalisa Cappelli has returned to Wongilly to take over her family’s hardware store while she heals from a tragic loss. The business was hit hard by the pandemic, and now a Carpenter’s Warehouse hardware superstore is opening in the district. There’s no way Annalisa is going to let two hundred years of history go down the drain, but she’s going to need to fight to keep her family’s legacy alive.
The one simple thing in her life is her no names, no complications, easy-breezy online relationship with GardenerGuy94. For now, their online flirtation is the only kind of romance Annalisa needs. Until she meets Ed Carpenter. Sexy as hell, he’d be the perfect man … if he wasn’t trying to destroy her business.
Ed Carpenter is in Wongilly to offer the owner of a small hardware store a payout to pave the way for his family’s next superstore. What he doesn’t expect is for the owner to be the woman he’s been talking to online. Annalisa is beautiful and passionate, and he’s sure she’s the one for him. But how can he reveal the truth without losing her?
This was an interesting, slow burn romance between two characters who are seemingly on opposite sides.
Annalisa meets GardenerGuy94 online in a community forum debating the construction of a hardware superstore opening in the region that will put Annalisa’s family hardware store out of business. In this anonymous friend, she finds a companion who shares her values of family, hardwork and running a small business. Then she meets Ed Carpenter, and he is the complete opposite of GardenerGuy94 – despite being sexy as hell, he’s one of the partner’s in Carpenter’s Warehouse and trying to get her to sell her generations-old family business.
There are plenty of things I loved about this book, both its cast of characters and its setting. Set in a post-COVID world, all the characters reeling from the implications of long-term lockdowns. Ed Carpenter’s small landscaping business collapsed forcing him to return to work with his half-siblings and Annalisa’s trying to keep the family hardware story afloat. It felt very real in the current climate, as both of them are trying to make sense of a world that’s changed and goals that haven’t gone to plan.
Aside from Annalisa and Ed, there’s a host of side characters who are delightful, mostly the residents of Wongilly (and Annalisa’s grandmother). Annalisa has a group of older gentleman – friends of her grandfather – who regularly come and take up residence inside the hardware store and play cards and keep her company. They’re so much a part of her life that when her new plan for the store begins to emerge, she’s able to find a place for them there. Meanwhile, her grandmother provides her with guidance and a link to her family’s history within the town.
I have to admit that I was not a huge fan of the cat-fishing plot, which would have been more acceptable if Ed had come clean early on that he knew Annalisa was the woman he was talking to online as GardenerGuy94. He knows for the majority of the book, which makes it kind of weird. I think Annalisa’s reluctance is entirely understandable in this case, and Ed does have a lot of work to do to make it up to her.
Otherwise, it was a perfectly enjoyable read.