Penguin Books AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Darcy Fletcher is back in the town she grew up in after a stint in Sydney where she learned to be a chef and even had her own restaurant. However she’s returned to Banksia Cove, near Bundaberg, for family reasons and is currently working hard to fulfill her dream again of opening her own place. She has chosen the old whaling station as her location and everything is moving along nicely. Darcy also volunteers with the marine rescue team and is called out by the local police officer (and her childhood friend) Noah to help in a storm. A yacht has capsized and is perilously close to smashing itself to smithereens on the rocks. Noah, Darcy and the captain of the rescue boat are an undermanned team working to rescue the stricken yacht’s passenger before he too, ends up on the rocks.
Darcy manages to pull the injured man to safety but he brings only questions and no answers. He can’t remember his name, where he comes from or what he was doing out there. He doesn’t even know if the boat was his. Noah does some digging, his instincts telling him that something about this passenger is a little off. He’s definitely got some secrets and they could possibly be very dark ones. Noah doesn’t want Darcy in danger, especially as she’s just offered her spare room to the stranger while he recuperates from his injuries and tries to get his memory back.
It isn’t long before the stranger’s dark past comes looking for him in the small town. He and Darcy are forced to flee, holing up inside the old whaling station where the secrets start to spill out. Darcy is surprised to find that her stranger has a connection to her own family and that his secrets are set to bring down someone very close to her. He knows more than he’s letting on and he wants to protect her but Darcy doesn’t want protecting. She wants to know what he knows. She wants to know what everyone’s been keeping from her, including the man she has known and loved all these years.
I have been a huge fan of Australian romantic suspense author Helene Young since I read her first novel Wings Of Fear. I don’t think there’s a better romantic suspense writer out there at the moment. All of her stories are perfectly crafted, well written and her settings and characters suck me in. It would seem that many out there would agree with me, given the amount of awards Young is receiving including 2 at the Australian Romance Readers Association awards that took place just last weekend.
This book is everything I’ve come to expect from Young as an author. There’s a lot going on but the plot never feels crowded or rushed. We get enough of Darcy’s backstory to get to know her without it all feeling like infodump. She had a difficult childhood and she still has issues, particularly with her father, a now famous rugby league coach who has always made her feel inferior for not being the son he wanted. He now has a new family and lives in Sydney, high on the fame of coaching a successful team. Darcy has always been ignorant about her father’s methods but his world is about to collide with that of the mysterious stranger that Darcy pulled out of the ocean and soon she will be missing none of the pieces.
The suspense is always the predominant plot in this novel but that doesn’t mean the romance gets neglected – it’s just more understated, more of a quiet hum in the background. Noah, the local police officer and Darcy have known each other since they were small children. They both have feelings for the other and have done, for years but there’s a lot of water flowing under their bridge and both of them are suffering from misconceptions about the other’s feelings, especially relating to certain issues in both of their pasts. Darcy also finds herself drawn to the man she rescues, who is handsome and mysterious and it’s quite clear that he also finds himself drawn to her as well. It’s a deftly done complication that doesn’t take up too much page space. Previously Helene Young has introduced characters that later get their own story and I do wonder if we’ll see our mysterious stranger again! I hope so. There’s no denying that I think Noah and Darcy belong together, and I loved the quiet steadiness of the feelings they had for each other that they kept secret, that they both struggled not to allow to affect their strong friendship. Noah in particular struggled with this, determined to remain Darcy’s friend even if she could never return the feelings he had for her. He was definitely more accepting of his feelings for her, Darcy it seemed put them right to the back of her mind until all the drama was stirred up and they were forced into some precarious situations that make them either unable or unwilling to continue to hide their feelings.
There are some beautiful relationships in this book, besides the one that Young constructs between Noah and Darcy. I think probably the most notable one is Darcy and Rosie, a local Aboriginal woman who took a lonely child Darcy under her wing and showed her true love and friendship. Rosie is also an important Elder in her tribe and she does her best to make sure the youngsters are kept in line, or punished when they stray from it. Rosie and Darcy have a truly lovely rapport and you can see just how important Darcy has found the love Rosie gave her unconditionally and how much she drew strength from it as a person. Rosie was always there for her, even when other people in her life were letting her down, even when Darcy was letting herself down. The more dysfunctional relationships, including that of Darcy and her father are also well portrayed, with every interaction underlining Darcy’s hurt and rejection from a man who seems incapable of truly feeling empathy.
Another truly stellar novel from the go-to author for Australian romantic suspense.
Book #69 of 2014
Safe Harbour is book #26 of 2014 for the Australian Women Writers Challege
Check out the book trailer – it’s definitely atmospheric!