Outback Blaze (Bunyip Bay #2)
Copy courtesy of the publisher
A painful break up has seen Ruby Jones back living with her parents in the town of Bunyip Bay looking to start over. She works in her parent’s feed store while she gets her small business teaching people to ride off the ground. Ruby’s horses are her pride and joy and she loves spending time with them and introducing others to the pleasures of riding. While she’s looking to start afresh and get her life going again, the last thing Ruby is looking for is romance. That is something she’s definitely not interested in.
For police officer Drew Noble, Bunyip Bay isn’t somewhere he plans to be permanently. In fact, he’s only here at all because of some unfortunate circumstances and a favour called in. He’s keeping his head down and doing his job despite the fact that he really outranks pretty much everyone else around him. One day it’ll all be over and he can get back to doing what he does best, devoting his life to his career. Drew definitely isn’t looking for romance either. He’s been there, done that and it didn’t end too well.
Then Ruby and Drew meet each other.
The attraction is mutual and immediate but it’s a little complicated by the fact that Drew is investigating a fire at Ruby’s parents’ place of business, one that is incredibly suspicious. The locals want to pin it on a couple of young kids who have been in a little bit of strife but Drew is convinced it’s not the teenagers. That means he has to look at other options, including Ruby’s parents. After all, they’re the owners and the property is insured and Drew is trained to look at all the angles. Even if they come with a beautiful woman who distracts him as a part of them.
The more Drew digs the more he becomes convinced that Ruby is the target and that she’s in danger. He wants to make sure she’s safe, even if there can’t be a future for them. But what was meant to be casual, something Drew could walk away from when the time came, is proving to be anything but.
Outback Blaze is the second novel in the Bunyip Bay trilogy and we return to the small town for Ruby’s story. Ruby was introduced in Outback Dreams when Monty tried to date her, which obviously didn’t work out. Ruby has had a rough time of it and tends to keep to herself a bit, or did before she got dragged into the Bunyip Bay community. Whilst she experiences the friendliness and inclusion, Ruby also experiences the negative side after her parent’s store is set on fire deliberately when some people begin to suspect that it was done by her parents for an insurance job. Despite the fact that Ruby has an alibi for the fire (and it’s a pretty good one) the suspicion and judgement seems to extend to her as well as people snub her in the street and cancel horse riding lessons for their children. She retreats, with only Drew and a close friend or two really sticking by her.
I loved the pairing of Ruby and Drew, even more than I did Monty and Faith in Outback Dreams. Drew is just the sort of character I like – tall, dark, little mysterious, man in a uniform….come on, what’s not to like?! Plus he agrees to get his gear off for a local community event and run in his underwear (ok he doesn’t know that’s what he agreed to but he takes it pretty well in stride when he finds out!). He and Ruby have a great dynamic with both of them feeling the attraction but also keeping secrets and trying not to get too involved, more in the case of Drew there. It’s obvious he’s a man hiding things, a man with a few secrets but the snippets and the reveal was very good. What I liked about Drew was even though he had to examine all of the angles, he supported Ruby 100%, especially when she ended up nearly all on her own. He is part of the investigation and he has to look at all the possibilities and he was questioning people and doing some digging but he still spends pretty much every night with her, giving her that presence and support that she needed when many others in the community were shunning her. And his thoughts are always primarily with her and her safety which made me love him a lot!
This is Rachael Johns’s first go at adding a suspense element into her story and I think it played out pretty well. There were definitely some things that I did not see coming and one of which always manages to push my buttons! I had some suspicions about the culprit – not my first guess but I think all of the pieces fell into place really well and gave the reader a good chance to puzzle it out along with Drew, who probably goes above and beyond to get to the bottom of the mystery, especially once it becomes obvious that Ruby is the real target and that her life is probably in danger. And Ruby being in danger also makes Drew realise that the life he is leading isn’t anywhere near as fulfilling as it could be and that he has some choices to make.
There’s one book to go in this trilogy, Outback Ghost which is due out late this year. It will be Adam’s story, a character who has appeared in both books and is part of a small story that’s been running the whole way through. You can read them stand alone but the experience and overall feel of the small community and the people in it is better if you read them in order, especially to get a bit of Adam’s background before his own book comes out. I can’t wait to read Ghost – I’m looking forward to catching up with all of the Bunyip Bay residents again and seeing what is in store for Adam!
Rachael Johns is fast becoming one of Australia’s most popular authors and with each release she justifies why – realistic, relatable characters, small towns with a great feel and storylines that keep the reader hooked and always wanting her next book. Waiting sucks!
Book #82 of 2014
Outback Blaze is the 35th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014