Southern Cross Secrets
Harlequin Mills & Boon
2013 (originally 2004, 2005 & 2005), 521p
Borrowed from my Nan’s stash
Southern Cross Secrets is a bind-up of three of Barbara Hannay’s Mills & Boon novels all featuring members of the same family, the McKinnons who live and work on a large property in northern Queensland called Southern Cross.
In The Cattleman’s English Rose, Charity Denham has traveled all the way from England to Mirrabrook searching for her brother Tim, who was supposed to have having adventures working in Australia. Charity and her father haven’t heard from him for a long time now after he’d promised to maintain regular contact and Southern Cross, outside of Mirrabrook is the last place they knew he was. When she arrives, Charity finds Kane McKinnon who clearly knows something about where her brother is, but won’t tell her.
In The Blind Date Surprise, Annie McKinnon has left the family property for Brisbane in order to go on a blind date with a man she met on an internet dating site. There are no men that interest her around the family property and days spent cooking and cleaning for her brothers don’t give her much opportunity to get out. Annie has taken some time to go and see if this is the real deal….but she’s in for a very big surprise.
The last story is The Mirrabrook Marriage which features Reid, the third McKinnon sibling. Many years ago, he and the local schoolteacher Sarah Rossiter were an item before Reid abruptly broke things off without giving reason. Since then Sarah has stayed on in Mirrabrook, hoping that Reid would change his mind and come to his senses – there are times when she can clearly still see the feelings he has for her and the torment it causes him to walk away. So many years have passed now and Sarah has decided that things will never change and it’s time to move on. If Reid doesn’t want to lose her he’s going to have to let go of the baggage he carries and go for a big gesture.
It’s been a while since I’ve read a Mills & Boon novel but I forgot how fast and easy they are to read! These three stories are over 500 pages combined but it took me no time at all to read all 3 of them one after the other. I love stories that are linked and I love outback settings so when I rummaged through my Nan’s collection of books she’s read and then passed on (my Nan never re-reads or keeps anything. I take the cream of what I want, the rest get donated or passed onto other friends/family etc) this was one of the first ones I picked out to read. I’ve read three of Barbara Hannay’s rural romances (that are also loosely linked via family members) and loved them so I was keen to read some of her earlier books too.
The first book sets the scene, introducing the reader to the McKinnon property and the local area. Charity and Kane do have great chemistry, somewhat complicated by the fact that Charity is pretty sure that Kane is lying to her about not knowing the whereabouts of her younger brother Tim. Charity adapts to being on Southern Cross, helping out at the homestead whilst she tries to find out exactly where Tim is and why he hasn’t been in contact. Charity’s mother died when she was young and she’s led a somewhat sheltered life looking after her father and helping raise Tim. Now her brother is off on his own adventure and her father appears to be moving on in his life, leaving Charity somewhat directionless. Kane and Charity have some great scenes together and I liked how the reader is given insight into both of their heads, which didn’t happen with previous M&B I’ve read (perhaps because they’re mostly from the Blaze/Sexy/Presents lines which tend to present the hero as an aloof enigma, leaving the reader somewhat clueless as to the hero’s true feelings, like the heroine, apart from intense looks and alpha male actions). Everything happens quickly (and this is true in the second story as well) but this is M&B and an entire story is wrapped up in very specific page count!
I have to admit that in the second book, something did concern me and that was Annie going to stay with Theo about 2 minutes after she’d met him. I loved the character of Theo (who doesn’t like a sexy professor?) but I think it’s not exactly the smartest move by a country girl in a big city, to go and move into the house of a man she just met. And yes, I’m aware that Charity did something somewhat similar in the first book but it seemed less concerning because she took a job. Annie’s friends did know where she was, or at least who she was with and yes this is a romance novel and no one is going to find her dismembered body but it still struck me as a pretty careless thing to do. Despite my irritation with that, I did like this one, especially Theo.
The third story was perhaps my least favourite and I think that’s because Reid’s issue over his ‘secret’ really just seemed like a complete overblown drama. He was so focused on the nature part of life that it’s like he totally refused to recognise the importance of nurture in a person’s upbringing. He was willing to sacrifice his happiness and someone else’s so he could feel sorry for himself and wallow in his misery and the fact that Sarah stayed around for years waiting for him to change his mind made me want to give her a good shake. Not only that but she worked each year helping with the muster on the McKinnon properties, such a glutton for punishment was she! I did enjoy the resolution though – actually that situation would’ve made a great book all on its own!
Book #s 193, 194 and 195 of 2014 (yes it’s kind of cheating in a way because I read them in one volume but hey, they’re still 3 separate books!)
Book #s 71, 72 & 73 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014