All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Up On Horseshoe Hill by Penelope Janu

on November 18, 2019

Up On Horseshoe Hill
Penelope Janu
Harlequin AUS
2019, 390p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

A kiss can change your life …

Jemima Kincaid loves her home, her horses and her job as a farrier. Life has not been kind to her, but Jemima is happy in the close-knit rural community of Horseshoe Hill, which rallied around in her hour of need. Even so, she is fiercely independent and will never rely on anyone again.

Particularly a man like Finn Blackwood.

An infuriatingly attractive geneticist and wild animal vet, Finn threatens not only the serenity of Jemima’s present, but that of the future she has so carefully mapped out. But as their paths continue to cross, she finds her attraction to Finn impossible to counter, even as the trauma of her past threatens to undo her. Finn is fascinated by Jemima’s solitary nature and unique vulnerabilities. But Jemima knows all about loss, and how to avoid it. Don’t let anyone get close in the first place …

As the past begins to cast long shadows, Jemima and Finn discover that a kiss can bring worlds together-or tear them apart. Will they finally face their fears and find love on Horseshoe Hill?

I love Penelope Janu’s books. I’ve read four of them now and every single one of them appeals to me like they were written for me. They’re also the sort of books I like to re-read and I don’t re-read a lot these days.

Jemima (known as Jet) lives in a small rural town out of Dubbo in Western NSW. She’s lost a lot in her life and she lives in a mostly solitary way now, with only a few friends or people she connects with regularly. She works as a farrier for ponies/horses and local animals – things like alpacas. And occasionally she gets called in to Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, to help take care of some of the animals there that have hooves.

Jet’s rather comfortable life is turned upside down with the arrival of Finn Blackwood, an international big animal vet and animal geneticist. Her uncle has hired him to get to the bottom of the mysterious death of a handful of his prize thoroughbreds years ago. Jet has tried to put that traumatic incident and her role in it out of her head for a long time now and Finn’s presence and questions stirs up bad feelings and the nightmares that plagued her after the event. She doesn’t want to talk to him, especially about that night. She definitely doesn’t want him renting the property close to the small cottage where she lives. And she definitely doesn’t want him to make her fear losing him either.

There are some similarities in these books – the male love interests are foreign, incredibly capable and often in a position of authority or investigating something the female character did or has done in the past or may have done or is pretending they didn’t do or know about. The women have usually suffered loss, trauma or both (sometimes those two are deeply connected) and tend to live that sort of more solitary life. But for me, that’s what I love about them. Because the male love interests are always characters I really enjoy reading about – their jobs, their histories, how they came to be involved in the heroine’s life. They always have such interesting jobs and Finn’s is no different. He’s worked in Africa on conservation with rhinos and is currently working for the Western Plains Zoo as well as helping out Edward, Jet’s uncle. And the ways in which they get tied up in knots around the main characters are totally my thing!

I went to Western Plains Zoo a long time ago now – I was about 12. It was a 7hr drive I think, from where I lived and my dad doesn’t believe in wasting a day driving, so we left at like, 1 or 2am. Got there at 7am, left our stuff at the hotel and went to the zoo. Look the zoo is BIG. So big it’s recommended you take your car around it (which we did) or hire bikes. We were there all day and fell into a coma in our hotels that night before 8.30pm. What I remember about the zoo is minimal – I attended the lion feeding. I remember walking. Everything else is a bit of a blur, but I’d love to back one day and take my kids. So I loved the inclusion of the zoo in this story and the fact that Finn and Jet both do work there. Giraffes and rhinos and elephants are actually 3 of my favourite animals, just behind little penguins. We are members of the Zoo here in Melbourne and try and visit all 3 regularly. Despite the fact that I can see the argument for not keeping these sorts of animals in captivity, there’s also the reality that without it, they all won’t exist at some stage in the future. They’ll just be a picture in a history book. Rhinos are hunted relentlessly for the properties their tusks are supposed to possess. Elephants are hunted for their ivory tusks too. And other animals like giraffes and lions are hunted just to be big game trophies, heads mounted on rich people’s walls. Zoos have moved away from animals in cages and places like Western Plains and Werribee Zoo (and many others around the world) have tried really hard to replicate a more open, savannah like experience for their big animals where they can roam but without the threat of predators. Or hunters. There’s an emphasis on minimal keeper interaction as well, just enough for them to be able to do necessary medical checks. I’ve fed giraffes at Melbourne Zoo as a part of their behind the scenes experience and the emphasis is very much on the giraffes only coming over if they want to (we have food, so they usually do) and not ever touching them. Giraffes look so inviting, with their big brown eyes and their long eyelashes and docile expressions. But for me, it was just enough to be able to be that close to one, I didn’t need to have to touch it to make the experience real.

I digress! What I really loved about this book was we get to see a vulnerable side of Finn as well when he suffers a medical emergency. I really like how time is taken to show some of these capable, intimidating men in positions of weakness and relying on the female character albeit reluctantly! Finn is also an exercise in patience and persistence because Jet really does have a lot of trust issues and she’s also traumatised by the incident at the barn and potentially her own contribution and how that will make her feel, if it all comes out. She stonewalls Finn again and again but he can’t walk away from her. And watching Jet realise that she doesn’t want him to is so good.

I loved this. It makes me want to reread all Penelope Janu’s books again in a row and just indulge myself in the dynamic.


Book #189 of 2019

Up On Horseshoe Hill is the 72nd book for The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019


2 responses to “Review: Up On Horseshoe Hill by Penelope Janu

  1. Mic says:

    I’m looking forward to this one

  2. Thank you for your review, Bree. ‘He can’t walk away from her,’ is a wonderful way to describe my male love interests. And, writing only from the woman’s point of view, it is often a challenge to portray this. There are so many rational reasons that love shouldn’t work, but often it does (thank goodness!)

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