All The Books I Can Read

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Review: Desert Flame by Janine Grey

Desert FlameDesert Flame
Janine Grey
Penguin Books AUS
2015, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

{Blurb from the publisher/}:

When her beloved father dies, Eliza Mayberry’s privileged world comes crashing down around her ears. On the verge of losing the business that has been in her family for generations, she has no option but to take over the last remaining case: tracking down the elusive Fingal McLeod in outback New South Wales and bringing him back to Sydney.

Fin, however, has other ideas. Determined to find the legendary Dark Flame, a rare opal that has eluded opal-hunters for decades, he has no intention of leaving his mine, Rebel’s Ruin, to reunite with the family of the man who abandoned him – even for the beguiling Miss Mayberry.

Drawn to the people and starkly beautiful landscape of the desert, Eliza discovers the new start that she’s been seeking in this unlikely place and with a man who is as infuriating as he is intriguing. But as passion blooms under the scorching outback sun, secrets from the past and present are bubbling below the surface – secrets that could destroy both the fragile trust between Eliza and Fin, and the bright promise of the future.

Eliza Mayberry has had a very rough couple of months – losing her father, breaking up with her wealthy boyfriend, realising that sort of life was not for her. She also has to face vacating her beautiful family home and the possibility of financial ruin after discovering how badly her father had mismanaged the family business and funds. The business researched genetic descendants, often tracking down errant or unknown heirs for deceased estates. Intrigued by one last case that her father had, Eliza decides to take it on.

Eliza is a tough character and I had a lot of admiration for her. She’d been raised amid wealth and privilege, living in an amazing house in a beautiful area of Sydney. Having lost both of her parents, she doesn’t have many people left in her world. The last case she decides to work for her father’s business fires her enthusiasm for the work – and leads her to the enigmatic Fingal McLeod.

Fin is a man on a mission, determined to find an opal that is more a myth than anything else. Already this opal has cost him and his family dearly but he needs it and the payday it will bring to desperately help his mother. Suspicious of Eliza’s sudden appearance in the remote area near his stake, Fin is at first dismissive of her but it isn’t long before Eliza comes back to have another go at convincing Fin to follow through on her request for him to come to Sydney as part of the job she is working.

Fin and Eliza are both quite stubborn and determined and that means quite a lot of clashing of wills. The sexual tension between them is off the charts and that’s punctuated by moments of discord which I found to be extremely well balanced. There’s quite a thread of suspense running through the book as well and I found myself getting really into that part of the plot. I think that what it revolves around is something that’s quite pertinent at the moment, and it’s actually something that doesn’t come across as too far fetched.

I was also really interested in Eliza’s job – I love the whole idea of researching family trees and various branches and tracking down people who may have inherited something (no matter how big or how small) and had no idea. It sounds like an unusual sort of job and I really enjoyed reading about the sort of different cases that she ended up getting throughout the course of the novel after she decided to take over her father’s business permanently. She could basically work anywhere, even out in the small towns around Lightning Ridge and was flexible so long as she had her laptop, the internet and a phone handy.

I don’t really know too much about opals but there’s always been that feel of ‘maybe’ around them, like there’s always a big one still out there. I know a few people who have gone out there to try and find a few and every so often you read about a decent size stone being unearthed. Although I did like that component of the story I have to admit I did pick a lot of the mystery quite a long way out – a very long way out actually, which did make it a bit slow as I waited for everyone else to catch up to where I was at!

Overall I found this book a very easy and enjoyable read, something that kept me engaged when I was tempted to put it down and head out to the pool! I was really into the setting – I actually haven’t read too many books set up around that part of the country before and it was nice to visit somewhere new for a rural. The suspense aspect was well woven into the romance and the two of them worked well together without fighting for dominance. Fin and Eliza also went well together with just enough flaws in both of them to make their journey believable and not too easy.


Book #209 of 2015


Desert Flame is book #93 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015