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Review: Crackenback by Lee Christine

Crackenback 
Lee Christine
Allen & Unwin
2021, 272p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder of the Sydney Homicide Squad is on the hunt for notorious fugitive Gavin Hutton.

After months of dead-ends, the breakthrough Ryder has been hoping for leads him back to the New South Wales Snowy Mountains on the trail of the suspected killer.

Meanwhile, when an injured man bursts into the remote Thredbo lodge managed by Eva Bell, her first instinct is to protect her daughter, Poppy. The terrifying arrival of Jack Walker turns Eva’s world upside down as the consequences of Jack’s presence become clear.

With a killer on the loose, Jack Walker and Ryder are tangled in the same treacherous web – spun across the perilously beautiful Crackenback Range.

This book was a nice surprise – I had lost track of time I think and hadn’t realised it was coming out! I really enjoyed Lee Christine’s last book, Charlotte Pass and this one is connected. We are back with Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder and his hunt for Gavin Hutton. The trail has gone a bit cold but Ryder still believes that he’s deep somewhere in the Snowy Mountains, holing up in the dense forest. He’s got survivalist skills and even though winter is close, Ryder is confident that he is still around. Keeping off the radar, using cash, stealing what he needs….waiting for his next opportunity.

Eva is the sister of Ryder’s partner Vanessa. She’s running a lodge in Thredbo on her own, getting prepared for the season with mostly only her young daughter Poppy for company. She has a neighbour that pops in, an older man who also runs a lodge, as well as the local who delivers her firewood but unless there are guests staying, Eva is pretty isolated. She’s stunned by the reappearance of Jack Walker in her life – he’s injured, desperate and ready to make Eva do whatever he says. Desperate to protect Poppy, Eva has no choice….but why is Jack really here? What does he want? And can she trust him with what is the most precious thing in her life?

This is fast paced and builds the suspense so neatly. Lee Christine expertly uses the isolation of her chosen location, especially in regards to Eva and Poppy, who are deeply vulnerable in their lodge when they’re on their own. The snow is starting to fall, blanketing the area, making it feel even more isolated and dangerous. It’s hard to flee anyway, but even harder when the snow is deepening. Eva is going about her life, making rooms ready, cleaning for guests to arrive, completely oblivious to the fact that her life is about to be turned upside down and that she and her daughter are going to end up in grave danger, their lives under threat. When Jack arrives, Eva is shocked and defensive – he looks like a mess, he’s injured and she doesn’t trust him. She has little reason to trust him, considering their past and what Jack made clear to her. She’s confused as to why he’s here now and what he could possibly want. Her only thought is for Poppy and Jack’s early behaviour doesn’t exactly set her at ease. But the more he tells her, the more she’s forced to trust him, especially when he won’t hear of any other options.

It was good to check in with Ryder again – he and Vanessa are still happily loved up and Vanessa is working a new job. Ryder still has Detective Flowers on his team and he’s also added a new team member, a female Detective from up around the Manning Valley. The team works really well together as they gather information on Hutton in an attempt to guess where he is and why. If they can piece together the motive behind his seemingly unconnected murders then they might have a chance of figuring out who he’s targeting next – and get there before he can. But time is running out and Hutton is closing in on who he wants to hurt next for revenge.

I really enjoyed this! The setting is fantastic and the way the story builds in terms of Hutton’s motivation worked really well. Ryder and his team have to really dig deep to find out what happened, to find the relevant people to talk to that can give them the information they need to flesh out the story, to get the final missing pieces. Ryder splits his team up, having some in the office hunting down information whilst he and Flowers often travel to different places to see what they can learn. I like Flowers – he’s a fun offset to Pierce and I hope he might one day become a stronger focus of a book, likewise for the new detective. There’s infinite possibility for the team to keep investigating different situations in different combinations.

This is not a long book – every page advances the plot and builds the suspense incredibly well. The characters are well drawn and interact together well. I found it very difficult to put down and would definitely recommend picking it up when you can get through it in a single sitting. I hope that there are plenty more books featuring Ryder and his team in the future – sometimes I avoid suspenseful books because I can’t deal with the way they make my heart race but I find these ones irresistible. This was excellent again.

9/10

Book #14 of 2021

Crackenback is book #5 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021

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Review: Charlotte Pass by Lee Christine

Charlotte Pass
Lee Christine
Allen & Unwin
2020, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A shocking discovery deep in the Snowy Mountains. A killer who will do anything to keep secrets buried.

When ski patroller Vanessa Bell discovers human bones high on Mount Stilwell at Charlotte Pass ski resort, Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder of the Sydney Homicide Squad is called in to lead the investigative team.

Arriving in the isolated, snowed-in village with Winterfest celebrations underway, Ryder soon determines that the bones are those of Celia Delaney, a young woman who disappeared from the ski resort in 1964 during the biggest winter storm in Australian alpine history.

When a second murder takes place, Ryder suspects that the deaths are related, and that the person responsible is still in the village. Amid the escalating tension, Ryder is desperate to make an arrest before the stakes rise even higher.

Set within the stunning Snowy Mountains, this intriguing mystery uncovers deadly, long-buried secrets in the valleys and mountains of this iconic area.

I love book set in Australia but in different places from the norm – away from the capital cities and small coastal towns that are often common. This book is set in Charlotte Pass, a town in the NSW Snowy Mountains. I grew up in NSW and on the news each night they would give the state temperature high and low. For a large portion of time, the low was almost always Charlotte Pass, so that was all I knew about it – that it was often the coldest place overnight! I’m not a cold weather girl – I’ve been to the Snowy Mountains just once, to Thredbo and Perisher and Mount Blue Cow on a school excursion but Charlotte Pass is also a really interesting setting because in winter, it’s snowbound and access is via ski lift, snowmobile or special buses run by the village. It gives a wonderful atmosphere for a crime novel.

Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder finds himself temporarily nearby because he believes a fugitive he hunts is somewhere in the locality, stealing from properties and dossing down in barns. He is removed from that however, when bones are found at Charlotte Pass because it’s just a short little trip for him to head up and investigate. There are a few possible options but one involves an unsolved case from many years ago, something that a close friend of Ryder’s, a mentor of sorts who is now retired from the police force, is closely connected to.

I really enjoyed this story – it has a lot of elements. The mystery was really interesting – I love a cold case setting. A young woman vanished many years ago after an argument with her husband and no trace of her has ever been found, until now. All of the key players are also back at the resort as well, the same people who were there many years ago when she vanished into the night. The second murder adds a new depth and complexity to the case, especially for both of the main characters.

I loved Detective Ryder and Vanessa together. They had a good dynamic from the very beginning. Vanessa is the one who discovered the bones, so Pierce needs to talk to her and after that, they keep kind of bumping into each other which helps push the attraction a long. Pierce has a troubled past and I really felt his pain and guilt and suffering over it, and it actually kind of made sense that because of it he wouldn’t really want to put himself out there again. Something happens to Vanessa in the novel that also gives her the experience of pain and guilt as well – it’s not the same sort of pain as Pierce’s but I think it also helps them understand each other, puts them in a position to empathise with each other as well as share in some feelings of surviving when others did not and feeling that weight of blame over it.

It’s been an oppressive summer here – long, very humid with plenty of fires and now, crazy rain. It was good to actually escape to a snowy community, to immerse myself in that sort of setting where it’s subzero temperatures, the difficulty of getting in and out and gathering evidence due to both the isolation and the weather. It was something really different to what I was experiencing in real life and it would be just as cozy as a winter read as well, tucked up under a blanket. The ski lodge has a great atmosphere, a bit sinister and insular and the staff work and socialise in close proximity. Ryder faces a lot of stonewalling at times, plus the added, well I want to say pressure but it isn’t really…..the added knowledge really, that he has a chance to solve ‘the one that got away’ for someone very important to him. An older, distinguished cop that he cares about, who has been wonderful to Pierce during very a difficult time for him. I think probably most, if not all police have cases that they couldn’t crack that haunt them I think and for Pierce, this is the chance to lay one of those to rest for someone (who he even gets in to help him). It’s a chance for a lot of people to know the truth, including the young girl’s parents, who are still alive and well into advanced age. To give them closure, so that they might know what happened to their daughter before their own time is up, is a powerful motivator in some regards.

There’s something for everyone in this one – a strong setting which will be both new to some readers and yet familiar in many aspects as well, very well fleshed out main characters and a good mystery where you end up wanting to find out what happens just as much as the police do, plus there’s a little bit of romance too. It was a perfect read for me, engaging and well written with a gripping story and characters I really wanted to find the answers.

9/10

Book #22 of 2020

Charlotte Pass is book #8 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020

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Review: A Daughter’s Choice by Lee Christine

A Daughter’s Choice (Mindalby Outback Romance #4)
Lee Christine
Harlequin MIRA
2018, 176p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Mindalby, a small town, a community, a home. But when the mill that supports the local cotton farmers and employs many of the town’s residents closes unexpectedly, old tensions are exposed and new rifts develop. Everyone is affected and some react better than others, but one thing is certain: living on the edge of the outback means they have to survive together, or let their town die.

Lynsey Carter’s relationship with her father is fraught, so when she hears that the cotton mill that is her birthright has closed down (and her father is lying low), she returns to Mindalby to support her mother and seek out answers. She hasn’t been back since high school, since she left her heart behind with Julian Stone. But Julian didn’t want it, or her; he wanted a life in Mindalby.

Torn between family loyalty and duty to the community, between the life she’s built for herself and the passion for Julian she just can’t seem to shake, Lynsey needs to decide if her home–coming is for a visit – or for real.

This is the fourth book in the Mindalby Outback Romance series and it’s the last in the bind up I received from the publisher but I’m pretty sure the series continues on. This was the one that I was probably the most excited about because Lee Christine is the only author of the 4 included in this that I’ve read before. Her romantic suspense Grace & Poole series was really good and I was curious what her contribution to this series would be like.

Lynsey Carter is the daughter of the man that everyone wants to talk to but he’s lying low. Lynsey left almost a decade ago for university and has built a promising career but when she hears of the trouble she returns to support her mother, who is occasionally been targeted as frustrated people want answers. Lynsey’s mother is Donald Carter’s first wife and although they’ve been divorced for years and years, there are still people out there that think she knows something, that she has the answers. Tempers are frayed and people are desperate and that can be a bad combination.

Lynsey returning to Mindalby means that she will come into contact with Julian Stone, her high school boyfriend who still lives and works in Mindalby, running his own highly successful trucking company. Despite that success, Julian isn’t without connections to Lysney’s father and the cotton mill debacle either and he’s just one more in the town who stands to lose from the disastrous mismanagement. He and Lynsey clash upon re-encountering each other as the decade or so since the end of their relationship has allowed a lot of bitterness and resentment to build up – but there’s also still lots of old feelings that seem to be simmering away under the surface as well and Julian is quite determinedly protective of Lynsey, especially when it becomes obvious that there is definitely some sort of threat to her safety.

I really enjoyed the way that Lee Christine wrote Lynsey’s complicated feelings over her father. Despite the fact that he’s quite obviously the person everyone believes to be responsible for the mill closing and that he left her mother for someone else and seems to have played only a very minor role in her life, she still loves him and she wants him to do what’s right for not just the people of the town but also himself. To prove that he can still be a good man and that he hasn’t always been this way. She goes to see him and even though she thinks it’s probably pointless, she still thinks that it’s something that she just needs to do. Lynsey would’ve been a teenager when her parents divorced and it would’ve been something that had quite an impact on her and her strongest support in her teen years was also Julian. The two of them had what seemed like a very tight relationship and I was curious how this was going to be torn apart and if it would be believable – and for me, I think it was. It’s a difficult time, that cusp of adulthood and I think it was orchestrated in a way that felt believable due to the small town upbringing and the way in which Lynsey’s father operated. So I was satisfied with that.

There’s also a bit of a suspense thread running through this book and that gave it a bit of extra oomph for me. I found that although this was a short category length, it still didn’t feel rushed and played out really well overall. I did feel as though Julian and Lynsey got involved again quite quickly without really seeking to resolve some of their earlier issues but because they were adults now, this was managed in a good way and they were able to compromise and move forward. Also there was some nice resolution for the town concerning the mill here, which was good to see.

8/10

Book #139 of 2018

{Alternate cover when purchased singly}

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Review: A Dangerous Arrangement by Lee Christine

Dangerous ArrangementA Dangerous Arrangement
Lee Christine
Harlequin Escape Publishing AUS
2015, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Dean Logan designs and sells yachts and has just been the victim of a cyber attack which has stolen the latest designs to his superyacht. This attack could cost him billions and unless he gives in to the hackers demands, he and his company will suffer. There’s no denying it’s an inside job but his former employee has vanished. Dean has his head of security making investigations and the eye of suspicion soon falls on his former employee’s flatmate.

Violinist Marina Wentworth has just arrived in Europe for a very small gig, something that’s important to her to get her back on the path of performing. She’s playing as part of a quartet and the last thing she expects is to be accosted by an angry yacht owner who thinks she’s involved with the plans to steal from him. It doesn’t take long for Dean to realise that Marina isn’t involved and has been set up by her former flatmate who used his formidable computer skills to hack into her laptop and gather information about her that was used to plant evidence against her.

Despite the circumstances under which they meet, Dean and Marina experience a powerful attraction which only grows as Marina works with Dean with information that might help him bring to justice his former employee and her former flatmate. But ultimately Dean and Marina are from different worlds, far apart and Marina still has a secret or two she’s been keeping. Is this only a fleeting happiness or is there a way to make it work for the long term?

A Dangerous Arrangement is Lee Christine’s fourth romantic suspense novel and once again she delivers another smooth and polished story with some main characters with very interesting occupations. Dean Logan is a yacht architect and makes his money building expensive boats for other people. He has a history in racing yachts and a trauma buried deep in his past. Marina Wentworth is American, although living and working in Sydney. She’s a violinist and quite a well known one, although she has experienced some injury with her wrist and is currently easing herself back into performing. After a childhood where Marina knows just how much her family sacrificed for her lessons and for her to become successful, she’s terrified of her injury threatening her career and letting everyone down. This trip to Europe to play as part of a quartet on a ship (boat? yacht? like Marina, I have to admit I’m not entirely sure which is which!) is a way to gently test herself and build her confidence again. The last thing she expects is to be accused of theft and bribery and then roped in to help the real thief be caught.

Dean doesn’t take too kindly to being blackmailed and I can understand his anger at what has happened to him and his suspicion of Marina. Some of his actions are a little heavy handed, but he does listen to Marina and figure out pretty quickly that she’s not involved and is nothing but a scapegoat for the real culprit. Marina does have some information that she’s able to offer up and when it looks as though she is being blackmailed just as much as Dean is, she vows to do all that she can to ensure that the guilty party is caught. The two of them end up spending a lot of time with each other as Dean takes Marina to his yacht and then also begins to teach her how to swim when he realises what her fear stems from. There’s an attraction that simmers between them and I liked the way their relationship developed as they spent more time with each other.

I also really liked both character’s backgrounds, not something that you read about a lot. I’ve read another book many a year ago now that focused on the characters of an orchestra but probably nothing since and I found Marina’s background quite interesting. She’s very open about the sacrifices her family made for her and the possible resentment this has inspired from her siblings, who didn’t get quite the same attention lavished on them. She feels so compelled to be the best that she can be, to justify that time, effort and money spent on her in her youth. She has hit a lot of heights in her career but there’s been a scandal or two and lots of pressure as well (most of it probably self inflicted). I found Dean’s background fun as well, it was nice to learn a few things about sailing and yachts. It’s hard not to know the money that can be in them – the gossip pages are full of this celebrity and that celebrity enjoying holidays on their million dollar yachts but you tend not to think of the design that goes into crafting something like that, just the luxurious end product. Dean was a self-made man who had known personal loss and pain and also sacrifice and hard work. I quite admired his determination to catch the hacker and blackmailer and not accept the situation passively. Although he does pay the bribe, he does it knowing that it won’t accomplish anything other than perhaps buy him more time to further close in on the elusive hacker and I even found the story behind the hacking quite interesting too and not too implausible.

A Dangerous Arrangement is a fast-paced and highly enjoyable story that blends the best of romance and suspense into one cohesive story. I never have any hesitation in picking up one of Lee Christine’s books and recommend them all.

9/10

Book #102 of 2015

Make sure you check out the wonderful trailer for A Dangerous Arrangement here!

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A Dangerous Arrangement is book #42 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015

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Review: In Safe Keeping – Lee Christine

In Safe KeepingIn Safe Keeping
Lee Christine
Harlequin Escape Publishing
2014, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

When widowed family lawyer Laila Richards met hotshot Evan Barclay it was only supposed to stay casual. After mourning the loss of her husband who was her childhood sweetheart for several years, a casual liason with Evan was Laila’s first step back into the game. When they end up on opposing sides in a very high profile divorce case, the conflict of interest gives Laila an excuse to end the affair. It wouldn’t be appropriate to be sleeping with the opposing counsel and Laila knows if her client were ever to find out, she’d lose the job. And Laila very much needs a high profile case. It’s incredibly important to her.

But staying away from each other isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when it appears that Laila is in danger. Evan wants nothing more than to keep her safe, especially as he fears that his client may be the reason she’s in danger in the first place. But the more he learns about something else Laila has been working on, the more he decides that they might need a bit of assistance from the husband of his boss. Whether Laila likes it or not, he’s sticking around because what they have is definitely more than just a casual affair.

Both Evan and Laila have baggage and are fighting against client confidentiality and a conflict of interests. But none of that matters because they need to find out who is behind trying to hurt Laila. With each new event, it escalates in severity and Evan has to protect her and prove to her that he’s in this for the long run. No more sneaking around.

I was excited when I saw this book pop up on NetGalley because I didn’t know about it. I’ve read both of Lee Christine’s previous “In Safe” books and absolutely loved them. So I downloaded it immediately and even though I have other books that I probably should be reading, I had to bump this one straight to the top of the pile. I actually read it on my new iPad, first book that I’ve read on it and I have to say that my poor Kindle may be gathering dust from now on!

As with the other two books, this one is super polished, smart and fast paced with likable characters and a great mystery. There’s real depth to both the story and the characters. I liked Laila immediately. She’s had a bit of a rough time of it – difficult upbringing, married her childhood sweetheart and became an Army wife, moving around to wherever her husband was posted. She lost her husband a few years ago in an Army exercise gone wrong and now she seeks to clear his name. In order to do that she needs money and a high profile divorce case will certainly help her reputation and draw other wealthy clients.

The complication is that her current…. friend with benefits is opposing counsel and Laila is far too professional and far too invested to have anything potentially cropping up that could destroy her case and damage her attempts to seek better clients. She tries to walk away, telling Evan that they can no longer see each other late at night personally and must keep their interactions restricted to the courtroom or liaising on behalf of their clients. Evan seems to think they can continue their personal relationship as well as their professional one without a problem – he’s very reluctant to let go of what he has with Laila, even though it hasn’t really progressed beyond late-night booty calls as such. When it becomes obvious that Laila is in danger, Evan is even more determined to keep her close by. It’s concern and a desire to protect her and keep her safe and it’s also a bit of suspicion. He’s not 100% sure that he hasn’t inadvertently placed her in the path of the danger, so he wants to make sure that it’s not connected to him and his client, who is someone that he cares about, that has done a lot for him.

I loved both Evan and Laila, both separate and together. Laila is strong – she’s had to develop that strength and she’s needed it to get her through some pretty difficult times. I think romance novels containing widows (or widowers) can be difficult, because it can be a challenge to blend that amount of love and respect for the deceased partner with the thrill of falling in love again, with someone just as special albeit in a different way. Lee Christine manages this perfectly – I never felt like either relationship was dominant and both were part of what had shaped Laila in the past and what was helping shape her now. Evan is an interesting character too, I found his background playing pro rugby union a fun addition – it’s definitely something new and not what I expected for a lawyer working for a big firm in Sydney. It fleshed out the man behind the corporate image nice and made him uniquely equipped to deal with the threat to Laila’s safety. As someone who had been in the public eye, he knew how to protect his privacy.

Happily for me, I didn’t guess who was behind the threat to Laila – it was something that was definitely unexpected but made sense. The whole story kept me guessing and the pacing was excellent, the way suspense built and continued to build. I hope Lee Christine continues with this loosely linked series, I would happily read a dozen more.

8/10

Book #246 of 2014

AWWW2014

In Safe Keeping is book #89 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

 

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In Safe Arms – Lee Christine

In Safe ArmsIn Safe Arms
Lee Christine
Harlequin Escape
2013, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Legal secretary Josephine Valenti is home alone when a notorious bikie figure in Sydney contacts her on Skype. Before he can say whatever message it is that he has for her, Josephine watches in horror as he is attacked by two men and murdered in front of her eyes. She kills the connection as quickly as she can but she’s pretty sure that one of the men saw her…and that he knows her.

Two years ago Josephine made a bit of a fool of herself by attempting to seduce Nate Hunter (a friend of her bosses husband) and she hasn’t seen him since. When she flees her parents house to go to the police with what she has seen, it is Nate that intercepts her and he is a lot…different these days. He’s dressed like a biker with long hair, driving a muscle Ute and it’s pretty clear as he manhandles her out of her car, ties her up and forces her into his that he’s not going to be helping her get to the cops. He’s been ordered by the head of a Sydney bikie gang to kill her for what she knows.

Nate has been deep undercover with the Altar Boys for two years, trying to get close enough into the circle to be included in the drop offs for the money laundering so that he can bust it wide open and make the arrests from the top of the chain down. When he agreed to go with the leader to the tattoo parlour of a rival club, he didn’t expect anyone to be there. Nor did he expect to watch as the leader of the Altar Boys murdered the leader of the rival club. Thankfully though it was Nate who saw Josie on the computer screen and knew who she was and where he could find her.

Now Nate and Josie are hiding from everyone. The world believes Josie kidnapped and probably murdered. The bikies believe Nate is a loyal member who has taken care of business and is now ready to step up to be granted full member status. Little do they know he’s looking to take them apart and when he does, it’s going to impact on Josie in ways that she could never have imagined, endangering the fledgling romance they’ve managed to build during their time together.

In Safe Arms is somewhere between a sequel and a companion novel to In Safe Hands. It features a different couple but Luke and Allegra are a part of this story too and make a couple of appearances. Josie works as Allegra’s assistant and given Allegra often defends bikies, she’s more than familiar with some of the faces but she’s unsure why the leader of one of the gangs would want to contact her instead of Allegra. It’s a bad night for Josie and it gets a lot worse when she’s kidnapped by the man she used to crush heavily on…but then it gets a lot better.

Josephine is only twenty and Nick is in his early thirties so at times the age gap between them in terms of life experience is quite significant. Josephine has been brought up in a wealthy, privileged lifestyle and although she regrets the slightly distant relationship she has with her mother, until she sees a bikie murdered on her computer screen, she hasn’t had to deal with much in the way of tragedy although she does cope remarkably well with being kidnapped, especially as she doesn’t know for a while that Nate is working undercover. By contrast, Nate has worked a difficult job for a long time and has been immersed in the bikies operation for two years, living as they do and witnessing things that he would’ve no doubt loved to stop (the murder for example) but couldn’t because it would blow his cover and the operation wasn’t finished yet. He knew there was a big man behind the scenes and he wanted to get him as well and for that he had to be patient, earn the trust of the Altar Boys and act just the way they did. Obviously he couldn’t “take care” of Josie the way that the bikies wanted him to and if they discovered that he hadn’t, it would be the end of both of them so he has to be very careful where he chooses to hide her. He takes a big risk for both of them.

I really loved In Safe Hands when I read it last year and I have been eagerly awaiting this novel ever since. And whilst I did enjoy this one too, I don’t think that Nate and Josephine had the same impact on me that Luke and Allegra did. The story is very good and unfolds nicely with clever pacing and plenty of action. I don’t know much about bikies but I’ve read a few stories revolving around them (and seen more than a couple of eps of Sons of Anarchy) and it’s such an environment that is ripe for so many different types of characters and stories. However I think I just didn’t warm much to Nate, especially his tendency to call Josephine “princess” all the time which got on my nerves a little bit. They did have some interesting chemistry and they were also quite an interesting match but I didn’t really find myself truly invested in them until right at the end and the final scenes between them made up a lot for not quite getting Nate earlier on.

I liked the character of Nate’s undercover handler….I hope he might crop up in a book soon (hint hint Lee Christine?!)

8/10

Book #324 of 2013

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In Safe Arms is book #111 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

 

 

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Guest Post: Escape Publishing’s Lee Christine

HappyBirthday_v2

As part of the celebrations for Escape Publishing’s 1st birthday, the digital first imprint of Harlequin Australia are offering lots of exciting opportunities and giveaways. I’m hosting several writers here on the blog to talk about their forthcoming titles and where they get their inspiration from. We’ve already had Georgie Tyler and now we welcome Lee Christine, author of the very successful In Safe Hands which I reviewed here on the blog when it was released. On January 1st, the companion novel, In Safe Arms will be released and I am so excited about this one! Lee Christine has perfected a blend of romance and suspense….here’s a little about In Safe Arms (from the publisher/Goodreads):

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Smooth, seductive and savage: Lee Christine returns to the dark, criminal underbelly of Sydney with her follow-up to In Safe Hands.

Legal secretary Josephine Valenti has no idea why a notorious bikie president would be contacting her, but when he is murdered in front of her eyes, she knows that she is in very deep trouble. Fleeing to her home, she’s intercepted by Nate Hunter, a man she used to know and lust after…a man she used to care about.

However, Nate has changed. His leathers and his bike tell of a lifestyle that Josie can’t begin to accept or understand. His is a life of drugs, money laundering and prostitution.

Though, all is not what it seems, and Josie must fight harder than she ever has before — for the truth, for what’s right, and, ultimately for the man who still has a hold of her heart.

***

LeeChristine

Where do writers find inspiration?

I’m often asked where I find inspiration for my novels. People are always interested to know where my ideas come from, and some have come right out and asked, ‘How did you think that up?’ While I’d love to say I dreamt the entire thing one night, hopped up and scribbled it all down, the truth is, my interest is usually captured by real life events, most of which come straight from the news.

The idea for my first book, ‘In Safe Hands’, came from watching the fallout suffered by certain celebrities after indiscreet postings of photographs on social media. While the celebrities, usually sports stars and models, received little more than a slap on the wrist, I began thinking of how it could spell the end of a person’s career should they be employed in one of the more conservative occupations. What if a high profile member of the judiciary, or a top surgeon, or heaven forbid a politician, was snapped naked in the shower a la Lara Bingle? And what if that photograph went viral on the internet?

I constructed a story of a high profile female lawyer, on a fast track to a partnership, who is blackmailed by naked photographs taken in her youth. Of course I upped the stakes. She’d already broken through the glass ceiling, but she needed the job and she needed the money. Publication of this kind would leave her career in tatters. This wasn’t going to end well.

The inspiration for my follow up novel ‘In Safe Arms’, due to be released on January 1, 2014 again came about from a news report. Tragically, one person had witnessed the death of another while chatting on Skype. It struck me at the time how horrifying it would be to ‘remotely’ witness something like that, and be helpless to do anything about it.

I began thinking how hundreds of millions of people use Skype every day, including myself. It struck me, that if someone witnessed the tragedy of another person having a stroke or heart attack while speaking on Skype, it wasn’t inconceivable someone could witness a murder the very same

In the opening scene of ‘In Safe Arms’ my heroine witnesses the murder of a notorious member of Sydney’s gang world on Skype. Because of the physical divide separating them, the heroine has time to flee. But she can identify the killer, and this event sets up the ‘cat and mouse’ game that drives the story forward.

I guess I have some strange preoccupation with technology, and how it can irrevocably change our lives in ways we could never have anticipated.

So, while others author may begin with a place, with observing the people who live in that place and their triumphs and tragedies, my inspiration evolves from a situation I’ve observed. And with that situation in mind, I create a character. Not just any character, but a person who stands to lose everything because of that situation. And because I write romantic suspense, naturally that’s the heroine.

My novels are very fast paced, with the story unfolding over a short period of time, usually no more than a week or two. And they centre on modern day crimes that could potentially affect any one of us.

I’m also very fortunate that my editor at Escape Publishing, Kate Cuthbert, likes romantic suspense featuring a variety of different crimes. She’s not so much into serial killers. As I don’t write serial killers, that situation suits me just fine.

***

Thank you to Lee Christine for stopping by and sharing a little about where she gets her inspiration from. I’m also happy to share the trailer for the upcoming In Safe Arms here as well.

Don’t forget you can still enter to win a giveaway of 5 Escape Publishing titles. Just see this post.

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In Safe Hands – Lee Christine

In Safe Hands
Lee Christine
Harlequin Escape
2012, eBook
Bought for my Kindle

Allegra Greenwood is a high profile criminal lawyer in Sydney but a decision she made ten years ago is coming back to haunt her. When she was still a law student and struggling to make ends meet, Allegra posed naked for her photographer boyfriend with view to using the artistic shots as a way to make money. In the end, she changed her mind. Her boyfriend swore to destroy the files and Allegra keeps her prints in a locked safe.

But now someone has sent her a print of one of these naked photos and Allegra knows that if the photos were released to the media or internet, she would lose her job at the high profile firm she works for. So she employs private investigator and former SAS man Luke Neilson to track down who is doing this to her and where exactly they got the photos from.

Allegra overlooked Luke’s firm for the security job at her work because of a simple kiss that occurred between them but now she needs the best in the business. Luke’s conscience demands that he take the case and protect Allegra – there’s no demand for money so this doesn’t look to be a simple blackmail case, it seems much sinister than that. And after what went down in Afghanistan when he was in charge of Allegra’s younger brother, he feels that he owes it to her because it was his mistake that took her brother from her. But Allegra doesn’t know of his connection to her deceased brother and when she finds out it’s definitely going to put an end to the attraction that simmers between them.

In Safe Hands is one of the five debut titles from Harlequin Australia’s new digital first imprint, Escape Publishing. It’s the second title I’ve read so far and I have to say, this one was utterly fabulous. Romantic suspense is quite a favourite of mine and this one ticks all the boxes. Allegra is a strong woman, a criminal lawyer who is not afraid to defend notorious underworld figures in the pursuit of a fair trial. She’s known as an ice queen in the press and has a blog devoted to her exploits run by admiring law students. She’s good at her job but she has very little in the way of family and seemingly, few friends, especially close ones. When she receives a print of a photo she had taken ten years ago by bike courier, she knows that this is not something to be taken lightly at all.

Luke is a former SAS man, an elite soldier turned private investigator who runs a small but highly efficient team and gets the cream of the crop when it comes to jobs. He feels like he owes Allegra and it doesn’t take him very long at all to deduce that this a real threat towards not only the security of Allegra’s career, but also her life.

The chemistry fairly sizzles between Luke and Allegra, jumping off the page (or Kindle, as the case may be). I loved the fact that Allegra was mostly willing to listen to Luke’s advice and did not object to him installing cameras to catch people hanging around, accompanying her places and even staying over because too often the heroine in a novel is way too “Oh I’ll be okay, I just want to be alone” and is then nearly raped/murdered/etc when it may have been avoided by just having a brain and following instructions. That’s one of my pet hates in suspense novels (and also, YA) and I’m pleased to see that Allegra continued going to work, going to court and living her life but also took precautions to ensure her safety thanks to Luke and was quite vigilant.

The pacing in In Safe Hands is flawless, the author building suspense by slowly having the perpetrator attempt to infiltrate each corner of Allegra’s life with a new photo and a sneaky underhanded note to go along with it to warn her that soon, everything she holds dear to her will be lost. It becomes so obvious that this is a sinister escalation that will culminate in an attack on Allegra’s person, if Luke cannot prevent it in time. I have to say I did guess the culprit although I did also have several dilly-dallying back and forth moments about is-it-or-is-it-not-this-person as the author made me doubt my choice.

This is a fabulous debut novel, expertly thought out and skilfully written with a passionate pair of main characters that both have hidden depths. They work so well with each other but they work equally well as individuals, which is something I love to see in a novel that has strong romantic elements. We get a chance to see Allegra doing her work, functioning in the court room even with the threat hanging over her head and we get to see Luke putting his investigative and protection skills to good use. I’m sure Lee Christine has a very promising career as a novelist and I’m definitely looking forward to her next release!

9/10

Book #255 of 2012

In Safe Hands is the 84th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

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