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Review: Promise Of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie

Promise Of Hunters Ridge (Hunters Ridge #3)
Sarah Barrie
Harlequin AUS
2017, 432p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

By the time this is all over, she’ll know what it’s like to kill, or what it’s like to die.

Mia Morgan doesn’t let anything get to her. After freeing herself from an obsessive boss and saving loved ones from a serial killer, she feels like she can handle anything life throws at her. But now that killer – a deranged hunter who preys on women for sport – is coming for her. And if she runs, others will pay the price. As if that’s not enough, Ben Bowden, the brilliant detective who has made her life hell for the past four years, has some insane plan to protect her. If she collaborates with him, Mia might just have to acknowledge her true feelings. But if she keeps him out, will she let the hunter win?

Ben Bowden is sick of finding dead bodies. If being the lead detective on the biggest case in the country didn’t come with enough pressure, now the psychopath Ben is chasing has Mia Morgan in his sights. And Mia doesn’t want his help. She hasn’t forgiven him for the past, and is being less than cooperative with his investigation. Protecting her is a challenge, and the sparks that fly whenever they’re together aren’t helping. But he has to make her trust him – somehow – because she has a plan that terrifies him to the bone.

Can he convince her to work with him? Or will she risk everything to single-handedly turn the hunter into the hunted?

Oh my God. I have waited what feels like soooo long for this book! It hasn’t really been that long, maybe 2 years since I read the first one. After reading (and loving!) that one, it was Mia and Ben that I always wanted to read about. There was always so much more to their interactions – Mia’s resentment and grudge holding, Ben’s protective streak. They always had an interesting chemistry and I wanted to know more about them.

Finally, this is their story. I made myself wait to read this until closer to the release date and I also picked a time when I could read the entire thing from start to finish with no interruptions and I’m so glad I did. We pick up quite a few months after the end of book 2 and things have kind of stalled. The psychopath that has terrified Ally, Ebony and Mia remains at large. Detective Ben Bowden is still working the case, still trying to find the break he needs in order to finish things for good, make sure that no one need ever suffer again. It’s not going to be that easy though and when bodies start turning up, this time there’s something a little different about them….

Mia has been keeping a few secrets since her rescue and to be honest, quite a bit of this book is structured around Mia doing well, kind of stupid things. I understand why she does them and I think that the author takes care to give Mia some rationale, a reason why she takes these risks, keeps these secrets but at the end of it, they are dangerous, really dangerous things to do that could not only endanger her life even more (and others) but could also affect an ongoing investigation. Ben is understandably frustrated when he finds out about what Mia has been doing but at the same time he also needs some more information and so he runs with it, hoping the fact that he knows about it and can keep an eye on it will help.

But what Ben really wants is for Mia to trust him – trust him completely, with everything. He knows that he’s messed up in the past, put Mia offside when he made a mistake. But everything he’s done since then has been in an attempt to right his wrong, to make it up to them. Ally has long forgiven him and now trusts him and even counts him as a friend…but Mia is still holding back and the scene where he practically begs her…… it’s what good romantic tension is made of.  Ben and Mia are exactly what I expected – hoped, they would be. Chemistry and angst and a clashing of wills and stubbornness and flaws and misconceptions but underneath all of that, such possibility. If only the threat could be neutralised once and for all.

I’ve enjoyed the way that this story has continued to build and evolve over the three installments. The author managed to keep it fresh despite it being the same real culprit that continued to elude capture for what did seem like quite a long time. The creep factor is pretty high and there was a lot added to the story in the last book to really give Mia those reasons to take the risks and attempt to put herself in the line of fire. I spent a lot of the book getting a bit frustrated with Mia as she continued to seemingly make things more difficult than they needed to be, but as her motivations and secrets slowly unfolded, it all made sense and painted her in an entirely new light.

The road to true love never did run smooth and for Ben and Mia it was probably rougher than most. Particularly when Ben is forced to do something that he really doesn’t want to that causes Mia to turn on him yet again, to think that he’s betrayed her. It just added another twist in the story, although I have to admit I did expect a few people to be a bit smarter about the whole process considering it made little sense. But throw in emotions and protectiveness and the situation and it’s probably easy for people to judge Ben. And Mia is so stubborn, so damaged from a previous relationship that she was all too ready to believe it too.

Every element of this series has had me hooked from the first page of the first book. I’ve enjoyed the entire ride, the romantic ups and downs, the way in which the suspense element has kept me on the edge of my seat during each book, wondering how it was finally going to end…and then the kind of foreshadowing in this book, that tells you there’s really only two ways it can end. The ending was awesome and lived up to every expectation I had…..which were pretty high, given the past 2 books!

This series is why I love romantic suspense.

9/10

Book #47 of 2017

Promise of Hunters Ridge is the 16th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: Shadows Of Hunters Ridge

shadows-of-hunters-ridgeShadows Of Hunters Ridge (Hunters Ridge #2)
Sarah Barrie
Escape Publishing
2016, 352p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Something’s not right in Hunters Ridge…

Ebony Blakely has her life nearly exactly where she wants it. She’s a country vet with a successful business in Hunters Ridge, a town that she loves, and has a close group of friends. The only thing missing is romance. Unfortunately, the man she wants treats her as a good friend, and no matter how much she tries to change that perception, he just won’t get it.

Lee Dalton is an ex-cop with a chip on his shoulder about his past. He’s determined to make a success of his building business – and keep his thoughts away from his best friend’s sister, Ebony. But seeing Ebony every day as he works on her surgery renovation makes that almost impossible and soon their hidden feelings begin to complicate their friendship.

When it becomes apparent Ebony’s life is in danger, she is scared but determined not to run. But following an earlier encounter Lee knows what these monsters are capable of and is forced to use everything he’s ever learnt as a policeman to keep her safe.

Because these monsters are serial killers, and they’ll stop at nothing to claim their prize.

Recently I saw the third in this series, which is about to be released and it made me realise that I hadn’t read the second. An oversight on my part but to be honest, it’s one I make more often than I’d like to admit. So many books, there are always ones that slip through the cracks or that I mean to read and somehow just don’t get around to. I really loved the first one in this series so I decided that it was time to tackle the second one so that I could be ready for the third one.

This is Ebony’s story, the sister of Cam from the first novel. She’s a very passionate vet, dedicated to her job and she works long hours and is always looking to do more, to expand and take on even more. She went through a traumatic event in the last book and is still haunted by it, particularly as the perpetrator is still on the loose. Ebony has people around her to watch out for her, especially Lee Dalton an ex-cop, her brother’s best friend and the man she loves. Ebony has so little experience with men though, she doesn’t know how to attempt to take her friendship with Lee to the next level. And Lee is pretty busy out there with a succession of casual girlfriends, although Ebony doesn’t know it’s because he’s convinced himself that Ebony is not for him….there’s definitely a bit of the “your best friend’s sister is off limits” going on as well as a few other complications.

Ebony and Lee do have a very strong friendship and they spend a lot of time together. Lee is helping Ebony with some construction work and they also socialise together with Cam, his wife Ally and Ally’s sister Mia, who travels up from her place in the city to the country town frequently. For Ebony though, these interactions with Lee are becoming harder and harder to endure because she wants so much more from him which he seems to be completely oblivious to. Lee is of course dating someone casually, a stereotypical mean girl who is jealous of Ebony and attempts to ruin their friendship on numerous occasions.

I liked Ebony and I enjoyed her dedication to her job as well as the insight into being a country vet. I feel as though she tries really hard to prove herself and to establish her reputation but when it comes to people, she’s a bit soft and perhaps not as professional as she could be. She allows an employee to walk all over her and is willing to hire someone else very quickly without even really having time to check their references and investigate their previous work. She also occasionally does that thing heroines do where they don’t want to leave their home etc even when there’s a clear threat. I don’t really understand that and as a reader, it kind of frustrates me. Your life is in danger… now is not the time for pride. Thankfully she’s a bit better later on in the book, after a few incidents and she accepts staying with Lee or having him stay with her but this seems more about establishing their relationship at times than actually being safe. It’s not sacrificing strength for someone to accept help when there is clearly a danger.

When it’s known that Ebony is the next “target” of a vicious killer who arranges hunt for sport, everyone steps up to make sure she is protected. However I feel as though they (Ebony, Lee, Cam, even Ben the lead detective) overlooked something pretty big in this story – it’s something that twigged for me right away but it’s not something that anyone else ever seems to really question at all, until it’s way too late. I did appreciate that although I was suspicious of someone from the very first time they appeared on the page, the author did make me go back and forth in my mind a few times in an “are they or aren’t they evil?” sort of way. I would be firmly convinced and then doubting myself and maybe they were just red herring and would end up being a permanent fixture of the town…but then maybe they’re not what they seem…..but then again, maybe they are…. It was quite well done actually. The tension was built very nicely as well and definitely had me on the edge of my seat towards the end.

This was definitely a very good follow up to the first book. It continues to build the overall arc as well as establishing a really solid individual one which was enjoyable and filled with suspense. There were a few small issues that I could overlook for the sake of building the story and the tension and it all came together very well.

The third book, Promise Of Hunters Ridge is the story of Mia and Ben and I cannot wait for this one! They’ve had such an interesting dynamic throughout the first two books and it’s bound to be explosive!

8/10

Book #33 of 2017

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Shadows Of Hunters Ridge is book #10 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: Legacy Of Hunter’s Ridge by Sarah Barrie

Legacy Of Hunter's RidgeLegacy Of Hunter’s Ridge
Sarah Barrie
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2016, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Successful horse trainer Alissa Morgan-Jones has the world at her feet, until a tragic fire destroys everything. Widowed, in debt and under suspicion for arson, Alissa’s life is in tatters. Her mother-in-law’s isolated farm gives her the opportunity to pull her life back together and get herself back on her feet.

Four years after fleeing the city and the scandal that ruined his career, disgraced lawyer Cameron Blakely has a successful new business and a new life. When his neighbour, Mavis Littleton is diagnosed with a terminal illness he volunteers to handle her affairs – and her farm until her daughter-in-law arrives to take over. When Alissa finally shows up, he’s drawn to her immediately. But there’s more to his new neighbour than her big blue eyes and lost expression. If only she’ll open up and let him in.

But there are secrets in both Alissa’s past and Hunters Ridge – secrets that jeopardise far more than Cameron’s fledgling feelings. Lurking in the isolated wilderness is a danger that neither anticipates – but one that threatens everything: the town, their love, and their lives.

Alissa Morgan-Jones had everything – a burgeoning career as a dressage eventer and trainer of horses, a handsome husband, an enviable stable. That all changed one night when not only did she discover a betrayal but a terrible fire left her a widow, destroyed her house and her stables. Alissa now suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and struggles to do simple things. She can’t even think of a horse without breaking out into a cold sweat, traumatised and devastated by her loss. She suffers crippling nightmares and carries her own healing injuries from the fire.

The last thing she needs is news that her somewhat eccentric mother-in-law has had a fall, been diagnosed with cancer and had to go into care. Alissa and her husband purchased the property for his mother to live in and now Alissa owns it. She would’ve been happy to forget about it but instead she must go and sort it out. She’s distressed to discover that their are animals….many animals, including a horse. Her mother-in-law’s cranky neighbour Cameron Blakely is just one more reason to wash her hands of the place.

It isn’t that easy, however. Alissa finds that although there are definitely some strange goings on in Mavis’ place, slowly she begins to find a peace there that she hasn’t been able to since the fire. It takes her a while and she still experiences crippling fear and panic attacks but soon she can even begin to feed the animals, as well as get the horse the care it needs. Soon word of Alissa’s presence in the small town gets out and parents ask her to help their children with horse riding lessons. She’s frightened, terrified that she won’t be able to do it but there are pieces of her brain that see where she can be of help, what she can do to make better riders and mounts. It’s in her blood. Even the animosity with Cameron mellows into something much more attractive and she finds herself drawn into his small circle of friends, fitting in.

I have really developed a bit of a thing for a good romantic suspense and this book definitely fits that bill. From the very beginning I found it difficult to put down, for a couple of reasons. I became really invested in Alissa and her journey because her PTSD was so well written. I really could feel and experience her panic and fear and felt so genuine and believable. I also felt like it was something the author showed that Alissa had to work hard to manage, not something that took front and centre and then kind of faded away. Reading about her struggle made me feel strangely protective of Alissa, like her sister is and I found the scenes with her sister and the detective investigating the fire pretty hilarious. Those two had some chemistry and I’d love them to get their own book at some stage….but more about that later.

I found Cameron a bit of a jerk at the start, he seemed to make a few assumptions about Alissa and why she hadn’t been to the house before now and why she won’t feed the animals. Instead of just asking her if she’s ok, he just assumes reasons himself but when he does witness some of her PTSD related fears, he becomes quite understanding and the two of them end up building quite a connection. It isn’t smooth sailing though, Alissa still has some issues surrounding her husband’s death and something strange is definitely going on in the house.

Which brings me to the suspense element of the novel. I was utterly sucked in by it and loved puzzling it out and putting the pieces together just as things were being revealed in the plot. There were some really fun twists and turns in this and the sinister atmosphere built nicely, with Barrie able to use Alissa’s state of mind as a way to perhaps have the reader (and other characters) query if there really is something happening or if she’s imagining things. I got a few guesses right and got surprised a few other times and thought that the way that things played out was excellent. I was riveted the entire time.

There’s no doubt that this isn’t over and I’m hoping that this is a trilogy. I can’t wait for the next installment, I have to know what happens next.

9/10

Book #4 of 2016

AWWC2016

Legacy Of Hunter’s Ridge is the 2nd book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

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Review: Deadly Secrets – Sarah Barrie

Deadly SecretsDeadly Secrets
Sarah Barrie
Harlequin Escape Publishing
2014, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Almost four years ago, Jordan Windcroft made a choice and took the rap for a friend. She was lucky – she got off with probation and she has been living for the day when her probation time is over. It’s almost here and Jordan just has to make it through the cattle sales that are coming up, coinciding with the end of her allocated time. She needs to sell her stock for top prices so that she can pay off her mortgage and keep her beloved farm. It was her parent’s property and Jordan has been running it for years, just managing to keep her head above water. She might be in debt but it’s the prettiest parcel of land in the valley and it’s worth a lot. There are people who would love to see her lose it….or take it from her.

Detective Senior Sargeant Reid Easton arrives in town posing as Reid Tallon, Jordan’s probation officer. Reid has been working for years to smash a drug ring and the only lead he has brings him to this small town and Jordan and her arrest some years earlier. Reid and Jordan immediately clash: Reid expects punctuality and strict adherence to the rules from Jordan and Jordan is one woman single handedly running a farm. She’s used to her parole officer popping out and checking on her when he got a free moment and there are times she can’t drop everything and dash into town to meet with Reid. Her very livelihood depends on her getting those cattle perfectly fit and in exceptional condition so she can get the money, pay her debts and breathe a sigh of relief.

Reid is the last thing Jordan wants or needs and Jordan is definitely not what Reid expected. She’s his best lead to a drug ring they know is operating and he wants to get it shut down quickly. He finds himself getting more and more mixed up with Jordan and her complicated life and it isn’t long before he begins to suspect that something is not at all right about those charges four years ago. Both of them have goals that they need to accomplish, no matter that it might be love. But when it seems as though Jordan might be much more mixed up in his case than he initially expected, Reid can’t help but feel betrayed. But is it what it looks like? Or is Jordan in more danger than anyone realised?

I’ve always felt that romantic suspense novels are tricky to get right. There’s a need for balance between the budding romance and the element of danger that runs through the story. I think that Deadly Secrets is deceptively subtle. Most of the first half of the book is geared towards one particular outcome but it’s not until the latter part of the book that the true danger is really revealed and it’s done in a very, very clever way. I remember getting so very irritated reading this book because something happens to Jordan that leads to just about everyone in her life turning away from her. They believe that she’s done something, kept something from them and it was so frustrating because the reader is aware of what has truly happened. I had to take a step back and look at it from the point of view of someone other than Jordan, examine it in a way that they could, taking in only what they knew. Jordan begins to spiral into a very dangerous place fueled by paranoia, fear and despair and it makes it seem so very likely that what Reid and the others feel is true. It’s quite masterfully done and Jordan’s isolation and disintegrating mental state as she faces the danger that no one believes exists, on her own, is brilliant.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here as that’s towards the end of the book! The first part is concerned with Reid showing up in town, believing that Jordan could possibly lead him to the outcome he seeks. The two of them clash and although some of their interactions are sexually charged and quite fun, Reid can be a little inconsistent. At times he’s playful and others, like he has a stick in a very uncomfortable place. I originally attributed this to being undercover and being driven, desperate to smash this drug ring. However I’m not entirely sure that it wasn’t just a little bit of poor choice of words….such as his comment about “temperamental females” which I found a bit pointless. He is utterly brutal when he believes that Jordan has been hiding something from him and I found his reaction a bit cruel. He has ‘issues’ surrounding what he thinks Jordan is guilty of but he’s terribly judgemental and dismissive of her protests. It makes little sense for Jordan to have done what they assumed – she was supposed to be, according to them, hiding it. So why would she do it when there were several people around? I’m aware that people can become quite adept at hiding things but one of the people that turned on her had known her for years and years, saw her almost every day. She was somewhat like a daughter to him – she had done something amazing for him. I felt quite bitter at his treatment of her, even more than Reid’s and I felt like if I were Jordan, I would find it very hard to forgive that. I think Jordan gets over it pretty quickly!

Deadly Secrets is a hard book to really rate because there were times when it made me want to throw my Kindle at the wall because I was getting so frustrated with some of the characters – including Jordan because the way in which she handled some things only made her situation regarding other people much worse. She pretty much started to actually act the sort of paranoid, crazy, drug-induced psychosis behaviour that everyone thought was the reason for her behaviour. But I attribute that to good writing, that it had me invested in Jordan and incensed at the way people didn’t attempt to look beyond what they saw as the obvious. Jordan is the standout in the book, she’s tough and smart and works backbreakingly hard, always with her goals in sight. She doesn’t let herself be intimidated by anyone, Reid had his moments but there were others where he really didn’t shine. But the writing makes up for it. The story is very well done.

7/10

Book #114 of 2014

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Deadly Secrets is book #41 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

 

 

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Getting Wild – Sarah Barrie

Getting WildGetting Wild
Sarah Barrie
Harlequin Escape Publishing
2013, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Ella Jameson is the editor-in-chief of Australia’s most successful and respected travel magazine. She has dragged the publication up to the success it enjoys now and her reputation as a hard taskmaster precedes her. Now that the magazine has been sold, Ella knows her job is safe – she’s got the readership numbers to ensure that. But she also wants to make sure that her small team, which she put together personally, is safe as well and so she drives them harder than ever towards perfection.

Then adventurer Ryan Edwards walks into her office with a proposition. He wants her to co-host a new travel television show with him, where they go to a location and report on attractions, facilities and accommodation. He will handle the more adventurous type activities and she will stick to the luxurious end of the scale. He thinks it will be ratings dynamite.

Despite being intrigued, Ella isn’t so sure. She’s never even screen tested for a camera before and they’re offering her the job without even seeing if she can perform on camera. It does set off warning bells in her head but she can’t deny the attractiveness of the offer. The only downside seems to be Ryan himself. He’s overly arrogant and self-assured and far too heavy handed. Unfortunately, he’s also sexy as hell and it doesn’t seem like Ella is immune, despite the many walls she has erected around her heart after several shattering betrayals,

Their first adventure is the Ghan train journey from Adelaide to the Top End and for Ella, that poses even more of a temptation. Ryan Edwards is a notorious womaniser and she knows it would be a mistake to allow herself anything more than just a no strings attached moment. But how can they work together when they want such different things?

I have super mixed feelings on this book – love the idea of it, it sounded like so much fun. Ella is uptight and very dedicated. She drives herself to succeed and she also drives those around her to succeed. Their performances reflect on her and failure is not an option for her. Ella kind of has the bitch “The Devil Wears Prada” thing going on and everyone who works for her seems a bit frightened of her because she is such a perfectionist/slave driver.

Enter Ryan Edwards and all of a sudden it’s like Harlequin Presents meets Bear Grylls in here. I don’t really find it cute that Ryan put her over his shoulder in her office and threatened to expose her ass to her colleagues and workmates if she didn’t agree to have dinner with him. Ryan is overbearing, arrogant, heavyhanded and kind of a bully. I think it’s wrapped up in the fact that he “sees her potential” and wants to get her in his bed but for me it just made him seem like a ginormous douche. I hate people being forced to do things they don’t want to do even if it’s “for their own good”. The way that he manipulates and threatens her into having dinner with me so he can lay out what he wants from her (and bully her into agreeing) was annoying. Why didn’t he just put the proposal to her like a normal person? So I was prepared to find Ryan annoying from then on and he didn’t really disappoint me. And then later on it turns out that Ella is some kind of black belt kickboxing whiz so I don’t know why she didn’t just sit him on his butt or nail him in the nads or something. That seemed kind of like inconsistent character portrayal.

Despite the fact that pains are taken to establish her as an uptight bitch (and I think we’re supposed to think “oh LOL Ryan is so funny because he winds her up but really he sees what she is underneath”) I actually liked Ella’s character. Her background was well fleshed out and I liked the reasoning for her Miranda Priestley-type character which made a lot of sense. I also liked that she wanted to stand alone, to develop her own career and resisted her grandfather’s plans for her. She was dedicated and passionate about her work, tough but with a bit of vulnerability. I also liked the way in which she developed friendships with the female crew while they were filming. You could tell she didn’t really know how to be friends properly and that it was a learning curve for her. She was used to just working with people, not socialising with them and crossing over into friendship.

Because I liked Ella so much, it was sort of a shame that I really didn’t like Ryan’s character at all. And if someone had taken me on a “surprise” back to nature camping trip, I wouldn’t have been as good-natured about it as Ella came to be! This one was definitely a mixed bag – good writing and I liked the story of them travelling on the Ghan and exploring the NT but could definitely not get into Ryan, which tended to bring down my whole opinion on the novel. This is definitely a romance for those who prefer the more Alpha type of hero.

6/10

Book #200 of 2013

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Getting Wild is the 80th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

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