by Sarah Barrie
Published by Harlequin Enterpises AU
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Suspense
“Her arms hurt, her back ached, but eventually the calf was free. She checked it over and watched for a few minutes to reassure herself that all was well. She would have liked to have moved the pair up closer to the house to keep an eye on them, but there wasn’t time.
Flicking mud and birth fluids from her hands, she looked down at her appearance.
She was a wreck and, damn it, she hadn’t taken her watch off. She wiped it on her arm, and noted that at least it was still working. It told her this little deviation from plan had set her back almost an hour.
In disgust, she pulled a face.”
Jordan Windcroft is running a farm on her own, sinking fences as skilfully as she can wrangle a steer or break a wild horse. The rich judge in the neighbouring has his eyes on Jordan’s beautiful valley, and would do anything to get hold of it. While fighting to retain control of her property, Jordan also holds in her heart the story of the crash that left her with a criminal record and a long-kept secret.
Jordan’s parole is to be finished in a few weeks. When a new, stricter parole officer comes to town, Jordan is dubious. Reid doesn’t look or act like a small-town parole officer. But Reid is trying to puzzle Jordan out too: is the town darling involved int the meth ring he has actually come to investigate? She was done for possession back at the time of the crash, after all …
There were many things I loved about this book! I always appreciate a book with a competent woman as a main character. I liked that the plot was multi-dimensional and not entirely predictable, that the thriller element was at least as strong as the romantic elements. I liked the realistic aspects of the Small-Town Pillar being not such a nice guy after all, and of the storyline involving his misuses of power. And the stalking storyline was suitably terrifying.
As always with this kind of romance, I kept getting snagged on the ethics & consent issues. It’s hard for me to warm to a hero when he’s the heroine’s parole officer (or doctor, or etc) and he’s macking on her while he has a large degree of institutional power over her. Yes, Jordan gives as good as she gets banter-wise, but that doesn’t make it ok. Maybe what I need is some sort of notification in order to suspend the ethics issues and pretend it’s some sort of alt-U where that doesn’t matter?
Self-identified “old-fashioned” men are also not my romantic cup of tea, when it comes with old-fashioned ideas about gender:
“The big, bad probation officer’s scared of a little puppy dog,’ Jordan commented casually to Madi.
Reid sent her an unappreciative look. ‘Maybe I’m still recovering from a run in with someone’s crazed goose.’
Jordan couldn’t help the smirk. ‘She was minding eggs. It made her temperamental.’
‘Seems this place is just full of temperamental females.'”
In good news, these comments do get called out by the heroine, which isn’t always the case elsewhere. So yay, I guess? It’s better than nothing.
Despite these problems, this was still a greatly enjoyable Aussie rural romantic suspense, with a deeply likable heroine, solid B- and C-plots, and a splendid sense of place.
I received an e-galley of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.