New Release Book Review: Two Hearts Healing by Renee Dahlia

Two Hearts HealingTwo Hearts Healing by Renee Dahlia is book 3 in the Merindah Park series and focuses on the third sibling Serena and her trainer boss Lee.

Serena is recovering from an accident whilst riding in a horse race, she’s dealing with the recovery of both physical injuries and traumatic brain injury. It is definitely not an easy time and Renee Dahlia does a great job of showing us some of the many impacts TBI can have on a person, while reminding us it is different for everyone and whilst someone can look physically ok, that doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with hidden issues.

Serena is stubborn, whereas before the accident she would do as she was told, she is starting to find her voice and make decisions based on what she truly wants and feels is important to her, the top two things on her list are to ride again and to kiss Lee.

Lee has been blaming himself for Serena’s accident and has cut himself off from Shannon, Serena’s brother, and his friend, as well as from Serena. When she turns up unexpectedly asking for help to get back on a horse, Lee is left feeling emotions he has no idea how to deal with. His relationship with his parents has played a major role in how Lee sees himself and how he holds himself emotionally around others, and Serena is about to test every one of those walls and boundaries he has put around himself.

I really enjoyed these two characters, and while the banter between them was fun, there were also misunderstandings, arguments, and revelations. There is plenty of growth in store for both characters as they negotiate their feelings for each other and try and figure out what they want and what it means to have those things. 

We met Serena in book two Making Her Mark as she is Rachel’s twin and they were both struggling to build a real relationship between each other as they are both quite different people. While in Making Her Mark Serena had Rachel’s back, it is nice to see their relationship has continued to grow and this time Rachel is there for Serena.

I have learnt a great deal about the horseracing industry through this series, in book one Merindah Park there is the issue of gambling, then in Making her Mark I leanrt about the extra work female jockeys have to do to get the same respect as their male counterparts, and in Two Hearts Healing I learnt about the care of horses and the issue of finding the correct homes for them when they can no longer race. It is evident that Renee Dahlia has great knowledge and love of this industry and is determined to educate us about what really goes on.

I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and I really hope there is a fourth for the last brother Shannon.

Thanks to NetGalley and Escape Publishing for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review – Last Bridge Before Home by Lily Malone

Last BridgeI loved the first two books in the Chalk Hill series, Water Under the Bridge and The Cafe by the Bridge and have been looking forward to Last Bridge Before Home. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Where The Cafe by the Bridge highlighted male depression and the need to ask for help, Last Bridge Before Home deals with another topical issue, domestic abuse.

Jaydah for all she comes across as a strong young woman is also an insecure young woman who has been physically and mentally abused for most of her life by her father who is an absolute bastard. It’s not just Jaydah who has been a victim to this vile excuse of a man, but also her mother and her sister Jasmine. Much of Jaydah’s life has been spent protecting them from her father and taking on responsibility for keeping them all safe. I can’t imagine living like Jaydah, being so afraid to tell anyone what is going on, keeping so many secrets all to herself, huge secrets that no one in the town of Chalk Hill has any idea about.

But is that really true? Well, one secret yes, but most people in Chalk Hill had an inkling that things weren’t exactly right with Jaydah’s father, but no one wanted to step up and ask questions, then afterwards they say ‘why didn’t you say something, why didn’t you tell us?’ way to pass the blame to the victim. This happens in real life all too often, no one wants to take responsibility for what might be going on behind closed doors, maybe we should start looking out for each other and asking the hard questions ‘Do you need help? Can I do anything? Is everything all right?’. Be there and let the people/person in question know that when they are ready, you are there, no judgement, just support.

Brix, what a lovely, loyal guy he was, and no pun intended, but what a ‘brick’ of a character he was. Jaydah has always been the love of his life and he has never given up hope that one day she will be his. Jaydah has kept her secrets even from Brix who thought he knew everything about her. I’m not sure how I would have coped if I found out all of my partners secrets and had to deal with all the issues that Brix does, but the way he took it all in his stride despite his worries about how he would deal with everything was fabulous and truly showed his love for Jaydah.

Another issue that Lily Malone deals with in this novel is the aspect of caring for someone with an intellectual disability and all it entails. She also delves into the dreams of people with a disability and what they can realistically expect when it comes to freedom of choice and their future. This is a hard topic as anyone who cares for or works with a person with disabilities can attest to. I work with people with disabilities and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the responsibility for a person day in, day out, to make the hard choices, to explain why they can’t have everything they see others around them having. Dealing with the behaviours of people with intellectual disabilities is challenging and Lily Malone has done a great job with both her character portrayal and showing the good and the bad of living with such a challenge.

There were many tense moments in this novel, there were heartbreaking moments, moments of joy, moments I wanted to take one of Jaydah’s kali sticks and whack her father across the head for her, there were ups and downs and many wonderful moments threaded through this novel making it an absolute joy to read despite its darkness.

I hope we get to visit Chalk Hill again and see how the three brothers and their partners are going, along with their extended families.

Thanks to Harlequin Mira Australia and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: True Blue by Sasha Wasley

IMG_20191219_111731I absolutely loved this novel and I can’t believe I let it sit on my shelf unread for so long. After reading Dear Banjo for the second time the other month, I knew I had to get to books 2 & 3 ASAP. True Blue was another fabulous story in the Daughter’s of the Outback series and this time we get to know Free (Freya), the more flighty of the sisters, except she’s not as flighty as her sisters have her believing.

I really loved getting to know Free, she’s an artist and I love the way she looks at life, always trying to see the best in people and experiences. I loved how she gets totally absorbed in her art; I am the same way, (maybe we are kindred spirits). There was a lot of humour in this story, and a lot of heart.

Free takes up an artists residency teaching position at the local high school and as nervous as she is, I loved the way she taught, maybe if I’d had a teacher like her I’d have pursued art earlier in life. She makes enemies early on, without meaning to, with a truly unlikeable character who is a  colleague at the school. What a nasty piece of work he turned out to be, even worse than my first impressions.

We also have the romance (of course), and what a lovely man Constable Finn Kelly is. It is a bit of a bumpy journey for these two to get together, plenty of misunderstandings and worrying about the future. I really enjoyed the chemistry and the interactions between Free and Finn, (I wish I could meet him myself, too bad he’s a fictional character).

We get to catch up with Banjo and Tom and see how they are going, we also get to know Beth a little more as it’s Beth who Free turns to a lot when she needs someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on. Beth could be pretty hard and pessimistic towards Free, but I think this stems from her own issues, (which I’m pretty sure we’ll find out more about in the next book Love Song, which is Beth’s story), but she’s still a supportive and protective big sister.

Running through the story is the issue of mining and the environment and the importance of fighting for our environments protection.

I think Free did a lot of growing in this story and came out much stronger and had way more belief in herself by the end of the story.

I highly recommend this novel and this series.

Book Review: In the Heat of the Night by Susanne Bellamy

In the heat of the nightThis is the second book I’ve read in the new Bindarra Creek series, I’ve read them out of order and though they do work well as standalones, I would recommend you read them in order. In the Heat of the Night is book #2 in the Bindarra Creek Reborn series and I loved it. Fire wasn’t the only thing burning in this novel, there were plenty of sparks between our two main characters Kel and Thalia.

I loved the strength and determination that Thalia had, she was also stubborn, caring and loved her family to bits. Kel is known as the town’s ladies man, a love them and leave them kind of guy, but Thalia may be about to change all that, completely blindsighting Kel. underneath Kel is much more than a ladies man, he’s captain of the fire station and a loving son to dad Keegan, who is going through some bad times.

Mixed in with this budding relationship are fires, a potential arsonist, an accident, grief, and food.

Food plays a big role in bringing these two together and helping to start the healing for Kel’s dad Keegan. I want to go out and try some Greek food myself after reading this, and I am by no means a foodie. Thalia’s Greek parents add an extra layer to this story with some added humour, especially her dad.

An important issue Susanne Bellamy brings up in this novel is one of thinking about our older generation of people and what happens to them when they reach retirement age, especially in the rural communities, what is there for these people (who have given so much) to do so that they continue to feel useful and have interests to make them want to keep going, especially for those who retirement isn’t an option they have chosen themselves.

I really liked how this relationship grew changing both characters as they learnt more about themselves and each other. A highly enjoyable read.

Thanks to the author and Booksprout for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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Book Review: Diamond in the Dust by Mel A Rowe

Diamond in the dustDiamond in the Dust is book 2 in the Elsie Creek series set in outback NT and was a highly enjoyable romance about two unlikely people. Mel A Rowe does a good job of describing the remote outback and its eclectic cast of characters.

I enjoyed meeting Verily, a world champion softballer, who has never before had to decide where her future is heading and what she wants, until an accident changes all that and takes away all she knew and all she lived for. I’ve changed my direction in life several times (maybe more), but mostly those redirections have been my choices, I can’t imagine having those choices taken from me, leaving me floundering to figure out where I was heading to now.

Verily has come to Elsie Creek to stay with her Aunt on her farm and is very lost, she a bit aloof and standoffish at first, especially when it comes to local boy Alex who is also living and working on her Aunt’s property, (their initial meeting doesn’t help matters).

Alex is a really great guy and is doing his best to start following his dreams, compared to Verily, he knows exactly what he wants, but his relationship with his dad is holding him back from going completely forward. 

I loved the friendship that slowly developed between Verily and Alex, slowly they pushed each other out of their comfort zone and helped each other figure out where they were heading. They both required a fair bit of pushing, especially Verily when it came to helping out the local softball team (there may have been some slightly underhanded dealings going on with getting her to face this issue).

Once again we are introduced to some interesting characters that make up the local softball team, some more likeable than others (ie. the coach, not really likeable). There’s a very unlikeable female character who plays slightly dirty in an attempt to get her way. Cecil the water buffalo is still roaming the streets of Elsie Creek, brightening everyone’s day just a little and causing trouble a little too.

I was definitely barracking for Verily and Alex to get their acts together and figure out their futures.

Thanks to Mel A Rowe for providing me with a copy of this novel.

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New Release Book Review: Up On Horseshoe Hill by Penelope Janu

IMG_20191105_105502Oh, how I do love reading a novel by Penelope Janu, it’s always an absolute pleasure and I find them hard to put down. Up On Horseshoe Hill is no exception, I read until the early hours of the morning and picked it up again as soon as I was awake.

I fell in love with Finn our leading man straight away (I seem to fall in love with all the leading men in Penelope Janu’s novels), he was lovely.

Tasked with investigating the deaths of several horses a few years before, Finn is determined to do his job, in doing so, he brings up memories better forgotten by Jet/Jemima, as well as a few other people who would like the investigation dropped. It becomes obvious that a potential crime may have been committed and this leads to danger for Jet.

Finn and Jet had a connection straight up, but the relationship that develops took its time as Jet has to learn to trust as well as realise Finn isn’t going to let his investigation go.

I really enjoyed the aspect of Jet’s job that allowed her to take her horses for children with disabilities to ride, working with people with disabilities and also being an art therapist, I know how wonderfully beneficial these beautiful animals are to healing and confidence.

I learnt a lot about what being a farrier involves and loved the zoo aspect of this story, I never realised how much you would need to know about various animals behaviour to work in this field. I also love the fact that Penelope Janu shows that despite the fact Jet has a learning disability, she is successful in her career choice, that there are always ways to work around things that could hold us back.

There was plenty to enjoy in this novel, family relationships, or lack thereof, friendship, romance, danger and mystery, small-town community and so much more. I also liked the way Ms Janu brings a much-loved character of mine from her previous novels into this story, Nate is an absolute honey that I have been hoping will find his own love of his life, alas I’ve been informed it won’t be happening just yet, but he will make more appearances in future books.

Up On Horseshoe Hill is out on the 18th November 2019, preorder your copy now, or rush out and buy it in 4 days time, it would make a great Christmas present.

Thank you to Harlequin Australia for providing me with a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: Worth The Wait by Annie Seaton

Screenshot_20191027_234714Worth the wait by Annie Seaton is book 4 in the Bindarra Creek A Town Reborn series and my first foray into Bindarra Creek despite having several of the series waiting to be read, each book is written by a different Australian author. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the locals of Bindarra Creek and plan on reading all the books that comprise the two series plus a anthology.

Worth The Wait starts with Jaclyn turning up in Bindarra Creek as the new school principal, she’s arrived there under a cloud. As we slowly uncover what happened in the city we find plenty of corruption and suspense to be had throughout the story.

Jaclyn’s romantic leading man Ryan is just lovely, and I enjoyed the interaction between the two from the frosty reception to start with to the reigniting of their romance.

I enjoyed seeing Jaclyn loosen up as she started to get to know the town. It would be a big shock to the system to move from the city to the country, especially when it isn’t entirely your own choice. I did wonder if she’d cope at the beginning.

There were serious moments and amusing moments and plenty of enjoyment during this story. I look forward to returning to Bindarra Creek very soon as I have book 5 to read next. As well as starting from the beginning as soon as time allows.

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