Aussie Book Review: Northern Heat by Helene Young

“In steamy northern Queensland, Conor is rebuilding his shattered life. Working at Cooktown's youth centre has given him the chance to make a difference again, and the opportunity to flirt with Dr Kristy Dark. The local GP is hiding her own secrets and struggling to raise her feisty teenage daughter alone.

When a severe cyclone menaces the coast, threatening to destroy everything in its path, tensions come to a head – and the weather is not the only danger. Cut off from the world and with her life on the line, Kristy will have to summon her courage and place her trust in Conor, or they'll both lose someone they love.”

When I picked up this latest by award-winning romance writer Helene Young I hadn’t realised that it was very loosely linked to her previous novel Safe Harbour (my review here), so what a delightful surprise it was to discover that the mysterious stranded sailor who had crossed paths with Darcy and Noah was going to get his own story.

Conor isn't known for staying in one place for too long, preferring to drift around on his boat and, whilst grieving the loss of the two most important people in his life, plot his revenge whilst discovering the identity of the perpetrator. It doesn’t help that when he becomes involved in a murder case merely by trying to offer assistance, his suspicions are heightened when attempts to clear his name reveal that there may be links between this murder and that of his loved ones. He just hadn't counted on the complication of intense attraction to Kristy Dark.

Unlike Conor who prefers to drift from place to place, Dr Kristy Dark has sought the solace of the northern heat after the break-up of her abusive marriage, to not only give her daughter the stability that she needs, but to help heal her own wounds. The last thing she wants is for a man to come into her life and unbalance everything she’s worked so hard at. Even though he has been implicated in a murder, Conor threatens to do just that and she can’t help but feel that there is far more to this man than meets the eye.

As the mother of all storms closes in on the small town, the danger intensifies as Conor tries to clear his name, Kristy’s daughter disappears to help a friend in need and a deranged killer sets Kristy in his sights. In the heat of the storm will Conor be able to save both himself and Kristy so that they can let go of their broken pasts and build a future?

It just makes my day when Helene Young releases a new romantic suspense because I can always count on her bringing a sense of reality to her stories, relatable characters in whom I can become emotionally invested, nail-biting suspense, a good dose of romance and social issues prevalent in our society of today.

A pilot by profession, Helene writes with the self-assuredness that goes with “knowing what you write” and has always injected doses of realism into her stories by giving us heroes and heroines with flying as their background. Now, in Northern Heat, that realism turns to her experiences on board her floating home, Roo Bin Esque, helping her add to the story by giving us a hero with a sailing background and I thoroughly enjoyed this deviation.

Helene touches on so many things in this novel such as grief and the way different people deal with it, the raising of teenage girls (and all the “distress” that goes with it), the frighteningly real issue of domestic violence (both psychological and physical) and the way a partner can isolate a victim from all those they hold dear.

In terms of the characters, Abby and Sissy had me thinking of my own thirteen-year old daughter, making her observations spot-on with regard to behaviour, peer-pressure, social media and everything else that goes with the raising of teenage girls.

Both Conor and Kristy are emotionally bruised and battered people who we can only hope will get out of the storm unscathed. They are brilliantly portrayed and I really loved the caring friendship between Kristy and Freya – another woman who has suffered domestic abuse. A subject close to my heart after growing up in a home in which I witnessed the devastating effects of this abuse whereafter a woman very close to me went into a marriage where she unwittingly became isolated from her own family, Helene tackles it with grace and sensitivity.

A fierce storm, societal issues and some heated romance blended with gripping suspense, which saw me flipping pages as fast as I could, make this possibly one of my top ten reads of 2015 with Helene Young fast making her mark on becoming Australia’s romantic suspense queen.

I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Helene Young lives aboard a catamaran moored near the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea and shares her sailing adventures with her husband, Capt G.

She recently took a leave of absence from her role as a Regional Flying Manager but her work as a former senior captain with a major regional airline took her all over Australia and she drew inspiration for her stories from the communities she visited.

Helene won the Romance Writers of Australia Romantic Book of the Year Award in 2001 and 2012. She was also voted favourite romantic suspense author by the Australian Romance Readers Association in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 and was shortlisted for the same award in 2012.

In what other spare time she has, she conducts writing workshops with QWC, schools and other writing organisations.

She is also custodian of several million bees, a lover of tropical gardens and an avid reader.


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