Aussie Book Review: Half Moon Bay by Helene Young

Half Moon Bay
My Rating:              5 / 5
Format:                  eBook courtesy of Penguin Australia
                              and NetGalley
Publication Date:    22 May 2013
Category:               Modern & Contemporary Fiction
                               (Romantic Suspense)
ISBN:                      9781921901584
Publisher:               Penguin Australia
Imprint:                   Michael Joseph
Extent:                    392 pages
RRP:                      AU$29.99

The Blurb

“Ellie Wilding has been running from her past, but when the residents of Half Moon Bay call for help she knows it’s finally time to return home.  As an international photojournalist, she’s used to violence in war zones, but she’s shocked when it erupts in the sleeply hamlet on the north coast of New South Wales, threatening all she holds dear.

Battle-weary Nicholas Lawson walked away from his military career leaving unfinished business.  In a coastal backwater, that decision returns to haunt him.  He remembers all too vividly his last lethal assignment in Afghanistan when Ellie’s sister, Nina, was shot and killed.  Ellie’s been in his dreams ever since, even if she doesn’t remember him …

As a storm rages and floodwaters rise, Ellie struggles to save her community.  But who can she trust?  Nick Lawson, the dangerously attractive stranger with secrets, or an old friend who’s never let her down?

A compelling story of danger and desire by the award-winning author of Burning Lies.

‘Plenty of action, sizzling romance and page-turning suspense’ Book’d Out

‘Helene Young is a very accomplished writer, building her romance and suspense with verve and skill’ Sisters in Crime”

Summary and Thoughts

Is he her enemy or her protector?

Suffering with survivor’s guilt, Ellie Wilding has isolated herself for the last two years since the death of her sister Nina.  Having been away from the war zone covering a story in the UK, she was unable to save her sister even after single-handedly arranging for the casevac from Afghanistan to Australia, so she’s been hiding around the world, losing herself in her photojournalism work.  After she receives an email from the former mayor of her home town, Half Moon Bay, requesting her to return home to investigate some shady dealings taking place by using her finely-honed investigative skills, she finally makes her way back.  Used to capturing brutal images through the filters, angles and lighting of her camera which has always enabled her to keep her distance, Ellie is unprepared for the development battle being waged amongst the residents and the new Lord Mayor and his sidekick development engineer, the arrogant Nicholas Lawson, threatening to overthrow the tranquillity of the town and all she holds dear.  But who is Nicholas, and why does she get the distinct feeling that she knows him from somewhere?

Nicholas Lawson, a former Major who walked away from the army, disillusioned at the government’s inability to contain the drug-trafficking in Afghanistan and weary after the tragic accident which saw Nina being fatally injured, has arrived in Half Moon Bay to take up the position of property engineer for the development which is causing so much angst between its residents and the Mayor.  While his first unexpected encounter with Ellie causes him concern, thankfully, she doesn’t recognise him, but he realises that he doesn’t need the added complications which she could present as he tries to deal with the secrets and cover-ups which have led him to this little town.  Although he’s used to shouldering the blame, he’s just not prepared to see another Wilding sister die in the name of an international racket, especially one who has intruded so thoroughly into his thoughts, dreams and well-ordered life.  If any operation is going to threaten to stretch his attachment to its limits, it’s going to be this one!

From overhearing private conversations, surfing the cool blue waters of Half Moon Bay to discovering that friends and family aren’t always who we want them to be, Ellie is thrust into the centre of a dark web of drug-trafficking, money laundering and duplicity, which has entangled two continents, and she learns that there is more to the tragedy which took place in Afghanistan and the man with a seemingly untraceable past.

Most of my reading lately has been somewhat focused on more emotional subjects, so it’s been a while since I picked up a romantic suspense novel.  Of course, it would have been quite sinful to overlook Helene Young’s latest novel so it wasn’t long after requesting it that I eagerly devoured it.  Thank you Helene for reminding me of the reasons why I have always loved romantic suspense!

Having read three of this award winning author's books (sorry Helene, I still need to read Burning Lies), it’s not surprising that Half Moon Bay was chosen as Get Reading’s June 2013 Book of the Month and I have come to love this author who centres her novels in authentic Australian settings.  Even though this is her first stand-alone novel and she veers from her usual setting of Far North Queensland with the ins and outs of border security, to that of Half Moon Bay in NSW, she keeps one of her personal passions intact – that of flying.  Despite the fact that it takes a bit of a backseat in this novel, there is no doubt in my mind that at least one of Helene’s characters will always have the ability to fly an aircraft and this certainly gives her writing a certain individuality!

Half Moon Bay is dominated by suspense and anxiety and, while her characters thoughts, feelings and actions are heartfelt, she seamlessly moves the story forward and keeps the tension mounting in every scene.  The romantic elements are believable and moving yet understated, which, to my mind, certainly helps to keep the suspense factor alive.  In particular her description of life in a war zone and the events which took place in Afghanistan are evocative, calling to mind another read about photojournalists in the midst of war.  Of course, the fact that Ellie, her likeable heroine and I share a passion for photography, was an added bonus.

Fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat action and intrigue with some tantalizing romantic encounters, Half Moon Bay is a fantastic addition to Australian romantic suspense and truly is “love in the heart of danger”.

I wish to thank the publisher, Penguin Australia via NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this suspenseful read from an author at the top of her genre.

A Little about the Author (adapted from her website)

Helene Young is a multi-award winning author of three novels, with Half Moon Bay being her fourth.

Wings of Fear, first in her Border Watch series, was voted as Romantic Book of the Year in 2011 and is the first of her loosely linked trilogy focusing on the coastal surveillance operations around Australia.

Shattered Sky, the second Border Watch book, recently won the Romantic Book of the Year 2012 and is set in the world of the Outlawed Motorcycle gangs and organised crime.

These first two books were also awarded the Favourite Romantic Suspense novels by the Australian Romance Readers Association in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Burning Lies, the final Border Watch book, was released in July 2012 by Penguin Australia and is a passionate love story set on the Atherton Tablelands at the height of the bushfire season.

Helene continues to work as a senior Check and Training Pilot with Qantaslink flying throughout regional Australia.  When she’s not flying, you’ll find her in North Queensland with her husband and manic Staffordshire Bullterrier, Zeus.  She’s also custodian of several million bees, a lover of tropical gardens and an avid reader.

In what other spare time she has left she conducts writing workshops for QWC and schools and other writing organisations.


  1. Great review for a great book Marcia

    Shelleyrae @ Bookd Out

    1. Thanks Shelleyrae - yes it was really was a great book.

  2. Thanks, Marcia, delighted you enjoyed Nick and Ellie's story. They were two characters who've been with me a long time and it was good to be able to tell their stories.

    1. You're most welcome Helene. Can't wait to see what you've got up your sleeve next.


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