REVIEW: HALF MOON BAY BY HELENE YOUNG

HALF MOON BAY

Author: Helene Young
Michael Joseph RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan 

Book Cover:  Half Moon BayA suspenseful page-turner was just what I wanted while on holidays recently and Half Moon Bay by Helene Young fit the bill perfectly. Earlier reviews have been full of praise so I was keen to see whether the book lived up to the hype. It did – award-winning author Helene Young has convinced me that she’s an author to keep an eye on. The cover (love the colours) sets the scene well – a woman running along a windblown beach. It’s well designed to attract readers – who is this woman? Where is she running or what/whom is she running from?

For two years, international photojournalist Ellie Wilding has been running from her past, burying her devastation at the loss of her sister, Nina, but when old friends from Half Moon Bay call for help she knows it’s finally time to return home. The sleepy hamlet on the north coast of New South Wales is under threat from greedy developers and a corrupt council and Ellie has the connections to generate the publicity the residents need. She’s set aside four weeks for the “Battle of the Bay”, but has no idea what is underlying the shady deals and kickbacks she’s been told about.

Nicholas Lawson does know what’s going on. In fact, he’s embroiled in the midst of it all. A former Army major, who walked away from his military career after the assignment in Afghanistan that killed Nina, he’s now working with the corrupt Lord Mayor O’Sullivan. It’s no surprise to him that his meeting with Ellie is fraught with conflict, given that they’re on opposite sides, nor is it a surprise that seeing her makes him feel oddly protective. For, even though she doesn’t remember him, he remembers her from the day Nina died. He also knows that Ellie does not know Nina died while investigating a sinister connection between Half Moon Bay and Afghanistan. As Ellie gets closer to the truth, she has to figure out who she can trust … Nick, the attractive and frustrating stranger working against her, or Alex, an old journalist friend who has always been there for her.

I love a good romantic suspense novel and Half Moon Bay had all the elements needed to keep me wrapped in the story from start to finish: a headstrong but compassionate female lead, a decisive, attractive and protective male lead, a fast-paced, tense storyline with believable conflict and a well-teased out attraction between the leads. Young balances all these elements well and delivers an exciting page-turner with skill and style. There are a number of plot lines to tie together, and I while I wasn’t really surprised by the outcome, I couldn’t fault the way Young did this – overall, Half Moon Bay was tightly plotted with believable outcomes.

I’ve been reading a bit of rural fiction lately, so it was nice to read a book in another Australian setting: our beautiful coastline. I enjoyed the way Young incorporated the sometimes dramatic outcomes of Australian weather extremes (in this case, ‘flooding rains’) into the novel to add tension to the overall story. I also liked how gender stereotypes – at least in relation to Ellie – were set aside: Ellie can fly planes and is a photojournalist with no qualms about entering war zones. In contrast, Young drew out a softer side to Nick – his home, when Ellie saw it, was nothing like she expected from this very masculine man.

For lovers of romantic suspense, I’d highly recommend Half Moon Bay. As for me, I’m going to have to play catch up and Young’s earlier novels – I hear they’re well worth it.

Available from good bookstores and Penguin Books Australia. This copy was courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.

Bookish treat: A glass of red wine with complex, full-bodied flavours, would be lovely to sip while reading.