REVIEW: SAFE HARBOUR BY HELENE YOUNG

SAFE HARBOUR

Author: Helene Young
Bantam Australia RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

9781743482285Award-winning Australian writer Helene Young delivers top-notch romantic suspense with Safe Harbour, a fast-paced drama in which the action barely lets up from start to finish. It’s her fifth book and she’s showing no sign of slipping from the top of the genre – rather, she just keeps getting better. I read this in two sittings, engrossed in the dramas as they played out in a coastal town near Bundaberg, QLD.

A handsome stranger with no name rescued from stormy seas. An explosive secret that links the man to the Russian mafia, a city football coach, the death of a young man more than a decade earlier, and newly returned resident Darcy Fletcher. Lies, corruption, cover-ups, drug scandals and money-laundering … Safe Harbour has it all, and then some. When Darcy helps rescue a sailor, she has no idea her dreams of cooking up a storm in Banksia Cove are set to become a storm of a far bigger kind.

A chef, Darcy returned to her childhood home to be with her ailing, but reserved mother; putting aside the busy-ness of city living, she’s now preparing to launch her own restaurant. Police officer Noah has also returned to the cove, bringing his long-simmering feelings for Darcy. Seeing Noah again has sparked the same in Darcy, not that he’d know it. That all goes on hold when the two help with a sea rescue, triggering memories of another sea rescue that ended badly and led to both leaving town.

Suddenly, they are drawn into the mystery of the man they’ve rescued, with questions about his identity and location coming from all quarters, including men of the sinister variety. Who is he? What is he hiding? And who is he hiding from? With danger on her doorstep, Darcy is forced into hiding with the man she comes to know as Conor, while Noah does his best to protect her and other residents of the cove. What follows is an action-packed ride as lies surface, hearts break and safe harbour is compromised. Everyone has secrets, but not everyone will survive their exposure.

A windy, wintry backdrop sets the scene for a tense narrative, with the chill factor amped up by some cold-hearted characters. This is balanced by the romantic tension of the love triangle between Darcy, Noah and Conor with the reader left wondering whether the instant chemistry Darcy feels with Conor will trump the deeper feelings she feels for Noah? The love triangle adds a simmering heat to the story, but the reader has to wait for the sizzle. Oh, the anticipation! As Darcy let herself be drawn to Conor, I held my breath, hoping she would hold out for Noah. Did she listen?

Warmth is also added by secondary character, Rosie, who acts as a friend/mother figure to Darcy. She’s a lovable character and stole my heart more than any other in the book. Darcy’s father, Stirling, however, left me cold (as he was meant to do); he’s a selfish, narcissistic man, and his attitude towards Darcy only added to the empathy I felt for her. Other characters add to the tension through their relationships with Darcy, making Safe Harbour a multi-layered read – note the tension with her parents (estranged with one, reserved with the other), her strained relationship with her step-mother and half-sister, the mother-figure relationship Darcy has with Rosie (which didn’t make her mother happy), and so on.

Young is making a name for herself within Australian contemporary fiction and I can see why. Her novels are tightly written, with their very Australian settings vividly realised through character and location, and Safe Harbour is no exception. An engrossing read, with layers of tension woven into the drama and romance, it’s a must read for suspense lovers.

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

Bookish treat: Funny, but after reading this I feel like some good old-fashioned fish and chips!

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