REVIEW: OUTBACK BLAZE BY RACHAEL JOHNS

OUTBACK BLAZE

Author: Rachael Johns
Harlequin MIRA Aus RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Outback Blaze

Rachael Johns is fast cementing her place as a romance writer to watch in Australia and I sense there are big things in store for her as she stretches her writing wings further. Outback Blaze, the second in her Bunyip Bay series, is an immensely likeable book and will win her many new fans, as well as keeping her established fan base crying out for more.

Readers of Outback Dreams would not have been surprised by the decision to focus on secondary characters Ruby and Drew this time around; Johns cleverly set that up in the first book, and the signs are there in Outback Blaze for the focus of the next romance in the upcoming Outback Ghost. It’s cleverly done, without being overt. Back to Ruby and Drew … here there are two characters hiding or recovering from events in their past who have survival, rather than romance, on the mind. Of course, that’s exactly what ends up on their mind as a series of events draws them into each others’ arms.

Ruby is rebuilding her life in Bunyip Bay after fleeing a bad break-up (that’s an understatement, as readers will discover); English ex-pat Drew, a police officer, is seeking temporary refuge in the town until it’s safe for him to return to the UK. When Ruby’s parents’ agricultural store burns down, Drew is caught up in the investigation, earning Ruby’s ire when the suspicion is cast on her parents. But as Drew learns more about Ruby’s past, he starts to think the fire may be connected to Ruby in an entirely different way. In the meantime, the two are fighting a powerful attraction to each other … but will it spark or fizzle?

Johns sets up multi-layered romantic conflict in Outback Blaze – in the first case there are the two characters with baggage (including Ruby’s fear that she’s not a good lover), then there’s the issue that Drew’s stay in the town is temporary, but it’s the mystery of who’s behind the fire that adds the greatest conflict. The mystery is a good touch and shows that Johns has a talent for suspense. I look forward to seeing where she goes with this. She also has a talent for creating romantic tension and I really enjoyed the development of the romance as it moved from a slow simmer to a fast boil. When the two get together, the door is left open … at least for the first time. The blaze of the title refers not only to the fire that destroyed the store, but the blaze of passion that is ignited when the two kiss … and more.

Outback Blaze is a rural romance more for its setting than its focus on rural issues, but Johns does highlight the good and bad of being part of a small community, as well as lightly touching on the relationship between youth and boredom in country towns. Humour is added with an Undies Run (which lots of hunky country guys are taking part in). In all, Outback Blaze is a thoroughly entertaining read. Keep them coming, Rachael!

To read a chapter sampler, click here.

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

Bookish treat: I know some of you will say Drew is all the treat you need, but he’s Ruby’s. Will chocolate do?