Author: Helene Young
Michael Joseph RRP $32.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
If romantic suspense is your thing, look no further than Helene Young’s latest novel, Northern Heat. It’s dripping with suspense, from the will-they-won’t they of the protagonists’ romance and escalating community tension to a severe cyclone that’s about to make things even more stormy … and steamy.
The story spins off from Young’s previous novel, Safe Harbour; in that novel, Conor was rescued from his stricken yacht and was in need of safe harbour after his family was killed. It’s some time later and Conor is now living in northern Queensland, rebuilding his shattered life. Local GP Kristy Dark has much the same intention – to move on from her own dark past. Both have lost loved ones, but will either be able to look past this and see the person in front of them? Their flirtation has barely time to seed before Conor is caught up in a murder case simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. While he tries to clear his name (made even more difficult by a police officer’s clear dislike for him), he uncovers links to a family in town, members of which are friendly with Kristy. Danger, desire and drama come to a head as a cyclone closes in and cuts the town off from the world. Can Conor and Kristy trust each other?
As always, Young sets romance and suspense on a collision course, delivering readers an exciting reading experience all round. Northern Heat‘s romance builds up beautifully, with a clear chemistry drawing the couple together, and a number of conflicts, both situational and emotional, pulling the couple apart. Conor and Kristy have to open up to each other, something both find difficult for various reasons – it requires trust, courage and timing. Just when it looks like the barriers are down, fears are triggered once more, and the two have to navigate even more uncertainty.
In keeping with the suspense/thriller side of things, Young explores some difficult themes, most notably that of domestic and family violence. She takes a sensitive and informed approach, with Kristy (herself a victim of abuse) playing an advisory and supportive role to her friend, Freya. Young highlights that domestic violence is not at all related to class or money – a doctor, like Kristy, can be as much a victim, as Freya, whose past includes working in a strip club. In particular, she makes clear that symptoms of an abusive relationship do not always include visible scars; such relationships can leave deep, open wounds on the soul, not just the body. Even when the abuse is in the past, memories are easily triggered, by a word, a smell, a sensation. We need to understand this about domestic violence. It would not be easy to write about this and for some, it is difficult to read about. Young is to be admired for joining in with efforts to educate people that violence in a relationship is never acceptable, whatever form it takes.
Northern Heat ticks all the boxes for me. It’s suspenseful, exciting, thought-provoking … it’s a winner. I can’t wait to see what Young comes up with next.
Available from good bookstores and Penguin Books Australia. My copy was courtesy of Penguin Books.