Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).

Book Cover:  Desert Flame

After a tiring week, romance was my genre of choice for a relaxing read. Desert Flame by Janine Grey introduced me to an Australian author, with a talent for depicting the outback as a place of beauty and heart.

When her beloved father dies, Eliza Mayberry’s privileged world comes crashing down around her. On the verge of losing the business that has been in her family for generations, she has no option but to take over the last remaining case: tracking down the elusive Fingal McLeod in outback New South Wales and bringing him back to Sydney.

Fin, however, has other ideas.  Determined to find the legendary Dark Flame, a rare opal that has eluded opal-hunters for decades, he has no intention of leaving his mine to reunite with the family who abandoned him – even for the beguiling Miss Mayberry.

Drawn to the people and starkly beautiful landscape of the desert, Eliza discovers the new start that she’s been seeking in this unlikely place. But as passion blooms under the scorching outback sun, secrets from the past and present are bubbling below the surface – secrets that could destroy both the fragile trust between Eliza and Fin, and the bright promise of the future.

Grey mixes mystery, drama and romance into Desert Flame, serving up a read that’s light, engaging and entertaining. There’s a good combination of conflict and chemistry that takes the romance into steamy territory relatively quickly; the desert flames certainly are strong with Eliza and Fin. The story did lag a little in the second half, and I didn’t really feel the menace of the suspense story line, but the overall the story finished strongly.

The standout aspect of this story for me was the depiction of the mining areas around Lightning Ridge. Eliza approaches the outback area with a sense of excitement, which was refreshing, taking the area’s isolation in her stride. She’s quick to see the beauty of the area: “In that instant every impression she’d ever had of the outback as an endless barren nothing was transformed into a landscape of stark, wild beauty of earth, sky and rock.” Grey creates an open and friendly atmosphere in the tiny “town” of Helton that adds emotional warmth to the, at times, unforgiving landscape, and the opals, buried underground, are a lovely metaphor of heart. While that landscape might not be for me (I’ve stayed in Coober Pedy, an opal mining town in South Australia so I have more than words to go on), it’s always good to read about other parts of Australia, away from the cities and coast.

If you don’t mind steamy love scenes, Desert Flame is sure to hit the spot.

Available from good bookstores (RRP $32.99AUD). My copy was courtesy of Penguin Books Australia.




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