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Wayward Heart by Cathryn Hein

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 19th December 2016
Wayward Heart by Cathryn HeinWayward Heart by Cathryn Hein
Published by Harlequin MIRA on December 12th 2016
Pages: 352
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three-stars

Jasmine Thomas should feel safe in her cosy cottage at Admella Beach after finally putting an end to an ill-advised romance. But her perfect sanctuary is shattered with the arrival of hand-delivered threatening notes. Someone has discovered her secret.
When the notes escalate to vandalism, Jasmine's anxiety rises. But in such a small place, telling the police would mean the whole town finding out.
Digby Wallace-Jones is stumbling through the motions of life, wrapped in a fog of grief since his fiancee Felicity died. Withdrawn from his family, Digby doesn't care about anything beyond his loss. But in a chance meeting with Jasmine, his sister's best friend who he's known forever, even he can see the tension she carries. Worried and feeling protective, he continues to drop by, but it's more than that. Jasmine soothes him; and, unlike the rest of his family, he can talk to her about his pain without fear of judgement. But as much as he likes Jasmine, Digby's enduring love for Felicity means he has nothing left to give and he pushes Jasmine away.
Jasmine knew they were supposed to stay friends 'with excellent benefits' but she can't help her wayward heart from falling for this tortured, kind and sexy man. How can she ever loosen the grip Felicity's memory has on Digby's soul and remind him he still has a life ahead of him?

There is a long history and a complicated backstory of Rocking Horse Hill and a bit of it is fleshed out a little in ‘Wayward Heart’, which is essentially, a story that moves from a dark place of grief and betrayal to life and love.

Cathryn Hein writes very sympathetically about her characters and her insights about human nature and their motivations are gold. My own prejudices and hard-limits are the only things that colour the way I’ve come to perceive Jasmine, whose affair with a married man made me like her less than a female romantic lead with more moral integrity. I did think her insecure and weak—again, my own interpretation of her character despite Hein’s persuasive writing about Jas’s struggle in being ‘the other woman’ for years and then her easy capitulation and desperation—as much as I wished she’d done her life more differently. Digby on the other hand, struggles with grief, jealousy and unforgiveness ever since his fiancée died tragically, only beginning to find himself again when he starts an affair with Jasmine.

But he remains unconvinced that he’ll ever be able to give his heart to another woman as he did with his ex and from then on, the plot gets rather predictable as they finally move down the slow road of conflict and acceptance.

‘Wayward Heart’ is about taking very deeply-flawed characters—even those that we can’t tolerate when they fail to do what’s right —and using them to show that even these characters deserve some kind of happy ever after. And the answer that Hein leads us to, really, is time: time apart from each other for things to get reset, for family wounds to scab over and for Digby and Jasmine to rediscover their own ambitions before getting together again without past hurts getting in the way.

There’s a powerful load of family drama, a lot of meditative contemplation and a little suspense as well, but what really lingers is Hein’s beautifully wrought description of the languid, rural Australian landscape that stays long in my mind after I’ve finished the book.

three-stars

Summer and the Groomsman by Cathryn Hein

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 29th January 2016
Summer and the Groomsman by Cathryn HeinSummer and the Groomsman by Cathryn Hein
Published by Cathryn Hein on November 4th 2015
Pages: 134
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three-stars

It's Levenham's wedding of the year but unlucky-in-love Harry Argyle has more on his mind than being groomsman.
After yet again nearly colliding with an escaped horse while driving home to the family farm, Harry Argyle comes face-to-face with its pretty owner, and doesn't hold back his disapproval.
Confronted by a bad-tempered giant on a dark country road, beautician and new arrival in town Summer Taylor doesn't know who to be more afraid for: herself or her darling horse Binky. It's not her fault Binky keeps escaping. The alcoholic owner of the paddock she rents won't fix the fence and Binky can be sneaky when it comes to filling his stomach. But no matter how big and muscled the bully, she refuses to be intimidated.
When Harry's wedding party book a session at the day spa where Summer works, both she and Harry are horrified to be paired together. Grudgingly, they agree to make the most of it - only for the session to spiral into disaster. Realising he's made a dill of himself in front of sweet Summer yet again, Harry vows to set things right.
Summer isn't about to easily forgive the man who called her horse stupid, no matter how brave and kind, but with everyone on Harry's side, even fate, resistance is hard. Can these two find love or will Summer's wayward horse put his hoof in it again?

A short, sweet read – with a funny, goofy hero – albeit with a rushed introduction to all the characters in the previous books. But it’s gotten me interested in the rest of the series, so that can only be a good thing right?

three-stars

The French Prize by Cathryn Hein

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 11th November 2014
The French Prize by Cathryn HeinThe French Prize by Cathryn Hein
Published by Harlequin MIRA on September 1st 2014
Pages: 352
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three-stars

An ancient riddle, a broken vow – a modern-day quest for a medieval treasure.
Australian-born Dr. Olivia Walker is an Oxford academic with a reputation as one of the world’s leading Crusade historians and she’s risked everything on finding one of the most famous swords in history – Durendal. Shrouded in myth and mystery, the sword is fabled to have belonged to the warrior Roland, a champion of Charlemagne’s court, and Olivia is determined to prove to her detractors that the legend is real. Her dream is almost within reach when she discovers the long-lost key to its location in Provence, but her benefactor – Raimund Blancard – has other ideas.
For more than a millennium, the Blancard family have protected the sword. When his brother is tortured and killed by a man who believes he is Roland’s rightful heir, Raimund vows to end the bloodshed forever. He will find Durendal and destroy it, but to do that he needs Olivia's help.
Now Olivia is torn between finding the treasure for which she has hunted all her life and helping the man she has fallen in love with destroy her dream. And all the while, Raimund's murderous nemesis is on their trail, and he will stop at nothing to claim his birthright.

I dived straight into this book because of the mouthwatering premise of an Indiana Jones-like adventure and in this particular aspect, The French Prize didn’t disappoint. Ms Hein’s descriptions of the Provencal countryside and solid grasp of history definitely created an atmosphere I was content to lose myself in for a couple of hours.

But it seems that these days – maybe I’m getting truly intolerant or something – I’ve been getting an influx of annoying, petulant heroines who should really know better than behave way below their status and obsessions. Olivia’s obsession with history and artefacts should be something I normally find commendable, but her disregard for safety and stubborn insistence do cross the line into TSTL category at times. At the same time, Raimund is described often as a classy hero and a modern-day knight, but because the story was written from Olivia’s perspective, he merely came across as wooden with hints of feeling.

In all, a good read…if you can stomach characterisation that can seem lacking in depth at times.

three-stars
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