Author: Sarah Barrie

Bloodtree River by Sarah Barrie

Bloodtree River by Sarah BarrieBloodtree River by Sarah Barrie
Published by HQ Fiction on 23rd April 2018
Pages: 352
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three-half-stars

From the author of the bestselling Hunters Ridge series comes this stand-alone twisty rural suspense, this time set against the dark backdrop of Tasmanian mountains. Indiana O'Meara is no stranger to the forces of evil.

Her own past is full of violence. Now a policewoman, Indy is always fighting to redeem herself and defeat the dark. So when girls begin to go missing at a remote cattle station in Tasmania, she is quick to agree to go undercover to investigate chief suspect, the owner of Calico Mountain Lodge, Logan Atherton, even though last time she went undercover it came to a bloody end. But her early encounter with Logan Atherton reveals a man full of contradictions. His deep empathy for horses and those he cares for is obvious but he is also taciturn to the point of rudeness, and there is a strange atmosphere at the lodge. It doesn't add up. As Indy begins to dig deeper into the secrets at the Lodge, she finds herself embroiled in a murderous web more complex and terrifying than she could ever have imagined...

Sarah Barrie writes a rather slow but steadily-building mystery of disappearing girls in a remote part of Tasmania and an undercover stint that goes badly awry. Still, it’s a spin-off book for Indy O’Meara, tough cop and determined woman—who’d initially turned up in Barrie’s Hunters Ridge series—in the wilds of Tassie to work under a man who’s the suspect in this case…well, who could resist?

‘Bloodtree River’ however, has a plot that requires you to actively (or make the effort at least) stay engaged in the story nonetheless. Written mostly from Indy’s perspective, I was conscious of her status as an outlier but by extension, felt like a reader who was merely tangentially observing the action happening through an outlier’s eyes.

Still, it was easy to get swept along once I had the names and the context of the Athertons’s screwed up family business straightened out in my head—this much was imperative to understanding and getting caught up in the drama. There were twists and turns that got exponentially more interesting—more suspension of disbelief required though—in the last quarter of the story, though I did find the romantic bits less than convincing because of the circumstances that dictated the slow burn and the eventual rift between Indy and Logan. Indy’s undercover duties did prove to be a barrier—one that didn’t at least allow for Indy to be honest with Logan and the push-pull that resulted because of this—though having her walk the tight rope between being a cop and an employee under Logan was a balance that Sarah Barrie did sort of handle quite well. It was deception for a legitimate reason, so to speak, with the complications arising only when attraction and emotions started to get involved.

Simply put, Logan/Indy was a pairing that didn’t quite get off the ground sufficiently for me, lost as it was in the flurry of the drama and the web of lies spun in Calico Mountain Lodge, to the point where ‘Bloodtree River’ would have functioned equally well without the romance. It was a pretty decent read nonetheless, with a large enough story arc and an established base that can be stretched over a few books—which I hope Barrie does.

three-half-stars

Promise of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie

Promise of Hunters Ridge by Sarah BarriePromise of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie
Series: Hunters Ridge #3
Published by Harlequin AU on March 20th 2017
Pages: 432
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three-stars

Mia Morgan doesn’t let anything get to her. After freeing herself from an obsessive boss and saving loved ones from a serial killer, she feels like she can handle anything life throws at her. But now that killer – a deranged hunter who preys on women for sport – is coming for her. And if she runs, others will pay the price. As if that’s not enough, Ben Bowden, the brilliant detective who has made her life hell for the past four years, has some insane plan to protect her. If she collaborates with him, Mia might just have to acknowledge her true feelings. But if she keeps him out, will she let the hunter win?
Ben Bowden is sick of finding dead bodies. If being the lead detective on the biggest case in the country didn’t come with enough pressure, now the psychopath Ben is chasing has Mia Morgan in his sights. And Mia doesn’t want his help. She hasn’t forgiven him for the past, and is being less than cooperative with his investigation. Protecting her is a challenge, and the sparks that fly whenever they’re together aren’t helping. But he has to make her trust him – somehow – because she has a plan that terrifies him to the bone.
Can he convince her to work with him? Or will she risk everything to single-handedly turn the hunter into the hunted?

‘Promise of Hunters Ridge’ closes this suspense series and probably doesn’t function too well as a standalone, despite the bite-sized recounts of the sinister forces at work in Hunters Ridge. But it does however, finally give a resolution between the always-bickering Mia Morgan and Ben Bowden, the former of which typically allowing an almighty grudge to colour every frustrating interaction between them.

I picked up this book with a huge sense of anticipation and found that there were parts that I really like (the suspense, the action that really picked up after the first half) and parts that I didn’t. The pacing is slow at first, detailing the separate aspects of Mia’s and Ben’s lives before drawing their paths together, but the build-up is rewarding – especially when the actions scenes finally kicked in. Even if I found it more implausible that an entire force couldn’t nab a wanted killer whose M.O. was too obvious, Barrie writes a stunning mob-like finish that somehow made me think of democracy-rallies in classical France.

Having been kidnapped by a psychopath before, Mia’s obsession to ‘train’ herself for this killer’s return has shaped her to become a rather unpleasant, untrusting person; throw in the stalwart detective who is determined to solve this complicated case while keeping the people around him safe and the difficult, unyielding woman comes out full force. She makes deals with unsavoury characters, refuses to give into law enforcement because of her past, and pretty much does the exact opposite of what she shouldn’t – which does paint her with a TSTL broad brush from the beginning – and finds herself a coward when it comes to emotional issues.

But Sarah Barrie peppers these bits of Mia’s character with instances of her determination and courage, which does make Mia a more multifaceted character than I expected. And all this in contrast to Ben Bowden, whom I loved for his utter dedication to justice and to her. Despite his lack of sensitivity in several places, there wasn’t ever a time when I thought him any less capable of doing whatever he needed to do…and only wished that Mia matched that same fervour he had for her.

It’s a series that had gotten me nostalgic by the time I finished and while I thought Ally/Cam’s book the best of the lot, Mia/Ben’s story might actually come a close second.

three-stars

Shadows of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie

Shadows of Hunters Ridge by Sarah BarrieShadows Of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie
Published by Escape Publishing on October 24th 2016
Pages: 400
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three-stars

Ebony Blakely has her life nearly exactly where she wants it. She’s a country vet with a successful business in Hunters Ridge, a town that she loves, and has a close group of friends. The only thing missing is romance. Unfortunately, the man she wants treats her as a good friend, and no matter how much she tries to change that perception, he just won’t get it.
Lee Dalton is an ex-cop with a chip on his shoulder about his past. He’s determined to make a success of his building business  –  and keep his thoughts away from his best friend’s sister, Ebony. But seeing Ebony every day as he works on her surgery renovation makes that almost impossible and soon their hidden feelings begin complicate their friendship.
When it becomes apparent Ebony’s life is in danger, she is scared but determined not to run. But following an earlier encounter Lee knows what these monsters are capable of and is forced to use everything he’s ever learnt as a policeman to keep her safe. Because these monsters are serial killers, and they’ll stop at nothing to claim their prize.

I’d waited long for Ebony’s and Lee’s story and frankly, this book was hard to review because as well-written and suspenseful as it is, the romance does take a back-burner on this one: Ebony and Lee don’t get their act together until 3/4 of the book and for most of it, I didn’t feel as though their relationship was going to progress, let alone get to the point where I could be convinced Lee could ever feel as much as Ebbs did for him.

When it comes to suspense, ‘Shadows of Hunters Ridge’ is exceptionally entertaining and thrilling: shadowy threats from the previous book are carried over, and the dangers rack up and close in on Ebony Blakely, a successful country vet whose expanding business does get her entangled in the wrong and dangerous company. The bad guys don’t get caught, even though they do sometimes venture into clichéd territory and by the end of the breathless climax, we aren’t entirely yet clear about this operation that can’t seem to be shut down. But if I liked how the plot has been centred mostly around this particularly strong, independent woman and how she navigated these conflicts, the romantic hero seemed rather weak and cowardly in comparison, because romance-wise, I wasn’t too convinced about a pairing where Ebony spent too much time being on the unrequited side of things.

In many ways, Lee and Ebony do conform to the clichéd stereotypes of the romantic leading hero and heroine: Lee is in fact in yet another casual relationship with another (vengeful and jealous) woman for a good half of it, then displays the usual doubts about not poaching the best friend’s sister while dating every other woman who doesn’t match up for several years. Ebony, as beautiful as a runway model, has limited sexual experience in contrast and spends a lot of time in emotional pain because the man she wants will not notice her. I had hoped that Lee had to work for Ebony a little more, and was more than disappointed when she fell too easily into his arms when he finally got a clue about how she felt about him and was up in arms in disbelief when he finally rationalised that he’d loved her all along.

That said, I’m glad the series isn’t over yet: Mia’s story is perfectly set-up in the epilogue and I do want to know how Barrie levels it all out.

three-stars

Legacy Of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie

Legacy Of Hunters Ridge by Sarah BarrieLegacy Of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie
Published by Harlequin MIRA on January 1st 2016
Pages: 400
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five-stars

Successful horse trainer Alissa Morgan-Jones has the world at her feet, until a tragic fire destroys everything. Widowed, in debt and under suspicion for arson, Alissa’s life is in tatters. Her mother-in-law’s isolated farm gives her the opportunity to pull her life back together and get herself back on her feet.
Four years after fleeing the city and the scandal that ruined his career, disgraced lawyer Cameron Blakely has a successful new business and a new life. When his neighbour, Mavis Littleton is diagnosed with a terminal illness he volunteers to handle her affairs – and her farm until her daughter-in-law arrives to take over. When Alissa finally shows up, he’s drawn to her immediately. But there’s more to his new neighbour than her big blue eyes and lost expression. If only she’ll open up and let him in.
But there are secrets in both Alissa’s past and Hunters Ridge – secrets that jeopardise far more than Cameron’s fledgling feelings. Lurking in the isolated wilderness is a danger that neither anticipates – but one that threatens everything: the town, their love, and their lives.

Widowed, broke and barely functioning, Ally Morgan is dealing with her PTSD as much as she can, with the help of her sister. But she isn’t free of consequences of the fire that had destroyed her life all those months ago and a pesky phone call from an ex-lawyer brings her out into the country and straight back into her nightmares. Dragged into affairs that aren’t quite her own, it’s there that Ally finds things that do go bump in the night. Tired of simply attributing the strange happenings to her hallucinatory state, she realises that the answers might just be found in the twisted truth that comes out as religious nonsense from her ailing her mother-in-law. From there it’s all up to Cam and Ally – and their unfailingly loyal group of friends – to untangle this mystery before that sinister presence comes for her too.


There is so much to like about this book: the creepy suspense that almost verges on the paranormal thanks to the wonderfully descriptive writing, the tight camaraderie and the unexpected, sparkling humour and above all, the breathless action and the well-crafted characters that walked into the story and cemented their places in it. I turned the last page feeling overwhelmed – and it’s seldom that I need the rest of the trilogy (right now!) to see this brilliantly written story-arc through.

five-stars

Secrets Of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie

Secrets Of Whitewater Creek by Sarah BarrieSecrets Of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie
Published by Mira on January 1st 2015
Pages: 384
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three-stars

Born and bred on the land, Jordan Windcroft is brave and independent. She's had to be. Her life revolves around running her property almost single-handedly on next to no money, and waiting out her four years of probation — a rap that she took for one of her closest friends for a crime she didn’t commit.
Thankfully there's an end to her problems in sight. Jordan’s probation period is almost up, and if she can just make the cattle sale, there’s a chance she can pull herself out of more than ten years of serious debt and keep her precious farm. The last thing she needs is for Reid Easton to start monitoring her.
Detective Senior Sergeant Reid Easton drives into Whitewater Creek on a mission to wrap up a three-year drug investigation; his only lead, Jordan Windcroft. The attraction between the two is immediate, but Reid is undercover and Jordan has a secret she can’t risk him discovering. Will either jeopardise their cause, for something as transitory as love – or will they keep their secrets to themselves?

Tight-knit rural communities do harbour secrets that can kill and in a place where the folks are a law unto themselves, Detective Reid Easton needs to untangles the events of a ‘mere’ accident’s years ago – while keeping his feet in rhythm with Jordan Windcroft, the woman who seems to be in the centre of it all. I took a while to get into the book but do think that the writing and characters are more than decent and likeable – enough to be memorable.

Sarah Barrie’s prose is flowing and assured, but the multiple POVs within a scene tended to give me whiplash at times. I never quite knew whose eyes I was viewing the action from after a while, and that tended to detract from my overall enjoyment of the story.

three-stars