Published by Luminosity Publishing LLP on December 8th 2017
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Emily Perkins is over the moon to learn Jock Macgregor has left her a share in Winnawarra Station in the magnificent Kimberly region of Outback Australia. The bonus comes when she realises, his handsome grandson, Doug is the man of her dreams. She loves working beside him and every day is an adventure.
After receiving a letter from Jock, she discovers he was convinced the accident that killed his son and daughter-in-law was actually murder, and he included her in his will to investigate the deaths.
When accidents start happening to Emily, and she hears footsteps outside her room at night, she is convinced someone is stalking her.
Is she next on the killer’s list?
Isolated on an Outback cattle ranch, will strong, dependable Doug be able to keep her safe?
A murderer is loose at Winnawarra Station, and she must race against time to identify the killer before he strikes again.
The Australian rural romance is a sub-genre that I like quite a bit, so ‘Winnawarra’ sounded like a thing straight up my alley, particularly with some romantic suspense thrown in. But I’m frankly, struggling to write a review of a story where the bits that appealed equalled the parts that didn’t.
I did like the numerous cultural references in the book—the Australian rural ranching practices never fail to fascinate me—and Elizabeth M. Darcy’s style of writing is different in a way that takes a while getting used to. The premise for Emily’s arrival “Winnawarra” was as well, an unconventional one, as was the suspense that really amped up the tension and thrills when things went bump in the night.
However, I had a few issues with the inconsistencies in characterisation, writing and pacing, and that did affect my ability to get absorbed fully in the suspense. In fact, the protagonists didn’t seem to be the adults they were, while several bits of dialogues took on an odd archaic sheen that didn’t seem to fit with the contemporary tone of the story.
Emily seemed childishly impatient with crazy mood swings at times (not to mention the easy jealousy), blaming her fear on Doug’s inability to ‘keep her safe’, then getting close to accusing him of murder in her haste to uncover the mystery surrounding Winnawarra. To be fair however, Doug never looked as though he’d managed his PTSD at all and that did spill over in actions that were self-destructive to the point where it struck Emily precisely where her nerves were rubbed raw by her past relationship. And…no condoms? Seriously? When Doug had all but admitted he’d slept with way too many women when he was drunk and on a bender?
At the same time, the murder mystery that Emily was investigating also seemed quite tangential, involving characters that still seemed to steer the plot from beyond the grave, leaving me like the disconnected outsider trying to look in through a dusty window. The story did however, hit its stride past the halfway mark, though it led to a climax where the villain was revealed to be whom I suspected he was all along.
‘Winnawarra’ would be a decent read particularly if the rural traditions of ranching (along with hot cowboys) down under interests anyone looking to get into rural romance. Unfortunately, the story fell rather flat for me despite its potential.