Title: Outback Blaze
Author: Rachael Johns
Genre: Rural Romance
Opening lines: ‘…”Now you boys behave yourselves,” Drew ordered as he dropped off the two teenage delinquents he’d been supervising doing community service that afternoon…’
Blurb: Ruby wasn’t looking for love; Drew wasn’t looking to stay… until they found each other. Can their fling survive the darkness of Ruby’s past and Drew’s desire to move on? Ruby Jones was always an optimist, but the trauma of her past had made her wary. So when she flees to the small rural community of Bunyip Bay to start afresh, she has her sights firmly set on establishing her horse-riding business and rebuilding her life. The last thing Ruby wants is a romance. In fact, after all she has been through, she can’t imagine she will ever believe in love again. Police officer Drew Noble has no intention of staying in Bunyip Bay but as the charm of the town sways him, Drew finds himself increasingly drawn to the community and its inhabitants, as well as another newcomer, the lovely Ruby Jones. When Drew investigates a suspicious fire at Ruby’s parents’ business, he finds himself feeling strangely protective of the girl with the flowers in her hair. As the details of Ruby’s past emerge and she comes once more under threat, Drew realises he will do all in his power to save her.
My thoughts: You know you’re in for something a bit different when a romance opens with a man arriving at a photography session for an upcoming fund raiser ‘men of the Undies Run’ and finds out it means he has to strip down to just his underwear! Especially when the most gorgeous male you’ve ever seen (ahem – outside my husband of course) is on the front cover and you just know this is Drew. OUTBACK BLAZE is second book in the Bunyip Bay series, the first being Outback Dreams which I read and adored last year. Both Ruby and Drew appeared in Outback Dreams, but as support characters, now they are front and centre. Ruby has escaped an abusive marriage and has moved in with her parents to help in their agriculture supply store and set up her own business giving horse riding lessons to the local children. Drew has only newly arrived at Bunyip Bay, he is a British police officer forced by circumstances to be undercover in the small outback Australian town. As soon as he is given the all clear he will return to the UK, but his work ethics means he will give 100% to the community while he is here. So of course two people who have no intention of settling down are attracted to each other, and to make it even more precarious and angst ridden Ruby and her parents are suspects for arson when the agriculture supply shop burns down and is found to be deliberately started.
Rachael Johns knows small towns and she has recreated her fictional community vividly. In Bunyip Bay, like hundreds of small country communities around Australia, everyone knows everyone else; everyone knows everything about each other (and makes up what they don’t know). When one suffers they all pitch in to help, but if you wrong the town then they will turn against you on mass – and being on the receiving end of shunning is not a pleasant place to be. Fortunately Ruby has friends on her side, and Drew knows that Ruby and her parents are innocent, and he firmly believes Ruby is a target, but who? And why? Trouble is, knowing and proving are two different things so Drew has to do a bit of extra-curricular investigation. There is suspense, love, drama, laughter and one scene where I guarantee you will shed tears. I did not suspect the guilty person until Drew and Ruby did, but when it was revealed it made perfect sense – and fitted well into the plot without being too obvious or completely from left field. There were lots of red herrings and twists and turns before the dramatic climax when the big reveal is made. Talk about edge of the seat stuff! Rachael Johns’ characters are all totally realistic whether they are a small child having a horse riding lesson, a nasty person hell bent on causing trouble or a grumpy old woman in the local supermarket. They all live and breathe on the pages.
There is one more book in this series to go which is due for release later this year – Outback Ghost – this will be focused on Adam who has played a minor character in the first two books and, dare I say looking at the title, a ghost? I hate waiting – but at least I don’t have to wait very long!
Rating: A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.
For more about the author – Click Here
With thanks to Harlequin (Australia) and the author for my copy to read and review