Riverboat Point by Tricia Stringer

In brief: Savannah’s gone to look after her brother’s business renting houseboats in an isolated area near Riverboat Point. But all is not as it seems – can Ethan rescue Savannah when he needs to? (Read more here)

The good: Great sense of suspense.

The not-so-good: A little slow to start for me (but the feeling of eeriness kept me reading).

Why I chose it: Intrigued by the setting (Murray River) and the incorporation of riverboats.

Year: 2014

Pages: 308 (eARC)

Publisher: Harlequin Mira

Setting: Rural South Australia

My rating: 7 out of 10

I was intrigued by this story because there aren’t that many stories set on the wonderful Murray River in Australia and also, there are houseboats involved. If you’re familiar with the Murray, you’ll also recognise the sight of houseboats idly wandering down the river. It’s always looked to me to be a perfect relaxing type of holiday, avoiding the hustle and bustle of city life, and then docking at beautiful towns like Echuca-Moama (one town for each side of the river, that also happen to be in different states) or Mildura. It sounds idyllic, but for Savannah running a houseboat business is the exact opposite…

Savannah’s called in to help her brother in the business she’s guarantor for, J & S Houseboats. Jaxon’s suddenly decided to take a holiday and Savannah’s in between jobs. She’s also broken in spirit, following a bad car accident that took her livelihood as a fitness instructor away and devastated her family. Savannah arrives at Jaxon’s property near the tiny town of Riverboat Point to be confronted with a completely different world. It’s quiet, almost eerie. When neighbour Ethan comes by to let a hand, he’s nice but Savannah worries that she’ll be too reliant on him for assistance. He’s also rather hot, and Savannah’s not looking for a relationship.

Ethan’s a war veteran from Afghanistan and is isolated from his family, his parents not believing in war or his choice to fight overseas. His hapless brother draws Ethan in to help after an accident, but Ethan’s still drifting, unable to focus after two tours of duty. His friend is Gnasher, a Vietnam veteran who fills his days with alcohol. Ethan doesn’t want to end up like him, so he’s trying to stay busy. Helping out Savannah and meeting the neighbours Belinda and Ashton draws him into action like he’s never seen before…

Right from the start, I could feel a tension and sense of eeriness underpinning Riverboat Point. My memories of the Murray are all happy ones, so I wasn’t sure if I was right in sensing this or just disappointed that Savannah’s experiences of the river weren’t matching mine. For the first half of the book, I thought it was just me wondering about the motives of some of the characters (especially Belinda), but then the sense of something not quite right picked up and the story entered full-on suspense mode. I enjoyed the second half much more as there was a lot more action, drama and hanging-on-a-knife edge suspense. Plus, there was more of Gnasher, who was a delightfully quirky character that becomes fully fleshed out in this part. My only disappointment was that there was not more to Jaxon’s disappearance; but as an amateur sleuth, I think I’m doing well.

I did like how Stringer revealed both Savannah and Ethan’s histories just a little at a time, which left me wanting more. It was like a puzzle, taking the parts of their histories and trying to marry them to a full history. This broken couple truly deserved the happiness they found with each other and Savannah’s foray into the Riverboat Point community shows just how welcoming a small town can be. I also enjoyed reading about the other side to having a houseboat that weren’t so glamourous, from dirty customers to pumping the sewer tanks. Just goes to show that everything has a less than perfect side!

This is a solid story and will appeal to fans looking for rural romance with a suspenseful side.

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