In brief: In Cooktown in Northern Queensland, nobody is quite what they seem. Conor hides behind a false identity and Dr Kristy Dark hides her painful past. But when things get sticky in a cyclone, can they work together to save two young girls?
The good: Incredibly dramatic, yet realistic. The book practically steams with the humidity and the undercurrents running through the story.
The not-so-good: A few late nights here!
Why I chose it: Met Helene earlier this year, and she is fantastic! (Thanks to Penguin Australia for the eARC).
Setting: Far North Queensland, Australia
My rating: 10 out of 10
I first had the pleasure of hearing Helene Young speak earlier this year, and boy, is she interesting! (Not to mention that she puts clips and pictures of great movies and lovely looking gentlemen in her Powerpoint presentations). My mother has been reading Helene avidly since her first book, and I have been neglectful in taking daughterly advice and reading her novels. Until now. Northern Heat is a gripping, action-packed novel set in the sultry climes of Far North Queensland during cyclone season (you know what that means, don’t you?) In between the action, there are well developed, intense storylines and the story is topped off with a sweet and steamy romance. What more could you ask for?
Set in Cooktown, the story follows two main characters, Conor and Kristy. (Some readers will recognise Conor from Helene’s previous book, Safe Harbour, but it’s not necessary to read it first. I didn’t.) Conor lives on his yacht Veritas in the harbour. He’s got a tragic past that appears rather shady to some of the other people in Cooktown, such as the police. No real job, no real ambitions…who is this man? So when a man is murdered at his front door, suspicions turn to Conor. Meanwhile, Dr Kristy Dark has escaped to Cooktown after the deaths of two members of her family to be closer to her parents. Her daughter Abby is trying to match make Conor and Kristy and sparks definitely fly between the pair. But, as Kristy’s friend Freya is trying to leave her violent husband (something Kristy knows all too well), romance takes a back seat after a minor accident causes a disproportionate reaction on Kristy’s behalf. Then Cyclone Kate decides to take in Cooktown and things turn dangerous for Kristy and Conor as they race to save Abby and Freya’s daughter Sissy. Who will win – Mother Nature, the bad guys or Kristy and Conor?
Northern Heat could be classified as romantic suspense, but I think anyone with an interest in action-packed reads should give it a go. I found it more suspense than romance and I don’t think there is a better contemporary author writing suspense than Helene Young. The cyclone scenes are wonderfully atmospheric and true to what it is like to be in the middle of such extreme weather. The build up to the finale was also taut, making me wonder if a happy ending was going to be a possibility! But it’s not just action that Helene excels at. All her characters are intricately crafted and completely different. The characters right down to the minor ones have a backstory and nuances that make them memorable. I also enjoyed how Kristy and Conor’s dark pasts were revealed in stages – just enough to understand how they were reacting to various events, but leaving me hungry to know more. The topic of domestic violence was also handled sensitively, showing the different forms through the characters but also offering hope.
I’m eager to read more books now by Helene Young now that I’ve started – I think her books would be perfect for holidays (making the travel time just fly by) or for when you can stay up late into the night reading!