REVIEW: On the Right Track by Penelope Janu

In brief: Golden just wants to be left alone but her stepfather wants her to speak with ‘spy’ Tor Amundsen about her family’s link with dirty racing dealing. Unfortunately, Tor has a way of getting himself entangled in Golden’s life and actually, it’s not that bad…

The good: So much fun…and I like Tor even better than his brother Per.

The not-so-good: I demolished this while I had the flu.

Why I chose it: I loved In At The Deep End. Thank you Harlequin for the copy.

Year: 2018

Pages: 352

Publisher: Harlequin Mira

Setting: New South Wales, Australia

Rating: 8 out of 10

Last year I really enjoyed Penelope Janu’s debut novel, In At The Deep End. It was quirky and fun. What I had completely forgotten though was that the hero had a twin brother! So it was lovely to see ‘his’ story told in On the Right Track, a romance set not in the depths of water but on the land. While heroine Golden’s job and passion are a little more standard (speech pathologist and horses respectively), the story is just as fun and memorable.

Heroine Golden is broken in body, but definitely not in spirit. After an illicit jockey ride crushed her dreams and her leg, she’s settled down on the land she and her grandfather lived on. There, Golden works with her animals to help children work on their speech and communication. Since her father and grandfather died, she has been alone – except for half-sister Angelina. Golden is the wild black sheep of the family. Being involved in horse racing has never sat well with her gambling-averse parliamentarian stepfather and Golden has never gotten along with her mother. So when a ‘diplomat’ from the U.N. wants to talk to Golden about her family’s involvement with payments made, she ignores them. She isn’t talking to a spy, but Tor Amundsen isn’t taking no for an answer. He and colleague Nate will get to the bottom of this international gambling ring. Reluctantly, Golden gives in to introduce Tor to some racing world contacts, but she can’t ignore that he is very, very hot. Her animals and students love him and Golden can see why – should she let her heart or head rule?

Golden is one feisty character who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks. Refreshingly, it’s not always the right thing to say and sometimes she ends up in an even bigger mess. This was one of the things I liked about her character – she stuffs up but keeps going. Golden’s loyalty to her family is never in doubt and never wavers, despite the situations she finds herself in. As for Tor, I think I liked him even more than Per (who does pop up in this novel). Tor is a multi-linguist, incredibly clever and analytical person yet he has one fault. He’s got a swearing problem and is prone to drop that f-bomb at very random times. I didn’t find this offensive in the slightest (after all, I catch public transport frequently) but it made me laugh. This man could probably insult anyone utterly and completely in a number of languages, but when words fail him, he goes for the most offensive one!

I also found the plot really engaging, even if you aren’t a horse fan. I tend to get a bit worried when I see a horse on the cover that it will dominate, but it didn’t. The racing world is the backdrop for Tor and colleague Nate’s investigation but it doesn’t focus on that. Nor do need to have ridden a horse for twenty five gazillion years to understand what’s going on. Golden explains what you need to know and moves on. The plot is more of an adventure/suspense one as Tor and Golden work together (and alone, in Golden’s case) to find out the truth about her family. Contrasted with the dramas in Golden’s personal life, it makes for a page turning read. I’m looking forward to Penelope Janu’s next book, in particular the characters and the setting!

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