Title: Riverstone Ridge
Author: Mandy Magro
Published: October 2019
Publisher: Harper Collins (Mira)
I received a copy of Riverstone Ridge from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
An authentic and heartfelt story about uncovering who you truly are and where you belong from bestselling Australian author Mandy Magro.
After making a mistake that felt like the end of the world to her teenage self, Nina Jones fled the small town of Huntingvale. Now sixteen years later her beloved adoptive mother, Bea, has passed away, forcing Nina to return and decide whether to sell her family home, Riverstone Ridge. But even though Bea can’t be there to help her through it all, she’s left Nina five letters, one sent a week, to finally share the secrets she’d been unable to reveal in life.
For Logan Steele, Nina’s return is the catalyst he’s needed to finally move beyond his tragic past and start living again. But only if she stays. When mysterious and increasingly worrisome accidents start happening around the homestead, both Logan’s cop instincts and his protective feelings toward Nina spur him to investigate. Will he be able to piece together the puzzle of the past in time?
And with dark family secrets emerging from Bea’s last words rippling into the present day, how will Nina find the courage to be truthful to the one man who has always held her heart?
Over the last two or so year, small-town romance stories have really become something that I’ve started to read more frequently, although I do have a small list of authors I like to read from. When I was sent Riverstone Ridge, unsolicited, I started to get nervous because Mandy Magro is not an author I’m familiar with and so all those nerves were to do with the unknown. Thank goodness, they were pretty much unfounded and I really enjoyed this book.
Riverstone Ridge is the story of Nina, who’s returning to Huntingvale after her adoptive mother, Bea, passes away. Nina is there to settle the estate and to receive the final letters and messages Bea has for her (one a week for five weeks). The letters promise to explain a lot of the mystery around Nina’s life. Returning to her hometown also forces Nina to come face-to-face with Logan, a former crush who’s dealing with his own grief after the loss of his family and the two begin to reconnect in what is a second chance romance, that is threatened by mysterious accidents and incidents that begin to occur to Nina. Logan, a local police officer, begins to investigate and both he and Nina uncover some dark secrets belonging to Nina’s family.
There’s a lot to like in this story – the characters are compelling, the setting is atmospheric and the mystery is unsettling.
Nina is a woman in her thirties and still trying to get her life together. She doesn’t do relationships and is running from something in her past; something that saw her leave Huntingvale and not return for sixteen years. She’s flawed and real and challenged by the things Bea’s death reveal to her. By contrast, Logan is a man who stayed in his hometown, was married and started a family. He became a police officer and is well-respected. Then, he loses his family in a tragic accident and his life is upended and when we meet him in the book, he’s still trying to find ways to deal with his grief. As a couple, the two compliment one another because, without realising it, they have far more in common than either of the other think and this both challenges and adds depth to their relationship.
Huntingvale and Riverstone Ridge, Bea’s property that’s been left to Nina, are characters in their own right. There’s enough description to help readers picture this place in their mind, especially Riverstone Ridge, which Nina begins to re-explore in the days she’s staying there. I particularly liked the scenes where Nina reconnects with the animals on the property – she might have run away from the place, but there’s still a connection that begins to call to Nina even when all she wants to do is leave again.
I really liked the tension that Magro developed with the mystery plot – there are some genuinely tense, creepy scenes, especially when you consider how isolated Nina is when staying at Riverstone Ridge on her own.
My own disappointment was that I guess most of the major plot reveals very early on in the reading and so I spent a lot of the book wondering when the reveal was going to happen. Which didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the character development, but did impact the overarching storyline pacing a little.
Overall, this was a good introduction to Magro’s writing and I’ll definitely be giving some of her backlist a go in the future.