Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin
“He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. ‘You’re wild, not broken.’’’
A perceptive horse metaphor lopes through Book 2 of Kades’s Alberta Hearthstone series. The hero, Colt Tanner, is a gallant bull-rider and horse trainer who prefers to “start” a horse rather than “break” it. Truly chivalrous, the tall, sexy, Tanner sweeps disgraced MI6 war correspondent Lillian Kensington, off her feet when she arrives in the Canadian Rockies with PTSD, a fearsome past, and her nineteen-year-old niece Sophie.
In the beginning, I had trouble relating to this wealthy privileged Brit who travels with an elite troop of bodyguards, but I was struck by her intelligence and independence, as was Tanner. There is a reason for this protection—although her testimony has just sent him to prison, Lillian’s ex-lover, double-agent Fernando Martinez, has vowed to kill her.
Kades says she writes “eco-thrillers” but this book lands squarely in the romantic suspense genre, as she offers readers a sexy, sensitive romance in contrast with an insane escaped terrorist seeking revenge; RCMP officers; Colt’s brother who received a near-fatal gunshot while working in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; a top-notch special force who guards the wealthy and elite Miss Kensington; Martinez’s thugs; plenty of suspense and murderous threats.
Strong women play a prominent role in the novel. Lillian’s Scottish grandmum, Dame Maighread Evans Coille Kensington, is a “ballsy political force” and runs the British estate with an iron fist. I was hooked early on by the promise of a historical mystery when Lillian discovers her great aunt Obedience’s seventeen-century fur-trading journals—one of which is a “grimoire” of women’s knowledge. Lillian, herself, has been experiencing visions since her teen years and can feel the energy pulsing through the book.
Streaks of feminism colour the pages. It’s grandmum who sends the women to the Rocky Mountains, Sophie to train as a biathlete, and Lillian to read the journals and discover her past. Kades has taken the concept of ecological restoration known as re-wilding and re-branded it to mean “returning to the core of who you are, the real you, where your identity is you, not your career, or what others think you should be.”
A Calgary archaeologist and Indigenous Knowledge study facilitator turned fiction writer, Kades situates her characters in a world of leather and horses, sunsets and mountain vistas, rodeo clowns and fierce bulls. And she brings to life such classic Alberta scenes as the Calgary Stampede and trail rides in the Rocky Mountains. A strong writer with a flair for description, she sneaks in a few allusions to icons such as Gretsky, and the odd Canadian joke. If you’ve never been to Alberta, trust me, you’ll want to go cowboying after reading this book; perhaps even find your own cowboy.
Wild Not Broken is a standalone novel but, as with all series, could be a richer read after reading the first, Kiss Me in the Rain. Book three, Not an Easy Truce is scheduled for a June 2022 release, which leaves you time to catch up on the first two, and still enjoy what promises to be a delightful summer read.
Wild Not Broken is published by Stark Publishing.
W. L. Hawkin’s latest release, Lure: Jesse & Hawk is a small-town romantic suspense novel set on a Chippewa reservation in the American Midwest. She publishes with Blue Haven Press.