Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing on March 6, 2018
My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Never cut the drugs — leave them pure. Guns are meant to be shot — keep them loaded. Family is everything — betray them and die.
Harley McKenna is the only child of North County’s biggest criminal. Duke McKenna’s run more guns, cooked more meth, and killed more men than anyone around. Harley’s been working for him since she was sixteen-collecting debts, sweet-talking her way out of trouble, and dreading the day he’d deem her ready to rule the rural drug empire he’s built.
Her time’s run out. The Springfields, her family’s biggest rivals, are moving in. Years ago, they were responsible for her mother’s death, and now they’re coming for Duke’s only weak spot: his daughter.
With a bloody turf war threatening to consume North County, Harley is forced to confront the truth: that her father’s violent world will destroy her. Duke’s raised her to be deadly-he never counted on her being disloyal. But if Harley wants to survive and protect the people she loves, she’s got to take out Duke’s operation and the Springfields.
Blowing up meth labs is dangerous business, and getting caught will be the end of her, but Harley has one advantage: She is her father’s daughter. And McKennas always win.
From a powerful new voice in suspense fiction comes the unforgettable story of a young woman facing the most difficult choice of her life: family or freedom.
Looking for a mystery thriller with compelling characters, high stakes, and a great emotional payoff? Look no further! Here are 5 reasons to read BARBED WIRE HEART by Tess Sharpe.
Flawed, messy, and brave beyond belief, Harley McKenna is the heir to her father Duke’s meth empire and the most powerful woman in North County. But no amount of local pull and questionable income streams can help Harley take control of her life while the McKenna/Springfield feud wages on. Duke McKenna and Carl Springfield have been at war since before Harley was born and if she’s not careful, she’ll be the next casualty. Harley’s tired of letting the men around her control her life, and she’ll do whatever it takes to change her future before it’s too late. I love a character who does the wrong things for the right reasons…especially when it means sticking it to a bunch of controlling, violent men.
If you’ve been following Fine Print for a while, then you know that I like my stories with a generous dose of feminism. While many thrillers go for the “woman takes revenge” angle, few possess the feminist nuances of BARBED WIRE HEART. Harley’s approach to empowering women is one that I’ve taken to describing as hillbilly feminism, which I think she’d appreciate…or punch me in the eye for saying. Harley fights for herself, her friends, and the women of North County with guns, her fists, and her smarts. She doesn’t act cool and tough — she wears her heart on her sleeve, lifting the women around her up with her as she rises.
In a remote area like North County, women trying to escape intimate partner violence and other forms of abuse have little recourse. There aren’t any women’s shelters or formal organizations that can help them leave and get them back up on their feet. In comes The Ruby, a motel turned shelter that was once run by Harley’s mom and her friend Mo. The women who stay there, the rubies, need someone to show them compassion and to stand up for them. There’s not a whole lot of compassion in Harley’s world, but The Ruby is a place where she can be a different person, and she can have a mentor other than Duke. Mo is an incredible female role model for her, and their relationship is so quietly beautiful.
Attention all dog lovers: if you want to read a story about a loyal, intelligent, and crucially important canine character, then you need to pick this one up. Harley rescues Busy when she’s just a puppy, and Duke trains her up to protect Harley and stay at her side always. The two of them have an incredible bond, and I loved the fact that Busy’s an active and important participant in the story. And have no fear, because although there’s a lot of death and destruction in this book, it isn’t one of those horrible stories where the dog dies.
Aside from canine pals, pretty much everyone in BARBED WIRE HEART is fair game, either as collateral damage in Harley’s quest to take back her life or as a result of the McKenna/Springfield feud. I genuinely feared for every character’s life and well-being, including Harley’s. Tess Sharpe is an incredible writer, perfectly balancing the emotional core of Harley’s mission with some truly pulse-pounding action sequences. I’m still quaking over the dark truths that Harley exposed, and the various players’ schemes that unfolded.