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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Sinister Intent by Linda Dowling is the sequel to her incredible debut novel Splintered Heart and is a sweeping story of love, loss, and tragedy in the Australian outback. Lisa O’Connor was just thirteen when she was savagely and brutally raped by her future brother-in-law. In 1970s suburban Sydney, Lisa, deemed “uncontrollable”, was shipped off by her terrible mother to the infamous Paramatta Girls’ Home for wayward girls. Abused, beaten, and viciously sexually assaulted there by the Superintendent and others, Lisa was close to giving up when her loving aunt and uncle rescued her from the horror and took her to their sheep station deep in the New South Wales outback. Lisa quickly falls in love with the wide-open spaces of rural Australia, the animals, the relaxed lifestyle, and the wonderful Aboriginal people that cross her path. Despite all the trauma, she slowly begins to heal emotionally, assisted by an old Aboriginal woman healer who cleanses her spirit with her healing powers. As Lisa’s heart and soul begin to mend, she is determined to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime against her and other girls to justice. With the loving support of her aunt, uncle, and a special young Aborigine boy named Billy, Lisa begins to realize that perhaps a normal, happy, and joyful life is indeed a possibility for her. All is not perfect though and even in the country, there are people who are determined to derail her return to mental and emotional health. It will take all the strength of character that her awful beginning to her teenage years helped to forge to navigate the tricky waters that lie ahead.
Having read and absolutely loved Linda Dowling’s first novel Splintered Heart, I felt very privileged and excited to read and review the sequel, Sinister Intent. I was not disappointed. This story is as powerful, sweeping, and deeply emotional as the first. Sinister Intent picks up right where Splintered Heart left off and the character of Lisa, who I had become deeply invested in, continues to mature, grow, and develop in the second iteration. A good sign of an excellent sequel is in answering the question “Do I need to read the first book, before reading this one?” The answer to this is no. The author beautifully wove the events of Lisa’s early life into this story to ensure the reader has no trouble garnering the full story. Having said that, I would recommend reading the two books in order for two simple reasons. First, you will gain greater context of the pain and suffering this poor young girl had to endure and second, both books are such fantastic reads, why wouldn’t you want to read them both?
I love that the author addressed head-on the inequalities and damage done to the proud and great civilization of the Aborigines. In just over two hundred years, Europeans have tried desperately to eradicate 60,000 years of Aboriginal culture and the author does them a real service by recognizing and highlighting the wonderful aspects of their music, their spirituality, their simple joy of life, and their healing powers. The author’s descriptive prose is vivid and sweeping, allowing readers to totally immerse their minds in the beauty and serenity of the Australian outback. For me, this is one of the best series I’ve read all year and I cannot recommend this highly enough, especially if you are a fan of romance with a touch of the exotic. I loved it!