#aww2020 · 2020 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · new release · romance · rural fiction

New Release Book Review: Up on Horseshoe Hill by Penelope Janu

Title: Up on Horseshoe Hillup on horsehoe hill small

Author: Penelope Janu

Published: November 18th 2019

Publisher: Mira – AU

Pages: 416

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

A kiss can change your life …

Jemima Kincaid loves her home, her horses and her job as a farrier. Life has not been kind to her, but Jemima is happy in the close-knit rural community of Horseshoe Hill, which rallied around in her hour of need. Even so, she is fiercely independent and will never rely on anyone again.

Particularly a man like Finn Blackwood.

An infuriatingly attractive geneticist and wild animal vet, Finn threatens not only the serenity of Jemima’s present, but that of the future she has so carefully mapped out. But as their paths continue to cross, she finds her attraction to Finn impossible to counter, even as the trauma of her past threatens to undo her. Finn is fascinated by Jemima’s solitary nature and unique vulnerabilities but Jemima knows all about loss and how to avoid it. Don’t let anyone get close in the first place …

As the past begins to cast long shadows, Jemima and Finn discover that a kiss can bring worlds together-or tear them apart. Will they finally face their fears and find love on Horseshoe Hill?


Penelope Janu is fast making a name for herself as one of Australia’s most valued contemporary fiction and rural romance specialists. Up on Horseshoe Hill heralds the fourth novel penned by the popular novelist. This new tale is a must for romance enthusiasts, animal lovers and rural fiction fans. It is a novel with a big heart, that explores the process of loss, grief and life’s challenges with a perceptive lens.

Up on Horseshoe Hill introduces lead, Jemima (Jet) Kincaid, a young woman who has faced many setbacks in her life. Despite this, Jet fills her life with the things she loves and values. She adores her horses, she is deeply committed to her job as a farrier and she loves her home, which is nestled in a small rural community that has supported her. Despite the support she has received from the Horseshoe Hill community, Jet is a free and independent spirit, determined to make her own mark on the world. When Jet encounters Finn Blackwood, a vet in the specialist field of genetics and wild animal care, her world is turned upside down. Initially opposed to this intruder, slowly Jet begins to open her heart and let her guard down. The past trauma that has haunted Jet for many years threatens to derail this burgeoning relationship. But the road to happiness is never smooth sailing. Finn and Jet realise that no matter how hard they try to cast aside their attraction to one another, one kiss has the power to change everything.

Up on Horseshoe Hill represents the third book I have read by Penelope Janu, an author who continues to grow in popularity in Australia, with her heartwarming true blue tales of strong female protagonists. This new tale from Janu is just as good as her previous releases, showcasing the author’s acumen for relatable characters, interesting plot lines, appealing love stories and a presentation of themes that the audience is able learn a little more from. I genuinely cared about the characters and the issues prevalent in this novel, which is a solid indication of my enjoyment of Up on Horseshoe Hill.

Jemima ‘Jet’ Kincaid heads Penelope Janu’s latest release. We learn that Jet’s teen life was defined by a period of great loss over losing her parents and brother, which still follows her into adulthood. Jet is also impaired by dyslexia, which means she has had to develop a number of coping strategies and a thick skin to function in everyday life. In addition, a terrible incident involving a group of horses Jet was charged with caring for died in suspicious circumstances, which adds further inner angst to this character. There was certainly a lot on this young lady’s plate. Rather than pity Jet, we look up to her. She is a successful farrier (l loved learning about this previously unknown trade) and she has some genuine connections in her local community, many look up to her, which made Jet a compelling character in my eyes.

In the male lead of this tale, Finn Blackwood, Janu has introduced a bona fide nice guy. Finn was honest, thoughtful, respectful and patient. I admired many qualities in this man, I’d quite like a Finn myself! Finn is also attached to a very interesting career, he is both a geneticist and a vet that specialises in tending to wild animals. What a fascinating job! Finn is also a jet setting vet, who is dealing with severe anaphylaxis, which adds an extra layer to this appealing character. When Finn and Jet collide at a Western Plains Zoo, their lives are irrevocably changed. Initially wary of one another (especially Jet), their attraction to one another is electric and undeniable. There is plenty of toing and froing that follows this couple, as they bicker, banter and eventually form a union that is threatened by Jet’s past hang ups. Janu plays her cards right in the romance department, and what emerges is a love story hampered by setbacks, but also lifted by hope by the close of the novel.

Although romance is a paramount theme in Up on Horseshoe Hill, Penelope Janu is an author who always injects a little more into her story. There is a considerate and sincere exploration into the process of loss. There is also a heady glimpse into the fallout from a traumatic event, following the death of a number of horses in Jet’s care, that sends her in a cycle of blame and self persecution. Conservation is also a sub theme, which draws in issues from an international field. Personally, I appreciated the inclusion of the animals mentioned in the open plains zoo where Finn and Jet are acquainted. I loved learning about the hoof care of some of my favourite animals – giraffes, zebras, deer and an animal breed I had not encountered before, the takhi. With a subtle undercurrent of suspense, Penelope Janu rounds her new book off nicely.

In the ever growing field of Australian rural romance fiction, presenting readers with fresh, original and entertaining material can be a tough gig. However, Penelope Janu succeeds in delivering fans old and new an engrossing tale. Up on Horseshoe Hill is a novel that awakens our sense of hope that love can prevail, even when life deals you with a serious of devastating setbacks to overcome.

Up on Horseshoe Hill by Penelope Janu was published on 18th November 2019 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Up on Horseshoe Hill, Penelope Janu, visit here.

*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Up on Horseshoe Hill is book #9 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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