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

New Release Book Review: Climbing Fear by Leisl Leighton

Title: Climbing Fear

Author: Leisl Leighton

Published: October 7th 2020

Publisher: Mira – AU

Pages: 384

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

Set against the stirring Victorian Alps, comes a suspenseful novel of recovery and new beginnings from a talented new voice in Australian rural fiction. Perfect for readers of Sarah Barrie and Nora Roberts.

His beloved home is under threat and with it the beautiful, haunted woman he’s never been able to forget …

X-Treme TV sports star Reid Stratton has everything – until his best friend falls to his death on a climb while shooting their show. In the fierce media fallout, Reid begins to question everything about himself. Crippled by a new fear of climbing, Reid returns to CoalCliff Stud, his family’s horse farm, to recover.

Single mother Natalia Robinson is determined to start afresh, away from the shadow of her past. A job at CoalCliff Stud where she lived as a child is the perfect opportunity to live the quiet life she always wanted. But she is unprepared to see Reid, and is even more unprepared for the passion that still burns between them.

But after a series of menacing events threatens the new home she is trying to build, Nat realises that Reid is the only person she can rely on to keep her and her daughter safe. Together, Reid and Nat must face the pasts that haunt them if they are to survive the present and forge a future of hope.


Climbing Fear heralds the first issue in Leisl Leighton’s CoalCliff series. A generous serving of romance and a side of suspense runs through this homecoming tale. Two torn souls, haunted by loss, reconnect under the skies of this spectacular rural horse farm. A story of grief, misunderstandings, confusion, trauma, togetherness, support, recovery and healing defines Leisl Leighton’s Australian romantic suspense offering.

Climbing Fear introduces Reid Stratton. The hero of Leisl Leighton’s new tale is grieving the loss of his best friend, who fell to his death while the two were filming a climb for their extreme sports show. Faced with intense media scrutiny, Reid retreats to CoalCliff Stud.  Reid hopes that his family’s horse farm will provide him with the solace and support he needs to help him overcome his new fear of climbing. Natalia Robinson also arrives at CoalCliff Stud, with the intention of rebuilding her broken life. With her daughter Tilly, Nat hopes the move to CoalCliff will help her bury the past. Nat doesn’t expect to make a connection with Reid, but when she does, passion ensues. However, both Reid and Nat’s lives are placed in jeopardy following a number of threatening incidents. Reid and Nat realise that they must band together in order to keep themselves and Nat’s daughter safe from harm. With plenty of past baggage threatening to derail this blossoming relationship, both parties will need to confront their troubled pasts to safeguard their future happiness.

In 2018 I had the pleasure of reading Dangerous Echoes, one of three rural romantic suspense stories that formed the title Echo Springs. In my review of Dangerous Echoes, I noted that I appreciated the gritty realism and romantic elements of Leisl Leighton’s story. I think this statement could be easily applied to my response to Climbing Fear. Leighton’s latest release is full of suspense, loss, trauma and intrigue, but it is also very generous on the romantic front.

Leighton has cast two very likeable leads in Climbing Fear and the reader soon develops a strong sense of sympathy for their respective predicaments. For Reid, Leighton’s leading male figure, we have a man tormented by the pain and shock loss of his best friend to a tragic accident. I can only imagine the grief, deep loss, blame and regret that came from this terrible incident. Leighton does a very good job of drawing out the feelings of loss and anguish experienced by her lead. Leighton also explores trauma and fear, through Reid’s inability to resume his climbing pursuits. I took a clear liking to Reid, he was a protagonist that you just wanted to reach inside the pages and offer him some much needed emotional support.

In Nat, the lead female character of Climbing Fear, we have a hardworking single mother, who is haunted by the ghosts of her difficult past. The loss of her ex-husband has clearly cut deep and Nat’s strong ambition to restart her life at CoalCliff made her an admirable character in my eyes. The interactions that arise between Nat, Reid and the support cast, such as Nat’s daughter Tilly and Reid’s family adds much substance to this tale.

When Reid and Nat face off things get really interesting in the love stakes. With a good dose of tension and a healthy dollop of passion igniting the hearts of these two appealing leads, the romance aspect of Climbing Fear was definitely a high point for me. Leighton’s approach to her romance thread is just fabulous. We feel the attraction, heat, reservations and other personal issues at the heart of this couple’s rocky road to future happiness.

It was a joy to spend a couple of nights while I read Climbing Fear at CoalCliff Stud. This Victorian Alps based region is brought vividly to life for the reader. Leighton’s descriptions of this area showcases the surrounding landscape, the flora and fauna this location has to offer. I was able to imagine myself on CoalCliff Stud, thanks to Leighton’s hearty descriptions of this horse farm. I would definitely make a return visit to this locale!

In terms of the suspense side of things, Climbing Fear seems to focus more on the romance, relationship development and character progression, rather than the intrigue. The small mystery component of this novel did encourage me to turn the pages of Climbing Fear. I was definitely keen to see how the situation faced by the leads would develop and resolve. It was worth sticking around for the end, which seemed to pave the way for the opening of the next volume in this cracking new Australian series.

Climbing Fear offers a tale of pain, loss, trauma, broken lives, love, homecoming, hope and healing. Leisl Leighton’s latest is a must read for lovers of Australian based contemporary romance.

Climbing Fear by Leisl Leighton was published on 7th October 2020 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Climbing Fear, Leisl Leighton, visit here.

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

Climbing Fear is book #113 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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