Book Reviews

The Baringup Dynasty by Bruce Cooke

Desert Breeze Publishing

It’s been a long time since I’ve read an excellent novel that focused more on story and character development and less on sex. The Baringup Dynasty is a captivating story told in the most creative way by Bruce Cooke. In the first chapter we meet Danny Stevens, a war veteran with a bloody past headed on a train with his new boss Jonathon Bailey, a man who has had a less fortunate childhood himself.

Now here’s where it gets interesting! The chapters that follow alternate between Danny’s past and Jonathon’s past. It is in these chapters that Danny and Jonathon really come to life and develop into three dimensional characters. Bruce’s writing style is lean as he conveys just the highlights of each man’s life that has made him into the person we are reading about today. The Baringup Dynasty just would not have been the same without these details.

We follow each man’s life journey until we get back to the present train ride. Then Bruce pushes the story forward so we can see where each character ends up. Although Jonathon’s story really kept me glued to the pages, it is his daughter Robbie who put a smile on my face. Determined to do anything a man can do, this smart mouthed, independent woman definitely put a smile on my face. The Baringup Dynasty is a spectacularly told story and all credit goes to Bruce Cooke.

McBrides Treasure by Bruce Cooke

MR Review
Reviewer: Alberta

Colonial Australia was a rough, place full of convicts who may or may not have been really bad people. If you could get transported from England for stealing a loaf of bread, or for murder, then desperately hungry people were thrown in jails with real criminals, till no one could tell who was bad and who was inherently good. Men could buy a wife from among the convicts, widows might only find work as prostitutes, and above all, the work was back breaking for everyone. Into this world we are plunged by Cook, who tells us a tale of buried gold, murder, cruelty against women, fierce protection of the land by a family of sheep farmers, and amidst all this, several love stories, which rise from the ashes of cruelty and exploitation.

Brian and Mary are the owners of the sheep station, and they live with their children and Mary’s mother Rebecca. When Brian is senselessly gunned down, Mary and Rebecca nurse him back to health, while trying to take care of their land and livestock. Mark, the local magistrate helps them as he can, to prevail against the men who want the land—one who wants the gold he buried there six years earlier. The other wants revenge against the women, but some gold wouldn’t hurt either.

McBride’s Treasure is a sweeping tale of how the west was won—only not in the American west, but in the wilds of Australia. I loved the historical aspects, the love they found in unlikely places, the fierce love of land and hope for a brighter future.

The Reilly factor by Bruce Cooke

Romantic suspense
Available from Whiskey Creek Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-936000-87-6
June 2010

Dee Dailey- The Romance Studio
Rating: 4 Hearts

"Bruce Cooke pens a love story with plenty of suspense. There are surprises and some nail biting situations throughout... The ending is everything I want in a great book. Dialogue and scenarios are well done to keep us guessing. This author shows tremendous potential as a writer of romantic suspense."

Dee Dailey -- The Romance Studio
Rating: 4 Hearts

Alison McIver is trying to prove herself in the macho realm of detectives. Having a boss who's a former lover doesn't really help. When her big chance finally comes she goes undercover to help stop a major drug deal. Falling in love with a wanted criminal is not part of her plan but "Lover Boy" Daniel Reilly is not your average criminal.

Bruce Cooke pens a love story with plenty of suspense. There are surprises and some nail biting situations throughout. Alison isn't one of those heroines who we like immediately. She takes some getting used to as her internal whines about being neglected and picked on by her co-workers contrast with her abilities. Then she falls in love with a hardened criminal. Not something to get her a good job evaluation even from a former lover who wants to restart the relationship.

Her character gets better as others are introduced to take some of our attention away from her thoughts and paranoia. Many of the characters shine. Heather, Daniel's accomplice is great as is Daniel and the story itself as it gets more complex. We get lost in the suspense as we try to figure out who the dirty cop is who throws a curve at them all the time. It could be several people but most readers won't guess the real culprit until the very end.

It took a while for Cooke to get the story rolling for me but once he did I was hooked. The ending is everything I want in a great book. Dialogue and scenarios are well done to keep us guessing. This author shows tremendous potential as a writer of romantic suspense.

Overall rating:
Sensuality rating: Very sensual
Reviewer: Dee Dailey
November 17, 2010


*This is the first romance I've ever read written by a man, and I have to say it was a wonderful experience. *

*This story revolves around two people who find each other late in life. Joanne is newly widowed and whose poor quality of marriage she kept a secret from her kids.*

*Ritchie is a man who raised his kids and his company practically single-handedly and felt he would never find a woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with until he met Joanne. *

*Right from the get go, I was laughing; when Joanne meets one of her husband's floozies at the funeral and has a conversation with her, I found myself applauding Joanne's tact and fire. It didn't take too long for Joanne's character to jump out at me in full color. I loved her wit, her rapier mind, her strength and her style. I would adore meeting a character like Joanne in real life. She's a class act.*

*Ritchie, for me anyway, was a beta hero. He was strong but not overt. He was focused but not overwhelming. He was romantic and quite persuasive without being abrasive and pushy. He probably was very alpha in the financial world hence his successful company, but we don't see him transfer that into his personal life. He's very "there" for Joanne. And I get the impression that he was extremely hands on with his kids. *

*Speaking of kids; Ritchie's daughter Sally is a hot ticket. Her antithesis is Joanne's daughter Becky. If you think of Snow White, Becky was like 'Grumpy' to Sally's 'Happy'. The byplay between the two of them as they reacted to their parents' developing relationship was fun to read. *

*Of course, no romance is complete without the proverbial bump in the road and that comes courtesy of Ritchie's ex-wife. What a diabolically pathetic creature!*

*As a reader, I appreciate Mr. Cook's deft handling of cultural references. This story takes place in Australia and of course there's going to be some head scratching from people like me on the other side of the ocean due to some of the terms. The words he did use were just enough for exotic flavor but not enough to throw a reader from the story. I enjoyed the feeling that People Are People, no matter where they are.

*I'd be remiss not to share my amusement with Ritchie's propensity to nibble a certain part of Joanne's body. It was So ... "guy". Now I'm wondering if guys like to do that as much or more than gals like having it done. I couldn't help but read with a smile on my face.*

*As I'm writing this, I had a realization. I just figured out that even though Joanne and Ritchie come from opposite sides of the city, each in their own way dealt with a personal problem in the exact same manner. Only the degrees in which they were able to address it were different, but their approach was the same. The characters didn't catch it but I did. What fun!*

*If you enjoy romance stories about second chances at love, Love in the Afternoon does that and more. It's sweet, endearing, uplifting and life affirming. If you are in the mood for a feel good romance, again, this fits the bill. As we all know, love can happen at anytime, not just in the afternoon. So read this anytime. You'll be glad you did.*

Review for Jungle Heart with Eternal

*Rated: 4 1/2 books*
Reviewed by: Xeranthemum, The Long and Short Of It Reviews

Earning the reputation of a silent killer combined with the uncanny ability to be in one place and then disappear into the jungle, Steve Ellis’ has been dubbed by his mates as “The Phantom”. A nickname he does not take lightly considering he is smack dab in the middle of New Guinea fighting a war against the Japanese. His mission was to take Lieutenant Kate Crosswell to a safe Australian occupied base in Myola. But when their perilous journey through the jungle brings them closer together, it ignites a passionate and romantic love neither one of them expected find.

I must admit I was very skeptical when I began reading this book since it was a war story, I however found that after reading the first page I was engrossed in JUNGLE HEAT. Mr. Cooke did a clever job of painting a clear picture of jungle warfare and the history behind what lead the main characters to New Guinea. This story was suspenseful at every turn of a page especially when Kate is captured by the enemy. A gut churning scene that left me on pins and needles because I could not help but feel her desperation when she thinks she is doomed with no hope of being rescued.

Romance readers take notice! JUNGLE HEAT offers memorable lead and secondary characters which bring together a romantic love story you are not likely to forget! I am excited to have read Mr. Cooke’s book and look forward to his future releases one of which is available in November of 2007.

Red Roses For Authors

Meeting at Princes Bridge by Bruce Cooke

This one is a 4-1/2 red roses experience. 
Larena Wirum

It is before WWII in Australia Meg, Iris and Val have been friends all their lives. It was their fathers' friendships that brought them together. Now it is their fathers' tragic death that has brought them even closer. All three girls look forward to their Saturday outings together. A ritual of tossing a coin off of Princes Bridge that was started by their fathers to celebrate the girls' birthdays is a fun way to keep their fathers' memories alive and keep in touch with each other.

As the years go by and the girls get older things may change in their lives but they still have their friendship the one stable and constant in their lives. Meg is the one that brought everyone together as she is the most popular. Iris being painfully shy counts on and depends most on Meg and later Val. Val depends on her looks, which in turns makes most girls jealous of her so her only friends are Meg and Iris.

All three are always there for each other as they start dating. They stood by each other through all the trials and tribulations as they start seeing more of the world and finding their places in it. Val has more experience with the boys so Meg and Iris look to her for advice. Though one joke from Val has consequences that she did foresee and deeply regrets.

One tragic act of betrayal brings all their lives to a halt. One unthinking act from Val against Meg destroys their friendship. Now Iris can only hope that time will heal this breach as she is torn between the two best friends. Val knows she can never undo what has been done but she never thought she would lose Meg's friendship. Meg always stood by Val and can't believe what Val has done to her. Meg always believed in Val and always thought the other girls where lying when they spoke of Val.

Now their lives are going in different direction and all three are married. The war has started and the girls' husbands are signing up to fight. As each woman handles the separation differently no one sees what is on the horizon or how each of their lives will take an even bigger turn. As each one faces their obstacles they wonder if they will ever or if they can be friends again and will they be able to get the closeness back. It takes a tragedy for them to realize that no matter what true friends are forever. And they just might have the chance they need to fix their lives and their friendship.

This is a very good book. It brings to life and era that is gone but not forgotten. You are drawn into each life of the characters and see different point of views. The story flows very well even when the point of view is changed. This one is definitely worth reading.

Meeting at Princes Bridge by Bruce Cooke
Ratings: 3 Cups
Bonnie-Lass Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance

Meg, Iris, and Val are the best of friends growing up. They were even born on the same day; St. Patrick's Day. Every year they meet at Prince's bridge on St. Patrick's Day to continue the tradition started by their fathers. Ken, Michael, and Peter are the men in their lives. Life was seemingly perfect for the six Australians, until one of them betrays another. When their country enters World War II, the men join up and the women all deal differently with their husbands away and the tragedy that befalls them.

Meg, Iris, and Val are all very different. Val is outgoing and beautiful and works as a model. Iris is very religious and marries young, and Meg is sweet. They were always friends, but really bonded after losing their fathers in a terrible accident. They finally confront the man responsible for the deaths of their fathers and end up telling him their harrowing stories of life, love, betrayal, death, and renewal.

Meeting at Prince's Bridge is a well-crafted novel. The reader can easily become invested in the lives of these six characters. It reads almost like a soap opera until the war begins, and then the reader can experience some fighting on the frontlines. The romantic scenes are emotional and loving. Bruce Cooke has created a story full of joy, sorrow, heartbreak, celebrations, and love. Warning: This title contains one semi-violent rape scene.

The Pursuit of Mary McBride by Bruce Cooke

Publisher: Swimming Kangaroo Books
genre: Historical; Action/Adventure
Length: Full
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Edelweiss

Rebecca McBride hates her husband Michael. She hates him because he rapes her and beats her. She hates him because he married her, not for love, but because he needed someone to keep his house and warm his bed. Most of all she hates him because he sold her daughter in marriage to a brute of a man, taking her away from her home and the man she loves. Now Mary and her new husband have disappeared into the Australian Outback, and Rebecca has no idea where they are. The only thing she knows is that she must find and rescue her daughter. She must bring Mary back to civilization and the people who love her, so Rebecca and Mary's boyfriend, Campbell, take off into the Australian frontier in pursuit of Mary McBride.

Set in nineteenth century Australia, The Pursuit of Mary McBride is a saga of trial and hardship, of aspirations sparking through sheets of down pouring misfortune. More than anything else, it is a story of the human spirit, of choices made under duress, sometimes from the brink of despair, and we see how those decisions play out. The effect on some of the characters is corrosive, while on others it is transcending, adding riveting intrigue to an intricate plot.

This book is well written, with a fluid prose that sends the reader galloping through it in page turning excitement. My chief complaint is that much of the dialogue is written in the same form and cadence as the narrative, depriving some minor characters of the vividness they deserved. Readers will stumble in a few places over spotty proofing, but The Pursuit of Mary McBride is a vigorous, satisfying read.

The Pursuit of Mary McBride by Bruce Cooke

Once again, Bruce Cooke has written a riveting story. The Pursuit of Mary McBride details the life of Rebecca Smith, a young orphan in London in 1832. She is taken in by the madam of the well-to-do London Gentlemen's Club and learns the trade when she comes of age. At the whim of a puritanical judge, Rebecca and her fellow prostitutes are sent to Australia, not for her occupation but because of a trumped up charge of theft from one of the club's patrons. Thus, Rebecca begins a life of desperation, first in prison, then as the wife of a brute, and later during the long trek to find her daughter, Mary McBride, who has been sold to another settler. Rebecca is joined on her quest by Campbell McGregor, Mary's young suitor.

This is a tale of love found in unusual places and highlights the pioneer spirit of early Australian settlers, many of whom were originally sent there as convicts. The landscape is broad and as familiar, in some respects, as the American West. The hardships and some types of people were definitely the same. Cooke, once again, has drawn believable characters that you want to cheer on, especially Rebecca and her determination to survive at all costs.

I really liked this book. This is the story that I would like New Zealand writer Beth Heywood to write about her own country as I mentioned in my review of her book, Cherished. There is something very appealing about settlement stories that I find refreshing. A family working in a natural landscape, dealing with survival and building something together without the distractions of urban life is often idyllic. Bruce Cooke, however, injects the reality and often brutality of human beings into his stories, and this one is no exception. But nobility is still present, and that pushes his work a notch higher than many writers who would either create saints for us to read about or push our noses into the grit of life. In The Pursuit of Mary McBride, Cooke balances both, presenting three-dimensional characters and offering a sweeping story for readers to enjoy. Once again, I highly recommend Bruce Cooke's work. The Pursuit of Mary McBride is a gem.

The Irish Retribution by Bruce Cooke

The reading world is a richer place since Bruce Cooke left life as a plumber and turned to teaching and eventually to writing. Though he has two novels in print and a number of short stories published, he also has seen his original adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe turned into a $1 million production for the Australian stage. Ironically, though, Cooke's real forte is telling stories in the real world and not those in fantasy. His first two novels, The Irish Retribution and The Pursuit of Mary McBride (also reviewed on Myshelf), were released simultaneously by Swimming Kangaroo last summer. They are two very different stories that capture readers immediately. When both were offered to me for review, I was intrigued by the vast difference in content and approach that Cooke offered in these stories.

The Irish Retribution, which will be reviewed here, is the story of war correspondent Tully Sanderson, an Australian national, and his estranged daughter Carrie, who never really knew how her Irish mother died. The novel begins with a tense scene between Tully and Carrie where the young woman pulls a gun and announces she is seeking revenge for his part in killing her mother. This act of revenge, known as the Irish Retribution, is set aside as the story of Tully's life and character as a reporter covering the Vietnam War unfolds. This tale, though it occurs after Carrie's mother's death, lays the foundation for the complexities in Tully's life that eventually bring him to that fateful meeting with Carrie. Only then does the reader find out what really happened. Needless to day, Tully Sanderson's life is rife with women, children whose lives he has not become a part of, and intense guilt, even though he has become a world-renown journalist and his daughter looks to be following in his career path.

The convolutions in Tully Sanderson's story are many, but it is the accuracy with which author Bruce Cooke paints the experiences of a war correspondent that take this novel to a higher plane. This backdrop of war and its inherent dangers allow the very human drama to play out in vivid colors. Relationships (and the lack of attention to them) are the hallmark of this novel, although this novel would by no means be considered a romance. It is certainly a portrait of the evils of war and the collateral damage done by it.

Bruce Cooke is an astute modern storyteller. I highly recommend The Irish Retribution.


Publisher: Swimming Kangaroo Books
Genre: Mainstream
ISBN: Paper: 978-1-934041-26-0
Pages: Paper: 381
Price: Paper: $17.99

Revenge is a dish best served at the hands of an estranged daughter.

This is what Carrie’s Irish IRA Uncle thinks and what he hopes Carrie will do – kill her journalist father.
Tully Sanderson is a hard drinking, women-lover, war correspondent whose daughter believes killed her mother. Faced with his daughter and her gun, Tully takes his child back through his life, his errors; his lost dreams and lost loves. Will they survive the telling? “The Irish Retribution” is, yet again, a very different read for me. It is, at times, jumpy in its telling; however, Tully’s journey is memorizing. Mr. Cooke’s writing places you in Tully’s shoes. Tully’s travels start in his homeland of Australia and leads to the Emerald Isle where he finds love with the sister of a major IRA player. When she dies, during a blotched IRA attack, her brother waits years for his revenge. Left with a small child, Tully strikes out earning their living the only way he knows how – as a war correspondent. Leaving Carrie with his sister and the long years away does not make Carrie’s heart grow fonder. She feels abandoned, and even though she follows in her father’s footsteps, the unkind years are enough for her to believe an unknown uncle over her father. Mr. Cooke takes Tully through the tropical heat of Vietnam to the battle weary lands of Sarajevo. Through Mr. Cooke’s writing you will feel the powerlessness of these areas and learn to like Tully as he struggles with his life. But, Mr. Cooke doesn’t stop with just a father/daughter tale. He incorporates those Tully have left behind or who have left him. Each character’s life is weaved throughout Tully and Carrie’s own existence. Whomever said what you don’t know can’t hurt you should ask the children of “The Irish Retribution” they might disagree.

Thank you, Mr. Cooke for restoring my faith in mainstream fiction. You gave me a tale that held my interest and has me wondering what happened after I closed the book.

Stranger in Harpoon Bay by Bruce Cooke

Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Short (130 pages)
Heat: Spicy Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Stephantois

When a man is washed up on a rocky outcrop, he awakes without his memory in the Harpoon Bay hospital, a small town in economic trouble.

He is named Rocky Smith and as he tries to build a new life with no memory of his past, he finds love and friendship. Realizing he has a strong business sense, he turns the town into an economic success but when he finds he is wanted for murder and theft he leaves with his new found love to find the truth. On the Gold Coast he discovers frightening truths as he discovers he s involved with murder and betrayal.


Publisher: Swimming Kangaroo Books
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: Paper: 262

Content: Sexual aspects in context with story.
When was the last time you could not put a book down? I mean, the last time you really could NOT stop reading? Yes, this is me talking about a romance story. Yes, I lost a day reading “The Pursuit of Mary McBride.”

Growing up in the London slums, on the streets, alone, in the 1800s, Rebecca Smith had extremely limited options. One option was to be a prostitute; lucky for her Claire, the owner and operator of London’s The Gentleman’s Club, took her in. Here Rebecca was at least safe. She learned to read and write and even how to carry on a ‘proper’ conversation; she learned to be used, but what else is new. Caught up in the ‘morals’ of a society who shunned the used in favour of the users, Rebecca was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in Australia and, in addition, could not return to London for another fourteen years. Why? Because a Gentleman’s Club client was kicked out for abusing a working girl and lied that he was robbed. Survival. What would you do to survive? You have no rights. You have no power. No one will speak for you. No one cares. Rebecca Smith survived. Marrying the abusive bully, Michael McBride, offered her an early prison release and a slightly better chance her unborn child would survive. After Michael rapes and sells her sixteen-year-old daughter into marriage, to another lout of a man, Rebecca vows to find and save her child, Mary. No, “The Pursuit of Mary McBride” is not a gentle read. It is an honest read. Mr. Cooke takes his reader from the dirt of London’s alleys and prisons to the holds of overcrowded ships to the new world of Australia and from there he opens up the settlement of his country’s history where everyone can try for a new beginning.

I’ll say no more about what happens to Rebecca, Michael, and Mary. Gentle read? Honest read? What do these mean? Are they just old words reused? At times I was not comfortable reading “The Pursuit of Mary McBride.” I can read, between the lines, what the guards, the ship’s crew, wanted from the women in exchange for a less stale piece of bread. My imagination can paint its own picture of fun and games at another’s expense…we hear about such things too often in the news and with our entertainment CSI, Law and Order, what have you, shows. Mr. Cooke takes away the sugarcoating, takes away the shock-value descriptions. He writes with plain blunt language which leaves no doubt about what is happening and that is the power of his writing. That is the honesty of his writing. Society deemed Rebecca a whore. Rebecca chose to survive. Rebecca sees with her experience. She has no rose-tinted glasses. She is a strong character that accepts the truth before her. Is there a happy ending for Rebecca, and her daughter, Mary?

I’ll just say I’m extremely happy. Mr. Cooke, thank you and I look forward to reading you, again.