Barbed Wire Heart // A Surprising Read That Was Filled With Women Kicking Some Ass

19 June 2018

Barbed Wire Heart
Published: 6th March 2018

Source: Netgalley

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

My Rating:
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.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wow. Just wow. I did not expect what I got from this book. I was expecting a thriller which seemed set to take a dark turn but instead got given an awesome feminist read. It was a book filled with strong female characters and was realistic in showing women’s struggles in society both getting respect from one another when they aren’t from the right background but also getting respect from the men in their lives too. It was an amazing read which was wholly realistic of society today but also happened to have a really good mystery/thriller element to it too.

I admit I wasn't completely certain about this book when I first started reading. The characters weren't exactly the most likeable and I was questioning the actions of a lot of people and why I should care for their story. But this book was written with flashbacks to past events interspersed throughout the current day storyline and those small snippets really drew me in and made me care for the characters, especially as it was told from Harley’s perspective and so the characters she cared about (even if she grew to understand they weren’t good people) were also the people I cared about in a twisted way.

Harley is a girl who has been raised to be suspicious of everyone, trust no one and expect to forge a brutal path through life. Very few are truly close to her and she prefers it that way because too many people close to her just means she has more weaknesses. Like I said, it's kind of brutal. Her dad is Duke McKenna and he rules North County with an iron fist. He's fought dirty to get that power and control the area and he is not a man to cross. But that's exactly what Harley is doing; she is slowly dismantling his power base. I will reveal no more than that to avoid spoilers but hot damn did I cheer Harley on, especially as you see more and more flashbacks to the past seeing the way he raised her. He was in no way a soft and caring parent, but you can tell there was love there but as you see the extremes of her childhood you begin to understand why Harley has been driven to the extremes and forced to betray a man she both loves and hates.

Tess Sharpe skilfully crafts a story filled with characters you really shouldn't like but as you see Harley's own memories of her past and upbringing I found myself feeling for Duke. Even though the man raised his daughter in questionable ways (testing her by kidnapping her and forcing her to shoot a deer? He's kind of a dick) but Duke did it because he loved Harley in his own messed up way and she loved him all the same. Despite him being a villain in many people's stories he also had some vaguely good points, he'd just twisted himself up a bit. And then there were good people interspersed throughout who proved that North County wasn't a truly awful place to be and helped explain why Harley loved it there.

More than crafting likeable flawed characters, though, Tess Sharpe crafts plenty of strong female characters which make this such an amazing feminist read. These women have struggled and they don’t have life easy, but it’s realistic, especially in a struggling small town. Some of the women were on Harley's side and others weren't but they were all strong and, despite having men in their lives bringing them down or holding them back, they were powerful. From Mo, the woman Harley trusted to keep the Rubies (the girls who get safe haven in a motel owned by Harley. A refuge for women from abusive homes or for those who are addicted and struggling to get clean) safe. Mo was trusted to keep these vulnerable women safe and help them move forward and she was amazing at it. There was Harley's best friend, Brooke, who went through some awful things but same out of it strong with a friend she would do anything for and would do anything for her. She was from the good side of town who looked down on the rubies but she didn't. She was awesome. It was amazing to read a see women fighting and holding positions of power in a county overrun with men who thought they knew what was best and what was best was brutality and power and women were weak and to stay at home. This is especially obvious towards the end of the book where you will be cheering the women on because damn are they amazing. Just trust me on this one.

It was such a good book and it went in a direction I did not expect. I enjoyed every page and only wish I'd gotten around to reading it sooner.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Have you read anything else by Tess Sharpe?
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