|Valerie Parv initiates her new series “Code of the Outback” with Heir to Danger, set in the Kimberly Mountain Ranges of Northwestern Australia. This is Outback country, where the environment operates as the greatest leveler of all social classes, including even that of a Royal Princess and a Territory Ranger.
Tom McCullogh, son of a man convicted of murdering his wife, spent his formative years in foster care with Des Logan, his daughter Judy, and three other foster sons. Part aboriginal, as a youth Tom had been initiated into the coming of manhood ceremonies of the tribe living in that area.
And this is the first thing Princess Shara Najran, daughter of the King of Qaresh, learns about Tom. On his way to visit Des, he finds Shara being held at spear point by a native Aborigine. Shara has broken the boundary taboo by investigating the cave paintings that are held sacred and inviolate. Tribal law dictates that she be punished. Honoring that custom instead of preventing it, Tom tries to take the punishment for her.
An auspicious meeting, and on their way to the station Tom learns Shara is fleeing from her fiancé who caught her recording a conversation filled with his plans to take over the country after their marriage. Shara had hidden the tape in their private plane and managed to escape from her fiancé upon landing, but without the tape.
Shara and her father had visited Des on a trip many years before on a cattle buying trip, and she had maintained contact with Judy through their mutual interest in native art.
Judy and Des offer Shara refuge in one of the cabins. From here the story weaves through the chase her fiancé mounts with the assistance of the adjacent station owner Horvath. Horvath has just inherited the station and is after the rumored diamond mine on Des’s property. The fiancé and Horvath make powerful allies.
Tom is also wrestling with his growing attraction to Shara and she is awakened to the advantages of choosing your own mate versus an arranged marriage.
This plot is not too unusual but the author is skillful in creating credible, multi-layered characters who are not only motivated enough to change in response to plot events, but who are also always redefining their wants and needs. As well as the obvious external conflicts, the characters recognize and overcome internal conflicts as well, utilizing the sequence of events for their respective internal growths.
The author has employed dialogue as well as place description to offer a remarkable sense of setting. When these strengths are combined with the occasional glimpses into the rich culture of the Outback, it becomes a novel with much to recommend.