Barbed Wire Heart

Barbed Wire Heart

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 ou...

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Title:Barbed Wire Heart
Author:Tess Sharpe
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Barbed Wire Heart Reviews

  • Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    Tess Sharpe is a new name for me since I don't read much YA nowadays. However, I might have to check out her other books because this her first novel for adults blow my mind. I can honestly say that I was both surprised and delighted on how good the book is. Now, I felt right from the start, reading the first chapter that this felt right, it caught my attention and I was sucked into Harley's world. A friend on twitter called this rural noir and that is a fitting description of this book.

    Harley M

    Tess Sharpe is a new name for me since I don't read much YA nowadays. However, I might have to check out her other books because this her first novel for adults blow my mind. I can honestly say that I was both surprised and delighted on how good the book is. Now, I felt right from the start, reading the first chapter that this felt right, it caught my attention and I was sucked into Harley's world. A friend on twitter called this rural noir and that is a fitting description of this book.

    Harley McKenna is the only daughter of Duke McKenna, North County's biggest baddest criminal. She's been working for him since she was sixteen collecting debts as he's trained her to one day take over after him. However, time is up now, his father's archnemesis Carl Springfield, the man who is responsible for Harley's mom's death, is closing in on them and Hartley has decided enough is enough, and she knows that this world that here father and Springfield has created, a deadly world will be the end of her. So, she decided to change it all, and take out both her father's and operation and Springfields.

    Barbed Wire Heart is a gritty book about family, survival, and meth. Harley is not your typical young woman, she watched her mother get killed when she was little. Not long time after that did she watch her father kill a man. That's just a small part of what she has been through and through this story, we get to follow Harley as she once and for all change, her future, at the same time do we get interwoven chapters from her childhood and teens that explain how she grows to be the woman she is today. It's such a fabulous book. I loved reading it, I found Harley to be such a wonderful character and I was totally engrossed in the book. Yes, it's a violent book, but it's a violent world that Harley lives in. However, there are some lighter moments, one of the best and most heartbreaking chapters is one of the shortest when Harley recollects a memory of her father from when she was little. It was heartbreaking. I could go on and on about this book, but I will just say that this is a book that I'm truly glad that I read and it's definitely one of the best I have read this year.

  • Paromjit

    "Never cut the drugs--leave them pure. Guns are meant to be shot--keep them loaded. Family is everything--betray them and die."

    This is a brutal and violent family drama set in the mountains and forests of poverty stricken North County. This is redneck country, where men who rape and abuse women are easily forgiven, after all, women are to blame for being such a terrible temptation. Harley McKenna is 22, and the only daughter of the feared Duke, crime boss and the law, whose momma died at the han

    "Never cut the drugs--leave them pure. Guns are meant to be shot--keep them loaded. Family is everything--betray them and die."

    This is a brutal and violent family drama set in the mountains and forests of poverty stricken North County. This is redneck country, where men who rape and abuse women are easily forgiven, after all, women are to blame for being such a terrible temptation. Harley McKenna is 22, and the only daughter of the feared Duke, crime boss and the law, whose momma died at the hands of Carl Springfield when she was a young child. This instigates a blood feud and war against the Springfields that is to define Harley's blood drenched life as Duke grooms her to take over his criminal empire. Harley is the apple of her father's eye, as she is raised by Duke to survive and rule. Harley feels a myriad of feelings towards Duke, love, hate, resentment whilst worshipping the ground he walks on, in every way possible she is a daddy's girl. She is now planning to wage war against everything Duke stands for, the deepest betrayal, to protect everyone and everything that matters to her. Like so often with plans, it barely survives the battlefield.

    The narrative goes back and forth in time, focusing on significant issues and events in Harley's life that have shaped who she is, such as the first time she saw her father killing a man at 8 years old, the day her beloved Uncle Jake was killed, her encounters with the Springfields, and how Brooke ends up being her best friend. Interspersed are the lessons that Duke metes out, such as her training to become the best shooter in town, an expert with a knife, and good at hunting and killing people with impunity. Duke protects her, keeps her from school and ensures she has companionship with Will, but is not beyond terrorising her to teach her all that he knows as he moulds her in his image. Harley's totally committed to protecting the rubies, women who have been abused, who reside at the Ruby, run by Mo, an enterprise she inherited from her momma. As she begins to destroy Duke's meths business, she reflects on when she turned from Duke and turned to Will instead, and how the McKennas fall hard and fast, loving only one in their lives. Harley may be her father's daughter by nurture, but by nature, she is her momma's, to whose grave she brings offerings from the forest. More than anything, she is determined to deal with the racist and murderous Carl Springfield, but will family secrets impede her?

    This may not be a book for everyone, many may find the level of brutality, abuse and violence too much for them. Indeed, Tess Sharpe has issued her own warnings of trigger issues. Sharpe has written a gritty story that I found utterly compelling. Women take front and centre stage in the narrative, being at the end of horrifying rape and abuse, and Harley is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that they are protected. Harley is a product of her environment and upbringing, with all that entails, so it is hardly surprising just how much blood letting there is in her quest. It informs how she conducts herself and whilst this might make some uneasy, I loved her character. Not everything is perfect, there are aspects of the ending that did not sit well with me, but that does not affect how superb I thought the novel is. Providing you can handle the brutality and abuse issues, this is a great read which I recommend highly! Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing for an ARC.

  • Eric

    Though it is early yet, sometimes there are novels that surprise me when it comes to the lack of public attention and those that seem to receive more than the novel deserve.

    Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe is one of the novels that surprise me when it comes to the lack of publicity and attention. Though it may be a bit too early since the novel was just released earlier this month, to this reader, Barbed Wire Heart is the type of novel that should be receiving raves in many of the crime fiction

    Though it is early yet, sometimes there are novels that surprise me when it comes to the lack of public attention and those that seem to receive more than the novel deserve.

    Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe is one of the novels that surprise me when it comes to the lack of publicity and attention. Though it may be a bit too early since the novel was just released earlier this month, to this reader, Barbed Wire Heart is the type of novel that should be receiving raves in many of the crime fiction/thriller blogs out there, but for some reason has yet to bust through.

    Barbed Wire Heart is about the rise of Haley McKenna, a twenty-something woman raised by Duke McKenna, the county's most feared crime lord, in the mountains of northern California.

    All of her life, Duke McKenna has trained and provided Haley with lessons needed to ensure her survival in the eventual taking over of his crime empire. In this world are shaky alliances with even shakier and untrustworthy characters that carry possible harm to Harley at any given time. Duke McKenna is so feared, the mere mention of his name is enough to keep most men under his thumb.

    Sharpe has created an interesting environment with believable and well-developed characters, built with motives of their own that add to the depth of the novel. The characters are not built upon bases of comic book invincibility that go beyond belief, nor are episodes of unbelievable circumstances created that allow the plot to fall into the realm of the absurd.

    Also, often times when you think you have aspects of the story figured out, Sharpe throws in nice little twists and turns to keep the reader surprised.

    One could even describe this novel as Southern Noir, even though it takes place in the hills, hollows, and mountains of Northern California.

    High recommended to readers who enjoy novels by Daniel Woodrell, William Gay and the many new writers of Southern literature with the tilt toward the darker aspects of life and criminality.

  • Chelsea

    One of the few recent arcs I’m glad to have taken a chance on!

    The novel follows 25 year old Harley, daughter of Duke McKenna, the infamous crime boss of her home, North County. The novel recounts Harley’s unconventional childhood as well as attempts to stop an impending turf war with the Springfields, the people responsible for the death o

    One of the few recent arcs I’m glad to have taken a chance on!

    The novel follows 25 year old Harley, daughter of Duke McKenna, the infamous crime boss of her home, North County. The novel recounts Harley’s unconventional childhood as well as attempts to stop an impending turf war with the Springfields, the people responsible for the death of Harley’s mother.

    This book is kind of badass. I mean, how often do we get to see criminal ladies as leads in novels? And with a feminist, girl-power twist? And moral ambiguity? More of this, please!

    It’s a pretty violent novel, which can be a good or bad thing depending on what type of reader you are.

    This is a novel I would say is close to a character study. Harley is an extremely developed character with a lot of backstory. She is flawed, but good hearted, scary but will do anything for those she cares about. One of the better written characters I’ve read in awhile.

    It incorporates years of Harley’s past by starting chapters describing the first time things happened in her life, such as the first time she saw her father kill someone.

    There is a romance, which I wasn’t completely sold on, but it also wasn’t a huge part of the story. I liked both characters enough on their own that I didn’t mind it.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see that Harley’s constant companion is her loyal pit bull, Busy, who she rescued as a puppy. There are a few quotes that kind of perpetuate the lockjaw myth, but I’m always on the lookout for positive pit bull portrayals, which this was for the most part.

    There were some lines that would definitely feel silly if said in real life, but the drama definitely fit the overall vibe of the book.

    I wouldn’t really call this a thriller, but if you’re interested in a kickass, violent novel with a strong MC, I would encourage to keep a look out for this one when it hits shelves in March!

  • Meredith B

    This book was very different from what I normally read. I was a little nervous going into it as I thought maybe I wouldn't like it but as you can see from my rating I really enjoyed it!

    We meet Duke and Harley. They are an unstoppable Father/Daughter Duo and they are tough as nails. They are the McKennas and if you live in the area you know that

    This book definitely tackles some hard subjects however if you really think about it it's also taking us through a fa

    This book was very different from what I normally read. I was a little nervous going into it as I thought maybe I wouldn't like it but as you can see from my rating I really enjoyed it!

    We meet Duke and Harley. They are an unstoppable Father/Daughter Duo and they are tough as nails. They are the McKennas and if you live in the area you know that

    This book definitely tackles some hard subjects however if you really think about it it's also taking us through a father/daughter relationship when the father is raising his daughter, a love story with Harley and the bond women can form when they have something in common.

    If anyone has ever watched Breaking Bad (which I've only watched one episode with my Dad and that was enough haha) this is kind of similar but with more of a southern twist to it. I'm a midwest girl myself but I really enjoyed getting to know Harley, Duke and the rest of the characters. They were weirdly relatable just not in the drugs and violence kind of way.

    Trigger warning: this book tackles some really rough subjects: drugs, abuse, rape and violence (in specific mostly guns). So if any of these are something you can't handle I would proceed with caution. However

    weaves all of these tough subjects throughout the story while still telling the story in a real way.

    Ultimately what I loved about this book was the strong female presence. I feel like when you think of tough subject (see trigger warnings above) men mostly come to mind. However the women in this story were far more powerful then the men. They were tough, smart, tactful and empowering. Personally, i'd want to be part of the Rubies (that's what they call themselves) rather than against them.

    Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and

    for an ARC of this book. This hits shelves on March 6th and I would pick it up if you're looking for something new!

  • Brooke

    4 riveting stars

    Boy was this intense! This was my first Tess Sharpe novel & it certainly won't be my last. From beginning to end, Harley demanded my attention. She is strong, stubbornly determined, brazen, & most of all, she is a complexly flawed human being. There were times I could understand her logic; occasionally I shook my head & could only buckle myself up for the ride. One thing's for sure: Harley is a women on a mission & you do not want to get in her way. Several snippe

    4 riveting stars

    Boy was this intense! This was my first Tess Sharpe novel & it certainly won't be my last. From beginning to end, Harley demanded my attention. She is strong, stubbornly determined, brazen, & most of all, she is a complexly flawed human being. There were times I could understand her logic; occasionally I shook my head & could only buckle myself up for the ride. One thing's for sure: Harley is a women on a mission & you do not want to get in her way. Several snippets of dialogue made me doubt the authenticity (as in you most likely wouldn't catch someone saying these things out loud in your daily life), but really, it was all in good fun.

    I adored the relationship Harley had with Will. In my eyes, Will made her a better person by reminding her of her mother's side (the kindness), & ended up being the only one who could truly piece their way through her barbed wire heart. If I loved one dynamic in a book, chances are I'm going to hate another dynamic just as much. That's true with Harley & her father, Duke. God did I hate him. He stained everything he touched & I don't feel bad saying I didn't care what happened to him. The father/daughter duo is intense here.*

    I also liked the majority of the side characters-especially Brooke. (No bias here :) The pacing was good; I constantly went "Oh shit. What's gonna happen now?" & I thought it was near-perfect until the last 80%. After that, I did feel the speedball start to slow down & I was a bit disappointed with the ending, considering all of that buildup. I am really happy to see a "take no shit" female character be in charge & how she never took the easy way out. There are also themes of White Nationalism/neo-Nazis & how Will got treated like shit because he is Indigenous. Because this was crucial to the novel, I felt like there could have been (not necessarily more) a greater pull to this. For example, more scenes with Will fronting the line & having confrontations with these "individuals" would have sufficed. We get a lot of Harley explaining what it was like for Will growing up, but never actual face-to-face confrontation. A prime example of telling, not showing that thankfully doesn't occur often in this book.

    Sharpe mentions her white privilege in the acknowledgements. I can get behind that 100%, but I am still sad that because these themes weren't tied in so seamlessly as Harley's character arc that it may fail to bring the message home to some. I would have liked to see these things intertwine in a hand-in-hand fashion. Yes, there are microaggressions, but I'm a picky bitch & it wasn't enough for me, though it will be for many. But, it's an adult debut & frankly, the things she did right here outweigh the things she didn't. Before I picked this up, I went through her list of trigger warnings (which can be found

    ) & was impressed. I think this is the first time I've seen an author TW their own book, especially before it was officially released. Here's someone who would rather have their readers stay safe than worried about what # it'll be ranked on a list & how much $$ they're getting. Another tally mark for Sharpe.

    Overall this was an excellent read & I recommend it to fans of the genre. Harley is a character that will stay with me for a long time. I cannot wait to read what Sharpe creates next.

    *general TWs include: abuse, racism, hurting animals (no death), assault/violence & drugs

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)

    it's a morally ambiguous drug dealer girl written by Tess Sharpe herself feat. this COVER REVEAL and overall @ Tess: you're doing amazing sweetie

  • Tess Sharpe

    Hi everyone, Tess Sharpe here!

    I just wanted to drop the link to a list of Trigger Warnings for the book for anyone who needs it:

    --TS

  • Bonnie

    DNF @ 16%

    Southern Gothic is my jam and Barbed Wire Heart sounded right up my alley. Of course, when you compare anything to Winter’s Bone I’m even more on board. Harley McKenna’s character did in fact, read a lot like Ree Dolly with her badass nature and overall inability to sit on the sidelines letting someone else handle business. It’s an admirable quality and I’m quite fond of this characteristic in female characters. For some reason though, something about the characters, the atmosphere, and

    DNF @ 16%

    Southern Gothic is my jam and Barbed Wire Heart sounded right up my alley. Of course, when you compare anything to Winter’s Bone I’m even more on board. Harley McKenna’s character did in fact, read a lot like Ree Dolly with her badass nature and overall inability to sit on the sidelines letting someone else handle business. It’s an admirable quality and I’m quite fond of this characteristic in female characters. For some reason though, something about the characters, the atmosphere, and the story itself just never rang true for me. It felt like a combination of a lack of authenticity and simply trying too hard to fit in all the guns, the drugs, the bad men, and excessive violence that are characters in and of themselves in novels of this ilk. Whatever it was that ultimately turned me off from this story, I wish it wasn’t the case because I had high hopes for this one.

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