Joseph Barnaby Reviews

Joseph Barnaby - published 5th October 2018 by Crooked Cat Books.

Here's a blurb: Stand by your beliefs – even if it means going to the end of the Earth.

By standing up for his principles, horse farrier Joseph Barnaby lost everything. Now, when a personal vendetta goes too deep to fight, he escapes to the Portuguese island of Madeira where he finds work on a small farm only accessible by boat. 

The balmy climate and never-ending supply of exotic fruit, vegetables, and honey make it sound like paradise. But, for Joseph, it’s the ideal place to hide from the world.

Not everyone is prepared to give up on life’s misfortunes. The local fishing village has its own surprises and the inhabitants of Quinta da Esperança have more grit in them than the pebbled beach that borders the property.

Some Reviews:

*Reader's Favorite (Kimberly J. Benart.

Joe is a handsome young farrier who has fled England to hide from the world in a small town in Madeira. He works first in a bar and then on a farm accessible only by boat. The farmer, his wife, and their lovely but deaf niece quickly take to Joe, and he to them. So do the burro and the goats, who seem to follow Joe about as if he’s a pied piper to anything with hooves. The niece, Sophia, is strong-minded yet gentle and hardworking. She's also a successful beekeeper and stays at the remote farm much of the time for her own reasons, avoiding the social life that other young women might normally seek. But fate or providence in the form of a very odd “fairy godmother” named Lua, and the shenanigans of a couple of evil characters who intend no good for Joe or Sophia, will entice them both to rejoin the world in a way that neither could ever have anticipated.

Joseph Barnaby is an engaging and entertaining romance novel by Susan Roebuck. While full of mystery and suspense, it read to me like a modern-day fairy tale. I enjoyed reading Joseph Barnaby. Roebuck builds the scenery and characters with wonderful, descriptive, and flowing narrative. Joe and Sophia are good-hearted people who become real and believable. You want them to triumph over the adversities and evil intentions with which they’re each faced. This story is full of plot twists and unexpected heroes, and you won’t want to put the book down until the last page. This a story for anyone who is a true romantic at heart.

*Roland Clark's GoodRead's review:

When I discovered that the main protagonist was “horse farrier Joseph Barnaby”, my ears pricked, and the Portuguese island of Madeira made this a Must Read. When I won this excellent novel in an Advance Giveaway from author Susan Roebuck – but with no obligation to write anything about Joseph Barnaby – the book moved to the top of my reading pile.

The exact reason why Joe Barnaby escapes his life with horses in England is carefully revealed in flashbacks that felt at moments like a Dick Francis mystery. In contrast, his new life working on a small farm near the fishing village of Quinta da Esperança became a wonderful romance with both the island and with a young deaf woman, Sofia – although there are obstacles thrown in their path, including Joe’s past.

For me, the romance worked, and I was swept along; plus, the horseracing mystery spurred my ‘detective’ skills. I began to suspect what might have happened as the clues were slipped out, and the resolution satisfied me – as did the romantic denouement.

I must admit that there were some minor moments where my equestrian brain questioned the odd bit of phrasing, but slight, and even as an equestrian journalist, I have made mistakes. I was interested in the way that Riding for the Disabled featured – having personal connections to that inspiring movement.

The settings were vividly described, and I was immersed in the story because of those descriptions – and through the wonderful cast.

There were some great characters, from the main protagonists of Joe and Sofia, to the supporting cast, from memorable fishermen to the two principal antagonists. The latter were not as devious as the ones that challenge my brain in crime novels, but they displayed traits that kept the protagonists challenged. Sofia’s bees are characters themselves as well as an inspirational community. And I must mention Ed the donkey – just read and find out.

One woman was elusively mysterious, adding a clever thread to the story that wove through so many elements – I’m avoiding spoilers here. I want to say that there are a few clever threads, from the island’s past to the medical themes.

Sofia’s deafness seemed to be understood by the author and sensitively handled – adding to my engagement with the character. How others interacted with her was well contrasted, with some signing, others lip-reading, and those frustrated by her.

This novel was the perfect combination for me - horses and romance in a Portuguese setting. A strong 4.6 stars and a recommended quick read.

Story – four stars
Setting/World-building – four stars
Authenticity – four stars
Characters – five stars
Structure – five stars
Readability – five stars
Editing – five stars

*Nic Morton's review on Amazon and GoodReads:

Joseph Barnaby is an engaging romance set on Madeira. It begins with a prologue flashback to March 2016 when Joe Barnaby is offered a lucrative job as a farrier to a successful trainer, Bobby Shaw. The chapter ends with a friendly warning by an acquaintance for Joe to ‘watch his back’… 

The story then shifts to August 2017 and we meet Sofia who lives with her aunt and uncle on a small island off Madeira itself. She’s twenty-six, sure-footed like a goat on vertiginous cliff faces, tends a number of bee hives, is beautiful, and is deaf. She communicates with her family by sign, though she can speak; her affliction was as a result of contracting meningitis when she was eight. 

Working on the island as labourer and general helper is Joe, who has escaped from England for some reason still to be revealed…

For several months Joe had worked in a bar in the Madeiran town, quickly learning Portuguese. He proved popular with the regulars and made the acquaintance of a distinctive lady called Lua: ‘Her hair had always looked like unruly red serpents as if she used the same hairdresser as Medusa’ (p110). And then Joe was hired by Sofia’s uncle. 

The scene is set. Gradually, and enchantingly, the pair get to know each other – the reticent Joe and the strong-willed Sofia. A fly in the ointment is Dário, who wants Sofia as his sweetheart. But he doesn’t like to hear her speak, and would rather she stuck to gestures, though he never bothered to learn sign-language. Sofia wasn’t comfortable with using basic gestures ‘because it amused onlookers and made her feel like an amateur Marcel Marceau.’ (p14)

Dário is deluded, however, even as he wondered why Sofia would be reluctant when he was such a good catch. ‘They were made for each other, soul-mates, kindred spirits. She’d soon realise her mistake, he was sure.’ (p106)

There are light-hearted moments and humour as well as mystery and suspense. When Joe is being driven by a local doctor with a car-load of deaf passengers, he foolishly asks a question. Whereupon the doctor takes his hands off the steering wheel to sign to his passengers! ‘Joe decided that if he valued his life on this twisty road, then he wouldn’t ask any more questions.’ (p186)

It’s also a book about relationships – not just the Joe-Sofia pairing. The Joe and Lua scenes are at turns mysterious and amusing. The fondness of Sofia’s aunt and uncle for Joe is exhibited subtly, with a light touch. 

The accomplished storytelling of Sue Roebuck is bolstered by her strong affinity for Madeira and its people which shines through in descriptive passages that put you in the scene. And as a result I definitely cared about the characters. 

Highly recommended.

Joseph Barnaby is an atmospheric novel of place, romance and journey, both physical and spiritual. For me it was also a novel of discovery, learning about the horse racing world from the inside, travelling to Madeira for the first time and finding out more about the experience of deafness. The author has a deft hand and whilst creating what outwardly appears a fairly placid, gently novel on the whole, there is a lot of depth to it and turmoil beneath the surface.
Both Joseph and Sofia, the female protagonist, are dealing with huge issues in their lives. Joe has a black cloud over his head that he’s trying to disperse and Sofia is in a rather one-sided relationship with local man Dario, who isn’t seeing the whole person. When Joe appears, Sofia is immediately interested and the two gradually get to know each other. The lively, Medusa-haired Lua is something of a complication, but the course of true love was never meant to run smooth. There are some twists and turns in the plot, some tension and conflict, to keep our attention fully riveted.
There is so much beautiful description in the novel. The author creates settings in immense detail, but it’s never overwhelming. This adds greatly to the richness of the story. There are some Portuguese words (explained in the glossary) and that’s a nice touch. I don’t think you can set a story in another country or culture without using some native words as language and place are interwoven.
This is an extremely enjoyable and accomplished novel. By the end of it we know who Joseph Barnaby is, and so does he, finally.

*From Lynn Cheryl Pool (

Joseph Barnaby loves his job as a farrier, taking care of horses and keeping track of race relating news and gossip. A horse named Starlight, a predicted winner for the Grand National is much talked about, yet the behaviour by staff at the Norchester yard is suspicious. On race day at Aintree, Joe's convinced the horse is unfit and spooks it sufficiently resulting in the animal's withdrawal from the race, believing his professional judgement is correct. However, as the scandal unfolds and experts conclude he is wrong, Joe flies to Madeira to escape from the trouble he caused, finding a new life full of promise even though he's still questioning his personal integrity.

Abandoned by her parents, Sofia lives with her uncle and aunt on their remote farm, accessible only by boat. She spends her days helping out and attending to the beehives she keeps. She's supposed to be dating a man who is the son of her aunt's friend yet intrigued by the foreign man who has come to help her uncle.

The narrative is full of surprises and personal coincidences and heartily enjoyed reading about them from another perspective. From, attending the abandoned Grand National in 1993, halted due to false starts. Joe's experience contrasts sharply to mine, but the atmosphere of the large prestigious race meeting was just the same. Coincidentally, beehives are kept a short walk from my home. The landscape here is vastly different to tropical Madeira, but Sofia's passion and care for her bees are just the same. Lastly, after visiting the island earlier this year, I hoped by reading about Joe I would soak up some of the atmosphere I experienced on the island. The author's descriptions of this beautiful and rugged paradise in the Atlantic Ocean are very realistic and enabled me to re-live the short time I was there, just as I had hoped.

A slow burn romance, complementing Joe and Sofia's story is a wonderful array of secondary characters, specifically, the mysterious Lua. Additionally, I liked the twist near to the end, tying up the past sufficiently for Joe to move on with his new life in Madeira...with Sofia.

For me, this novel is the whole package and contained so much more than I expected. With romance, mystery and suspense, the writing is well paced and includes a smattering of local Portuguese words of which the author kindly includes a glossary. As first impressions go, I've found a new author to follow and look forward to reading more of her books.

This is a very interesting book that confounded my expectations in a number of ways and made me feel very different than I anticipated.
It is quite a difficult book to judge by its cover and blurb, as neither really give a huge amount away in terms of the plot or feel of the book so I went in to it with a fairly open mind. Even a few chapters in, I was finding it hard to gauge exactly what kind of book it was, as it started off when way, then jumped to a different perspective and then worked its way back through the plot, gradually revealing what had happened, so it worked very well as a mystery from that perspective and the author did a wonderful job of building the tension throughout as we are drip fed details about Joseph’s story.
Equally, the second strand of the story is a romance, and watching things develop between Sofia and Joseph was a delightful and welcome contrast to the tension of the thriller aspect of the book. I thought the dimension added by Sofia’s disability and the fact that Joseph is an outsider and how they come to understand one another was deftly and beautifully done and really enhanced the story.
All the characters were fascinating and beautifully drawn, particularly Sofia, whom I was really drawn to, and the mysterious Lua. Great characterisation  is always the make or break for me in a book – you can have the best plot in the world but if the characters aren’t alive, it will leave me cold – and Susan absolutely nails this aspect of the writing. In addition, I loved the setting which was the island of Madeira, but not the touristy parts that many people will recognise, but a quiet town and a remote faja where a family are ekeing out a living on a small farm. I thought this gave a enticing insight into an aspect of Madeiran life about which I knew nothing and would probably have never become aware of otherwise. I love it when a book, along with giving me a great story, teaches me something new. This is the way books enrich your life.
One thing I did find curious about my experience of reading this book was how it seemed oddly set out of time. To begin with, I could not place the setting at all, as there did not seem to be anything to anchor it in a particular period. I did start off thinking it was a historical novel, until certain things happened later which gave it a periodical context, and it was oddly disorienting. I am not sure if this was deliberate by the author to illustrate how backward and unchanging life on the faja was, but I’ve never read anything quite like it, it gave the book a slightly surreal feel, although this was just my perception, of course.
I really enjoyed this book, it gave me a lot more than I expected and I came away feeling enriched by the experience of reading it, which is all one can ask.

I have a confession to make. I had never come across Susan Roebuck prior to this book, and for some reason, I was expecting Joseph Barnaby to be a historical novel. Imagine my surprise when I turned to the first page to discover that the action all starts in 2016! Not that this detracted from my enjoyment in any way, it just meant I had to adjust my thinking.
I was a huge Dick Francis fan when I was younger, and as such it felt great to return to the intrigue of the horse racing world as Joe’s story and the reason behind his flight to Madeira unfolded. I have also always wanted to visit Madeira having heard from friends how lovely it was, so all in all Joseph Barnaby had all the makings of a great book for me.
I fell in love with the cast of characters from the mysterious Lua, to the ever helpful fishermen, Carlos and Luis, and teddy bear Doctor Henrique (although not with the dastardly Dario!). There was a simplicity to their lives, and the way the whole community rallied round the inhabitants of the remote, isolated Quinta dos Franceses during times of dificulty was incredibly touching.
Susan’s descriptions of the unusual landscape that formed the location of this novel led to much Googling and time wasted looking at pictures of Madeiran fajãs, and the imposing Cabo Girão. Just looking at the photographs, it feels impossible to imagine anyone making their living on a patch of land that can only be reached by boat, or scaling stomach-turningly steep cliffs. However, Susan’s writing brings the Quinta to life so beautifully that you end up yearning for that simple life yourself, and I could quite see the appeal to Joe.
All in all, Joseph Barnaby has be extremely tempted to head off to the travel agents to discover this stunning island for myself.
Beautiful settings, startling suspense, and a romantic thread weaving it all together, this is a diverse novel.
When farrier Joseph Barnaby stands up for his principles, he loses it all. So, off he heads to Madeira, where the island and its inhabitants start to work their magic. But the issues that led to him fleeing to a more basic life are not all over yet…
With sweeping settings, strong characterisation, and plenty of tension, this is a read that combines suspense, romance, and literary fiction in one highly readable package. Recommended.

It’s the vividly described setting of this book that first captured my imagination – the isolated farm beneath the steep escarpment, on the edge of the sea and easily accessible only by boat, the daily struggle to eke out a living from the crops, the vines and animals. The descriptions are quite outstanding. But I also really enjoyed the story – Joseph’s flight from a dramatic incident, slowly revealed, the developing relationships (and the ones you really hope don’t develop any further), the battle against the elements, the intriguing discovery and its resolution, all wrapped up with more than a touch of magic and intrigue.
I particularly enjoyed the central relationship between Joseph and Sofia. She’s such a lovely character, with her passion for her beehives, her love for her family, her deafness handled with empathy and understanding by the author and adding another dimension to learning to trust. The only character who didn’t quite work for me was Dario – I thought his fringe-tossing, winking and cringing at the sound of Sofia’s voice was a tad overplayed – but his actions did drive the story well. The introduction of Lua was a lovely touch – mysterious, wonderfully described, really intriguing, and I loved her interventions. And I really liked the introduction of the riding school for the disabled – a nice “extra” that worked well with the story.
A love story between two damaged characters very well told, some well developed suspense, with a lovely touch of the unexplainable and a drive to the narrative that really drew me in – a really enjoyable read. (And I really must mention the goat – he was just wonderful…!)

I am honoured to have been asked to take part in the blog tour for Joseph Barnaby by Susan Roebuck - a novel that I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into!

Joseph Barnaby is the third book of Susan Roebuck's that I have read and reviewed here on The Writing Greyhound, and I am always keen to get stuck into her fiction. With rich prose and descriptions a-plenty, did Joseph Barnaby manage to live up to the expectations I gained from reading Susan's other work?

I loved Rising Tide (you can find my review here) but sadly, Forest Dancer, the last Susan Roebuck book I read, didn't have quite the same sparkle and life that seeped through the pages of Rising Tide. I began reading Joseph Barnaby with baited breath, waiting to see which of the two previous novels the story would follow. Luckily, I am pleased to report that this latest book heralds a wonderful return to form for Susan Roebuck!

With a beautifully-described setting, rich landscapes and vivid imagery, Susan does exactly what she does best when it comes to the description and attention to detail that is omnipresent in her writing. I have said it before and no doubt I will say it again, but very few writers can describe a setting so effectively and so eloquently as Susan Roebuck. I've never been to Portugal, but after reading Susan's books, I feel as though I could welcome it as familiarly as an old friend!
Although Susan Roebuck definitely has a tried-and-tested formula to work from in terms of her plots, it's clear that this formula is one that really does work. By keeping the cast of supporting characters down to a minimum and focusing instead on the love, conflict and relationships between the few characters that are most integral to the story, the reader is treated to impressive character development and clear progression throughout the story.

Again, there is a supernatural element to Joseph Barnaby achieved via a fascinating - if slightly distracting -sub-plot. I won't go into too much detail so as to avoid giving away any spoilers, but let's just say that the character of Lua is mysterious, wonderful, and could easily be the star of a story all of her own!

Joseph Barnaby is a great return to form for Susan Roebuck and I'm eagerly awaiting the chance to read more of her work in the future!

Rating: 4 stars
Joseph Barnaby stood up for his beliefs and what he believed in. It cost him his job and career as a farrier. Not able to deal with the guilt or shame any longer he runs and starts a new life in a small community in Madeira.
Oh, this is a book that really captured my attention from the outset. I discovered what Joseph (Joe) was all about, how he was manipulated and basically made out to be the bad guy in this story. Joe is such a principled character and he believes that having his anonymity will be the answer to live his life.
His arrival in a fishing community seems to be the perfect fit for him. He is able to avoid tourists and questions as he finds employment at a local vineyard, as well as helping in the local community.
This book has such a great story, and as I am now writing my review, I realise that it does have a moral as such. No matter how far you run the truth will follow, (or words to that effect 🙂 ) It is very much a case of not getting all the facts before making a decision. While he has found new friends, he has left behind his father and other people that he got on well with in the racehorse world. Yes, he has discovered a community that has accepted him for what he appears to be, an honest and hardworking man.
The Madeiran community spirit is something that is very strong in this book and is important. As Joe starts to trust other people he also begins the journey of trusting himself. Letting people get close to him is part of the healing process and this is where Sophia comes in. She is one person that he does trust, he can be himself with. She is very distrusting of strangers and with good reason, and she also goes through similar acceptance steps, though for her she has a different set of circumstances.
This story was really good for watching two characters gradually work through their problems and it didn’t take long for me to care about what they were dealing with. The author really such a great job with all the characters in fact. There are some amazing descriptions of Madeira, a place I have never been, and yet I could visualise the sights. Add to this the various local dishes and I was in heaven, it adds that extra special something to a story.

A wonderful story that I read quite happily in one sitting. The author took me into a world of farriers and racing, fishing and vineyards. A story of emotions and repercussions, of standing up for your beliefs. Heartwarming and an absolute joy to read and is one I would definitely recommend.

5☆ An irresistible Romantic Suspense!

Joseph Barnaby is an evocative romance suspense with a good dash of mystery.
The Cover is beautifully eerie and it really captured my attention.

Joseph is a farrier by trade, but when something happens he flees to the remote and secluded Island of Madeira.
Joseph is an intriguing, likeable and somewhat mysterious character, as the story progresses and I delved into his story the more i became invested in his character, the more I liked him.

Sofia lives on a remote farm with her Aunt and Uncle. Joseph also works on the farm where he meets the beautiful, hardworking, strong and intriguing Sofia.
Sofia is deaf caused by serious illness.
It was Heartwarming to see a main character with a disability. I applaud Susan for her research, as she made Sofia's character come to life, and she will certainly will be relatable.

Joseph and Sofia have an interesting relationship. There is something very special about their connection, it was beautiful to see two flawed characters come out of their shell and shine.
However it's not just Joseph fighting for Sofia's attention...!

Joseph Barnaby is A richly atmospheric tale of Mystery, Romance and Suspense.
I loved the writing style it really caught my attention, it was fluid and captivating and the setting descriptions are beautifully written.
The characters are strong, somewhat flawed but unique you can't help routing for them to suceed.

Overall an engrossing and irresistible story that kept me tuning pages till the early hours.

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