All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Jilted – Rachael Johns

on June 11, 2012

Rachael Johns
Harlequin MIRA
2012, 355p
Copy courtesy of the author

After more than 10 years away from the tiny town of Hope Junction, Ellie Hughes has returned. She was just a teenager when she left the town and its golden boy, Flynn Quartermaine and fled, right to the other side of the country. There Ellie found work as an actress and now after a stint on a long-running and successful soap, she has taken a leave of absence and returned to Hope Springs in order to look after her godmother Matilda, the one woman who has cared for her and supported her.

Matilda has broken her ankle and needs some help until the cast comes off and she is mobile again. Ellie knows that returning to this small town won’t be easy for her – she ran away without a word and there are people that haven’t forgotten what she did to Flynn. She faces judgement from the entire town and outright hostility from some. Despite this though, Ellie puts her head down and remains determined to stay in order to help Matilda in any way she can, even seeking out Flynn to apologise and hope that they can perhaps attempt to put the past behind them and remain civil while she is in town. After all, if Flynn can be polite to her, when it was he she did wrong, then surely the rest of the town can too…

Jilted is a lovely new rural romance from Western Australian author Rachael Johns. As I’ve mentioned before, rural romance is enjoying a very strong resurgence in popularity recently and I’ve been enjoying quite a few new releases so I had been looking forward to this one.

Ellie Hughes knows once she steps off the bus into Hope Springs that life isn’t going to be easy for her. She’s been living a city life for the last 10 years in Sydney but now she’s returned to the tiny, rural town in order to play nursemaid to her godmother. Ellie is an unlikely soap star; she fell into the work rather than seeking it out and it’s been something that she turned out to be good at and it paid the bills. And most importantly, it meant that she didn’t have to return to Hope Springs. And face her past.

Ellie is just what I like to see in a main character – she’s tough, strong and very loyal but with a distinctly vulnerable side and a streak of uncertainty. She is well prepared for the hostility she knows she will face by well meaning local busybodies intent on ‘supporting’ the town golden boy, Flynn Quartermaine, who she jilted at the altar all those years ago. And I have to say, poor Ellie! Her first few days in town are really uncomfortable for her and it definitely made me form an attachment to her and give her my sympathies. I know what small towns can be like and I admired her bravery for repeatedly going out there to face these people day after day when she knew she’d get dirty looks, snide remarks and often outright insults to her face. It would’ve been tempting to just hole herself up with Matilda and hide away from the world, but she doesn’t. She keeps going back out and eventually, she begins to make headway, earning herself a few friends and having more people realise that she is still a person, no matter her past actions (which are mostly no one else’s business anyway!).

The backstory of Flynn and Ellie is extremely well explored – they were the golden teenage couple, passionately in love and engaged to be married. Until Ellie disappeared without a trace. Flynn has never quite recovered from that rejection and it sent him into a bit of a downward spiral that only ended when his father died. He’s still got his issues to work through and we see them laid bare. I liked Flynn right from the start, he was beautiful but he was also flawed – a nice, country boy with a passion for farming and his small town but who had also managed to see a bit of our big country as well. He had some deep issues, some related to Ellie’s leaving him and some not so. I admired the way he was able to be ‘okay’ with Ellie being in town so swiftly and it was nice to see two characters attempt to use maturity as a way to deal with their issues rather than fighting, accusations and bitterness. It’s quite clear that they both still have very strong unresolved feelings for each other, but also that it’s not that easy. There’s a lot of things they still need to work through and Ellie has been keeping quite a big secret from Flynn that she really needs to air out before they can ever take even a tentative step forward towards romance again.

Often ‘dark secrets’ are overrated or sort of a let-down but in this case I think enough backstory was laid and the secret was good enough (juicy enough) that I do believe it totally justified Ellie’s flight response as being her best option. Flynn is really painted as the town’s beautiful, golden boy – almost perfect in every way. I keep using the word ‘golden’ but it’s true. He’s the sort of bloke that everyone loves.  He has a lovely property he’s doing exciting new things with, he is handsome, he is thoughtful, he is kind. He looks after his mother, grandmother and younger sister. Ellie was very much the town blow in, people considered her at the time barely good enough for Flynn as she wasn’t a local. Her secret plays on that I think, makes her feel that she is even less worthy of him and she needs to let that go fully which, 10 years ago she couldn’t.

Rural romance is primarily about the couple but there’s also a strong emphasis on the secondary characters, usually the local townspeople. I adored Ellie’s relationship with Matilda, and there’s some lovely foreshadowing of a secret Matilda is hiding from her goddaughter. Likewise I liked Ellie’s tentative friendships with various people in town – newbies who weren’t around when she left Flynn and also her blossoming friendship with Flynn’s teenage sister, taking her under her wing and helping her with her desire to become an actress. Johns has created a small town that, for all its judgement and flaws, you can still see yourself wanting to live in.

Thoroughly enjoyable and firmly at home on my ‘re-reads’ shelf.


Book #102 of 2012

Jilted is the 38th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012

9 responses to “Jilted – Rachael Johns

  1. VeganYANerds says:

    Great review, Bree! I like your point about secrets often being a bit of a let down or not worthy to have caused so much drama so it’s great that this plot was well thought out!

  2. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I enjoyed this too!

  3. I enjoyed this one too Bree. I agree the juicy secret was well thought out and sat well with Ellie’s background of not trusting people enough to manage the trauma in the context of her relationship with Flynn.

  4. Steph says:

    I loved the secondary characters in this one, too, although I did have my reservations about the big reveal. I suspect that it’s hard to keep these dark pasts creative in this genre, though!

  5. […] Rachael – Jilted (Harlequin) @austbookshelf, Kylie Scott, Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out, Bree @1girl2manybooks, Jenny, Kat @ Book […]

  6. […] @austbookshelf, Kylie Scott, Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out, Bree @1girl2manybooks […]

  7. […] Review by Bree (1 girl…2 many books) Review by Jayne (The Australian Bookshelf) Review by Jenny Schwartz (author) My review (Book Thingo) Review by Kylie Scott (author) Review by Shellyrae (Book’d Out) Review by Steph (Read in a Single Sitting) […]

  8. […] Favourite Contemporary Romance – Jilted by Rachel Johns (reviewed at Book’d Out, RIASS, The Australian Bookshelf, Kylie Scott’s blog, Book Thingo, Jenny Schwartz’s blog, 1 girl…2 many books) […]

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