The Road To Hope
Harlequin MIRA AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Nurse Lauren Simpson has just watched the man she loves marry someone else. She’d wanted Flynn ever since high school but after the arrival of Ellie she never stood a chance – not then and not when Ellie came back to Hope Junction. Now Lauren has decided that she’s tired of being notorious around town for all the wrong reasons. She grew up in Hope Junction and then came back after university and has worked at the local hospital ever since. It’s time to move on.
But just as she’s ready to do so it seems that fate throws the perfect man onto her doorstep – literally. Dr Tom Lewis is a locum filling in for a local doctor who has gone on a holiday. Friends with Lauren’s older bother who is overseas, Tom was told he could stay with Lauren in the family home. But Lauren’s brother forgot to inform Lauren she’d be getting a new housemate until Lauren came home and found Tom making himself comfortable.
The attraction is immediate but Lauren is turning over a new leaf. No more sleeping with the wrong men. From now on she’s looking for the one, the one that loves and cherishes her as much as she’s seen that Flynn loves and cherishes Ellie. Lauren might want to jump into bed with the hot new doctor and the whole town might think she has already done so but she’s holding out. This time she wants a future. But Tom is dealing with a secret, something that makes him utterly convinced a long term relationship isn’t for him. He’s here in Hope Junction for a good time, not a long time as he’ll be moving on soon. He has a lot of chemistry with Lauren and he’d love to take things a step further but ultimately, Tom is convinced he cannot give her what she wants…..even though Lauren is pretty sure that he could, if only he’d just let himself and believe in her as well as the future they could have.
In her latest release, Rachael Johns takes readers back to Hope Junction, the setting for her first novel Jilted. Many will remember Lauren as the woman Flynn tried to use as a bit of a distraction really, when his teenage love Ellie returned after jilting him at the altar and leaving 10 years previous. In some ways Lauren was the antagonist but she was almost more a victim really, because although she had feelings for Flynn, he didn’t really return them and was really only attempting a relationship with Lauren to avoid the feelings he still had for Ellie. If anything I more felt sorry for Lauren than disliked her and it appears I’m not the only one because there were plenty of requests for Lauren to receive her happy ever after as well.
The book opens with Lauren as a guest at Flynn and Ellie’s wedding, watching the man she has always wanted marry someone else. She’s feeling more than a little sorry for herself and it’s sort of the catalyst for her to decide that it’s time for her to leave town. Lauren had a bit of a reputation in the way that can happen in small towns and Johns takes time to establish her background and childhood and how so much of Lauren’s worth was tied up in her looks and her attractiveness to the opposite sex. I think both that and her devotion to her job really establish Lauren as a character, especially what goes on beneath the rather brittle exterior she tends to project. I really enjoyed seeing Lauren in her professional environment and her dedication to her patients. It was quite clear that many of them were more than that to her, as her weekly manicures with the elderly hospital/nursing home residents proved. In some ways Lauren seemed to lack for female company. Her best friend Whitney is a newlywed and also fully focused on attempting to conceive. Whitney also wants her to make an effort to befriend Ellie, which isn’t very easy for Lauren although she does attempt to do her best. The arrival of Tom and her attraction to him definitely helps with her feelings for Flynn and give her a way to move on but it’s still awkward for her.
I loved Tom. A hot, surfing doctor who takes the time to get to know his patients and plays monopoly with the elderly residents – what’s not to love there? Tom has jacked in a permanent job in Adelaide, where his family are and is travelling Australia, taking casual positions here and there so he can see as much as the country and experience as much as he can. His family has been rocked by some tragic news, something that affects Tom perhaps a bit more than the rest and I think I could understand his motivation in distancing himself from his family and hitting the road. He has something potentially hanging over him and he wants to live as much of his life as he can in a short amount of time. However there was definitely the feeling that he was also cutting himself off from experiences (and potential experiences) too, just not a possible relationship with Lauren. They both were very attracted to each other but Lauren wanted to feel like it could go somewhere, like they had a future. Tom, in trying to protect Lauren (and perhaps himself) was closing himself off from a huge part of life and he definitely needed to be shown that he could enjoy life and share it with someone as well, regardless of what may happen in the future.
I’m a fan of the slow-burn romance, the couple that takes time to get to know each other and I think this one is a great example of that. Because of Lauren’s turning over a new leaf, she refuses to jump into bed with Tom (although she wants to!) and because of that they do friends first. They watch movies, they talk, they learn things about each other. And even though there are still some secrets, it’s obvious that they do come to trust each other with a lot of personal information. I think Lauren probably wasn’t going to be an easy character to tackle but she was made someone the reader could identify with and even sympathise with as she struggled to find her place and happiness.
Book #41 of 2015
The Road To Hope is book #16 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015