All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Talk Of The Town by Rachael Johns

on May 2, 2017

Talk Of The Town
Rachael Johns
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2017, 399
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Lawson Cooper-Jones has two priorities in life – his son, Ned, and the survival of the dairy farm that has been in his family for generations. Despite the best efforts of the town matchmakers and the determined pursuit of local girl Adeline Walsh, Lawson’s heart belongs still, and only, to his late wife.

But when a flat tyre strands Lawson and Ned in nearby Rose Hill, he’s surprised to find a woman living alone in the old general store of the deserted town. Ned immediately forms a bond with the beautiful stranger called Meg, and Lawson is surprised to find himself captivated by her too.

Although shy at first, Meg starts to open up to him about the haunting secrets of her new home and, with Lawson unable to get her out of his head, they agree to investigate the history of the old building together. Soon they find their friendship has bloomed into something more.

But when meddling Adeline makes it her mission to uncover the truth about the newcomer and her real identity is revealed, Lawson and Meg’s budding romance comes crashing down. Can they both learn to forgive in order to claim a future for their damaged hearts?

Rural romance is such a palate cleanser for me. I’ve had a few books I didn’t really click with lately but I know when I pick up one of Rachael Johns’ books that that particular problem won’t be an issue.

Meg is a woman with secrets – from the beginning it’s obvious that she’s fleeing Melbourne due to some negative attention from the press and as a result she’s picked a very secluded place, a town that pretty much isn’t one anymore and only has two real residents. Even the thought of doing things like groceries and seeing other people gives Meg anxiety and she fears being recognised.

When a flat tyre brings dairy farmer Lawson Cooper-Jones and his young son Ned to her door, Meg doesn’t want to interact however she’s kind of forced to. Ned immediately takes a liking to her and there’s a flicker between Lawson and Meg too. If Meg could put her past behind her, she might find a way to carve a new life for herself.

What I loved about this book was having a heroine who had made some real mistakes in her past. Meg has definitely been through some troubled times and made some bad choices as well. Her story unfolds in a way that I did not expect but I thought it gave her really believable motivation for wanting to be in such an isolated location and attempt to put her life back together.

Lawson is a single father who also runs a dairy farm and this book takes time to examine the issues facing farmers as well. It’s something that’s been quite front and centre in political and social headlines around the country. I also liked the glimpse into the workings of the farm as Lawson shows Meg around when their friendship develops. The two of them have a nice, easy chemistry and Lawson’s relaxed nature is perfect for putting Meg at ease and making her feel comfortable. Ned really takes to Meg and the two develop quite a rapport. Lawson’s widowed status is handled with gentle care as well, highlighting a believable kaleidoscope of emotions as he readies himself to move in and have feelings for a woman who is not his late wife.

What would a romance be without some conflict and the way in which this one develops is a real strength of the book. Meg has her secrets – she’s unprepared for the swiftness of her feelings for Lawson and misses several opportunities to confide in him about her past. These things have a way of coming out though and the parallel between Meg’s past and Lawson’s tragedy is a really clever piece of writing and I thought the way it played out worked very well. Meg has both reasons to tell Lawson and yet reasons not to and Lawson also inadvertently kept things from her too that made things all the more complicated when everything was laid bare. It’s not all about the romance though and some of the other relationships in this book are developed with care and sensitivity – in particular the friendship between Meg and her neighbour Archie who bond over shared experiences and regrets. Meg might’ve been seeking solitude when she originally arrived but she nurtures friendships in several directions, perhaps craving a return to a “normal” life, one where she doesn’t need to fear people knowing her past. Or knowing it and not judging her for it, understanding the circumstances that led her there and the fact that she’s changed now.

If she chooses, I get the feeling Rachael Johns could return to this setting she has created multiple times, the way she did with the Outback books. Already it seemed some small seeds were planted for a story involving Lawson’s sister. It’s definitely the sort of place that I believe a reader would be happy to return to – I know I definitely would!

8/10

Book #79 of 2017

Talk Of The Town is book #26 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

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2 responses to “Review: Talk Of The Town by Rachael Johns

  1. Another prolific, top-notch author that I haven’t read! The list grows and grows.

  2. […] of rural romance will be pleased to know Rachel Johns has a new offering in Talk of the Town. Bree at 1 Girl, 2 Many Books liked […]

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