2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · romance · rural ficition · small town

Book Review: Talk of the Town by Rachael Johns

Title: Talk of the Towntalk of the town small

Author:  Rachael Johns

Published: April 24th 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia

Pages: 416

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 5 stars

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?

A moving story of secrets, love and new beginnings from bestselling author Rachael Johns.

My review:

While I sit patiently waiting for the release of Rachael Johns latest women’s fiction/life lit title The Greatest Gift to be released, I realised I had neglected to post my glowing review of John’s most recent winning title, Talk of the Town. I guarantee this book will warm your heart. Talk of the Town is an endearing rural fiction title, from one of my favourite Australian storytellers and it received a full five-star rating from this reader!

Lawson Cooper-Jones is the man of the moment in John’s latest release, titled, Talk of the Town. Lawson is a hardworking dairy farmer, widow and father to a young boy named Ned. This widow and his son Ned find their lives are changed forever by a chance encounter with a mysterious young woman named Meg. The two meet Meg in the small neighbouring town of Rose Hill, when a flat tyre strands them in the deserted town. A connection soon develops between Meg, Lawson and Ned. A friendship buds between the lonely twosome, which is fuelled by the couple’s mutual interest in the fascinating history of the old general store building in which Meg calls home. When friendship begins to turn to love, Lawson and Meg’s relationship hits an early stumbling block. Local woman Adeline, who has her sights set on Lawson, does some digging and discovers the real reason why Meg has relocated to the isolated Rose Hill community. The revelation of Meg’s background threatens to derail the flourishing relationship between the newcomer and the widow. Meg and Lawson are forced to confront their pasts and their core values, in order for love to blossom. Talk of the Town is a rousing rural fiction novel that looks at the power of secrets, the strength of true love and how our rural communities can offer a lifeline, as well as a clean slate.

Talk of the Town is another winning title from established rural fiction novelist Rachael Johns. If you are yet to discover the work of this talented storyteller, I urge you to select this latest release, or any title from her impressive back catalogue. She is an author that never fails to impress me. I always leave from reading her novels with a strong heart and a warm smile on my face.

What did I love about Talk of the Town? Firstly, the use of Lawson Cooper-Jones as the main protagonist was a wise move by Johns. I was soon taken by this gentle hero. The passion Lawson has for his business and profession as a dairy farmer was laudable. I quickly developed an affection and sympathy for this widow,  who admirably tries so hard to balance the demands of his job, alongside single parenthood. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to tackle the challenges of running a farm, with care for a child independently. Johns shows us the raw truth to this situation, which is handled with care and insight.

Lawson is matched by protagonist and love interest Meg, who offers plenty of speculation and a mysterious element to the developing storyline. Johns utilises the character of Meg to explore the difficult, but very relevant topic of drug addiction and the issues surrounding this. Supporting Lawson and Meg is a beautiful soul, Lawson’s sister Tab. A favourable and sweet character, it is hard not to get sucked into Tab’s charm. I absolutely adored Tab’s back story, it really made the novel something else! I do so hope that Johns has a novel in the future set aside for this loveable character. Another character that I can’t go without mentioning is Archie, Meg’s neighbour and a hermit of sorts who Meg befriends. Along with Meg, I soon developed a fondness for Archie and without giving too much away, my heart broke in a million pieces for this particular character. Johns always manages to conjure up a first-rate set of characters in Talk of the Town that soon take up a space in your heart.

Within this highly appealing novel, is a superb range of topical issues that are handled adeptly by Johns. She looks at the pressures faced by the dairy industry that definitely had me thinking carefully about my dairy purchases. Through Meg, Johns explores the difficult, but very relevant topic of drug addiction and the issues faced by former users. For Meg, Johns highlights how her addiction infiltrated into all facets of her life and resulted in a criminal record, as well as jail time. The process to recovery is examined through Meg and Johns approaches this situation with sensitivity and an astuteness of someone who has clearly researched this area. It is a very sad situation, but one I feel is crucial for authors such as Johns to tackle, as drug use is so prevalent in our current day and age.

Johns introduces a historical and ghostly element to her latest novel. Through the main character of Meg taking up residence in the old general store building of the isolated Rose Hill, we are introduced to a fantastic narrative thread involving the hidden history of this building. Accompanying the revelation of the history of the building, is the presence of a female ghostly spirit. It is up to Meg to research and discover the origins of his ghostly figure from the past that clearly has some unfinished business. I have to say I relished this aspect of the book’s narrative.

The romance side, as you come to expect from an accomplished romance writer such as Rachael Johns, the love story is portrayed with just the right dose of heart, complication and heat. The character of Lawson gives Johns the space to explore the impact grief has on finding love again. Likewise, the character of Meg allows Johns to put the spotlight on a complex character, who comes with a great deal of baggage. It is baggage that Meg tries to conceal for as long as possible. Once this secret past is revealed, there is a fantastic will they/won’t they reconcile situation that arises. This makes for a truly great read for fans of romance.

I took great delight in the setting of Talk of the Town. The small farming district depicted in Talk of the Town reminded me very much of a number of small country towns in the south-west region of Western Australia, near where I live. Within the novel, Johns explores the ugly side of living in small town’s, complete with the gossip and the meddling behaviour by some inhabitants. It isn’t all bad, as the unconditional community support, especially during times of need, is also expressed readily by Johns in Talk of the Town.

Talk of the Town features two desirable leads that I delighted in observing their path to love. Mixed up in this tug at the heartstrings tale, is a marvellous rural fiction narrative that leaves plenty for the reader to explore. Talk of the Town was a gratifying read from the first to the last page. I had a heavy heart when it was time to say my goodbyes to a set of characters I had developed a deep affection for. I have my fingers crossed Talk of the Town is only the beginning of a new series for Rachael Johns. I firmly feel there is plenty of room to explore the lives of many of the sub characters that feature in this outstanding five-star read.

Talk of the Town by Rachael Johns was published on April 24th 2017 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Talk of the Town, Rachael Johns, visit here.



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