#aww2021 · 2021 Reviews · contemporary fiction · new release · romance · small town

New Release Book Review: Outback Secrets by Rachael Johns

Title: Outback Secrets

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: October 27th 2021

Publisher: Mira – AU

Pages: 400

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary, Small Town, Romance

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

Keeping secrets comes naturally to him … but will it ruin his chance at love?

Liam Castle knows the secrets of everyone in Bunyip Bay. As the owner of the pub, he’s heard it all – from marriage proposals and farming disasters to family rifts and everything in between. The locals love to confide in him, but no one knows he’s hiding a tragic past.

And he wants to keep it that way.

Agricultural pilot Henrietta Forward lives for her job, choosing work over romance. But when an incident in the air brings Henri home to Bunyip Bay earlier than planned, she finds herself questioning everything she believes about herself.

But Henri’s secret isn’t her only problem.

Her mother will stop at nothing to have her settled down back in the Bay, and while Henri had always known domesticity wasn’t the life for her, now she wonders what her future holds. So when Liam – always the first to lend a hand to those in need – agrees to play along with Henri’s scheme to ward off her mother, she has mixed feelings. What happens when a pretend romance starts to feel like the real thing?

Will Henri’s demons and Liam’s traumatic past prove too great a barrier to love?

Review:

‘Secrets were practically illegal in small towns, therefore everyone wanted to know the details.’

Australian rural romance ace Rachael Johns returns to her endearing fictional town creation of Bunyip Bay for the fifth installment of her popular country town series. Matters of the heart, untold truths, tragedy, trauma and the past all come into play in Outback Secrets, the captivating new novel from one of our nation’s most loved writers.

In her latest rural romance novel, Rachael Johns has placed publican Liam Castle in the title role. As the owner of the local pub in Bunyip Bay, Liam has witnessed many big events during his time, which range from environmental disasters to marriages, deaths and family events. Liam is the town’s informal counsellor, but Liam’s has his own dark secrets and tragic past, which he has not revealed to his friends. When Henri, a devoted agricultural pilot lands in Liam’s home town, which also happens to be Henri’s old home, an interesting turn of events occurs. Henri knows that she is not cut out for a life of love, marriage and babies in Bunyip Bay, as much as her family would love to see Henri settle down. So, Henri devises a plan to get her family off her back – she is going to fake a relationship with local pub owner Liam. The plan seems foolproof, until Henri and Liam begin to develop real feelings for one another, but can these two lost souls overcome their individual issues to find happiness together?

A new Rachael Johns book is always a highlight of the reading year and Outback Secrets has been high up on my list of most anticipated reads of 2021. I’m pleased to say it was a fabulous return to Bunyip Bay, thanks to Outback Secrets. This latest rural romance treat from Australian fiction powerhouse Rachael Johns represents the fifth issue in this very appealing series. I do hope there are more stories to come in future from Rachael Johns and her Bunyip Bay crew!

I do love a good pretend romance thread and this one features a whopping one! I think agricultural pilot Henri was matched perfectly to the town publican Liam. I loved the way these two bounced off one another and their fake relationship plan was brilliant. I had a quite a chuckle at the antics of this twosome, they were fabulous together. I also enjoyed following their eventual pathway to love, it certainly made my heart beat fast. Johns does the contemporary romance genre proud with the love story featured in Outback Secrets. We are issued with quite a narrative treat in terms of the flirty behaviour, the personal baggage, secrets, the resistance, the heat and the genuine connection between the leads of this great new tale from Rachael Johns.

It was fabulous to see such a self-sufficient, strong, determined and passionate heroine at the head of this tale. I really clicked with Henri and I sympathised with her feelings, along with the grief she was given to settle down by her family. Henri’s career was an excellent choice by the author and I found myself really interested in Henri’s responsibilities as an agricultural pilot, it is a profession that is definitely new to me. In Liam, the romantic hero of the tale, we are presented with a publican that everyone seems to lean on. I appreciated Liam’s honestly, self-worth, understanding and respectable nature. Johns takes Liam on quite an intriguing pathway in terms of his past and personal secrets he holds close to his chest. This aspect of the tale ensured that I stayed completely glued to Outback Secrets for the duration.

As I have followed this series from the start, I loved the opportunity to return to this cracking Aussie location base thanks to Outback Secrets. I am confident that fans of this series will be very satisfied by this latest issue in the Bunyip Bay journey. However, if you are just starting out with this series and rural romance in general, Outback Secrets is a most suitable story to begin your journey with the crowd from Bunyip Bay. Johns offers plenty of generous and clear descriptions of this spectacular location, so it is easy to feel like a part of the Bunyip Bay community while you are indulging in this rural romance delight from Rachael Johns  

Outback Secrets by Rachael Johns was published on 27th October 2021 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Outback Secrets, Rachael Johns, visit here.

*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Outback Secrets is book #99 of the 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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