Friday 24 April 2015

The Road To Hope by Rachael Johns - Book Review
From the Blurb:

Bestselling author Rachael Johns takes you back to Hope Junction and the characters from Jilted.

Nurse Lauren Simpson is known in Hope Junction for the wrong reasons – and she’s over it. Watching the man she’s always loved marry someone else is the last straw – she decides to get out of Hope. But her resolve is tested when the hot new locum doctor arrives in town.

Doctor Tom Lewis also has skeletons in his closet – including a painful breakup and devastating family news. He’s hit the road with his vintage ute and surfboard, to travel the outback and live in the moment.

When Tom and Lauren meet the attraction is instant, but for Lauren Tom threatens to be just another fling and Tom has his own reasons for hesitating. Everyone else – their friends and patients – can see how perfect they are together, but just what will it take for them to admit this to themselves?

A brand new Hope Junction story of fresh starts and second chances.

The Review:

Lauren has a reputation as the slapper of Hope Junction and she’s sick of it. So, she swears off meaningless sex and skimpy dresses, and plans a new start out of Hope Junction. She wants love and marriage and babies (everything her friends seem to be getting) and she doesn’t want people whispering behind her back anymore. But then Tom, the new locum doctor turns up and sparks fly. The problem is he has his own issues and has sworn off long term relationships. Maintaining her distance from Tom is, unfortunately, a little tricky when they are not only working together, but also living together.

I’m on a bit of a rural romance binge at the moment, but this is my first Rachael Johns novel. I have some mixed feelings, but some of them are definitely my own fault. The Road to Hope is a stand-alone romance, but also a follow up to Jilted. Usually I’m pretty unfazed about reading stand-alones out of order. I expect that I should be able to read them without background knowledge and, for the most part, that was totally doable in this one (though there was a small slip, where I think we were meant to know something of the previous hero’s problems with alcohol). My problem was that I read the introductory author note. I never do that! But for some reason I did this time and I have regrets!

In the author note, Johns tells us that Lauren is her unlikable character – the one she needs to redeem. And I wish I hadn’t known that. For me, Lauren was entirely likeable from the start. She’s a little selfish with her friends (being jealous rather than sympathetic about her best friend’s attempts at pregnancy), but this is a point of development that I thought was good. I wished Lauren had apologized to her friend Whitney before her own romantic resolution, since at that point it felt like her reasons for jealousy were resolved without the need for any self-realization on her part, but that’s not much of an issue. Apart from that one thing, I actually really loved Lauren. She seems sweet, hard working, kind, but the victim of expected small town gossip.

I honestly didn’t see what redemption she needed, but because I knew that background from the author’s note, I think it bothered me more than it would have that she does change her behavior for the town gossips and, more importantly, never reclaims any sense that who she is at the start (who the town gossips bitched about) was a perfectly lovely heroine. Instead she finds a relationship which allows her to be the proper married woman, not the slut, and I kinda wished she’d embraced slutting it up a bit more before the resolution and HEA. Readers of Jilted may feel very differently about this (let me know if you’ve read both!).

Thankfully, Tom sees her goodness despite the town gossips and I love that he straight up defends her and calls out the town bitches. He’s charming and sexy and basically perfect in his treatment of Lauren. I found his background issues, his reason for not wanting to be in a relationship, a little tedious though. His father has been diagnosed with early onset alzheimers and he knows he is at risk genetically. So instead of being with his family through the hard times, he runs off to a rural town and refuses to date the woman who he’s falling for. I just found that all a little unforgiveable from his family’s perspective, which meant I found his reasons for not wanting to be with Lauren (because he doesn't want to put a future partner through him getting sick), a little frustrating. Of course, Lauren helps him see the light, but it takes a long time with him away from his family and his struggling mother. He’s lucky he’s so charismatic, or I don’t know that I could have loved him.

The real gem of this novel is the nursing home residents where Lauren and Tom work. This is a group of completely gorgeous and full characters who really give this story life. I loved May and Barbara the most, especially Barbara perving on Tom’s backside. But the story about Nancy and Alf, as Nancy loses her memory and Alf continues to care for her, is heartbreakingly beautiful. Lauren and Tom’s interactions with these wonderful characters is what made this novel for me, and what, ultimately, forced me to fall in love with this couple.

The Road To Hope by Rachael Johns is a contemporary romance, released by MIRA on March 1 2015.

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