Feels Like Home by Lisa Ireland

In brief: Jo is a famous author with an even more famous fiancé. Coming back to Linden Gully was never meant to feel like home, but thanks to a reunion with old friends and her first love, it’s starting to feel that way. (Read more here).

The good: A lovely story, combining both sadness and happiness.

The not-so-good: I didn’t want to stop reading, so spent more time exercising to find out what happens next and kind of overdid it!

Why I chose it: I love Lisa Ireland’s writing, thank you to Harlequin for the eARC.

Year: 2015

Pages: 245 (eARC)

Publisher: Harlequin Mira

Setting: Outback Australia

My rating: 9 out of 10

I have an awesome relationship with Lisa Ireland’s writing. If it were a person, I think we would be really good friends and I’d read anything she wrote (anyone who loves rural fiction with or without romance needs to read Breaking the Drought because it is just fantastic). So naturally I jumped at the chance to read her latest novel, Feels Like Home. The only problem was that as an eARC, I didn’t get the chance to look at this fine young specimen Ryan on the cover. But that’s my only quibble in regards to this story set in rural Australia.

I quite like the romance trope of first love reunited and Ireland nails it in Feels Like Home. Jo left Linden Gully many years ago to pursue a dream to study in New York which lead to a successful career as a writer and a film star fiancé. But when she returns home for her best friend Steph’s wedding, there’s no way she’s going to tell anyone that her American dream has fallen apart. She also didn’t expect to run into her first love Ryan within moments of arriving. Nor did she expect him to be a widower with a child. Seems like coming home is going to be full of surprises for Jo – there’s the town bitches who suddenly now have time for Jo, a mother who doesn’t recognise her own daughter and a little girl that will steal her heart. In this middle of this, there’s a wedding to organise! (Thank goodness Steph is the most chilled out bride in all of fiction).

Of course, you know what will ultimately happen to Jo and Ryan but the path to happily ever after is both twisted and potholed. Despite the heart ache on both sides at times, it’s a wonderful read that only serves to make the main characters stronger as they conquer their demons. Jo isn’t too sure if she can be a good mother, after reflecting on her own upbringing. Ryan is very protective of his daughter, bordering on the overprotective – is there a reason for that? Add to that some social media disasters and missed chances, and it’s a read you will have difficulty putting down.* (*verified by me, who took it on the exercise bike and did double the time without noticing!)

I also loved how Lisa Ireland painted the town and surrounds – there are some great country characters with hearts of gold and there are also those with nothing to do but gossip. The community activities, such as the whole town being at the footy, were also lovingly done. I think Feels Like Home is an excellent depiction of life in an Aussie rural community. This book should be read by all those with an interest in rural fiction – it’s a great read that celebrates the Outback spirit.

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