In brief: Four sisters come back home to the family motel for Christmas from all corners of the globe. While going through their dead mother’s things, they find evidence of a family curse which sends them all into a tailspin. Can they work through it? (Read more, including a chapter sampler here).
The good: A lovely story that mixes love and family with rural and big city settings. Plus a gut-wrenching twist.
The not-so-good: It took me a little while to warm to Lucinda, one of the sisters.
Why I chose it: Adore Rachael Johns’ books, thank you Harlequin Australia for listening to my begging!
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Setting: Australia, London & Baltimore
My rating: 9 out of 10
I’ve been itching to read Rachael Johns’ first book in the contemporary life lit genre (aka women’s fiction) for ages. Of course it was my luck when my mother took my copy and read it first! So while I did have to wait a little while longer to get to this book, it was definitely worth it. Being a West Aussie also came in handy last week when I was able to attend the launch for The Patterson Girls and hear Rachael speak, including reading a funny scene from the book. (There is something so cool about being able to read along while the author reads the words they wrote!)
But I know you aren’t reading this review to hear me fan girl. You want to know if this book is worth a read, right? I can tell you that it’s definitely worth the investment of your time and money. The Patterson Girls proves that Rachael Johns is a talented writer in any genre. If you love Monica McInerney, you will adore this story. It has the right balance of warmth, love and drama to make you fall in love with the four sisters (and/or their beaus).
The Patterson sisters are four very different girls, now scattered across the world. Madeleine is a respected obstetrician living in Baltimore with no time for love or family. Lucinda is a teacher and the only married sister, yet she has a deep fear that she won’t be able to conceive. Abigail is a talented violinist in London, focused on little but her music. Charlie is the self-described black sheep of the family – she doesn’t believe herself talented and she’s into alternative therapies. I found Charlie the easiest sister to warm to – she’s down to earth, warm and open. While she fears she’s not as ‘good’ as her sisters, she really has nothing to worry about because she’s the one I’d most likely want to be friends with! Madeleine was a little scary at the start – she tells it how it is rather bluntly, but as we found out more about her life in Baltimore she became more of a sympathetic character. Abigail (like the other sisters) had something to hide when she returned home for Christmas, but she was the most spontaneous and adaptable, if a little crazy. (And I think she had the best boyfriend too!) As for Lucinda, she was a bit desperate, whingy and selfish for me. I think that could be attributed to her ‘have-a-baby-NOW!’ fixation – she had a one track mind for a lot of the book which led to a deterioration in relationships. When the ‘real’ Lucinda shone through, she was rather sensible. I liked how the sisters were easily identifiable by their traits early on – I hate having to work out who’s who, but I didn’t have that issue in this book.
So the sisters all brought home their own issues, but they didn’t expect to leave the small town of Meadow Brook in South Australia with a more pressing issue. While going through their mum’s things, they found evidence of a family curse. Although everyone except Lucinda brushed it off initially, all the girls wanted to know more. Finding out as much as they could, they went their separate ways again. But each of them kept thinking about it and for three of them, it strongly affected their next steps in life. For Abigail, it started as a crazy plan to come home. But she fell in love… Madeleine was already secretly in love, but things turned a bit crazy as she set off to achieve her plan. Then things got really awkward. Lucinda’s life went haywire after finding out about the curse until it affected every waking moment. Charlie was the least concerned, moving on with her life in a new direction and finding happiness.
Is there romance? Of course, but it’s not the focus. The men are still super-hot (I like Abigail’s man, but I won’t divulge his name. I’ll just say that Rachael can make any name drool worthy). But there’s love of all types here – family and friends too. The girls have a great relationship with their auntie, and each other too when they’re not squabbling. The Patterson Girls demonstrates just how great sisterly bonds can be, at any stage of your life.
But oh! The twist! The twist was SO DAMN GOOD. It was potentially heart breaking and edge of your seat stuff. It took the emotion to a whole new level and turned everything I thought I knew about the Patterson girls on its head. Even though it was twisty-turny angsty, I think this was my favourite part of the book. Maybe I’m a character masochist, but…wow! Another example of what a brilliant writer Rachael Johns is.
While I’m happy to hear that Rachael will be continuing to write in the rural romance genre, I can’t wait for her next contemporary life lit book! A stellar read.