In brief: Ellie left Flynn at the altar ten years ago, but now she’s back in Hope Junction. Can the small country town, and more importantly, Flynn forgive her?
The good: It’s so Aussie and heart-warming.
The not-so-good: Lauren can be completely awful!
Why I chose it: Love Rachael Johns’ books.
Year: 2015 (originally published 2012)
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Setting: Rural Western Australia
My rating: 9 out of 10
Jilted is Rachael Johns’ debut novel with Harlequin and was last year re-released with the spiffy new cover that you see here. In my request quest to read more backlist books, I thought it was high time to get this book and read it properly. I did tell myself sternly that I might not enjoy it as much as Rachael’s more recent novels, but I was completely wrong. This book is completely awesome and has her trademark sparkle. It’s also so Australian, celebrating all things good with our country, particularly in the rural areas. There’s roadhouses, farms, small towns, Fanta, sausage rolls…it’s like a big warm hug. I dare any expat to read it and not feel homesick.
If you’re not an Aussie, don’t stress. It’s still perfectly understandable and plus, there’s Google to entice you into the world of Tim Tams and Vegemite. I believe too that the US version of Jilted (with the gorgeous cover – sorry Flynn, but that’s my pick) has a few Aussie euphemisms made more familiar to a worldwide audience. You’ll still love the story, which is just gorgeous.
Ellie Hughes was once beloved by the tiny town of Hope Junction, but all that changed when she left golden boy Flynn Quartermaine (aka the last baby born at the local hospital) at the altar. After ten years, Ellie is back to look after the only family that really cared for her, godmother Matilda. In that time, Ellie’s now a TV soapie star but she’s not that in Hope Junction. The small community protects Flynn and gives Ellie the cold shoulder. But Ellie and Flynn soon meet up and although their first encounter is super-awkward, they begin to talk. There’s so much that they don’t know about that time ten years ago and what has happened since. They will need each other as Ellie’s godmother hides a life-changing secret and Flynn is relentlessly pursued by local nurse Lauren, bringing old demons to the fore.
Jilted is so much more than just the romance, which I really liked. There are many more complex relationships than Ellie and Flynn, such as Ellie and godmother Matilda, her mother and Flynn’s mother. Flynn has to shake off Lauren in a gentlemanly way. There are also painful life changes to work through, a sweet first love subplot and the town coming together to put on a play. It really celebrates small communities, but doesn’t shy away from the more negative sides of things. I also liked that the plot wasn’t jam-packed. I find that sometimes debut novels have so many plots and subplots to work through that the pace feels really hurried as life, love, family and personal growth are checked off. While Jilted contains aspects of these, it’s not like every trope and aspect of Ellie and Flynn’s lives needs to be analysed and dealt with.
I’m really looking forward to reading how Rachael redeems Lauren in the sequel, The Road to Hope (published last year and can I say that I was there for the official launch? /End brag). Lauren is truly catty at times and I found her distasteful at the start. She is somewhat redeemed at the end of Jilted, but I still would not trust her out of a professional sense. She’s quite the (desperate) man eater! I also felt I didn’t resonate with her because she can’t cook (although on reflection, it was Flynn who couldn’t stand the lack of taste of her vegetarian lasagne – maybe he was biased?). I’m sure though that I will love Lauren by the end of The Road to Hope, because I have 100% trust in Rachael’s skill as a writer.
I’d recommend Jilted as an introduction to Aussie rural romance. It has everything I want to tell readers about Australia wrapped up in a fascinating story that is ultimately heart-warming.