In brief: Lauren is tired of her reputation of Hope Junction and determined to put things right. But at the same moment, hot locum doctor Tom Lewis arrives in town. Lauren’s determined not to break and get out of Hope – but will she?
The good: Lovely to see the other side of Lauren, as well as characters from Jilted.
The not-so-good: I really felt super sorry for Lauren.
Why I chose it: I needed a fun book and Rachael Johns’ novels fit the bill.
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Setting: Hope Junction, country Western Australia
Rating: 10 out of 10
Sometimes I have no idea what to read, despite a bulging bookshelf. Nothing seems to be quite what I feel like reading right now. But now I always keep a Rachael Johns book on head for those times. I know I’ll love her stories no matter what mood I’m in! Of course, The Road to Hope is no exception.
The story is a sequel of sorts to her first rural romance, Jilted. You can definitely read The Road to Hope as a standalone book, but if you want the extra bonus of seeing post-happily ever after of Ellie and Flynn, read Jilted first. If you’re familiar with Jilted, you’ll remember the “Nasty Nurse”, aka Lauren. She’s the one who threw herself at Flynn and failed miserably, as he was still pining for Ellie. Now it’s Lauren’s turn to get her happily ever after and for the reader to get inside the former villain’s head.
Lauren’s a modern girl, who likes sex and a good time. Unfortunately in the small country town of Hope Junction, all that she’s got from it is a bad reputation. Everyone knows that Lauren likes to ‘get around’ and a lot of the townspeople don’t like it. But Lauren’s sick of her label and determined to change. No good times, no men, no flings. She’ll see out the year in Hope Junction and move on as there is nothing keeping her there. Of course, her resolution has terrible timing as locum doctor Tom Lewis comes into town and straight into Lauren’s house. (It’s not what you’re thinking. He’s a friend of Lauren’s brother). There are definitely sparks between the pair, but Lauren’s determined to see her resolution through and Tom has his own reasons for not getting involved. Can they get it together, or will they miss their chance for happiness?
This is a fun story with some more serious messages. I found it interesting that nearly every older person in town chose to tell Tom that Lauren has a “reputation” – some meant as a friendly warning, some meant to suggest Tom looks past the rumours to see Lauren as a person. Lauren’s no saint, but she’s a damn good person who doesn’t deserve the slut shaming. Lauren’s good points come to the fore in this novel such as her willingness to spend time talking and caring for the elderly people in the nursing home beyond what’s required of her. She’s a bit lost and lonely, unsure of her next move. It’s disappointing that she was labelled this way by the townspeople, despite her many good points.
Another theme is looking after the elderly and treating them as people, seen repeatedly in the nursing home attached to the hospital. Both Lauren and Tom are willing to and enjoy spending time with the residents, painting nails, playing games and organising outings. They are not simply numbers in rooms to them, which I think can happen in bigger and busier institutions where care is secondary to rules and timetables. They care for the people and listen, right down to organising a special Christmas that is meaningful. How could the reader not love both of them after this?
And of course, there’s the romance. It’s sweet, hot, saucy and redeeming. Tom looks and acts like the perfect catch, but he has his own baggage. I won’t reveal what, but even doctors can get bogged down in the ‘what ifs’ and miss what’s starting them in the face. It takes Lauren to show Tom the bigger picture, while he shows her that a person is not a product of their past. Overall, The Road to Hope is a lovely tale of redemption that restored my faith in page-turners. I love how Rachael Johns gets into the characters’ heads and weaves a story that is realistic and hopeful.