REVIEW: Flying the Nest by Rachael Johns

In brief: Ashling is shocked when her husband suggests they separate. Devastated, she just wants her family back together. But when she starts renovating a cottage in a small seaside town, her world expands.

The good: Loved the small-town vibe of Ragged Point and its characters.

The not-so-good: Ashling needed to do some growing up to make me warm to her.

Why I chose it: Love Rachael Johns’ novels. Thank you to Harlequin for the ARC.

Year: 2020

Pages: 422 (ARC)

Publisher: HQ (Harlequin)

Setting: Western Australia

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I always look forward to a new novel from Rachael Johns and Flying the Nest was no exception. This story combines the breakdown of a marriage with a new life in a small country town. Rachael Johns always brings sparkle when she writes about rural settings and the fictional town of Ragged Point was no exception, with its drama and warmth.

Flying the Nest starts with a bang, as the main character’s husband asks rather casually one morning if she’s heard of nest parenting. It’s Adrian’s subtle-as-a-sledgehammer way of telling Ashling that he wants to separate. Ashling is shocked and devastated, having had no idea that her marriage was no longer on solid ground. As she and their two children adjust to nest parenting (kids stay in the family home; each parent moves in and out), Ashling wonders how she can get Adrian back. To be blunt, she’s rather a mess for a long chunk of the novel. But then an opportunity arises for Ashling to renovate a small cottage on the beach in Ragged Point. It is in Ragged Point where Ashling starts to heal and see things more clearly, helped by new friends and a sense of belonging. But what happen if Adrian changes his mind? Will Ashling give up her new life for the old, familiar one?

I enjoyed the plot of Flying the Nest, as there were always things happening, whether it be in Ashling’s family or in Ragged Point. Ragged Point was a lovely fictional town, full of great people and more than a hint of drama. As I’m familiar with that area north of Perth, it was easy to picture the old and new houses (particularly the type of cottage Ashling was renovating).  The characters of Dan and Jedda were wonderful, and I looked forward to reading more about them. (I’d love to see a story where Jedda is the star, as she’s got gumption and drive as well as some vulnerabilities). As for Adrian – well, he was never my favourite, and I don’t think he was meant to be. He was weak and selfish, chopping and changing his mind in addition to breaking his own rules. It made it difficult to see why Ashling wanted him back so desperately. As for Ashling, I found her very needy (especially initially) which I think was due to my own biases. I found it difficult to understand why she couldn’t stand on her own two feet and get a job instead of…well, sitting around. I understand that she hadn’t really been in the workforce, but she did have skills (Cleaning! Writing! Organisation!) and a degree that could have been deployed. She had a good role model in Hayley in that respect and I wish Hayley had pushed her that little bit harder. (Speaking of Hayley – she’s another strong character who could be a great lead!)

The writing is engaging, with Ashling telling the story in first person so the reader always knows what she’s thinking and feeling. Over the course of the novel, Ashling gains confidence which was pleasing. It’s like a coming of age story, but in later life with the complications of children, past relationships and joint bank accounts.

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