REVIEW: How to Mend a Broken Heart by Rachael Johns

In brief: Flick is feeling like everyone has moved on except her. So she takes up a job to work as a taxidermist in New Orleans. Little did she expect that her daughter would soon follow her…

The good: The descriptions of New Orleans, such as the food and the houses.

The not-so-good: Don’t read the ghost stuff when it’s creepy weather!

Why I chose it: Really enjoy Rachael Johns’ novels and looked forward to time with Flick again. Thanks to Harlequin for the copy.

Year: 2021

Pages: 433

Publisher: HQ (Harper Collins)

Setting: New Orleans and Australia

Rating: 10 out of 10

How to Mend a Broken Heart is a not-quite sequel to Rachael Johns’ The Art of Keeping Secrets. I always felt that there was more to be explored, as Felicity (Flick) ended up with more dilemmas at the conclusion. This novel is all about Flick and her growth after her split from her husband and her children leaving home. It’s not a typical empty nester story, rather it’s much more exciting partially due to it being set in New Orleans.

With the current limitations on travel, any armchair travel is welcome and How to Mend a Broken Heart has it in spades. Partially a love letter to New Orleans, it explains in great detail the French Quarter, its nightlife, the Garden District and the food. (Seeing as the closest I’ll get to New Orleans for a long time is this book, I tried making beignets – little square donuts. They were delicious!) I did stop several times to Google various places and foods the characters saw, which is always the sign of a great book (i.e. one that entices you to learn more). However, it’s not just the setting that makes this book loads of fun but the plot too. Flick is a taxidermist and the story goes into some detail (but not squeamishly) about her job and what it entails. It also involves romance and friendship as she becomes more involved in life on Bourbon Street. For Flick’s daughter Zoe, New Orleans is the place she runs to after the demise of her marriage. Zoe has a very different experience of New Orleans, including the drinking, dancing and nightlife. She’s looking to forget, and it seems this is the place. But then Zoe finds friends in Jack, ghost hunter and Aurelia, eccentric artist and her life takes a different turn. But both mum and daughter have secrets, as do their new friends. Can they move past them to move forward?

How to Mend a Broken Heart is easily read and understood without reading The Art of Keeping Secrets. (In fact, I think it’s a stronger novel). The characters, setting and plot are all incredibly interesting, yet not totally out of the realm of real issues. It’s easy to relate to both Zoe and Flick’s methods of dealing with heartbreak (some more conventional than others) and seeing them heal and grow made me feel rather proud of them. I would have loved to know a bit more about Jack and his life in an Amish community, but maybe that could be in a future novel. I felt that Aurelia’s story was very sensitively told, as was that of Zoe’s dad. The story absolutely hummed with the author’s love of New Orleans, which now sounds to me like somewhere worth a visit one day! (If only just to eat). Overall, it’s a story that reminds you – how good is reading?!

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