Review: Outback Secrets by Rachael Johns


Title: Outback Secrets {Bunyip Bay #5}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: 27th October 2021, Mira

Status: Read October 2021 courtesy Harlequin Australia


My Thoughts:

I’m delighted to finally return to Bunyip Bay with Rachael Johns! Outback Secrets is her fifth rural romance set in the Western Australian community, and pairs publican Liam Castle, with agricultural aviator, Henrietta ‘Henri’ Forward.

Liam has been The Palace publican in Bunyip Bay for a decade, having arrived from Colorado in the wake of a tragedy. Though he’s privy to the many secrets of the community, no-one can claim to know his. When Henri, spending Christmas at the family farm, confides in him the need for a fake beau to distract her mother from nagging her to stay and settle down, Liam surprises both Henri and himself by agreeing to the plan.

Unsurprisingly, though delightfully so, real feelings quickly develop between Liam and Henri. Johns is adept at establishing chemistry between two characters and then deepening the relationship in a believable way as they learn more about one another. Liam and Henri complement each other well and their romance is fun and heartwarming.

It’s refreshing to have a heroine in a romance who actually isn’t all that interested in the traditional ‘happy ever after’ that leads to marriage and babies. A confident, independent woman, Henri loves her job as a pilot and I liked her passion for her chosen career.

Liam, who has played a minor background role in previous Bunyip Bay novels, is an appealing romantic hero, thoughtful, discrete and generous. The tragedy in his backstory is an unexpected element that introduces some sensitive subjects to the novel, including trauma, PTSD, grief, and suicide.

I was surprised to realise it’s been five years since the last Bunyip Bay book was published as the community and its characters all still feel very familiar. Though Outback Secrets can be read as a stand-alone, it’s a joy catch up with the lives of the couples who have featured in earlier novels including Faith and Monty (Outback Dreams), Ruby and Drew (Outback Blaze), Adam and Stella (Outback Ghost), and Frankie and Logan (Outback Sisters).

Outback Secrets is another engaging and charming story of romance, family and community, and I hope to visit Bunyip Bay again soon.


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Review: How To Mend a Broken Heart by Rachael Johns


Title: How To Mend a Broken Heart

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: 5th May 2021, HQ Fiction

Status: Read May 2021 courtesy Harlequin/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

“Sometimes what you think is going to be the most painful time of your life, simply turns out to be the storm before the rainbow.”

Readers familiar with The Art of Keeping Secrets will recognise How To Mend a Broken Heart’s main protagonist, Felicity Bell. It’s been four years since her divorce after Felicity found she couldn’t reconcile the changes in their relationship wrought by her husband’s gender transition. Though the two have remained friends, and Flick is supportive of Sofia, she struggles with the continual reminders of the life she has lost. When an unexpected opportunity arises for taxidermist Felicity to take three month position at Bourbon Street Taxidermy Art, a small store in the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans, she seizes the chance, hoping to spend some time focusing on herself.

How To Mend A Broken Heart explores the themes of heartbreak, self discovery and moving on as Felicity learns to let go of the past and explore new possibilities. I thought Johns portrayal of the complicated relationship Flick has with her ex to be sensitive and honest. Johns portrayal of Flick’s struggle to trust in love again is sincere and poignant as the protagonist’s romantic relationship blooms with Theo, the handsome owner of the bar that neighbours the taxidermy store.

Felicity is just beginning to find her feet in New Orleans when her daughter unexpectedly appears on her doorstep. Zoe’s husband of four years has left her after confessing to an affair and, and she is devastated by her childhood sweetheart’s betrayal. Zoe too is now confronted with the challenge of recovering from heartbreak and forging a new life for herself. It’s easy to sympathise with Zoe whose faith in love, and herself, is shattered. She makes a mistake or two in her effort to forget the anguish, taking advantage of the French Quarter’s nightlife, but at least one turns out to be quite serendipitous.

Johns introduces the elderly Aurelia Harranibar, a cantankerous, reclusive local artist whose own life has been marred by her inability to move on from the loss of her sweetheart. Modelled on the Charles Dickens character Miss Havisham, Miss H lives alone in a decaying mansion in the New Orleans Garden District. When she is accidentally injured during a visit to the taxidermy store, Zoe, an aspiring artist herself, volunteers to assist Miss H at home and forges a sweet relationship with the eccentric old woman. Miss H becomes a key figure in the story, not only serving as an  example of what failing to accept the demise of a relationship and move on could look like, but her past also introduces a thread of mystery as Zoe tries to determine what really happened to the artist’s lover.

It’s New Orleans, arguably America’s most haunted locale, so there is no surprise that Johns includes a tiny hint of the supernatural in the story. Zoe believes Miss H’s house is haunted by more than the artist’s sadness. I enjoyed accompanying the characters on a ghost tour of the city, and learning of the tragedy of ‘The Casket Girls’. Felicity’s unusual occupation also plays well into the mystique of the city, which the author describes vividly, and with obvious affection for all of its atmosphere and eccentricities, despite its darker side.

How To Mend a Broken Heart is a heartfelt and entertaining novel set in a vibrant location, sure to have wide appeal.


Available from Harlequin Australia

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Review: Flying the Nest by Rachael Johns

Title: Flying The Nest

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: 29th October 2020, HQ Fiction Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Harlequin Australia


My Thoughts:

Flying The Nest is a wonderfully engaging women’s fiction novel from bestselling Australian author Rachael Johns.

Ashling Wood is blindsided when her husband of twenty years casually suggests they try nest parenting while she’s busy preparing the oranges for their daughter’s soccer game. Her first instinct is to believe Adrian doesn’t understand what the term means, but he’s clear, he wants a trial separation and feels nest parenting, where the children remain in the house and the parents move in and out on an alternate schedule, is the best solution for them all.

The adjustment is difficult for a heartbroken Ashling who misses her children, ten year old Payton and fourteen year old Saxon, when she’s not with them. Taking on the renovation of a friends seaside cottage in Ragged Point during her ‘off’ weeks is a welcome distraction, and though she is certain the arrangement will not be anything but temporary, as the house undergoes a transformation, so too does Ashling.

I can’t imagine what it would be like should my husband so casually and carelessly announce one ordinary morning that he wanted a separation (touch wood). My sympathy was definitely reserved for Ashling from the start, and even though she seemed stuck in the denial phase for slightly too long, I think Johns portrayal of her character’s emotional state was sensitive and believable. There was a brutal scene in the marriage counselor’s office in particular where I really felt Ashling’s pain, and I was glad she finally got angry at Adrian, and found the impetus to take charge of her life.

The community of Ragged Point is a delightful haven for Ashling. Johns deftly creates the character of a small coastal community, and it’s there that she rediscovers, and is able to nurture, the parts of herself that have been dormant while helping her husband build their podiatry business, and raising their children. I liked the development of Ashling’s relationships with Jedda and Dan, who are great supports, but also have interesting stories of their own that add depth to the story.

Written with heart, humour, and warmth, Flying the Nest is sure to resonate with women who need to redefine their lives, whether because of a relationship breakdown, children leaving home, or other change of circumstances. Ashling’s journey is not without its challenges, but it is ultimately rewarding and inspiring, as is this novel.


Available from Harlequin Australia

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Also by Rachael Johns reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: Something To Talk About by Rachael Johns

Title: Something To Talk About {Rose Hill #2}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: April 20th 2020, MIRA Australia

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Harlequin Au/Netgalley


My Thoughts:

Something To Talk About is Rachael John’s second rural romance in the Rose Hill series, which began with Talk of the Town featuring the relationship between widowed dairy farmer Lawson Cooper-Jones and new storekeeper Meg, but reads well as a stand-alone.

In Something To Talk About, Tabitha Cooper-Jones, Lawson’s younger sister, has created a life she is proud of. She’s refused to let the loss of her arm to cancer hold her back, developing a thriving gourmet ice cream business, operating a successful cafe, and volunteering as a St John’s emergency assistant, but what she wants most is a family of her own, and despairing of ever finding a partner in the small town of Walsh, she’s chosen to become pregnant via donor insemination.

Fergus McWilliams is looking to escape the fallout from a broken engagement when he accepts a short term teaching position at Walsh Primary School, but he’s unprepared for the attention a single man in a small town attracts. Not looking for another relationship so soon, a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement with Tabitha, despite her unusual circumstances, is a convenience for them both, but their plan to keep it casual goes awry when their hearts become involved.

I loved the chemistry between Tabitha and Fergus. Sparks fly at their very first meeting and as the story develops their growing affection for one another feels organic. Johns’s characters, both main and supporting, always feel genuine and elements of their situations relatable. The obstacles between Tab and Fergus are not insignificant, but I thought they were resolved convincingly.

The residents of Walsh add texture to the story from the members of Stitch & Bitch, to the children of Fergus’s class. The Western Australian setting is always a thrill for me, having been born there. I’ve holidayed in Bunbury and I’m familiar with the tiny farming towns in the southwest where community really matters.

Readers should be aware that several of the characters in Something To Talk About are affected by cancer, but the story really centers around the themes of independence, resilience, forgiveness, and trust.

Without fail, I finish each book by Rachael Johns with a sigh of satisfaction and contentment for a story well told, and it’s no different here. This is a book I am happy to talk about.


Available from Harlequin Australia

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Also by Rachael Johns reviews at Book’d Out



Review: Just One Wish by Rachael Johns


Title: Just One Wish

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: October 21st 2019, HQ Fiction

Status: Read October 2019, courtesy Harlequin Australia


My Thoughts:

Just One Wish by Rachael Johns is a wonderful contemporary family drama contrasting the life experiences and choices of three generations of women.

“If I’ve realised one thing—perhaps too late—it’s that life isn’t black and white. It’s a million shades of grey and there isn’t one truth that fits everyone.”

Journalist Geraldine ‘Ged’ Johnston is heartbroken when her lover, and colleague, Christos, announces his intention to move back in with his ex-wife for the sake of their children. Fortuitously, her grandmother, Alice Abbott who Ged calls Gralice, surprises her, and Ged’s mother, Sappho known as Marie, with a timely distraction, a three day Elvis themed cruise to celebrate Alice’s 80th birthday. Ged plans to use the opportunity to interview Gralice for a biography she hopes to publish detailing her grandmother’s many achievements as a feminist trailblazer, while her mother views the trip as fodder for her popular ‘Happy, happy Housewife’ online media persona, but Gralice has a hidden motive for the trip, a secret that will prove to have unexpected consequences for all of them.

“In a matter of a month my life had become a soap opera—one in which I’d been forced to take a starring role when I didn’t even want to watch the show.”

Set in Victoria, Just One Wish unfolds from the first person perspective of Geraldine as her life, and the life of her family, is upended by a series of surprises. I enjoyed the complications and drama cantering around three very different, interesting women and the choices they make.

“‘I reckon no matter what choices we make in our lives, we’ll never know for sure if they are the right ones….”

The author touches on a wide spectrum of themes including family, marriage, relationships, feminism, euthanasia, homosexuality, and social media, but it’s Johns’ exploration of the differing ambitions of Alice, Marie, and Ged that I found the most relatable. My mother, whose traditional father felt that teaching or nursing were the only acceptable professions for a woman until she married, has always been ambitious, and worked full time in a number of careers until retirement. I greatly admire her drive, but I know she was disappointed when I chose to go into teaching, married young, and then later became a stay at home mother to four children (and wanted more). My eldest daughter is now in her early twenties, and though she is not ambitious exactly, neither marriage nor children are on her radar. So, I identify with the tension between the three women, borne of generational and personal ideals.

Written with heart and humour, Just One Wish is an entertaining and thought provoking read that will appeal to women of all ages.

P.S. Rachael, hope you don’t mind but I was thinking Jay = Ditch Davey circa Sea Patrol 😉

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Available from HarperCollins Au

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Also by Rachael Johns reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: Outback Sisters by Rachael Johns


Title: Outback Sisters {Bunyip Bay #4}

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: February 2016 , MIRA

Status: Read March 2016, courtesy Harlequin AU



My Thoughts:

This is Rachael Johns fourth book in her rural romance series linked by the fictional community of Bunyip Bay. Readers familiar with the town will recognise Frankie Madden, the owner of a local cafe, and her sister, widowed mother of two, Simone, as the tititular Outback Sisters.

When a tall, ruggedly handsome and desperately sexy stranger strides into Frankie’s cafe and sweeps her into his arms with a bone melting kiss, she is stunned, and then a little disappointed to learn Logan Knight has mistaken her for her sister. Unbeknownst to Simone, her teenage daughters, Harriet and Grace, have been playing online matchmaker.

What follows is a charming, if slightly unconventional, tale of romance when Logan introduces the sisters to his older brother, Angus. Each of the four main characters are wary of love, having experienced hurt and loss in the past, and then there is the complication of their sibling bonds. I really enjoyed the way in which the author developed these relationships, it’s a tricky proposition but one which Johns achieves admirably.

Johns writes with a great ear for dialogue and a wonderful sense of humour. This ensures her characters feel authentic, including the teens. The relatable characters have been one of the strengths of the series.

It is satisfying as always to revisit Bunyip Bay, in this book we learn Faith and Monty (Outback Dreams) are expecting their first child, Ruby and Drew (Outback Blaze) are happily engaged, and we attend Adam and Stella’s (Outback Ghost) wedding.

The Bunyip Bay series has been a delight, I’m sad to see it end with Outback Sisters though it’s a wonderful note to close on.



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