REVIEW: Rachael Johns’ ‘Talk of the Town’
Talk of the Town
Lawson Cooper-Jones has two priorities in life – his son, Ned, and the survival of the dairy farm that has been in his family for generations. Despite the best efforts of the town matchmakers and the determined pursuit of local girl Adeline Walsh, Lawson’s heart belongs still, and only, to his late wife.
But when a flat tyre strands Lawson and Ned in nearby Rose Hill, he’s surprised to find a woman living alone in the old general store of the deserted town. Ned immediately forms a bond with the beautiful stranger called Meg, and Lawson is surprised to find himself captivated by her too.
Although shy at first, Meg starts to open up to him about the haunting secrets of her new home and, with Lawson unable to get her out of his head, they agree to investigate the history of the old building together. Soon they find their friendship has bloomed into something more.
But when meddling Adeline makes it her mission to uncover the truth about the newcomer and her real identity is revealed, Lawson and Meg’s budding romance comes crashing down. Can they both learn to forgive in order to claim a future for their damaged hearts?
A moving story of secrets, love and new beginnings from bestselling author Rachael Johns.
What AusRom Today thought:
Talk of the Town opens with the mysterious Meg being interrupted from her self-imposed banishment to the ghost-town of Rose Hill by Lawson Cooper-Jones and his young son, Ned. From the outset you see Meg struggle with the desire for company and companionship, her almost crippling anxiety about being ‘found out’, and her belief that she deserves to be alone and lonely as penance for her past. Of course all of this adds to the secretive and intriguing nature of Meg and the story overall but also helps the reader build up empathy for her as a character which aids with later revelations. Meg is beautifully flawed and Johns has done a brilliant job of creating a multi-faceted character.
Lawson is an endearing character and his and Meg’s gradual transition from friends to lovers was exceptionally well done. With a background of grief, he obviously brought some baggage to the relationship however he was never stunted by this and I do commend Johns on her ability to create such a complex and well-developed character.
Ned and Tabitha are brilliant additions to the cast and Johns certainly gave them all their own individual challenges to overcome. To a lesser extent, though important to add, Eliza’s story is a clever addition to the overall storyline.
As you expect from Johns, the rural romance component of Talk of the Town is exceptionally well executed, however for me it was the tackling of topics that simply need to be discussed—Australia’s difficult dairy industry, rebuilding after seemingly insurmountable grief, anxiety, and the heartbreaking toll of addiction—that made this story so captivating.
Rachael Johns’ ‘life-lit’ style of storytelling is pioneering a new path in Australian fiction and hers is a voice that will continue to command a strong presence both in Australia and abroad.
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