Rural soap opera: Jilted

I’m as surprised as anyone at the amount of romance literature I’ve been reading of late. It’s been a lovely change from some of the more somber titles I’ve read recently, such as this and this

Not only have I been enjoying the odd love story, many of them have been rural romances (a.k.a. chook lit), a genre currently at the height of popularity. Last month I enjoyed Wattle Creek, and more recently I had the chance to read Rachael Johns’ Jilted (Harlequin).

Set in the small town of Hope’s Junction, just south-east of Perth, Jilted is romantic in both its setting and plot:

After more than ten years away, Australian soap star Ellie Hughes returns to the small country town of Hope’s Junction, determined to remain anonymous while caring for her injured godmother, Matilda. But word spreads fast in the tight-knit community, and it isn’t long until the people of Hope’s are gossiping about the real reason for Ellie’s visit and why she broke the heart of local golden boy Flynn Quartermaine all those years ago.

Soon Ellie and Flynn are thrown back together again, forced to deal with the unresolved emotions between them, and the fall-out of Ellie’s leaving. But Ellie isn’t the only one with secrets. Flynn has his own demons to battle, and Matilda is hiding something from her much-loved goddaughter. When all is uncovered, can the ill-fated lovers overcome the wounds of their past? Or is Flynn destined to be jilted again?

It is unashamedly country…

“Flynn’s grandmother sat at the family’s big oak table knitting another tea cosy to be sold at the CWA craft stall”

…and seems well aware of the phenomenon that is country romance…

“Wearing denim jeans, a long-sleeved black tee and his faithful Akubra, he looked every bit the iconic Aussie farmer, leaning back on the picket fence that surrounded the homestead. Her heart fluttered like a real-life romance heroine. It was no mystery why ‘Farmer Wants a Wife’ was huge hit with women her age. Flynn’s kind of rustic attractiveness trumped gym-buffed men in suits any day.”

Of course, small town charm isn’t all a novel needs, and Rachael’s story delivers a captivating and moving story of young love, heartbreak, friendship and family. Ellie is guilty of stark betrayal, but as is revealed, her behaviour was not without good reason. This doesn’t change the fact that Flynn’s young heart was ten-years ago shattered. To forgive her completely would be to break a serious promise that he’d made to himself many years ago.

With the help of her Godmother Matilda (my favourite character) Ellie faces her demons, reveals the truth, and waits to see if it will be enough to mend a broken relationship.

Rachael’s novel is touching in ways I hadn’t expected, and it’s quite charmingly Australian, in its references to footy, Fanta and community theatre groups. It’s pretty clear that Rachael Johns is writing from what she knows, and it works well.

I was really lucky to be able to send a few questions Rachael’s way. Here’s what she had to say about her novel, her process and her genre…

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What attracted you to the rural romance genre? Is it something you plan to do more of in the future?
It’s a genre I love to read, but more than that, it’s what I live. As a resident of a small rural community I longed to bring the stories of the bush to readers. I find small town life fascinating – everyone knowing everyone means so much potential for gossip, conflict, etc, but small towns are also very supportive of their own and I wanted to portray this angle in my books.

I definitely plan to write more rural-based books. There’s so much potential for stories in the bush, so many colourful characters just begging to be written about!


In the novel, Matilda’s background really intrigued me, I wanted to know more! Were you tempted to include more about her past adventures?

Oh I would LOVE to have developed Matilda more, but word count restrictions prevented this. She’s probably one of my favourite characters in the books. I enjoy travel (although haven’t done much for far too long) and I imagined Matilda travelling off the beaten track and writing about places that aren’t traditionally tourist spots. I think Matilda’s life could be a whole novel on its own. And her bathroom is my favourite place in her house – when I grow up I want to have a bathroom like hers, where you can get lost for hours reading quirky quotes and fun sayings.


Do you think Ellie and Flynn live happily ever after?
OF COURSE!! She’d be mad to let that spunk go again!  I imagine them a very happy, playful couple who just adore spending time together – even if that’s doing housework or the gardening (eugh). In my mind they have a couple of kids and Ellie sets up a drama school in the middle of the bush.


What do you make of the surge in popularity of the romance novel, and in particular erotica?
I think romance has always been popular – it’s the biggest selling genre in the world. More recently, it’s just become more acceptable to say you read romance and more mainstream publishers are standing up and taking notice. YAY! I suppose in terms of erotica, you’re talking about Fifty Shades of Grey – but really, erotic romance has been thriving for years, the hype of Fifty Shades has merely brought it into the mainstream.

As for WHY romance is popular… I believe it’s because people like happy stories. There is so much doom and gloom in the world that when you sit down to relax, it’s nice to read an uplifting, cheery novel. Romance novels are about people conquering problems and conflict and finding their happy ever after. I think secretly everyone’s looking for a happy ever after.


What’s next for you?
I’m SO glad you asked. I have two books out on New Year’s Day actually – a contemporary romance Stand-in Star with Carina Press (set in Hollywood) and another rural romance Man Drought with Harlequin Australia. Man Drought is set in a rundown country pub and is a story about coming to terms with the past and grabbing hold of the future!

I love to connect with readers and can be found on the web, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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Have you treated yourself to any rural romance lately?

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