Aussie Book Review: The Road to Hope by Rachael Johns

“Bestselling author Rachael Johns takes you back to Hope Junction and the characters from Jilted.

Nurse Lauren Simpson is known in Hope Junction for the wrong reasons – and she’s over it. Watching the man she’s always loved marry someone else is the last straw – she decides to get out of Hope. But her resolve is tested when the hot new locum doctor arrives in town.

Doctor Tom Lewis also has skeletons in his closet – including a painful breakup and devastating family news. He’s hit the road with his vintage ute and surfboard, to travel the outback and live in the moment.

When Tom and Lauren meet the attraction is instant, but for Lauren Tom threatens to be just another fling and Tom has his own reasons for hesitating. Everyone else – their friends and patients – can see how perfect they are together, but just what will it take for them to admit this to themselves?”

I had been meaning to read Jilted for quite some time (ever since it was released on eBook) so, I was rather excited to receive a hard copy version of it in the mail during January this year. Unfortunately with my reading schedule the way it has been over the last few months, it’s been a bit difficult to pick up my “favourites” and just read for the sake of reading.

Although I have now read it, I won’t be reviewing the novel as it has been out for quite a while already and has had some great in-depth reviews written but, let me just say I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Ellie and Flynn’s journey to their HEA.

For those of you who haven’t yet read Jilted, please don’t feel compelled to do so as these two books can be read as stand-alones although you will get a better feel for some of the characters in this sequel.

In this second novel in the loosely linked Hope Junction series, The Road to Hope, Rachael Johns brings us the story of a woman I grew to despise in Jilted when Ellie and Flynn were trying to patch things up and, to tell you the truth, I had no idea how she was going to turn my opinion of Lauren around – but that she did!

After seeing the man that she has loved since childhood get married, Lauren Simpson decides that she’s had enough of small-town life (and the gossip-mongering about her being the “town slapper”) resolving to get out of Hope.

Taking steps to carry through this resolution as well as her decision to become a “good girl”, however, proves to be a lot more difficult than she first thought when firstly, her manager rejects her resignation on the basis that the hospital cannot afford to lose a staff member over the Christmas holiday period and secondly, the locum, Dr Tom Lewis, who is running from his own demons, comes to town.

Unbeknownst to Lauren, the biggest test of her life is about to unfold when she discovers that “Dr Delicious” is a friend of her brother, Frank, who has invited him to stay in their house - with her, alone!

There are a number of things I love about Rachael’s writing – her well-crafted characters (think Nora Roberts) and settings. These settings are memorable in that she re-creates small-town living in rural Australia that both Australian and non-Australian residents will be able to identify with and, in this novel I especially loved her depiction of life in the nursing home attached to Hope Junction Hospital where Lauren works as a nurse.

The nursing home is where, for me, Lauren’s character really came to life as Rachael turned my unjust opinion of her around by treating me to a side of this young woman that hadn’t been totally apparent before then, thanks to the way she came across in Jilted as well as all the gossip! Beyond that gossip is a girl who is passionate about her job, both caring and compassionate towards her patients but at the same time just aching to be loved in return by a man who will marry her and raise a family together – like her friends are doing!

Beyond her characters and settings, Rachael has a sympathetic eye for human nature in general and doesn’t shy away from the bigger issues such as aging and age-related diseases while bringing us a story of heartache, loss, fresh beginnings and ultimately hope.

There’s no doubt in my mind that you, like me, will fall in love with Hope Junction and its residents and enjoy the time spent there. I know I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to the little town and am hoping that somewhere along the line, Rachael will give us Frank Simpson’s story!

I wish to thank the publisher, Harlequin Books Australia, for providing me with a hard copy for review.

About the Author

Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a supermarket owner by day, a chronic arachnophobic, and a writer by night. She rarely sleeps.

She lives in rural Western Australia with her hyperactive husband and three mostly-gorgeous heroes-in-training.

Rachael has been writing since she was 17 when she broke up with her first boyfriend (at the time she thought he was The One and was hugely devastated in the fashion of all 17 years olds). For some reason unbeknownst to her, she turned to writing as a form of therapy for her broken heart. It was enlightening to realise that with writing she could create whatever ending she liked and wrote the story of her and The One and actually ended up killing him off. The writing was therapeutic, the story was cringe-worthy but she had caught the bug.

Almost a decade later, after a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Writing and English and after many, many attempts at writing different types of novels, Rachael joined Romance Writers of Australia. Finally she learnt there was more to writing a book than just typing out random thoughts – she learnt about craft, conflict, consistent characters, etc – and also learnt that she LOVED contemporary romance and that was what she wanted to write.

Eventually she found a publisher who liked her work enough to offer her a contract. Her first book came out in December 2011 and she's been living the dream since then (i.e. working from home in her pjs). She's written sassy, urban romances for Carina Press, a cowboy romance for Tule Publishing and lots of rural romances for Harlequin Australia and HQN.

In 2012 her debut rural romance, Jilted won the Australian Romance Readers Association’s Favourite Contemporary Romance Award and in 2013 she was voted in Booktopia’s Top Ten Favourite Aussie Authors. She's currently Australia’s number one rural romance author according to Bookscan Neilson. 


  1. Excellent review. The Road to Hope sounds like a great read, as does Jilted.

    1. Kathryn, you will enjoy both of them!


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