Book Club: Outback Dreams

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Author: Rachael Johns
ISBN: 9781743564608
RRP: $29.99

Rachael Johns has fast become one of my favourite Australian authors, even if she does make me cry – EVERY single time I think. I have previously read and reviewed Jilted, Stand In Star and Man Drought. I have been itching to get my hands on Outback Dreams for months so when it arrived I wanted to drop everything and dive in, which didn’t quite happen but I did manage to devour it in the space of 12 hours.

Outback Dreams is set in the small Western Australian farming town of Bunyip Bay. A beautiful and well described spot that is the setting for at least  three linked books, so of course I am itching for the next already.

In this book Rachael Johns has tackled a sensitive subject that touches many people’s lives and in her opening letter to readers explains why she chose to base a book around this subject.

The Autism Spectrum covers a wide range of behavioural issues and affects thousands. It is quite often misunderstood and those on the spectrum can find themselves avoided or bullied quite often. This book tackles the issue in a sensitive and empathetic manner from the perspective of loved ones who are affected.

The leads in Outback Dreams are Daniel ‘Monty’ Montgomery and Faith Forrester, best of friends for as long as they can remember and many of them from a distance.

Monty has never wanted anything from life but to be a farmer, early dreams revolved around taking over the family farm but they were fast destroyed when the family moved to Perth when Monty was 10. Will’s treatment and specialists were mainly based in Perth and it was all getting too difficult and expensive, add to that the need to think forward to high school and the best thing to do for Will was make the required sacrifices and move to Perth.

His friendship with Faith remained strong through the years, helped when she attended boarding school because it was easier for her to spend weekends with the Montgomery’s in Perth than heading all the way home to Bunyip Bay.

outback dreams

The story picks up when Faith and Monty are fast approaching thirty and at a point where something has to give. Faith is sick of being taken for granted as the hired help by her father and brother, she isn’t allowed to pull her weight on the farm but is expected to wait on them hand and foot at home. An out of character night at a school reunion sees Faith decide it’s time to make some changes, and do something worthwhile with her life.

Monty on the other hand is just getting to the point where he is about to make his dreams come true and sign the papers on a farm of his own, years of hard work are finally paying off. Odd jobs and helping out everyone in the town he loves, working hard instead of partying, saving instead of holidaying and finally the figures are adding up and the farm of his dreams is within reach.

Faith pledges to raise funds for a charity and instead of making the obvious choice, Breast Cancer after having lost her mother a decade earlier, she chooses Dogs for Autism. Starting work on the Barking Ball and bringing Autism to the forefront of the minds of the town brings out lots of information about the affects Autism has on the families and eventually sees some of these issues resolved. The Dogs for Autism charity is fictional but there are Autism dogs in Australia and they are fabulously therapeutic but understandably expensive to train so out of reach of many people who would benefit the most.

This is the second book recently that has featured therapy tools for children on the autism spectrum that I had never heard of and I love having these things brought to my attention. I don’t have a child on the spectrum but I do have one with some very challenging behaviours that sometimes make me wonder, so I like to learn about these new things.

Bunyip Bay is a small town where everyone knows each other which means that new people to town are quite a commodity and immediately attract the attention of other singles. They also all come together and work as a community to make the Barking Ball a raving success.

Alongside small town life, farming and the organisation of the ball is still a blossoming romance, with moments that made me cry, and a classic romance plot-line.

The romance hook may have been a classic and one that’s been done before but Rachael Johns did it well and I was left wondering about whether there was going to be a Happily Ever After, more than once.

As I always find in a Rachael Johns book the secondary characters were interesting and well enough developed to leave me wanting to know more about them, and in this case at least I know I will get my chance with the forthcoming Bunyip Bay books.

Family issues and insecurities are exacerbated and then addressed, bringing people closer to together than they ever thought possible.

These characters are so easy to fall in love with. Faith is one of the boys, she’s always been one of the boys so is it any wonder that she’s still looking for love as she comes up on 30. When you spend your whole life being and behaving like one of the boys it’s hard to be seen as a girl. It certainly makes the night she arrives at the pub in a short dress and knee high boots a real eye opener for some of the other boys in town.

Ruby is a relatively new face in town, her parents have been around for quite a while but Ruby was living in the city. Now she’s home, working in her parents store and teaching the girls in town horse riding. She’s always rubbed Faith up the wrong way and doesn’t know why. She’s quiet and painfully shy but has caught the eye of every single male in town and Monty is one of them. He has his heart set on her and he doesn’t give up easy. We don’t know a lot about Ruby and how she came to be back in Bunyip Bay but there is quite a bit of speculation. I think her mystery is part of her appeal.

A growing female friendship is as heart warming as a blossoming romance and it was wonderful to see that bond grow between Ruby and Faith. The other downfall of being one of the boys is that sometimes it precludes the growth of close female friendships and that was certainly the case with Faith, the only really close friendship she had truly cultivated was the one with Monty. Ruby’s offer to help organise the Barking Ball is at first greeted unenthusiastically but a chance day out on their own sees the balance shift between them and the chance to actually get to know one another blossom.

Monty has been so focused on the goal of a farm that nothing else has really factored in his priorities and now that the goal is in sight he is beginning to think about settling down with a partner and his sights are set on Ruby, but what will happen if the sparks don’t fly? Will the farm be enough?

Rachael Johns has written another heartwarming and enveloping story of love, family and the community spirit of small towns. She has written characters who are realistic and endearing, the sort of people I would love to meet and has left me wanting to know what comes next for all of them. I just wish I didn’t have to wait until May 2014 to find out more about them.

Find out more about the book here: http://www.harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781743644706

22 thoughts on “Book Club: Outback Dreams

  1. I was lucky enough to be chosen to review the latest Rachael Johns novel, Outback Dreams. I love books by Aussie authors. Especially those set in the country with a hot farmer on hand!
    I found Outback Dreams a pleasantly easy read with several story lines running smoothly side by side.

    In the first story line we are introduced to Daniel Montgomery aka Monty’s little brother Will who suffers from a high-functioning Autism. In the second there exists a beautiful friendship between Monty and Faith – childhood best friends who have remained inseparable almost into their 30’s. As always Faith (the girl) wants more but Monty has his eyes set on the town’s new girl, Ruby – as does the rest of the towns male population! The third story line is regarding the relationships between Faith and her family and Monty and his. Each character, in their own way, is estranged from their dysfunctional families and it now seems to be the time to stand up and let them know how they feel before it’s too late.

    Faith discovers a way to move on with her life through an opportunity to do something for her local community and for a cause she is passionate about. The question is…is this what she needs to push her along to move forward with her life and show the world what she really wants?

    I loved “Outback Dreams” as it’s is a book that reminds readers, to chase after their dreams because in some cases you may only have one shot at it, or it may be gone, and of course we all know how hard it is to live with… “What If” ???????????

  2. My book arrived just a couple of days ago, and I devoured it! The cover of the book is beautiful, a handsome cowboy with a stunning sunset background. It really catches your eye.
    Now, as for the story. I fell in love with the characters in the book, in particular, Faith and Monty.
    I did also love Ruby, Jenni (Monty’s mum), Adam, and the sweet old couple Nora and Tim.
    Faith and Monty are best friends (initially neighbours in their younger years), and have remained in constant close contact throughout adulthood.
    When Faith decides to do something wonderful for the outback community by hosting a fundraising ball, her feelings for Monty change.
    I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but this is a book I would HIGHLY recommend. I enjoyed it so much that I even tweeted the author and got a reply!!! I was stoked!! I can’t wait for the next two parts to follow Outback Dreams. I could easily read this book over again.
    I could relate to the characters easily, and found parts of myself in each of them (tomboyish like Faith, determined like Monty, and loyal like Ruby).
    Thanks so much for the opportunity to review this; I will be passing it on to my sister to read and I am sure she will enjoy it just as much as I did!

  3. I was lucky enough to receive my book the day before we headed off for a long weekend, so I could read it in the car travelling. Straight away I got caught up in the character Faith as it was easy to see inside her head and the character she was, I related all to well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, even if in places it was a little bit predicable and have since decided I will go out and find more by the same author.

    During reading, I was wishing that a bit more was expanded on other characters such as Will and his difficulties as a child and the hardships endured by the family and how it impacted on Monty, how he was formed so to speak ,get more insight into his character and the way he thought. But after I read the authors notes, I see she has made stories around other characters so that explained a lot hence why I would like to read more and see how they developed.

    Beautifully presented, stylishly designed , Id say an all round good book, great to curl up on the couch with.

    Thank you Katrina

  4. I only received my book on Friday….so 2 weeks to read gives me til 27th Sept to finish and review.
    But I have read the first 5 chapters so far and it is a very easy book to read…I’m already falling in love with the characters and I cannot wait to keep reading to find out more.
    So glad I was chosen to be a part of this book review. Will return as soon as I’ve finished the book so I can post my review…

    1. I’m back with my review…so here goes;

      Thankyou Beauty and Lace for giving me the opportunity to read and review “Outback Dreams” by Rachael Johns.
      I haven’t read any books by this Author before, so didn’t know what to expect. I found this book easy to read and relaxing to read. The story itself was quite predictable…no surprises anywhere.

      The story is set in a Western Australian country town, I loved hearing about the country and the landscape, I grew up in the country and miss it greatly, so reading this book brought back some good memories, especially reading the parts at the beginning with Monty and Faith as kids, there’s so much fun to be had in the country when you’re a kid.
      Monty and Faith are lifelong friends, who know each other better than they know themselves. They’ve always been there for each other but never contemplated taking their relationship further; in fact there had been no sparks between either of them…ever. Until, one night Faith creates an imaginary boyfriend to save face in front of her old school friends at their annual alumnae dinner, from her private boarding school days. Faith describes Monty and thinks nothing else of it until the following day, when she wonders what Monty will say when she tells him. The more she mulls over what she said, the more Monty stays in her thoughts, Faith’s imagination begins to wonder what it would be like with Monty…..Meanwhile back on the farm, Monty is oblivious to any feelings, until one night when Faith dons a little pink dress, and flaunts around the pub flirting crazily…this gets Monty’s attention and then he begins to wonder what things would be like with Faith….so now the seed has been planted.
      It takes a number of chapters with Faith and Monty going back and forth, second-guessing their ever-growing feelings. Until one drunken night at a homestead Monty is hoping to purchase, Faith and he, fall into each others’ arms and sleep with each other. I thought this would’ve been the coming together…but it still took more chapters after this for both of them to get their act together.

      Everybody associated with Monty and Faith can see that the two are supposed to be together, so when it does finally happen, everyone celebrates. It seems to be perfect…but life is changing and obstacles look set to send their lives in different directions. Monty buys the property that is hours and hours away and Faith is running the ‘Barking Ball’ , a charity fundraiser event to help provide dogs to Autistic children (Monty’s brother Will is autistic and Faith has spent a lot of time with him over the years). It is during these happenings that Faith has a pregnancy scare which upsets the apple cart. When she tells Monty, he freaks, suggesting quite bluntly that she have an abortion. Faith cannot believe this and thinks he is a complete stranger to her now and turns her back on him. Monty has his own reasons for not wanting children and they all stem from growing up with his brother Will, who had such a huge impact on his life and in his eyes, not all positive.

      Faith’s fundraiser is a complete success but the rift between her and Monty has taken its toll. He moved to his new property and had been away for months with no contact or word of Faith. While at his property, Will and his girlfriend plan a trip to stay at Monty’s. At first Monty is concerned and nervous but once his brother gets there, he can see just how much he has grown and become independent. It is this holiday that alters Monty’s ideas of Autism and allows a complete back flip of his beliefs. He takes his new found ideas to Faith and the relationship is back on. Faith moves into Monty’s house and life is good.

      There are other characters in the story but they really don’t have any meaning, the story revolves around Monty and Faith.

      There is one area of the book where I really wanted to know more about and that grabbed my attention…I just wanted to know more! And after reading the front of the book and seeing that Outback Dreams is one of three stories tied together, I’m hoping that the following stories will focus more on this subject….and this subject is Adam’s missing sister. She went missing a decade ago and there’s been no sight of her since…and Faith alluded to an eerie feeling whenever she went to Adam’s home. And even a night that was spent there, Faith mentioned the place was haunted/or that there may be a ghost. I want to know more about this!

      If I see that any of the following books are written about Adam’s missing sister, I will definitely pick it up to read.

  5. I got the email that I would receive the book but not received it as yet. I know some got the book on Friday so here’s hoping tomorrow because I’ve got the time right now to do some reading due to a bout of flu.

  6. I received my book yesterday and have already read it! I just could not put it down. The book was so lovely written and I felt a connection with not only the characters, but also the setting, as I live in Perth and could relate to the towns mentioned. (I’m sure Bunyip Bay isn’t that far from Dongara? 🙂 ). From opening the parcel, to the book itself, with the gorgeous cover, to the story, the characters, the highs, the lows and everything in between, had me finish it in the early hours of this morning!! I loved the way Rachael Johns wrote; with such passion and intensity. I’m going to be sourcing her other books to read now and I cannot wait to start!

    Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to read and review this lovely book and I look forward to the next book review email sent out.

  7. I got my book in the mail a few days ago, immediately opened it and I must say I nearly read the whole book in a day! Outback Dreams by Rachael Johns is a lovely book set in the Australian outback. I really loved the setting, and with her writing you can imagine yourself living on the land beautifully (especially love when they visit Tim & Nora, it just felt so homely). I haven’t read many books in an Australian setting so it was a breath of fresh air for me. The story flowed really well, the characters themselves were all really relatable. I found myself connecting to Faiths story and enjoyed seeing her character develop and step outside her comfort zone when she volunteered to do a Charity Ball. Faith, Monty, Will, Ruby, Jenni, Nora & Tim were well written characters. I also particularly liked how Autism was brought up, as it can give people an insight into it if they don’t know much about it. Overall the book swept me up in the romance between Monty and Faith and was just a great read that brightens your day. Thumbs up and I would recommend it!

  8. This really is a rollicking good read. I was hooked from the very first page right to the end. I really enjoyed the country setting. The main character Faith is a woman that we can all relate to. The friendship between Monty and Faith is endearing. Plus I enjoy the way the town of Bunyip and some of it’s characters (including Daisy the cow) are brought to life for the reader. A romance novel with a tomboy, that deals with Autism and the death of a parent plus much much more. It is packed to the brim with content and it reads so smoothly. I enjoyed it over several night in a nice hot tub and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Thank you so much Beauty and Lace.

  9. The first thing that you notice about the book Outback Dreams is the hunk of the man adorning the cover. There is definitely something about seeing a tanned man in jeans and white t.shirt and of course the akubra hat. The next thing to learn is that the book is an Australian Romance so that heightened my expectations.

    Growing up as a young child, I remember having a friend that actually had a neighbor who had autism but I never really understood her on why we couldn’t touch her or play with her. This book by Rachael Johns has now made me understand about autism so if I am ever in the future to meet an autistic child, I know what to expect.

    I felt like I knew the town of Bunyip Bay in Western Australia when I became aware of the whole characters in the book just from the first chapters. I became involved in their lives. I knew that Faith and Daniel (Monty) were destined for each other and cried when I realized that this wouldn’t happen. They had only ever seen themselves as great best friends. It wasn’t hard to endear to the characters of Monty’s mother Jenni, Tim and Nora who sell their farm to Monty. When Monty began a relationship with Ruby, I didn’t like the character but towards the end, Ruby became a good friend to Faith and myself. Monty’s brother Will has autism and it was sad that Monty blamed him for his own life which would then upset his desires later in life.

    All in all, this is a beautiful Australian romance story that I couldn’t put down. It’s just lovely to read a book that is such a warm, beautiful story of the Australian outback.

    Thanks again Beauty and Lace for the opportunity of getting me to know of another great Australian author. I am now looking forward in reading her other novels and definitely looking forward to Outback Blaze and following the above characters again as I know I will miss all of them till then.

  10. I was delighted to receive Outback Dreams to review – thank you so much, Beauty and Lace. Having never read any of Rachel Johns books I was particularly delighted as I love Australian novels, especially ones set in Australia.
    It is an extremely easy book to read with a lovely setting in a small Australian town. I enjoyed the various relationships with the characters with several story lines interwoven. It is through deft writing that you never lose track of the various characters and their relationships with each other.
    I particularly enjoyed the growth of the friendship of Faith and Ruby and loved the way Faith’s fractured relationship with her father was mended.
    Others have summarised the story well so it isn’t necessary to revisit it. The Autism spectrum aspect with Monty’s brother was dealt with sympathetically and with dignity. I also liked the way the small town community was portrayed.
    I was extremely pleased that the story reached a satisfactory conclusion (for me) but left enough loose ends to give the reader the wish for the next two books in this series, without leaving any loose ends “hanging untidily.
    All in all, a very easy and enjoyable read.

  11. Another heart-warming read from Rachael Johns! Once again she’s perfectly captured country town life, and the relationship between Monty and Faith is beautifully developed.

    I’d better disclose that we’re good buddies but I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed Outback Dreams and can’t wait for the next in the Bunyip Bay series.

  12. Once in a while a book comes along that captivates your heart completely and Rachael has managed to do just that with Outback Dreams.
    This book I just couldn’t put down and ended up reading it in one weekend.
    The story of Faith and Monty is a love story but it is also so much more than just that.
    Firstly you find the Faith is a country girl with a great love for her farm and is strong and stubborn. Monty is a man every woman would love for herself, strong farm hand and all round odd jobs man for everyone so why is he single.
    Then you see the warm of Faith and her friends and the combined community of a small country town and how they all get together and make something out of nothing.
    I kept telling the book to hurry up and get together but I’m glad it was a slower occurrence than what I wanted because it was that love that kept me going.
    I do wish that Ruby had of ended up with Faiths brother as I’m sure they would be a good match.
    They way Rachel has tied Autism into her story makes it even more powerful and will give many a greater understanding of this.
    Thank you for giving me the chance to read such a beautifully written story.

  13. I was only 2 pages in when i knew that this was going to be one of those books that I wouldnt want to end. Instantly Faith attached herself to my heart and I wanted everything to work out for her and for this story to stay with me and grow. I really loved reading this book and feel sure that it is a story that most people would find enjoyable to become involved in.
    Faith and Monty are very likeable characters and its funny how sometimes other people can see what you cant. Monty’s mother wondering if Faith was a tad jealous right at the start of the book.
    I found it wonderful how Monty’s parents embraced Faith into their lives.

    This i one of those books that you wont want to put down.
    I really delightful story and fantastic that Rachael decided to include the subject of Autism in the book which is something that many of us have had touch our lives.

    Highly recommended….put this one on your must read list.

  14. Thank you for the opportunity to review this book. Not one for sloppy romance novels, I was pleased that this story was actually more than that. The author, Rachael Johns, successfully portrayed the characters well and she maintained my interest in the storyline. The touch on autism was also well-received as more and more people are diagnosed on the spectrum and this has mostly been a disability not understood by most people. I recommend Outback Dreams as a great read, have now become a fan of Rachael’s and am most interested in reading her next book in the Bunyip Bay series.

  15. Thank you so much Beauty & Lace and Rachael Johns for including me to read and review this incredible new read! 🙂

    My apologies for my review being a little late. I was almost finished the book when I gave birth to my second child last Friday morning on the 27th! So needless to say life has been a little bit up-side-down since then!

    Anyway, I have always been such a fan of Aussie books and authors where the scene in set right here at home. Even though I have never been to Perth or WA, being born in country NSW it was easy for me to relate and imagine the world that Rachael so cleverly created.

    This book packed it all in and kept me interested and learning at the same time all the way through. Before reading this I had never known much about what Autism was, so I am so glad that this book has opened my mind and taught me so much more about the lives of others and has really opened up my heart to those who are living with it in their lives, weather it is themselves or someone close to them. I feel that I am better educated since reading this and I absolutely love that about books!

    I loved the characters in the book and warmed to each of them quickly. It was easy to read and the pages flowed through my fingers one after the other with insatiable yearning. 🙂

    I look forward to keeping my eye out for other books by Rachael and escaping to the world of others again. xx

  16. Alas my book has not arrived and so a review at this point would be problematic. I hope to return soon with better news.

  17. I cannot see my review here so will quickly post another (it probably won’t be as in depth tho, I cannot remember what I posted the first time)
    I fell into this book quite quickly and easily, it was an easy read (not that that means it was too simplistic, just that it was not overpowered with big words and things you couldn’t understand). The characters were likable and easy to relate to – I loved that Faith was a tomboy who sometimes tried really hard to embrace her feminine side (not that it really worked for her hahaha).
    I really enjoyed this outback Aussie romance and am looking forward to sharing it with my friends.

  18. My apologies for my late review of this wonderful book but my internet has been down for several weeks and I have only just had my service put back on.
    Outback Dreams is a wonderfully engaging book that was easy to read and to be enveloped in .
    The story surrounds two characters Danil “Monty” Montogomery and his friend Faith .It also covers the sometimes hard to explain subjuct of the Autism spectrum , with Will having a child that suffers from this sometimes hard to understand problem.
    Set in Bunyip Bay WA it is an absolutely delightful book that you will find that when you pick up its very hard to put down.
    I love a book set in rural/outback Australia and if you have read any of Rachael Johns previous books you will enjoy this immensely and even if you havent I would definitely recommend this to anyone who love a book with engaging characters and a great storyline .

  19. What a great book. Outback Dreams really struck a chord close to home for me. Being a Perth girl myself I can relate well to the characters, place and events.
    Faith Forrester and Daniel “Monty” Montgomery go through a process of realisation that the one they want and love has been there the whole time. The story of two country kids, moved to the city by necessity in their youth, go through the process of making their lives and in the case of Monty, getting back what the city move had lost, a family farm.
    Faith, having boarded at a private school, Perth College, for her education starts the story at an alumna event. Having worked at the school briefly and knowing what the “snobby” private school girls can be like (not all of them of course) I can seriously relate to her feelings of inadequacy and “lower breeding”. This set her up on making her life change, making an impact, finding a fella and starting a life and family of her own.
    Meanwhile, Monty ploughed away through his days, earning and saving his pennies for the opportunity to own a farm of his own. Something lost when his family moved to Perth to support his Autistic brother.
    With the prospects of finally getting his dream and Faiths event to prove herself worthy fully underway they finally stumble into something that had always existed but they had never seen. They were in love with each other, madly, passionately and undeniably so. But now what…
    Though the road was not smooth and straight forward, following Faith and Monty on their journeys made the book an excellent read. Again, knowing what its like to be in love with your best friends, I can definitely relate. This story dug up many memories for me, of youth, farms, activities and falling in love. A recommended read!

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