Book Club: The Greatest Gift

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Author: Rachael Johns
ISBN: 9781489241153
RRP: $32.99
Publisher: Harlequin
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher

Rachael Johns is a West Australian author that goes from strength to strength. I have read and reviewed all of her work; her early ebooks with Carina Press, rural romance, Mills & Boon and lately her move into Women’s Fiction (or life-lit as she likes to call it). Johns is an author who has long made it onto my Must Have list so I was always going to read this book.

Thanks to Harlequin I was able to read it months early and I am glad that I did. The Greatest Gift is a sensitively written, and well researched, story of fertility and motherhood that also focuses on relationships, family and hot air ballooning.

Fertility can be quite an emotional subject and these days it’s quite common to hear people lamenting the unfairness of it all. There are so many people out there who would give anything to have children and can’t while there are so many children suffering with parents who don’t deserve them.

The range of fertility issues faced by couples is quite broad and I think once you hit your 30s there’s a good chance you have come in contact with someone who has fertility issues. Some issues need just a little help, some need a lot and there are people who simply will not be able to overcome their fertility issues without the help of a donor of some kind. In Australia those donors can be quite hard to come by, depending on the donor you need, and due to the laws in this area. Rachael Johns has done fascinating research to ensure that her tale is accurate and insightful, as well as captivating.

The Greatest Gift, I really have no idea where to start because this book was an amazing gift.

Harper Drummond is a successful radio host who loves her career; she’s happily married, financially secure and loves her friends. Afternoons with Harper is a popular show with interview requests coming in constantly; aloowing Harper and her producer Lilia to be selective about who they bring on the show. Harper’s guests are inspiring and they give back to the community, the legacy they leave behind will be remembered and eventually it leaves Harper questioning the contribution she makes. She’s popular, entertaining and empathetic and she is very good at what she does but we see her starting to wonder if that’s enough. She’s not feeling fulfilled which leads her to explore ways she might be able to make a difference, even if only in one couple’s life.

Harper and Samuel are a power couple dedicated to their careers and though they are both very set in their decision not to have children, their reasons are very different. Harper is a character that we get to know intimately, throughout the novel she shares her history so we learn what makes her tick and why she has made the decisions she has.

Dual perspective story telling sees us also meet Claire, blissfully married and happily working in the thriving family business. She thought she had come to terms with the idea of never having children but it seems that there is still an emptiness that she feels can only be filled by motherhood.

Johns has penned a tale that will touch many readers. It explores a range of different family dynamics from both ends of the spectrum and in between. Big families, small families, happy families and dysfunctional ones; they are all here and they go a long way in demonstrating how your family helps to shape you.

The Greatest Gift is a story of relationships, in all shapes and forms, from romantic relationships and friendships to working relationships and the bonds that form when strangers come together with a common goal.

The characters are relatable and realistic people with concerns that many of us face at one time or another. I felt for Claire, she tried so hard to avoid attachment because of her infertility until meeting someone who could convince her to take a chance and loved her enough that they could face anything together.

Harper is thirty-four and she starts to question the legacy she will leave. She knows she doesn’t want children so what will be the mark she leaves on the world. I’m sure most of us can relate to some extent. That feeling you get that everyone around you is doing something with their lives, and what are you doing, what have you got to show for it. She is a character that I fell totally in love with; the growth and self-discovery she did throughout the novel was quite emotional to watch.

The Greatest Gift contains some unexpected twists that completely threw me, and broke my heart. The story line was travelling along quite nicely and then you get smacked in the heart with a sledgehammer, more than once. I was completely captivated from start to finish and I absolutely loved the surprises in store at the end. I had formed some theories about how I thought it would all end, I should have known that Johns wouldn’t take the predictable route and I was completely wrong.

Once again Rachael Johns has written a story that will appeal to many different types of reader and it is clear that her talent is becoming more finely honed with every release. The Greatest Gift is a story of the best laid plans being laughed at by the universe. It is told with warmth and empathy as it deals with issues that have touched my life, and the lives of many I know.

This is a book that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

The Greatest Gift is book #35 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2017.

Rachael Johns can be found on Twitter, Facebook and her Website.

Thanks to HQ Fiction 20 of our Beauty and Lace Club members will be reading The Greatest Gift so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below. I look forward to hearing what they think.

The Greatest Gift is published by HQ Fiction and is available from October 23, 2017 through Angus & Robertson Bookworld, Booktopia and where all good books are sold. And, if you pre-order from Booktopia all of the pre-order copies are signed.


20 thoughts on “Book Club: The Greatest Gift

  1. The Greatest Gift is the very emotional story ( Warning: Lots of tissues required ) of two very different couples, whose personal lives become inextricably entwined because of the choices they make about what they want from their lives, and what it means for each of them, to be a parent.

    One couple are an extremely career oriented, “power couple” and have decided (for the sake of their jobs and other gradually revealed reasons) not to have children of their own. The other couple are more “salt of the earth”, a pair who have always dreamt of having a family but who are struggling to make their dream of having children come true.

    The Greatest Gift is an easy to read story ( I read it in one sitting) which touches on a lot of issues as it delves into what it means to be a parent, in particular a mother, and what it sometimes takes to become a family. But this story is not just about the emotional baggage that enters into a person’s decision to conceive or not and the angst of those who want to conceive but cant, it is also about the responsibilities, the sacrifices and the selflessness that becoming a good parent requires. Throughout the story we are shown examples of the influences, both good and bad that parents can have.

    Ultimately, being able to become the parent of a child is the greatest gift and this very touching and sensitively told story portrays it well.

  2. Another great book from Rachael Johns, I swear her women’s fiction titles just keep on getting better and the subject she has centred in this book – egg donation – is a controversial one as well.
    It tells the story of two women Claire, who desperately wants to become a mum but because of an illness when she was younger is now infertile, and Harper – a slick city girl and media personality who is,married to Samuel and had decided from the beginning that they did not want children. Harper interviews a family who are having a baby via egg donation and it gets her mind thinking, why waste those eggs when someone else can use them. Its so hard to give too much away without spoiling the plot, but it does beg the question – what is the definition of being a mum – someone who gives birth or someone who makes having a baby possible.

    I thought I knew how this book was going to pan out when I started reading it, but I love that Rachael throws a curve ball at the plot and turns it on its head when you least expect it. Interesting too, that Claire and Jasper are Balloonists – an occupation I knew very little about, but made for an interesting topic in this book as well.

    The characters in this book and the family connections you learn about with all parties is quite interesting. It also touches on the very selfish nature of some members of modern society now and the “its all about me’ generation, and image is everything (to some that is).

    Thank you so much to Harlequin and Beauty and Lace for the wonderful opportunity to read this book, another best seller for Rachael.

  3. Work-a-holics Harper and her husband Samuel, a lawyer were content being a childless couple. However one day while interviewing IVF couples at her job at a radio station, Harper got thinking…

    Claire and her Husband Jasper working in the family hot air ballooning business in the Hunter Valley knew they couldn’t have a family in the traditional way, yet that hadn’t stopped Claire’s burning desire to be a mum.

    Taking us through the journey of life in all its complications we see how each of the main characters navigates their way through an array of emotions and situations. Without giving any spoilers, this novel didn’t follow the predicable storyline I thought it was heading in. A thought-provoking read that I found emotional in ways I didn’t anticipate.

    This isn’t the first Rachel Johns book I have read and it won’t be the last! I promise you won’t be disappointed! Thanks to beauty and lace and Harlequin Australia for the reading and reviewing opportunity.

  4. The Greatest Gift is a wonderful book for anyone who loves to read. Many thanks for the opportunity for me to enjoy this lovely book.

    Harper decides to donate her eggs to a couple trying for a baby and meets Claire and Jasper who long for a child but are unable to, due to an earlier health issue for Claire. Harper and her husband Samuel are the ultimate career couple with no plans for kids and Harpers decision comes out of left field for him and their marriage.

    Drama unfolds in the most unexpected way. Tears flow (and that was just me).

    We view the story (sometimes in unexpected ways) through Claire’s, Harpers and Jasper’s eyes. The experiences and points of view of each make for interesting reading. This book goes to places I was not expecting but which made the story more enjoyable for me.

    The Greatest Gift raises so many questions about parenthood and how the ‘right’ decision for one person, can drastically change. This book is both thought provoking and entertaining at the same time.

    Many thanks to Beauty and Lace and particularly Harlequin Australia for the opportunity to read this wonderful book. To Rachael Johns – you are a wonderful author and I look forward to reading more from you!

  5. This is a beautiful book! Well researched and written, it details the heartache of a couple that are unable to fall pregnant naturally.

    I loved the story until the unfortunate twist but even when I thought I knew the ending, it wasn’t predictable and I really liked that I couldn’t expect the most likely ending.

    I would highly recommend this book, a fantastic read.

  6. Rachael Johns is a fabulous writer who captures you from the start and is unpredictable even if you think you know whats going to happen next, it doesn’t.
    Wow!, Clever writer as I was really disliking Samual throughout the book on many occasions and then he seemed to make up for it but not wanting to give anything away, is he really as bad? haha you`ll have to read it to find out.
    I loved all the main characters in this book and most of their family except Harpers mum.
    What a great read of a different kind and I can always guarantee so far of all the Rachael Johns books I have read that they are capturing.
    Thanks for this wonderful read and wondering did anyone elses gold writing on the front of the book wear off? Mine says “The Greate” now as I must have held the book there in the same position for a while and it has rubbed off.
    Fabulous book that I would highly recommend to anyone as you`ll want to read her other books like I have already.

  7. I enjoyed reading ‘The Greatest Gift’. It was easy to read and I loved the Australian references.
    Trying to conceive is a very sensitive and real issue today. Many readers will be able to connect with this. I know this definitely hit me in a personal way.
    The story delves into the lives of a beautiful loving couple and a powerful career driven woman. It takes you through their journey of trying to bring a baby into this world. An unexpected tragedy tears their lives apart. I shed
    quite a few tears.
    The only thing that I kept going over and over in my head was What if? What if circumstances were different? What would have Harper done? It makes me feel a little uneasy. This book will make you think, feel and definitely cry!

  8. Rachael Johns is one of my favourite Australian authors so getting picked to read her latest (and before going on shelves) novel was more than exciting. I finished The Greatest Gift today, I easily could’ve read this book in a day or two (it was such a page turner) but life’s been hectic lately so it took me 2 weeks in total.
    I feel like I’ve been on a rollercoaster emotionally. This book brought happiness, sadness, and twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I feel like I’ve also had a crash course in donating eggs in Australia.
    Fantastic read and one I’ll be thinking of for a while to come.
    Easily 5 out of 5 stars from me.
    Thanks again Rachael Johns and Beauty & Lace for the fab reading material xx

  9. Rachael Johns dragged me in right from the start. I fell in love with Claire who due to her battle with cancer as a child was left with a fertility issue which she felt meant that she would spend her life alone as it really wouldnt be fair to inflict her inability to have children on someone else. Of course fate had other plans for her and she meets Jasper who really doesnt care if she can have children or not. He simply loves her.
    As the story goes on we find how their lives will cross with Harper’s. Harper who is married and very much into her career and has zero desire to have children at all.
    This story grabbed me by the heart and I found I wanted the best for all and at one stage I was begging Rachael not to take the story in the direction she did. I laughed, I cried, I cried some more. I found that everytime I had to put the book down to do something I was thinking about the story and where it might go.
    The Greatest Gift is fantastic and is the perfect Summer read.
    I am very thankful to have been apart of this review team.

  10. I think The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns is the best she has written.
    It delves into the heartbreak of infertility of a woman.
    Claire desprately wants to become a mother.
    The power couple who do not want to become parents.
    Harper decides she wants to do something to help someone.
    She decides she will donate her eggs to an infertile couple.
    Johns has meticulously researched the issue of infertility and the Gift Programme,
    which is donation of a woman’s eggs.
    A heartwarming story that will also bring you to tears.
    I thought I could predict the ending, but as Rachael Johns does,
    there is an amazing twist that will have you surprised.
    I highly recommend this book.

  11. The Greatest Gift by Rachael Johns

    Rachael, I love your work and this book is fantastic!

    Claire & Jasper run a Hot Air Balloon business in the Hunter Valley. They long for a family but Claire is infertile. Harper Drummond and her husband Samuel love their busy career lives in Sydney. and choose not to have children.

    A guest on Harper’s radio show talks about Egg donation, which sets Harper thinking if she doesn’t want children, perhaps she could help out someone who does. So via the internet, the women connect, and set about making a family for Claire and Jasper.

    The book follows the heartache of infertility issues. There are medical and moral issues to face, and the views of family and friends to deal with. Hormones and angst, and the time needed for medical appointments begin to consume their lives, and hope dominates everything.

    There are twists and turns, tears and heartache, and a wonderful story of family and friendship that make The a Greatest Gift an amazing read.

    Thank you Beauty and Lace, and Harquelin books for giving me the chance to read this great book. And Rachael Johns – WOW, you did it again.

  12. The Greatest Gift Is another wonderfully written book by Rachael Johns.

    This is the story of Harper Drummond who is a popular radio host and meets
    fascinating people every day but has become a little dissatisfied with her life and after interviewing a childless couple begins to think she can help others as she and her husband Samuel have decided they do not want any children in their lives.

    On the other hand there is Claire and husband Jasper who are desperate to have a child but Claire was left infertile by cancer as a child and now they are considering looking for an egg donor.

    This book really kept me wanting to read more and was somewhat predictable in the beginning but far from boring in fact it was intriguing.

    Then all of a sudden things changed drastically.

    I did enjoy this book as I have the other books by Rachael Johns but I found after the change of events it really had me second guessing myself on the way I felt on certain issues and at times a little disturbing about the ethics related in the story but I suppose that is the mark of a good writer.

    All the characters in the book were very likable in different ways to me but later as events unfolded I found myself feeling somewhat annoyed with Harper’s actions and behaviour.

    This book certainly raises some very sensitive issues and touches on some physical and emotional problems that can affect our decisions in life.

    Having said all that I did enjoy the book and it is a tribute to the skill of Rachael Johns as an author.

    Thanks to Beauty and Lace and Harlequin books.

  13. The Greatest Gift is beautifully written, genuine and heartfelt. I couldn’t put it down!

    Rachael Johns took me on an emotional rollercoaster through so many ups and downs, but boy did I enjoy the ride.

    I love how she describes her work as ‘Life lit’, it’s so true! Many parents and parents-to-be will be able to relate to the story of Harper Drummond and her choice to not have children, but yearning to help others.

    The love story between Jasper and Claire and all the other characters woven in, such as Claire’s bestie Polly, the in-laws and Harper’s sometimes painfully self-involved husband Samuel, had me engrossed in their world.

    Rachael Johns certainly has a gift for writing. I also loved reading ‘The Art of Keeping Secrets’ earlier this year and even though this story is very different in some ways, once again it’s the intensely likeable and relateable characters that make this book a winner.

  14. I finally got my copy of The Greatest Gift and it didn’t take me long to read it. Rachael Johns has done it again!! A fantastic story. I absolutely loved it!!

  15. A story that tugs with the heart strings, “The Greatest Gift” is a good read. Touching on the things in life we rarely are willing to speak of, infertility and loss. This story takes you throught the lives of two couples, one practical and safe, the other passionate and true. Tragedy shatters the future but from the intertwining relationship between these couples comes family, all be it unorthodox.
    Rachael writes in great detail, so it took me a bit longer to read than simpler books, but this was one amazing tale. Give it a go, but have a box of tissues, glass of wine or block of chocolate at the ready!

  16. Another win for Rachael Johns! I agree that her books are getting better and better. There’s a believably and depth to her characters which make for believable and engaging books. This is one I could not put down and know will be passed around to several other fans I know.

    Rachael deals with some difficult content with grace and excellent research. Such a heartfelt story which I would highly recommend. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in reading and reviewing her latest novel.

  17. Harper Drummond, the host of a radio show, decides to donate her eggs to a couple after hosting a show where she discussed egg donation with a couple and their donor.

    Claire and Jasper have always wanted a child of their own. However, Claire is infertile. They decide to find an egg donor to make their dreams come true.

    This book started off promising. Two very different women, who meet under extraordinary circumstances, and share something that not many people do. The story line at first was engaging and inviting.

    However, as the story went on, I found myself being less engaged, and towards the end, I started to get bored of the book. It was too predictable, and I slowly started disliking the characters, especially Jasper. Over time, the books became less relatable and more frustrating.

    In the book, a major event happens, which changes the story. Unfortunately, I found it a little predictable, and this is when I started to lose interest in the story. I think it’s because I was expecting things to go differently in the story.

    Rachel’s writing style is magical. She has a way with words that draw you into a story, and really connect you with the characters. I felt very emotionally connected with the characters at the start of the story.

    Overall, I don’t think this book is for me. I’m glad I finished it, and I will endeavour to read more of Rachel’s books.

  18. The Greatest Gift is another stellar read from Rachael Johns. Dealing sensitively and intelligently with the complicated moral and legal issues surrounding egg donation, The Greatest Gift, will have you questioning what you would do in a similar situation.

    So, the story… the first chapter confused me and left me wondering for a long time, until it all clicked, but the real story begins a little further in. We follow the lives of Claire and Jasper Lombard who are facing the struggles that come with female infertility. This is no happily ever after, she magically gets pregnant story, there is plenty of reality in this work of fiction.

    Claire has always wanted nothing more than to be a mother, but she’s going to have a struggle to get there until Harper Drummond comes into her life in a somewhat unusual way.

    Harper is a successful radio journalist who is dissatisfied with her life and decides to make a contribution to the world in a meaningful way, but it comes with many more far-reaching consequences than she could ever have imagined.

    Rachael has again created characters who walk into your heart and then she shatters the reader just as we think we’re nearing a particularly happy occasion. This made me want to put the book down and not come back to it, but we all need to know what happens next, so I dried my tears and got back into it and by the end the reader is fairly satisfied.

    There is plenty more to this story, but I can’t go too in-depth without giving too much away. I’m still a little torn about the ending, but it’s open-ended enough that there could be more to come, or we may leave Jasper’s story here.

    This novel will have you laughing and in tears in equal measure, actually lots and lots of tears, and this story will stay with you long after you read the last page.

  19. Thank you for the opportunity to review the latest book by Rachael Johns,,.This was a great read. I enjoyed the storyline re egg donation and surrogacy, especially Claire’s story. I found the writing style easy to follow, enjoying the story and found it a light, easy read that explored real life experiences. I’m a huge fan!

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