Author: Rachael Johns
I read Jilted by Rachael Johns soon after its release and it left me eagerly awaiting her next rural offering, it seemed like such a long time I waited for this to arrive and I was extremely lucky it arrived just before I headed off and didn’t leave me hanging until I returned like I feared it might.
Man Drought is a delightful read that dragged me in and at times broke my heart.The setting is the small West Australian town of Gibson’s Find. A town that boasts a pub and not much else. It is this pub, The Majestic, that captures the attention of Imogen Bates as she drives past on her way to Kalgoorlie to visit her parents. It is an early nineteenth-century hotel in a tiny town so it’s seen better days but being on the highway there are often travelers stopping in, as well as loyal locals because what else do you do in a tiny town.
Gibson’s Find is not only a tiny town but it’s a shrinking town. There are very few women which means the single guys are almost terminally so and there aren’t many children either. Imogen remembers growing up in small country towns and loving the sense of community so when the For Sale sign on The Majestic catches her eye it seems like just the change of direction she needs.
Imogen met and married the man of her dreams, her one true love, her soulmate and then he is killed and she is left a 30 year old widow with all of her life plans and dreams in ruins around her. She believes in ‘the one’ and she has already lost hers so can not see there being love in her future – which also counts out sex, children and the solid companionship of someone to share her life with; someone to grow old with. It’s been almost two and a half years and moving on seems way too difficult in the house they renovated together, surrounded by the friends they shared so Imogen knows her new start needs to come in a new location.
What better way to move on than to do something productive and breathe new life into an old country pub in a small country town, hopefully saving said town from becoming a ghost town. Quite symbolic of the rebuild and renovation required on Imogen’s life as well. She is a strong and resilient character who I couldn’t help but fall in love with right from the beginning. Imogen’s strength is in her determination and her courage, she knows the path she has chosen for herself won’t be easy but that makes the prospect so much more rewarding and the clean slate offers friendships without pity, without the sympathy that comes from everyone knowing you have lost the only person you believe you will ever truly love.
Imogen’s dedication to renovating The Majestic is as much about Gibson’s Find as it is about herself. But try telling that to the gorgeous, and surly, Gibson Black. He loves his little town just the way it is – almost empty of women. The shadows in his past make him extremely untrusting of city girls, especially any that happen to turn up in Gibson’s Find.
The chemistry between Imogen and Gibson made me giggle, when I didn’t want to lock them in a room together and make them sort it out. They are both such nice, caring people but the sparks between them certainly bring out the fire in their tempers. I enjoyed the tension between them and I was itching to know the secret behind Gibson’s divorce. Neither Imogen nor Gibson want chemistry, they don’t want sparks and Johns explores their contradicting reactions extremely well. It is far from a case of hearing how Imogen will only ever love Jamie, will only ever want Jamie to falling in bed with another man. She is conflicted and swamped with guilt as she tries to fight the building attraction while still allowing herself to move on with her life.
Gibson and Imogen aren’t the only likeable characters in Man Drought, and they aren’t the only pair to get sparks flying but I won’t be letting you in on any more than that. The people of Gibson’s Find are very community minded, friendly and welcoming, on the whole, and they get behind Imogen and what she’s trying to do for the town. There is also the new staff that Imogen brings in from Perth – more fresh ideas, enthusiasm and estrogen to help rebuild The Majestic.
The most loveable character was Charlie, Gibson’s grandfather and one of the antique fittings of The Majestic. He is a fiercely independent older man, widowed in his youth and still deeply in love with his wife. The years are starting to catch up with him and there is some debate about whether his independence should be limited. It is heartwarming, and heartbreaking, to see how the community makes allowances, and looks out for Charlie.
There is so much to love about Man Drought and Rachael Johns has excelled herself once again. I was a little sceptical about the first couple of outback romances that came across my desk but Rachael Johns has most definitely converted me, and now I have to sit back and wait for the next one.