Book Review: The Patterson Girls

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Author: Rachael Johns
ISBN: 9781743693070
RRP: $29.99

In her seventh novel for Harlequin Rachael Johns has delved into a new genre and tried something a little different, something she likes to call ‘contemporary life lit’. For The Patterson Girls Johns has moved away from rural romance, but not very far; there are still farms and sheep, a small town and it’s motel. Of course there is still a hint of romance in the air.

The four Patterson sisters grew up in Meadow Brook, a small South Australian town just out of Port Augusta. The motel has been in their mum’s family for four generations and though the sisters have all moved far away it is still home, I think it will always be home.

Six months after the sudden tragic death of their mother the girls return home to spend the first Christmas with their father.

The Patterson Girls follows Madeleine, Lucinda, Charlie and Abigail through the year after that first Christmas with all its heartaches and triumphs and quite the change in focus for all of them.

I loved this book, right from the very first chapter I loved it but I did find it took me quite some time to warm to the sisters. They have drifted apart since their childhood and are living very different lives. Madeleine is an obstetrician in America, Lucinda is a school teacher in Perth, Charlotte works in a cafe and gives hula hooping classes in Melbourne while baby sister Abigail is part of the symphony in London. The physical distance between them makes them a little complacent about keeping in touch which is something I can completely relate to and when they are all home together it isn’t long before they begin to grate on one another’s nerves as is often the case with four sisters under one roof.

Lucinda is desperate to start a family and after eight months of trying she is still having no success, her sisters support her and say all the right things but then two of them decide out of the blue that they want to get pregnant. I found this quite difficult to stomach, coming from a place of fertility issues I found this extremely insensitive.

There is a lot going in the lives of the four sisters and being back in the family motel brings them closer together as they all do their bit to help out and lighten the load for their father. The relationships between the sisters are authentic and I could relate to their frustrations and feelings for one another. Yes they love their sisters and want nothing more than for them to find happiness but there are resentments and annoying habits that drive each of them to distraction.

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Much of the story played out with a bit of predictability but there were some huge bomb-dropping twists that were totally unexpected and I will not talk about them here because of spoilers.

Lucinda was the sister I most identified with and I really felt for her because I had fertility issues but we differ in that I knew I had issues long before I started trying. I didn’t have endless months of trying and getting nowhere before heading in for medical advice.

Charlotte, usually referred to as Charlie, was the sister I most connected with. She returns home from Melbourne to help out in the motel and spends a lot of her time lusting after her best friend, and terrified of destroying the friendship. She would rather keep her feelings locked away than risk jeopardising the best friendship she has ever had. I wanted them to find happiness but I shared her fear, friends to lovers are a beautiful story but friends to lovers to strangers is an ache in your heart for the rest of your years.

Johns demonstrates once again that the truth will usually be uncovered, at the most inopportune moment, and it’s usually a make or break moment that brings people together or rips them apart.

It took me a while to warm to the sisters but the struggles they faced on their journey through the year after their first Christmas without their mother really brought them into my heart.

The Patterson Girls is a rollercoaster of sisterly emotions from frustration to affection with wine and chocolate and an outpouring of love and solidarity. The women face some very real issues and there is still an element of romance in this family story that is sure to tug the heartstrings.

Rachael Johns you’ve done it again and though this is a complete and standalone story you have still left me wondering what comes next for The Patterson Girls.

The Patterson Girls is book #46 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge.

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

The Patterson Girls is available through Harlequin and from Bookworld, Angus & Robertson, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.

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