The seed of the book that became The Patterson Girls, Rachael Johns’ first foray into contemporary fiction, came from a weed. As Johns tells it, the paddocks around the town where she then lived were covered in what appeared to be a beautiful purple flower. She soon discovered that the flower was an invasive weed known as Paterson’s curse or Salvation Jane … and the word curse stuck with her. The result was The Patterson Girls, a warm and engaging tale about a four sisters and a family curse.
Four sisters return to Meadow Brook in rural South Australia to share Christmas with their bereaved father. Their mother died six months earlier, and after the funeral they all went back to their separate lives: Madeleine in the USA, Lucinda in Perth, Charlie in Melbourne, and Abigail in London. Their reunion is marred with sadness over their mother’s absence and worry about their father’s state of mind, but privately, they each have worries, doubts and hardship they haven’t made public. Lucinda and her husband are struggling to have a family, violinist Abigail has lost her job, obstetrician Madeleine is in love with another woman’s man, and free-spirited Charlie feels like she’s less than her high-achieving sisters.
The discovery of a family curse flourishes like a weed in the sisters’ minds and prompts them to reflect on their life directions and embark on a series of actions that will change their pathways forever … and prove the curse wrong. From throwing in jobs to artificial insemination, from renovating a motel to naked violin playing, The Patterson Girls explores sisterhood, secrets, love, relationships, joy and pain in a way that will win over a new legion of fans and keep the romance ones more than happy.
Johns does a great job creating romantic sub-plots that match the sisters’ personalities, with love scenes ranging from tender to lusty to all-in-the-mind, and lovers ranging from friends (with benefits), husbands and will-they-or-won’t they. The novel is really the sisters’ story, which is why it’s not deemed a romance, so the men are secondary characters, with Mitch the most developed. Johns’ rural romance roots are not cast aside, because even though the sisters all live in cities (which probably gives the story a wider audience), it’s the rural family motel that draws them together.
Heartwarming, entertaining and well-characterised, The Patterson Girls gives readers another reason to love Rachael Johns’ writing. As a storyteller, she just keeps getting better and I’m looking forward to what she comes up with next.
Read an extract here.
Available from good bookstores and here. My copy was courtesy of Harlequin Australia via JAM PR.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television