Title: Outback Ghost
Author: Rachael Johns
Opening line: “…Twenty years ago Adam Burton had been playing in this very spot with not a care in the world on his shoulders…”
Blurb: Third-generation farmer Adam Burton has always tried to keep his family together, but twenty years after his little sister went missing from the family farm he’s losing hope. His dad has walked out, his mum is as reclusive as ever and he still blames himself for his sister’s disappearance. When Stella Reynolds and her young daughter arrive from the big smoke to stay at the holiday cottage on their farm for the summer, Adam is immediately attracted to the beautiful single mum. Although he’s always steered clear of children and doesn’t believe he deserves love or a family of his own, he finds himself spending time with Stella and her young daughter, Heidi, and enjoying it. As the twenty-year old mystery begins to unravel, Stella wonders if she should take her daughter and run. But doing so is easier said than done, because Stella just might be falling in love with Bunyip Bay and a gorgeous, but hurting, farmer.
My thoughts: I literally burnt the midnight oil to finish OUTBACK GHOST, I just could not close the pages until I know what had happened. I have met the character Adam Burton before; he appeared as a support person last year in Outback Dreams and earlier this year in Outback Blaze. The first two in in the Bunyip Bay series of connected, but standalone novels. Along with Adam’s presence in the stories there was also foreshadowing of the role that his holiday cottage was going to play in OUTBACK GHOST with a few peculiar events occurring while people were in and around the cottage as it was being renovated and then opened for guests. Doors closing, floorboards creaking, porch chair swaying when there is no wind – all perfectly explainable in an old cottage – maybe? But since it has been in operation it has not been the success Adam hoped as customers have not been staying for the full length of time.
When Adam was ten he was playing near a damn with his younger sister Lily when she disappeared. Despite a huge search that even impacted on harvest time no sign of her was found – either dead or alive.
“…There weren’t many things that could drag a farmer from his harvest but the disappearance of your seven-year-old daughter was one of them…”
It is now twenty years to the day and Stella and her seven-year-old daughter Heidi arrive at the holiday cottage for the summer break. Stella is a single mum to Heidi; she fell pregnant in her teens but was deserted by Heidi’s father when he found out she was going to be born with Down syndrome. Stella’s parents also rejected Heidi and so Stella left her home and headed for Perth to raise her child alone. Heidi is a wonderful little girl, she is happy, friendly, trusting, loves animals and has empathy when people are hurting. She also has had a string of imaginary friends that Stella has had to avoid sitting on, closing the door on and forgetting to pack a picnic lunch for. As soon as they arrive at the cottage Heidi finds a new friend – Lily Blue. This imaginary friend is a bit different to the previous ones, a little more real, a little bit scary even, and Stella soon starts to think there may be a link between Heidi’s imaginary friend and Adam’s missing sister. There is an immediate attraction between Adam and Stella and it was funny to see how dating with a young child in the house makes a difference, it was very well portrayed as Stella balances her emotions between responsibly mum and a woman in love. When Stella first arrives she is also worried how people would react to her little girl – mamma bear ready to bite – but everyone in Bunyip Bay is very welcoming to the little girl and Stella finally starts to relax and dream about staying there forever. Even Adam’s mother who is now never leaves her home starts to come alive again with a little girl in her life once more. However it is not all smooth sailing and there are a few major hurdles to overcome before Adam and Stella can have their happy ever after.
OUTBACK GHOST will have you smiling; it will have you laughing and my goodness it will have you reaching for tissues at the same time that it gets you get angry at one part of the scenario; such an emotional journey but one that I am so glad Rachael Johns shared with me. I was sad to finish the last book – but luckily Rachael Johns has announced that Bunyip Bay hasn’t finished with her and there will be at least one more book to come at some stage.
For more about the author – Click Here
A – Excellent Stuff
With thanks to Harlequin Mira and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.