Served with spice? Tick. Sexy? Tick. Erotica? Not so much. Fifty Shades with galahs and gumboots, this isn't.
Farm lit, chook lit or ru-ro (that's rural romance): call it what genre you will, it's burgeoning like lantana - in a less noxious way. Who would have thought the outback would turn up in front?
There's a tightly knit romantic sisterhood and they belong to the Romance Writers of Australia and Rachael Johns is very happy to be one of their 600-odd number. Such is the impact for the WA author's debut rural romance novel, Jilted, the publishers have issued it with a gold sticker declaring a money-
back guarantee if the reader isn't 100 per cent satisfied - definition not included.
Johns admits she lives a double life. She's an IGA-cum- newsagency owner and mum of three by day. But by night, when all other mortal parents are sprawled on the sofa clutching a glass of something cold … well, she burns the midnight oil to keep her burning ambition of being a best-selling author alive. She's on her way.
Johns met husband Craig in Perth. The couple lived in Kojonup for six years before moving again, this time to the small central Wheatbelt town of Goomalling, with sons Hamish, Lachlan and Archie in tow. "We don't run a farm here, just the supermarket and newsagency," Johns says. "But my husband is a country boy from way back and his parents worked the farms for as long as he can remember."
Jilted is the culmination of 15 years of honing her writing skills from when she left Edith Cowan University with a writing degree and joined the RWA. Just as she learned erotica - that other juggernaut genre - wasn't her thing, so Johns learned that attempting a highbrow style didn't work for her, either.
The novel tells the story of Australian soap star Ellie Hughes, who returns to Hope Junction to care for her ailing godmother, Matilda. It's not an easy return: the biggest drama of Ellie's life had unfolded 10 years previously when she left fiance Flynn Quartermaine at the altar. Ellie doesn't expect a warm reception from the locals - and she's right.
"I started by writing my own love story about Craig and me and I rearranged the ending, of course, but it was sort of good therapy," Johns says.
Jilted is an affectionate, feel-good, easy read with more than two-dimensional characters and cracks on at a decent pace - not bad for an accidental author.
"I never intended to make a career out of writing but I got the bug just from writing 80,000 words," Johns admits. "It's kind of a dream come true."
Jilted is published by Harlequin ($29.99). A book lunch with Rachael Johns and fellow rural romance author Fiona Palmer will be held at York's Tipperary Church on Friday, August 31 (tipperarychurch.com). Price $20, with all proceeds to Wheatbelt Men's Health Inc. Call 9481 7822 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.