by Rachael Johns

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Jilted by Rachael Johns

She'd left him at the altar, but her heart was always his…

After more than ten years away, Australian soap opera star Ellie Hughes returns to the small town of Hope Junction, determined to fly under the radar while caring for her injured godmother, Matilda.

But word spreads fast in the tight-knit community. It isn't long before the people of Hope Junction are gossiping about the real reason for Ellie's visit and why she broke the heart of golden boy Flynn Quartermaine all those years ago.

Soon Ellie and Flynn are thrown back together, forced to deal with the unresolved emotions between them. Because Ellie is not the only one with secrets. Flynn has his own demons to battle, and Matilda is hiding something from her much-loved goddaughter.

When all is uncovered, can the ill-fated lovers overcome the wounds of their past? Or is Flynn destined to be jilted again?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780373779369
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/30/2014
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Rachael Johns is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a chronic arachnophobic, and a writer the rest of the time. She rarely sleeps and never irons. A lover of contemporary romance and women's fiction. She lives in Western Australia with her hyperactive husband, three mostly-gorgeous heroes-in-training, two fat cats, a cantankerous bird and a very badly behaved dog.
Rachael loves to hear from readers and can be contacted via her website – www.rachaeljohns.com, Facebook or Twitter.

Read an Excerpt

When Flynn Quartermaine drove into town, he couldn't get a newspaper or pick up his mail without being stopped by someone or other on the main street. He'd lived in the small farming community of Hope Junction—southeast of Perth and affectionately known to locals as Hope—every one of his twenty-nine years. He knew everyone and they knew him. And he was famous. Aside from his legendary streak across the oval on Grand Final day ten years ago, he was the last baby born in the local hospital, having just slipped out before the maternity ward was closed and everyone had to travel farther afield.

What was most embarrassing to Flynn was that people still talked about this. Whenever someone new came to town, or a long-lost relative was passing through, the first thing the introducer would say was, "Meet Flynn, he was the last baby born in our hospital." Nothing about the fact he ran one of the biggest farms in the district. Nothing about almost doubling his family's income by introducing South African Meat Merinos (or SAMMs for short) to their flock. Nothing about how other local farmers followed suit. But then, perhaps he should be grateful people didn't mention other things.

There were some things no guy liked to be reminded about.

Today, however, there wasn't a single mention of babies. And instead of flocking when they saw him coming, people quickly turned away. It was odd. Flynn picked up some supplies for his mother and drove back out to the family property, keen to return and get onto the football oval, run around with his mates and shake this sense of unease.

The feeling started to dissipate as soon as he turned his ute into Black Stump—the 5,000-acre property that had been in his family for four generations. As corny as it might sound, he loved the place. He'd been raised on the massive homestead, with board games round the fire in winter and fun in the dams—when they had water—in summer. He belonged to this land and it had a way of calming him like no person ever could. Well, not anymore.

But the moment he walked through his mom's kitchen door, the strangeness returned. His heart kicked up a notch and he knew he hadn't been imagining the weirdness in town. In fact, he sensed Saturday was about to get a lot more than strange.

Flynn's grandmother sat at the family's big oak table knitting another tea cozy to be sold at the CWA craft stall. Karina, his mother, hovered at the stove stirring something that smelled a lot like her famous crisis-time minestrone. It was her contribution whenever the townsfolk got together to provide for volunteers in an emergency. And his teenage sister, Lucy, had her iPod around her neck and one foot on the table, painting her toenails a ghastly shade of purple, which no doubt had some ridiculous name like Flashbulb Fuchsia. They were deep in conversation. Or had been, anyway. He could tell, because the moment he stepped inside, the room went eerily silent and they all feigned over-the-top attention to their various tasks. Exactly like every shop he'd stepped into that morning. What the hell was going on?

Flynn stomped to the fridge, retrieved an ice-cold can of Coke, cracked it open and turned to face them all.

"Okay. Out with it. Have I grown an extra head or what?" He ran a hand through his blond, freshly cut hair. Even Emma, his hairdresser, had been strangely quiet. She hadn't tried to con him into enhancing his tips as she usually did.

"No need for sarcasm, love."

He tossed a reproachful glare at his mom and, for one terrible second, wondered if someone had come good on their promise to enter him in Australia's much-loved Farmer Wants a Wife show. Friends and family had been threatening for years: You're almost thirty, Flynn. As if being thirty meant he should suddenly hang up his single cap and find himself a wife, a four-wheel drive and a white picket fence.

He wouldn't do it, though. No matter how good the PR would be for the town, there was no way in hell he was pimping himself in such a manner. Unlike some people he knew, he didn't see the appeal of publicity and bright lights.

Still eyeing him warily, Karina dumped the wooden spoon in the pot, wiped her hands on her apron and sighed. "Well, I suppose if anyone has to tell you, it might as well be me. Sit down, Flynn."

Sit down? He looked long and hard at the three women scattered around the traditional farm kitchen. People only ever said sit down when it was bad news. When someone had been killed or given months to live. But they were all breathing—even Granny, who'd just celebrated eighty years, was healthy and vibrant—and he'd already lost his dad. So what could be so terrible? So dramatic? Who could it be?

Granny stood and beckoned a long, knobbly finger at his sister. "Come on, Lu, you can help me box my tea cozies."

"No, thanks," Lucy said. "I'll help later, Gran, but I wouldn't miss this for any-thing."

"Scoot, Luce," shot his mom without breaking his gaze.

Lucy groaned, moaned and did her usual teenage eye roll, but she eventually vacated the room, followed by their grandmother.

"Must be something terrible," mumbled Flynn, collapsing onto a chair. When his mom pulled her stool close and scooped up his hand, his heart went into overdrive. He ripped his hand back, feeling momentarily guilty as hurt flashed across Karina's eyes. But all such emotions were lost when she finally spoke.

"Ellie's coming back."

Flynn opened his mouth but no sound came out. He sat still for a moment, the words echoing in his head.

Then, "Fuck!" He shot out of his chair and stormed onto the veranda.

Ten years! Ten years since she'd left him standing at the altar in a mixture of shock, hurt and embarrassment, questioning why. He thought he'd pulled through, dealt with all those feelings, moved on. But he couldn't have, not the way his eyes were prickling and his heart was pounding.

He spun around, not knowing what to do, before he thumped the veranda post and headed back into the kitchen. Needing to keep his hands busy, he reached for his Coke, but he misjudged and his fingers hit the side of the can, toppling it over.

"Leave it," his mom said. Her lips were pursed and he could tell she was a hairbreadth from tears herself. "It'll be okay."

"No use crying over spilt Coke," he said, trying to make a joke. But his tone wasn't funny and Karina didn't laugh. He knew she was terrified that Ellie's return would send him back to the way he'd been before. She'd already lost her husband. She didn't need to lose her son.

As much as he wanted to retreat to his own space—to forget about the afternoon's game and head to the dam at the far end of their property—he couldn't. He had to maintain the facade for his mom. For the town. He had to pretend he didn't care, pretend the thought of running into Ellie didn't send him into a cold sweat.

It would be easier, he reflected, if he'd found out she'd died. At least that way he'd come to terms with the grief. Surely. Things would be completely different. He wouldn't have to hide photos of her in a box at the back of his wardrobe. People would talk about her fondly, sharing memories, rather than making sure they never uttered her name in his presence. He knew they talked; it's what people in small communities did best. But they never talked about her to him. The town protected him. If people pitied him, he didn't know, but around here, there wasn't any sign that Ellie Hughes had ever existed. It was as if the moment she'd walked out of his life, she'd vacated the planet. In the newsagent, he never saw her face in TV Week or on the cover of Women's Weekly. But if he went further afield, to Perth or Bunbury, she was constantly in the limelight. Australia adored her. In a way, that hurt Flynn, but it was nothing on the sadness she'd left inside him. The black hole that no attempts at relationships, no casual sex, no nothing, had ever been able to fill.

Working hard to keep his breathing steady, he cleaned up the Coke and recalled some gossip he'd heard at the hairdresser. He might not be able to take his mind off Ellie, but he'd do his damn best to stop his mom thinking about her.

"Some townies are reviving the theatrical society." He ditched the wet tea towel in the sink and leaned back against the table.

"So I heard. Good news travels fast." Karina gestured to the row of tiny nail polish bottles on the table. "Lucy's planning on auditioning. For some reason, she thinks the color of her nails will make all the difference. And of course, she has to test them all first."

Flynn frowned. "You're not going to let her, are you? Year twelve is huge, she should be concentrating on her studies."

Karina raised her eyebrows and smirked. "When did you become so old and stuck in the mud?"

"Don't forget the wise bit."

"Whatever," Karina said, waving a hand in front of her face, mimicking her daughter in both language and action. "Lucy won't listen to me. She'll only sulk and pout and ignore her exams altogether if I don't let her get in on this. Besides, it's just a fad. She wanted to start a cheerleading troupe for the Hurricanes last term, remember?"

"Yeah, I suppose."

But his gut felt heavy at the thought of his little sister acting. No matter, the distraction seemed to have worked. His mom was once again stirring her soup with an attentive look upon her face.

Flynn took the chance to slip out the back.

* * *

As the Transwa bus turned into Hope Junction, Ellie tugged the rim of her sports cap down, hoping, with the help of her dark sunnies, that it would cover much of her face. Wearing bland jeans and a man's flannelette shirt, and with her mousy, chocolate-brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, she prayed that no one would recognize Stella Williams—one of Australia's favorite television characters—at least for now. She just wanted the chance to get to Matilda without attention, without anyone confronting her and telling her, in what would no doubt be colorful language, exactly what they thought of her.

But she knew it was only a short-term fix. There were no secrets in the entertainment industry, and even fewer in small towns. Everyone would be on high alert, awaiting her arrival. Next week's glossies would have the news of her sudden departure from the set, with some happy to speculate on the reason while others dug deeper for the truth. Either way, Ellie's return to Hope wouldn't remain a secret for long.

She imagined most people in her situation would be smiling, reminiscing fondly, eager to start adding to their memories. She had fond recollections, too, if she looked back far enough, but they'd all been railroaded by her most painful memory. The memory of making the biggest mistake of her life and, as a result, having to leave the only place she'd ever really called home.

But no one knew the real reason she'd left, not even Matilda. They just thought she was a selfish bimbo, a girl who hadn't fallen far from her parents' tree and couldn't hack commitment any more than she could country life. That hurt, but she'd rather that than the truth.

"Hope Junction," called the driver.

She dared to look up slightly, stealing a quick peek out the window to see if anything had changed. The welcome sign still read Population 1,199, although there'd been at least 1,500 residents when she'd lived here. The Shell servo still had a 1970s feel and the garden center on the corner looked more run-down than ever. The only sign of progress was a new café next to Apex Park—with "About Coffee Time" plastered in big letters across the top of the building.

For a split second, Ellie smiled wistfully, recalling weekends spent in the park, kissing Flynn under the slide, kissing Flynn on the picnic table, kissing Flynn by the bridge, kissing Flynn behind the toilet block. No doubt today's teens would be peeved with the location of the new café and being forced to find alternative premises for canoodling.

"Aren't you getting off here, miss?"

The driver's question broke her reverie. She turned her head slightly. Yep, he was definitely talking to her, but with neither bitterness nor admiration in his voice. He obviously hadn't a clue who she was. Perhaps her tomboy disguise would work after all. Perhaps she'd be able to walk the short kilometer to Matilda's house, dump her things and get to the hospital without causing much of a stir.

If she were honest with herself, it wasn't running into locals that most scared her. It was just the one local, the resident who, despite still being a constant player in her thoughts, she was absolutely petrified to see. How could she ever face him after what had happened? If he ever deigned to speak to her again, to hear her out—and she wouldn't blame him if he didn't—what could she possibly say? Sorry wouldn't even begin to cut it.

Not taking any chances, Ellie leaped off the bus, swiped her rucksack and suitcase from the hold and, with eyes trained firmly on the cracked pavement, began jogging toward Matilda's cottage. Although it was longer, she took the back way, past the football oval and the swimming pool, avoiding the main street. Did Flynn still play football? She glanced at her watch, knowing if she hung around a couple more hours—and if the Hurricanes were playing a home game—she'd find out. A shiver shot through her at the thought and she picked up her pace, all the more eager to get to her destination.

In all the years Ellie had been in Sydney, Matilda had visited faithfully every Christmas. And although Ellie was always invited to loads of high-society parties, there was no one she'd rather spend the holidays with than her warm, fun-loving godmother. Matilda had never once questioned Ellie's decision to leave Hope. She never mentioned Flynn, and although Ellie had been desperate on a zillion occasions to ask how he was doing, she'd always been too scared to inquire.

Flynn was always the best-looking guy at school, in the town—hell, the world wouldn't have been an overstatement. Captain of the footy team, tall, strong but still a bit lanky, tanned to perfection. He had a grin that made you feel all warm and liquidy whenever he flashed it your way. It'd be unrealistic—stupid—to think that his heart had stayed true to her. Why would it? Lord knows there'd been enough girls waiting on the sidelines. He'd probably moved on quickly and found someone else, married someone else, maybe even had babies with someone else. Happy, settled down, in love. That would be bad, really bad. Ellie couldn't bear to think about it, much less to know, and had avoided finding out for a decade. Flynn Stuart Quartermaine was taboo. Someone Matilda never mentioned and someone Ellie never searched for. But now, now she'd have no choice. Now she'd have to face what he'd become. Whoever that was. Whoever it was with. She tried to console herself. Maybe he'd left town?

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Jilted 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
onlyminordetails More than 1 year ago
My Thoughts: I hadn't heard of this one until more recently, and I'm glad I found out about it. Jilted takes place in Australia, which I think added a lot of character to the story for me. When Ellie and Flynn first meet again, it's not a pretty picture. But after a little bit of time, they let each other in again--slowly, gradually. After a personally tragedy, they can't help but be drawn together again. It doesn't take long for the past to come up again, and the real reason why Ellie left to begin. Can they find a way to make it work, despite everything that's happened over the years? Jilted was a cute second chance romance. It's a very long story, quite detailed, but it doesn't take away from the honest and heartwarming aspects of it. It kind of makes it better. More real and touching. Rachael Johns is a great writer, and one I'd read again. My Rating: Very Good
kydirtgirl68 More than 1 year ago
Ellie left Hope Junction 10 years ago. She became a soap star and now she is back in town to take care of her godmother Matilda. The town is just like she left it and the people in it are just like she figured they would be. No one will let her forget she left a great man at the alter when she left town. What they don't know is she left her heart with that man. Flynn was a broken man when Ellie left. He hit rock bottom and it took him a long time to get better. No one wants to see him get hurt again. Ellie broke his heart years ago and never ave him a reason why she left. He doesn't want to get hurt again or see her but in a small town they have to run into each other. They finally get the chance to talk and decide to be friends. Matilda had a secret of her won and that topped with the real reason why Ellie ran before may be more than Flynn and Ellie can handle. They may be trying to work it out but to much may be between them. Ellie is a very scared, nervous woman. She has to go back to a place where she knows everyone hates her. She is also very brave and caring as she is willing to face them to help her godmother. I really liked her as she does have moments she breaks down but she still fights through them. She could run back any time to get away from everyone but she doesn't. She still loves Flynn and it is easy to see. She is afraid to tell him her reasons for leaving. She actually seemed liked a real person one who you would like and not at all like the town thinks she is. Flynn is the home town boy everyone loves. The women want him and the guys are all his friends. He isn't perfect and has made mistakes but he has moved past them and still continues to do the right thing. He takes care of his grandmother, mom and sister and runs the family farm. He can be very sweet at times and is very protective of those who are hurting. I have to say I liked both if these characters a lot. What happens if you leave your love at the alter and have to return to the same small town? Being from a small town I was eager to read this book. I know how gossipy and judge mental people can be. Ellie is not the snobby person the town would make you think she is. She is actually very brave for returning to help care for her godmother. She isn't doing it for publicity or any other reason than the love she has for the woman who pretty much raised her. She even tries her best to get journalist to leave her ex Flynn alone. That showed you right away she still cared for him. This isn't the typical they were in love and fall right back to where they where before story. No you really get to know how both Ellie and Flynn feel and what they are thinking. There is love so know worries if that is what you are looking for. I do like how they take their time and try to become friends again but they are also there when each other need something. Matilda I loved right away. She gave up something to take care of Ellie years ago and just wants Ellie to be happy. She also broke my heart in just how she just still wants to make sure Ellie has everything she wants and needs even when she her self needs help. You will cry reading this but it is so worth the read. There is even a few characters to kinda not like. In good ways no worries just little catty people that add a touch the book to make it feel more real. I think anyone wanting a story of a returning love should give this one a try.
MTSmith More than 1 year ago
This had to be the most unusual second chance love story I've ever read. Before anyone thinks, "Oh, god. It's a horrible book.", let me explain. Flynn and Ellie's story could have been a by-the-book second chance romance if not for one little aspect that Ms. Johns incorporated. What I expected and got was: awkwardness of meeting again after ten years apart; uncertainty of their feelings for one another as they spent time together; hostility and wariness from Flynn toward Ellie. What I didn't expect was the way the rest of Hope Junction reacted to Ellie's return. Any negative feelings Flynn felt for Ellie was magnified a hundred times over by the good townsfolk. You want to talk about exceptional writing? Ms. Johns has it down pat in that regards. The hostility poured from the pages. Good Lord, you'd think Ellie cut a man's arm off by the way she was treated! I enjoyed this story immensely. There was a lot of back and forth between Flynn and Ellie's feelings for one another. That bit when Flynn lost all reason and tried to move on with plastic Lauren? Genius! The negatives of that relationship were so blatant I kept wondering what the hell it was going to take for Flynn to realize Lauren was wrong for him with a capital W. But I do give him credit for trying. If he hadn't tried, he wouldn't have ever known that there would never be anyone for him but Ellie. That doesn't mean Ellie wasn't without fault. She returned to Hope Junction to care for her injured godmother Matilda. Though she knew Flynn was still there, she wasn't returning to renew a relationship with him. The reason she left and the reason she didn't come back weighed too heavily on her to try anything with him. Of course, she didn't tell him that, not all of it. Matilda's death might have put things in perspective for her in that she finally came clean as to why she stayed away, but she had to know he wasn't going to react well when she told him, right? Was his reaction to her devastating news warranted? Yes, I believe so. But I don't believe he was right in staying away so long afterwards. The ending that came was a long time coming, and I don't mean just the ten years they were apart. The entire story was deserving of an incredible ending. Ms. Johns certainly didn't disappoint. 4.5* ***Received from NetGalley via Tasty Book Tours for an honest review***
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
chucha_13 More than 1 year ago
For a small town, gossip would always be inevitable. You do something, the next day it will be all over town. However, when the love of your life jilted you at the altar on the day of your wedding, it would take a hundred years before they forget it. Why in the world would she leave him? Flynn and Ellie were good together. They may have different backgrounds, but they clicked, they had chemistry. Until she left him standing there, alone. Heartbroken. After ten years, Ellie, now a soap opera star was back in town. She was back to take care of her injured godmother, Matilda and is determined to stay out of everyone’s way. She knew she wasn’t the town’s favorite after the stunt she pulled. But she had her reasons. Now, if only she wouldn’t bump into her old flame. But for a small-town and tight-knit community, news travel fast, and it’s not long before the people of the Hope Junction is gossiping about these two old love birds. It didn’t take long before fate had brought them back together. There were a lot of unresolved issues, and dark secrets that they needed to spill. And these secrets brought heartbreaking moments to this book. It has been a long time, and wounds that have been healing were once again cut fresh. Will they be able to surpass this? Or will their love story won’t be able to have a fresh start? I was pinning for the both of them. I knew that there is still sparks somewhere there, but I wished one of them would first open up about what happened why Flynn was jilted and the after effects of it. It was standing in the way. They needed to be honest, to form trust in order to pass through the strain in their relationship. I adore Matilda, she’s one of my favorites in this book, and I think she’s the one who had given life and laughter to it. This eccentric woman had taken care of Ellie when her mother was too busy living her life. And for that, Ellie would sacrifice anything for this old lady. But even her is keeping something from our girl. I admire Flynn’s determination not to succumb to the darkness that once engulfed him during his younger days when his heart was broken. Not just that, he was determined not to fall in love all over again with the one who left him at the altar, but to no avail. This girl had stolen his heart since they were a teenager, and she had not returned it yet. For those who love second-chance romance, this is a great read. Second chances are rare, and most likely you have to work for it. Flynn and Ellie’s road to second chance wasn’t easy, there were a lot of hurdles, their past, their secrets, and not to mention the people around them. It took them a while before they finally realize that they were meant to be together. But the wait, all those heartaches, and tear-jerking moments were worth it. 
PureJonel More than 1 year ago
This was a unique and original tale.  Johns takes you on a wild and emotional ride that encompasses so much more than just a romance.  The eloquent yet realistic manner in which she approaches the various aspects of life really draws you in.  At the same time, her poignant descriptions allow you to picture the scenery perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed the main characters in this story.  The depth of character was quite astounding.  Their hopes and dreams are just as important as their actions in the past and present.  I appreciated their struggles as much as the happiness that they derived from life.  Surrounded by friends and family that we get to know almost as well, Johns has created the perfect cast to carry her story forward. This well written and solidly built story will definitely capture the hearts of readers.  I, for one, couldn’t put it down. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.