Author: Jennie Jones
Harlequin RRP $27.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Some things take a long time in Swallow’s Fall, a sleepy community in Australia’s Snowy Mountains. Love is not one of them. Jennie Jones’ latest romance, The House at the Bottom of the Hill, hooks readers with the characters’ instant attraction and reels them in bit-by-bit with the tantalising promise of a happy ending.

Charlotte Simmons has moved to Swallow’s Fall to get answers, following the death of her mother. Using a Bed & Breakfast fixer-upper as a front, she plans to get the answers she needs and be gone within two months. She soon discovers that things in Swallow’s Fall don’t move that fast and any proposed change – such as re-painting the pink-hued house a sunflower yellow – must be discussed by the eccentric and by-the-book town council. When Daniel Bradford, the owner of Kookaburra’s Bar & Grill (who has his own plans for change), offers to act as mediator, her brain says no, but her body and heart say the opposite.

Jones has delivered another refreshing and romantic read with The House at the Bottom of the Hill. The attraction between red-headed Charlotte and taut-and-toned Daniel leaps off the page, simmering under a facade of competition and wariness, before heating up into a sexy no-strings romp. In an interesting turnabout, Charlotte is keen to keep it as a friends-with-benefits gig (mainly because she’s sticking to her two-month timeline), but Daniel is much clearer in his mind about his feelings for her. That’s half the conflict for Charlotte and Daniel, but the rest comes from misunderstandings, mis-communication and omission. The romance is backed up by a lovable cast of characters, including town “patriarch” Grandy, alien-spotting Ted, and warm-hearted matrons Mrs J and Mrs Tam. Readers of The House on Burra Burra Lane will enjoy the familiarity of the setting and the characters, but I’ve been remiss and still need to read this book.

The old-fashioned setting in Australia’s high country adds to the warmth (I have a soft spot for the Snowy Mountains) – it’s the kind of place I’d love to stop in for a meal. If anything, it’s a romantic depiction of rural town life – there are no nasty characters and issues that would typically impact on a small, remote community are absent. It kind of reminded me of Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls … The rose-coloured glasses are on, but I liked the way they made things look.

If you’re a romance reader, I’d recommend this.

Available from good bookstores and Harlequin Australia. My copy was courtesy of Harlequin Australia.

Bookish treat: I made some light and zesty Italian shortbread cookies – did I mention they were tasty?