How hard can it be to resist temptation?
Adeline Walsh never thought she would give up her worldly possessions – her iPhone, her make-up and even her successful life as a dog breeder – to join a convent on the other side of the country. But after the discovery of a shocking family secret she feels called to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Life at the Smallton convent is nothing like Adeline expected. The other sisters quickly become like family and Adeline feels like she’s found her place in the world. Until she meets Holden Campbell, a man as tempting as the devil himself.
Due to a devastating accident in his past, Holden is not interested in any relationship or even a friendship with Adeline, but when their dogs keep bringing them together, he reluctantly accepts her help to organise a charity event. An accidental kiss tests both their resolves, but they are determined to fight the attraction raging between them.
Holden doesn’t believe in love and Adeline isn’t going to risk everything she’s just found. Can they resist each other while continuing to work on a cause they both passionately believe in?
An emotional and uplifting story about overcoming your past from bestselling author Rachael Johns.
After a couple of glasses of wine and more cupcakes than she could count, Adeline was exhausted but her mind wouldn’t switch off. She grabbed her phone, collapsed back into her pillows, and started aimlessly scrolling Facebook.
What did people do to numb their thoughts before technology and social media?
It shouldn’t have surprised her that there were already hundreds of posts about Penelope Walsh’s death clogging her feed. As a stalwart of the CWA and someone who’d lived in their small community her whole life, she was well known. As Adeline scrolled through posts from locals, friends and family further afield, her throat clogged, and tears blurred her vision. She’d also received a few private messages from people who rarely gave her the time of day.
Even Meg Cooper-Jones had sent her sympathies.
This is what happened when someone died—folks who would normally bitch about you behind your back suddenly showered you with kind words and pity. Adeline knew she herself wasn’t very well-liked, yet even if she died, everyone would probably be singing her praises. People could be so fake.
But genuine or not, no amount of sympathy or pity would bring Gran back.
As if sensing she needed comfort, Bella licked Adeline’s hand and snuggled further into her side.
‘The only good thing about Gran’s death,’ she told the dog, ‘is that I’m more upset about that than Ryder’s rejection. Bastard.’
She had a good mind to post something on social media about how he’d been a less-than-satisfying shag, but that would be poor form even if her grandmother hadn’t just died and would also attract unwanted attention. It was bad enough that everyone in Walsh would know what had happened. She didn’t want the rest of Australia privy to her humiliation as well.
‘You’re lucky you only have to deal with boys twice a year, Bella,’ she said, thinking of the puppies she bred with her dogs. ‘Sometimes I think I should just give up on men!’
Not that she’d ever had much luck with female friendships either. Except for Sally, but their relationship had been forged by a shared irritation with her mother. Jane Walsh had never thought Sally good enough for her darling son, even after she’d given her grandchildren. Adeline could relate because she’d never been able to please her either.
‘Adeline! Are you in there? It’s time to stop moping. There’s work to be done.’
She startled at the sound of her mother’s piercing voice coming from the other side of her bedroom door—as if thinking of her had summoned her.
Groaning, she hugged Bella close as she checked the time on her phone. Hours had passed since she’d retreated from the world. She’d hoped her family had forgotten her existence as she still wasn’t ready to face any of them, but no such luck.
It might be different if they were a normal family—spending time together, sharing their grief and stories of Gran—but the Walshes didn’t show emotion. It was a sign of weakness.
Before she could reply, the door opened to reveal Jane Walsh, hands perched on her trim hips. She looked immaculate as always—as if Adeline had opened the pages of Australian Country and her mother, in muted stone-coloured trousers, carefully curated chambray blouse and glistening pearls, had stepped into the room in her RM Williams boots. Polished. Worn casually, but deliberately.
Her eyes immediately went to the near-empty bottle on the bedside table. ‘Have you been drinking?’ she hissed, leaning down to sniff Adeline’s breath.
Adeline pulled back but didn’t dignify the question with a reply.
‘And when did you last shower?’ Jane asked, grimacing as she reared back. ‘You look like Frankenstein’s sister. Pull your-self together and hurry up about it. Father Phillip is here, and we have things to discuss before the boys head out for evening milking.’
Without another word, Jane stormed out in much the same manner she’d arrived, not bothering to close the door behind her.
Adeline supposed she should be grateful that her mum was even including her in the funeral preparations, and she owed it to Gran to make sure her wishes were respected, so she dragged herself out of bed, shut the door and then headed into her ensuite bathroom to transform herself.
Half an hour later, she emerged into the formal living room where her parents, James and Father Phillip sat, the good china teacups empty on the coffee table between them.
‘Nice of you to finally join us,’ tsked Jane.
‘Hi Father Phillip,’ Adeline said as he stood to greet her. She went over to give him a hug—she’d probably hugged the parish priest more than she had her parents in the last decade.
‘I’m so sorry for your loss. Penelope was an extraordinary woman and I know you will miss her dearly. We all will.’
‘Thank you.’ Adeline retreated to the couch next to James, who was dressed similarly to their mother but in clothes that actually got a daily workout. ‘Have you told the boys yet?’
‘Yeah, I called them about an hour ago.’
‘How’d they take the news?’
James shrugged. ‘They’re tough kids. They’ve grown up on a farm. They know death’s a part of life. Besides, they weren’t that close to her.’
Adeline had to concede that was true—although Penelope had been very involved when Levi and Tate were born, she’d been unable to be a hands-on great-grandmother since the stroke.
Jane cleared her throat. ‘Enough of the chitchat thank you. We don’t want to keep Father Phillip waiting any longer than we already have.’
‘I’m fine,’ the priest said, smiling. ‘There’s no rush.’
‘Maybe for you, Father,’ piped up Adeline’s dad, ‘but the cows don’t wait for anyone.’
Adeline’s cheeks burned at her father’s words—sometimes she swore he cared more about the farm than he did about his own family. As a dairy farmer’s wife, Gran would have understood that the milking must go on, but that didn’t mean this felt right. She thought she saw slight disapproval in Father Phillip’s expression as well, but he covered it quickly.
As soon as they started discussing the various options for the funeral mass, Jane took over the conversation—deciding on the prayers, arranging the order of service, even selecting the hymns.
As hard as Adeline found it to focus, she made sure to interject whenever Jane suggested something that she knew Gran wouldn’t have wanted.
‘What hymns do you think Penelope would prefer?’ Father Phillip turned to her, trying to keep the peace.
‘Gran’s favourite was “Morning has broken”.’
Jane shook her head. ‘I don’t think so. It’s far too chirpy for a funeral. No, let’s go with—’
‘No,’ Adeline interrupted, tears springing to her eyes once again. ‘This is Gran’s funeral, not yours, and I won’t let you make it otherwise.’ Until now, she’d only felt bereft, but now she felt furious as well. ‘Why did you even drag me out here if you weren’t going to listen to any of my suggestions? I knew her better than all of you!’
‘Adeline,’ warned her father, his tone sharp. ‘Don’t be rude to your mother.’ Then he turned to Father Phillip. ‘I’m sorry, but James and I need to head off to the dairy. Thanks for all your help.’
James shot to his feet and Father Phillip followed suit. ‘Of course. Please call me any time over the next few days if you need.’
Her father cleared his throat. ‘Thanks. But I’ll leave all the arrangements to the ladies.’
When her dad and brother had left, Adeline turned back to Father Phillip. ‘I’ll choose the hymns and the Bible verses and email you the list. Thanks for everything.’ She stood as well, feeling unable to be in the room with her heartless mother a moment longer.
‘Where are you going?’ called Jane as she started towards the door.
‘Has anyone collected Gran’s things from the hospital?’
Jane shook her head. ‘The nurses said we could have until tomorrow.’
‘I’ll do it,’ Adeline volunteered. It was a good excuse to get away, and she didn’t want to leave her grandmother’s precious things to people who didn’t seem remotely affected by her passing. Left to her mother, they’d all likely end up in the big skip bin beside the hospital, whereas Adeline would lovingly pack them up, keep them safe and treat them with the dignity her grand-mother deserved.
After giving the dogs an early dinner, she climbed into her four-wheel drive and headed into town. Her heart squeezed as she drove past the shire office and saw the flag out front at half-mast as always happened when a local died. For the last few years with Gran in care, Adeline had often been the one to tell her when the flag was down and who had died. Gran hadn’t been able to respond but Adeline knew she liked hearing about what was happening in her beloved town.
A lump formed in her throat at the thought that she’d never have such a conversation again.
Inside the hospital, like on the farm, life was cruelly going on as usual. The two nurses on duty greeted Adeline with sympathetic noises and then left her to clear out Penelope’s room. Beds in the residential care section were in high demand and she knew that by tomorrow, somebody else would likely have moved into her grandmother’s room.
As she slipped inside the now cold and empty room, she closed the door behind her and inhaled deeply, trying to catch a familiar scent. When Adeline was a little girl, Penelope had always smelled of Pond’s hand cream and Loulou perfume, and when she could no longer apply these two things herself, Adeline had helped. She picked up the tub of hand cream from the bedside table, opened it and rubbed some over her skin, then sprayed a few puffs of Loulou onto her wrists, before popping both items into her hand-bag. Next, she collected the photo frames—pausing to sigh at the photo of Penelope and Henry on their wedding day, both of them glowing and looking head-over-heels in love—and put them into a big recycling bag. It seemed heartbreaking that Penelope had so little when she died, but most of her and Henry’s worldly possessions had been sold or given to charity when she’d moved out of her unit in town and taken up residence in the high-care, long-term wing of the hospital.
Miraculously, Adeline had managed to save Gran’s collection of Folio Society editions of classic books, a few china ornaments—which she hoped to display one day in her own house—and letters between Penelope and Henry from when they were first ‘courting’, as well as the hundreds of journals she’d filled over the years. And she planned on keeping every-thing she found here as well. If she couldn’t have Gran, the next best thing would be keeping the things near and dear to her.
The bed had already been stripped, so there were really only the clothes left. She removed the Sunday best that hadn’t been worn in years and then smiled sadly at the huge stack of issues of the Walsh Whisperer at the bottom of the wardrobe.
Gran had collected every edition of the local paper since Adeline had been involved in its publication. When she’d first moved in here, a nurse had tried to throw the papers out, and although Gran couldn’t vocalise her desire to keep them, she got so distressed that it soon became clear why. From then on, all the nurses and hospital staff knew never to get rid of them.
As Adeline piled the issues into more canvas recycling bags, a thought struck. The funeral might be massive and it would definitely have Jane’s stamp on it, but it would be over quickly and then everyone would move on, whereas she could do something far more special to honour Gran’s memory. She knew people laughed behind her back about how seriously she took her role as editor of the Walsh Whisperer, but even though it was only a small-town rag with local news, she enjoyed it, and no one could deny it played an important role in community engagement. Now she was even more grateful for her position because it meant she could give her grandmother the memorial she deserved.
The next edition would be dedicated to Penelope Walsh and all she’d done for this town, and it would be the best obituary that had ever been published.
Feeling slightly better now she had a mission, she packed up the rest of the stuff and then started taking it out to her four-wheel drive. On her way out, she bumped into Tabitha Cooper-Jones. Her chocolate brown hair was tied up in a practical ponytail, her full arm rested on her small baby bump and her amputated one hung limply at her side.
‘Oh, hi Adeline,’ said Tabitha with a cool smile. ‘You must be here to collect Mrs Walsh’s things?’
She nodded. Tabitha would be here to visit her own grand-mother, and although Adeline and Tab had never been friends, didn’t she know the protocol was to offer sympathy when some one’s loved one had passed?
But the other woman offered no such thing—maybe she was still dark about Adeline and Ryder—instead gesturing to the bags in Adeline’s hands. ‘Can I help you with those?’
‘No thanks,’ Adeline replied, not willing to accept help from someone so rude.
Although Tab and Adeline were almost the same age and had grown up together, they’d never been close; she’d been far more interested in Tab’s gorgeous older brother, Lawson. Sadly, he’d fallen in love with someone else, married young and had a child. When he’d lost his wife in tragic circumstances, she’d thought it was finally her chance, but then the mysterious Meg arrived in Rose Hill, and it wasn’t long before she realised Lawson was a lost cause once again.
What did it say about Adeline that he’d rather hook up with an ex-crim than her?
On Sale: 01/11/2023