Kernel Deb reviews PARADISE ROAD from Australian author CJ Duggan. PARADISE ROAD is the sequel to her PARADISE series first novel PARADISE CITY and is basically a modern day romantic book that would make Mills and Boone proud. It is also a young adult book with the lead girl being seventeen, it is that time in our lives with limited real world worries where it was endless summer, beautiful bodies, care-free eating and sexual discovery. Basically soft porn for easy reading consumption, or a book version of Summer Bay, basically limited thinking required and sexual fantasy included. I discovered a new book genre while editing this review, apparently “New Adult Fiction” is a thing that CJ Duggan is making a fortune from, especially with here SUMMER series of books and now with here PARADISE series. PARADISE ROAD is out now from the peeps at Hachette Australia. If she keeps putting guys that hot on the covers eventually I may read one :). If you want to know more about CJ Duggan and her books check out her own website HERE, the book can probably be obtained in most bookstores of you can acquire it HERE. Enjoy Deb’s review……all the best….JK.


paradise city book cover image



PARADISE ROAD the sequel to PARADISE CITY, is a literary confection that reads like a sexed-up script of HOME AND AWAY. The original book covers the transition of the central protagonist, Lexie Atkinson, from a life in remote Red Hill to the coastal city PARADISE ROAD, and covers youth topics such as changing schools, fitting in, and blossoming sexuality. The sequel PARADISE ROAD is superficially about Lexie’s subsequent transition from teen to young adult, covering her entry into the job market and gradual monetary independence. However Australian author CJ Duggan is clearly aware that romance fiction is the top selling sector of the book market, and is unmistakably pitching for romance readers by ramping up the sexual content in PARADISE ROAD.

According to DUGGAN’S website the age of the central characters in her novels mirrors her intended audiences so it is no surprise that in PARADISE ROAD Lexie is seventeen, a few weeks shy of legal adulthood. Lexie is a typical modern kidult. She is self-absorbed, frequently drunk, and uninsightful about herself and others. Luke Ballantine, her boyfriend from the previous novel PARADISE CITY, is away on a surf tour with his friends, leaving her in emotional limbo. At the start of the novel, her parents decree that she needs to find a job, a place to live, and manage to complete her final year of school if she is to stay in Paradise. Failure means returning to rural Red Hill to hang out with her family which includes the embarrassing Uncle Eddie and her powder-blue safari-wearing grandfather. Lexie understandably wants to stay in PARADISE ROAD.


CJ Duggan author image
Author Image – Photo Credit: Craig Peihopa


Like all good bodice rippers Lexie’s journey towards love is the plot. Her journey towards independence is a secondary but essential component to the plot as it allows the feisty heroine to encounter potential partners. Lexie inveigles her way into a job at the local Wipe Out Bar, where she meets Dean Saville; the bossy, tattooed, moody, half-brother of her ex-boyfriend. The bulk of the narrative in PARADISE ROAD covers Dean and Lexie’s combative interactions. Duggan is blatantly aiming for a PRIDE AND PREJUDICE Darcy and Elizabeth-like homage here, but for good measure she throws in a ROMEO AND JULIET balcony scene. Dean Saville is really more a Stanley Kowalski type of character but Tennessee Williams and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE do not rate a mention.  This mish-mash of influences doesn’t quite work, but then romance fiction is not high literature.

Duggan’s first job was at a local hotel, and her descriptions of the Wipe Out Bar itself, the bar staff and workplace politics are some of the most successful parts of PARADISE ROAD. Less successful is the repetitive use of “crap” as an expletive, along with the occasional F-bomb. Some of the pop culture references also miss their mark such as “Swayze moment” and “Myspace Updates”. The juvenile low-brow dialogue is far from sparkling but it is not, sadly, inauthentic. For example one exchange between Lexie and Dean reads:

“You can’t make me”

“Oh Yes I can”

“No, No really you can’t”

“Yes I can times infinity no returns.”


paradise road book cover image


Romance fiction is escapist and Duggan has purposefully created a physically-beautiful male character in Dean Saville. She repetitively describes his chiseled features, rock-hard torso, ink work, and bulging denim. He is the epitome of confident masculinity but of course underneath his bluster, he is actually a nice guy making him the perfect fantasy man. It is a pity that the sensual, sexual encounters and dream sequences are so terribly clichéd, but then again romance fiction is not known for gritty, fumbling, less than perfect depictions of sex.

PARADISE ROAD is literary fairy floss. The characters are under developed; the dialogue is low-brow, the sex scenes are clichéd, and of course it is no surprise that Duggan’s heroine, despite her flaws, manages to solve her problems and find love; after all happy endings are de-rigeur in romantic fiction.  Nevertheless if I was seventeen and lounging around on the beach it would be perfect brain candy, and according to the Hachette publicity testimonials this is exactly the audience this book is aimed at. I have no doubt it will be popular with its intended audience.


2 and a Half Pops


Deborah is a lifelong lover of books, food, TV and film with a penchant for schlock horror, superheroes, science fiction, black comedy and Asian martial arts stars. She would prefer to skydive than couch surf and is a fan of zombie walks. She can be found plugged into podcasts on long walks with her dog.

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.