Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Chalk Hill trilogy by Lily Malone

Recently I got an email telling me that the second book in the Chalk Hill series was on sale so I thought why not, especially seeing as I already had the first book on my Kindle, albeit unread.

When I was deciding what to read next, I decided it was time to actually read the first book, what I didn't realise is that it was apparently time to read all three books in the trilogy in succession.

Water Under the Bridge

Ella Davenport has just moved to the small town of Chalk Hill with her son Sam. She needs a new start, having recently separated from her husband. Not only is she moving to a new town, she is also trying to get her new career as a real estate agent off the ground.

Ella used to be almost kind of famous.  Many years before she was a rising swimming star, so close to going to the Beijing Olympics, until circumstances and scandal put an end to her swimming dream. She married her swim coach and together they were an advertisers dream, but now that part of her life is over. She has a new look and has changed her name back so that she can start her new life without any hangover from her previous life. And Chalk Hill is the perfect place. Not a swimming pool in site!

Her first listing to sell is a beautiful old home overlooking the Chalk Hill bridge. She needs this sale for her confidence, to establish her place in the family owned real estate agency she is working in, and for some income.  If only the seller would return her calls.

Jake Honeychurch really does not want to sell his late grandmother's house but his brother Abe most definitely does want to sell. Jake knows that Abe is in some kind of money trouble, but he has no idea what kind, so he has priced the property so high that no one will want to buy the place while he figures out what is going on. He also is sabotaging the open house viewings much to Ella's frustration.

I enjoyed the interactions between Jake and Ella and felt that they were a good match. Jake was also good with Ella's 10 year old son Sam who was struggling with all the changes in his life, and especially missing Erik, his mum's former swim coach/husband.

I have to say, I loved Erik, the one armed German swim coach who had been, and continued to be, Ella's' best friend and biggest supporter.

This was a fun, easy read filled with interesting characters and a fictional town that would be lovely to visit.


The Cafe by the Bridge



The second book in the trilogy is where we finally found out more about Abe's big secret. He has been scammed by a con woman and it has cost him everything. He has had to sell his successful restaurants and move back to the home town he left many years ago because he felt like he never really fitted in.

When Taylor Woods rolls into town, she is there for one reason and one reason alone - to find Abel Honeychurch. Her brother Will has been scammed by the same woman, and is now not doing well at all emotionally or financially. But how can Abe help someone else when he can't even help himself.

It feels a bit strange to say that I enjoyed Abe's story seeing as he had suffered so much at the hands of the scammer, but he's trying very hard to build his for now life. It's not where he necessarily wants to be, but it is where he needs to be for now. He's trying to build up a cafe in his grandmother's house, so there are plenty of food related passages that had me licking my lips.

Taylor was a little bit harder for me. She was a psychologist, specialising in children's psychology, but there were times in this story where she skirted the line ethically. She found out details about Amanda, the scammer, by using her dog to tempt Amanda's young daughter to talk to her so she was basically stalking people in order to get what she needed. I get that she wanted to help her brother to recover but she was a bit of a bull in the china shop and there were times when she was dismissive of Abe's feelings in her quest.

Having said that, she was good for Abe in lots of ways. She recognised his depression and encouraged him to ask for help, both in relation to what happened and also in relation to his somewhat estranged relationship with his father.

Last Bridge Before Home

Whilst I very much enjoyed the first two books in the series, I would say that it was the final book in the trilogy that really had me on the edge of my seat.

Jaydah Tully and Braxton (Brix) Honeychurch have been circling around each other for years and there is a very strong attraction between them..Brix has long been willing to make it public between them but Jaydah has always resisted for reasons he could never really understand mainly because Jaydah has never given him any reasons. They had to remain a secret, despite the fact that everyone can see that there is something between them.

Brix has come back to town because his family needs him,  but when it turns out that Jaydah needs him more he is immediately there for her. Little can he know just how much his life is going to change, because with Jaydah he doesn't only get her. Her mother and sister come as part of the whole package deal. Jaydah is absolutely determined to get all of the Tully women out from under the roof of the family home, which is a bit difficult because no one in town knows that her sister even exists.

The secrets that people keep are a theme in these books. Even in a small town, where everyone appears to know everyone else's business, it is possible for people to keep their deepest secrets if they really need to. Even within a seemingly close family, there are secrets that are suddenly revealed, sometimes in the worst of times.

Jaydah is a strong character, who does whatever she can to protect her mother and sister, often at her own expense, and it is she that comes up with the escape plan and who puts the wheels in motion. Brix is also a fantastic character. He is a one woman man. He loves Jaydah, and once he finds out about Jaydah's home life, he wants to immediately spring to defend her but after the initial shock, he does respect that this needs to be done Jaydah's way. And when she springs her second surprise on him, he takes it all in his stride.

It is not unusual for romance authors to use the canvas of their books to examine the relationships between the characters, but also to look at bigger issues. In this book, it is the issues of domestic violence and the rights of people with mental disability. As such, it is darker than the other two books, but it is so well done.There were times when I was reading this book where my stomach was roiling as I read the page, knowing that of course everything was going to work out (this is a romance after all) but worried about how difficult the journey was going to be for all involved. The relief when the characters situation change was palpable for me, almost as though I could finally release my long held in breath.

I have read four books by Lily Malone now, and I definitely intend to read the remaining books in her backlist, as well a keeping an eye out for what comes next from her.

As I mentioned previously, we actually visited the area that this book was set in a couple of months ago, which helped me imagine the area in a vague sense. Reading these books also made me want to go back. We were only down in the south west of Western Australia for a few days, and there is still plenty to see and do in the area.

6 comments:

  1. I've never heard of Lily Malone before, but these books sound intriguing. I'll have to check them out. Thanks for the heads-up!

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  2. I'm going to remember these books for summer reading on the deck (months from now, unfortunately).

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    1. They'd be different reads for you for sure!

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  3. Sounds like an author worth checking out.

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  4. This is a new to me author. I admit that has happened to me where I hear of a second or third book in a series I want to read, but haven't yet read the first book--and then I do a little binge reading. This sounds like a great series in which you really got into the characters lives--I love it when that happens! People are so quick to write off romances, but as you said, they often touch on bigger issues, sometimes in a more approachable way than other books might.

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