When I read and reviewed The Good Sister by Maggie Christensen – you’ll find my review here – I knew I’d found an author whose writing I could love. And I’ve now had the real pleasure of reading the sequel, Isobel’s Promise, published on 2nd August (my thanks to the author for my review e-copy) – and I wish I could go on and read everything else she’s ever written.
A promise for the future. A threat from the past. Can Bel find happiness?
Back in Sydney after her aunt’s death, sixty-five year-old Bel Davison is making plans to sell up her home and business and return to Scotland where she has promised to spend the rest of her life with the enigmatic Scotsman with whom she’s found love.
But the reappearance of her ex-husband combined with other unexpected drawbacks turns her life into chaos, leading her to have doubts about the wisdom of her promise.
In Scotland, Matt Reid has no such doubts, and although facing challenges of his own, he longs for Bel’s return.
But when an unexpected turn of events leads him to question Bel’s sincerity, Matt decides to take a drastic step – the result of which he could never have foreseen.
Can this midlife couple find happiness in the face of the challenges life has thrown at them?
A sequel to The Good Sister, Isobel’s Promise continues the story of Bel and Matt which began in Scotland
If you enjoy reading about strong women who have learned to love and love in later life, you’ll love Maggie Christensen’s books.
I know some people doubt the immense appeal for the older reader of a book where characters are at mid-life or beyond and share many of life’s experiences – after all, we were all young once, weren’t we? But it’s just wonderful to open a book and find that you can totally identify with its central characters, recognise their concerns and responses, understand their dilemmas. I loved watching the relationship between Matt and Bel develop in The Good Sister, and took them to my heart – and it was such a pleasure to join them again, although apart for much of the story, as they negotiate life’s obstacles in anticipation of their own happy ending.
No dual timeline in this one, the book follows Bel to her home in Sydney – a home she plans to leave after completing all the practicalities, to follow her heart back to Scotland and Matt. I really enjoyed the unfamiliarity (for me) of the Australian setting, captured in all its colour and detail. Every scene is beautifully described – from the Opera House and harbour to the interior of Isabella’s (Bel’s boutique), and the home she’s grown to love and has now decided to leave. But this isn’t a travelogue – Bel needs to tie up the loose ends of her life, however difficult, and there are so many twists, turns and echoes from the past that make it far more difficult than she ever anticipated. Meanwhile, Matt eagerly awaits her arrival for Christmas – still wrestling with opposition from his daughter, his communications with Bel complicated by distance and time differences. Misunderstandings abound, exacerbated by the interference of others and an unforeseen tragedy – this is such a good story, authentic in all its emotional touches, sometimes frustrating and at times quite heartbreaking.
Bel’s own story is excellent – her friend Lou offering unwelcome advice and observations (I really liked their relationship) as she gets increasingly overwhelmed by everything she needs to handle. And as if selling up the house and the shop aren’t fraught with enough difficulty, new problems continue to cross her path – and her confident determination and belief in her own heartfelt decisions begin to waver. All the characters are so very well drawn – even the unwelcome arrivals – and I really enjoyed the secondary story of the dismantling of a marriage and the support Bel provides while disentangling considerable issues of her own.
This is such a well told story, wrapping you up and moving you through every twist and turn, every practical and emotional moment authentically drawn, characters you really take to your heart. And I must add that this book would be totally comfortably read as a standalone – there’s enough catching up on the earlier story, unobtrusively but perfectly done.
As an older reader, I’d recommend it without reservation – as a reader of an engaging story with strong characters you can really care about and believe in, facing the kind of everyday issues everyone does, believing in the possibility of second chances, my recommendation would be the same. Maggie Christensen can do no wrong for me – I really loved this one.
About the author
After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them.
From her native Glasgow, Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!
She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where she selects and delivers books to the housebound. A member of Queensland Writer’s Centre, RWA, ALLi, and a local critique group, Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks.