After all those lovely Christmas reads, I was rather looking forward to squeezing in the latest book from Maggie Christensen – you’ll all know by now how very much I enjoy her books, with those wonderful stories featuring older characters and situations I can so often identify with. Today it’s a pleasure to share my review of The Life She Chooses, the second in the Granite Springs series, published for kindle on 9th December, and also available in paperback.
You’ll find my review of the first in the series, The Life She Deserves, here: I was really looking forward to returning to Granite Springs and getting to know Jo’s friend Kay a little better, but if you’re new to Maggie’s books, there’s absolutely nothing that would stop you enjoying either book as a stand-alone. My thanks to Maggie for providing an advance e-copy for my review.
Two families. Two troubled pasts. Can they find a future together?
Following the loss of her husband and the devastating accusations surrounding his death, Kay Jackson has experienced the icy chill of alienation from the close-knit town of Granite Springs. Thrust into the position of personal assistant to a professor at the local university, Kay, who prefers to stay in the background away from the town gossips, is unsure how she will cope.
When Nick Kerr’s wife leaves him for a younger man, the professor is left nursing a broken heart while struggling to adapt to life as a single parent of two teens. Reeling from the indignity of his wife’s actions, Nick has no intention of putting himself in such a vulnerable position again.
However, as Kay and Nick’s professional relationship develops, they find themselves drawn to each other. As their friendship begins to morph into something more, Kay’s daughter arrives in town intent on controlling her mother’s life. The combined actions of Kay’s daughter and Nick’s children reinforces the many doubts the couple have on embarking on a new relationship.
Is there a future for Kay and Nick or will their families destroy any chance of happiness?
I always look forward to picking up a book by Maggie Christensen, and I so enjoy her character-driven stories: I know that it’ll be like spending time with good friends, seeing and experiencing all the complications life may throw at them.
I wasn’t sure I’d like Kay as much as I did the author’s other female leads – she didn’t leave the best impression from the first book in the series, with her spikiness and hard edges, but she certainly had good reason to protect herself with that brittle shell. Her experience through the loss of her husband and the circumstances in which it happened have left deep scars, and an understandable wariness around letting anyone get close to her. At the university where she works, she accepts the opportunity to cover for a professor’s PA – and although it takes her away from the chatter and gossip of colleagues, which she welcomes, he does have a reputation for being a tad “difficult”. But he – Nick – is damaged too, his wife having left him for a younger man, leaving him with caring for two teenage children.
The way their relationship develops becomes the main thread of the story – an embryonic relationship fraught with difficulties as they both wrestle with family issues and the legacy from their life experiences. Kay’s assertive (and difficult) daughter Zoe arrives, along with young son Noah, having walked away from her marriage: and she makes Kay’s life considerably more turbulent and difficult, her behaviour becoming increasingly thoughtless and inconsiderate as she rekindles a relationship from her teenage years. Meanwhile, Nick is going through the agony of a difficult divorce, while taking on the challenge of being sole parent to two demanding (but very real) teenagers. I very much enjoyed watching the way the relationship developed and sometimes foundered against the background of the demands of family – and grew to really like both Kay and Nick, very real people hoping for the possibility of future happiness together.
I particularly enjoyed seeing Jo and Col again (from the first book) – Kay regularly meets her for coffee, support and advice. It was good to see how their relationship had developed – and to meet again her twin grand-daughters (who particularly fascinate young Noah). And I loved the book’s vivid setting – rural Australia, with its touches of the unfamiliar and exotic in the small touches from the natural world around them.
This was a really well-told story about the challenges of parenting, the complexities of families, the difficulties in putting the past behind you, and of learning to love and trust again. As the characters feel their way forward, the author’s emotional touch is as wonderfully assured as ever – authentic and believable thoughts and feelings, moments of uncertainty that were entirely real and understandable, moments of happiness that brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face.
I’m already looking forward to the third book in the series – The Life She Wants will pick up Fran’s story (she’s the absent PA in this story), due for publication in March 2020, and available for pre-order. I’m already looking forward to returning to Granite Springs…
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.