It’s a real pleasure today to share my review of The Life She Imagines by Maggie Christensen, the fifth book in the Granite Springs series set in the small Australian country town: published on 21st August, it’s now available for kindle (also available free via Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US. As always, my thanks to the author for providing my e-copy for review.
I just love this series – but I rather think you might know that by now. I’ve reviewed all four previous books – if you pop Maggie’s name into my search bar, you’ll find all the reviews – and a few of some of her other excellent books too. Whenever I have time to choose a book from my “books waiting” list, I’m always drawn to the next book from her – and I’m rather delighted that she always seems able to produce the next book at just the time that I’m ready to read it…
Marie Cunningham’s life falls into disarray when she is suddenly thrust into caring for her teenage niece. After operating The Bean Sprout Café with her former partner, becoming a single parent is not a life she ever imagined.
Drew Hamilton has arrived in Granite Springs to take up the position of principal at the local high school. Recently divorced, he is struggling with the unfamiliar role of single father to his unsettled teenage daughter.
When an unexpected incident brings the two together, the chemistry between them is not immediately apparent. Forced to associate as their teenage charges become best friends, they gradually lower their defences to discover they have a lot in common.
But when a ghost from the past threatens to derail her new life, who should Marie turn to for support – the new man in her life, or the ex-partner who’s always been there for her?
Can Marie and Drew find their happy ending, or will the past threaten to pull them apart?
Marie’s been there, quietly in the background, in all the Granite Springs books, running the Bean Sprout Café with her ex-partner Frank – but the focus has always been on other characters, meeting up, drinking the excellent coffee, eating her flapjacks. This book brings her to centre stage – at a point when she’s really wondering whether it’s time to change her life a little. But then change is rather forced on her, and not in a way she ever imagined, when she finds herself caring for teenage niece Lucy.
Drew’s a rather more recent arrival in the country town – the principal at the High School – and while he might be adept at dealing with large numbers of hormonal teens on a daily basis, his daughter Jess is proving more of a challenge. Although he’s moved out of Canberra for the best of reasons, she’s really struggling to settle – until she and Lucy become close friends. And that brings Drew and Marie together – at first because of their parenting responsibilities, but then the attraction between them begins to slowly grow.
As always, this is a relationship-based story, and perhaps has a little less drama than some of the other books – well, until Lucy’s father appears on the scene. But I really enjoyed the twists and turns of Marie’s story – Frank, although they’re no longer together, has been central to her life for a very long time, and that adds an intriguing layer to the developing mature romance and the usual challenges that can bring. And Frank’s such a lovely man – you can feel every moment of Marie’s dilemma, her reluctance to give up on the support and loving care he’s always provided, and the difficulties of moving forward into a different life.
Do you know, I’d never realised that Granite Springs was only a couple of hours away from Canberra – that widens the canvas of the book a little from time to time. But the community of Granite Springs provides the main setting – with plenty of interaction with the characters who became friends through the earlier books. As always, it’s wonderfully drawn – and there are those lovely touches of the exotic for the curious English reader, with Marie waking to the sound of arguing kookaburras and all those other glimpses of nature.
This book is entirely readable as a standalone – although I’ll admit I aways particularly enjoy that recognition of the familiar setting, and the glimpses of other “friends” in a supporting role. And, as always, I’d really recommend this book to readers of a certain age – while Marie’s personal challenges aren’t necessarily too familiar, her problems and challenges are very easy to identify with. And I particularly liked the way that the chemistry between Marie and Drew grew slowly – almost absent at first, and Marie’s really not looking for a new partner, but it develops in a way that’s very real indeed.
I love this series – and this is yet another excellent story, real life on every page, with such strongly drawn characters, and so beautifully written. Have you tried any of the books in this series yet? If not, I really recommend you give one a try – you might just enjoy Maggie Christensen’s writing as much as I always do.
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.