I always think of Maggie Christensen’s Granite Springs series as a particular treat – something I know I’m always going to enjoy when my commitments for the month are done. But, with apologies to Maggie, I really am falling behind a little – the book I’m reviewing today, The Life She Creates, was published on 19th January (available for kindle and in paperback via Amazon in the UK and US). The next in series, The Life She Regrets (Amazon UK/US), is already out, published on 24th March, but that will have to be my treat for the end of another month. Actually, I’m really behind – I see the next in series (sadly, the last), The Life She Dreams, is also available for pre-order (Amazon UK/US), out on 22nd July.
You might just have noticed that I find this series, set in a small Australian country town, absolutely enchanting. This is the seventh book in the series (and my thanks, as always, to Maggie for sending me an e-copy). If you enter her name into my search bar, you’ll find my enthusiastic reviews of all six previous books in the series (and a few of her other books I’ve enjoyed too): I’ve mentioned before that this is a series of standalone stories that would have appeal for anyone, but especially for an older reader (like me!) who might sometimes struggle to find mature age fiction with characters they find easy to identify with, along with a particularly well-told story.
Let’s take a closer look…
Can Granite Springs provide healing and a new beginning?
Peta Forrest has arrived in the country town of Granite Springs determined to help her granddaughter cope with her mother’s brutal murder and create a new life for them both.
Frank Beattie, owner of The Bean Sprout Café, has finally accepted that his ex has moved on, and so should he. He finds himself drawn to the town’s new arrival – a woman whose vulnerability calls out to him.
While Frank piques Peta’s interest, her courage and energy are channelled into a dilemma she hadn’t anticipated – fighting for the right to care for her granddaughter.
Tempted to lean on Frank for support, she’s not convinced he’s over his ex and is wary of becoming involved.
Can Peta create the new life she’s seeking, and will Frank find the happiness he deserves?
I’d thought about maybe skipping one of the books in this lovely series, just so that I could keep up with the pace – the author really does produce books rather faster than I can read them, and I always have the next treat waiting. But I really, really wanted to catch up with Frank’s story – he entirely won my heart when I read The Life She Imagines, standing aside but being so loving and supportive as his former partner Marie found her own happy ending. I so wanted him to find a happy ending of his own – in fact, he really seems like my sort of man, and if I ever found myself in Granite Springs I’d certainly be visiting the Bean Sprout Café, sampling the coffee and one of those lovely cakes Marie still bakes, just to see if there might be a spark between us.
But this book is also very much Peta’s story – she finds herself in Granite Springs, fleeing from Sydney, looking for a refuge and fresh start for herself and her eight year old granddaughter Lily, her daughter having met a violent death at the hands of Lily’s father. They’re both very much damaged by the whole experience and the changes it’s meant to their lives – Lily has an enduring fear of anyone, especially men, who she doesn’t know well, while Peta has had to abandon her career as a successful interior designer, wracked with guilt that there she wasn’t able to see the tragic events approaching.
Frank is drawn to them both, and is able to offer them their safe place because of the recent changes in his own life, while providing the kind of gentle support they both need. They’re enveloped by the warm hug that the community of Granite Springs is always so wonderful at providing, and it’s a joy to see young Lily making new friends (Jo’s twin granddaughters) and slowly grow to trust “Uncle Frank”. But there are more clouds on the horizon, and Peta never expected to have a real fight on her hands to retain the care of her granddaughter – but there’s plenty of help at hand as things become increasingly difficult.
Meanwhile, Frank is wrestling a bit with his own issues – particularly watching Marie moving on to be happy in her new life, while his own is very much on hold. Young Lucy is causing some real concerns with the company she’s keeping – and he has the additional complication of a visiting Italian cousin, forced upon him by the obligations of family, and all while Frank is making a few changes in his own life. He’s increasingly attracted to Peta – but wary of moving too fast when aware of her fragility and the problems she’s grappling with.
There is – of course – both a romance and a happy ending, but at times this book does have slightly darker edges than the other books in the series, and that was something I rather liked. But all the other elements are present that have made me so love these books – the strong sense of place and community, the second chance romance, the warmth of friendship and support, and that continuity and comfort provided by the recurring strongly drawn characters, all of an age and with experiences it’s so very easy to identify with. And I really must stress that every single one of these books has a clear beginning, middle and end – although I now think of the cast of characters as friends, there’s absolutely no obstacle to reading and enjoying any one of the series as a standalone.
When Peta and Lily first move to Granite Springs, they stay first with cousin Ann – it’s an extraordinary act of kindness, but she really isn’t the easiest of women, distinctly lacking in warmth and softness. I’m delighted that the next in the series, The Life She Regrets, will be her story – I’m particularly intrigued by her, and really looking forward to it. I love this series – and I know there would be so many others who’d love it too.
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.