Title: Water Under the Bridge
Author: Lily Malone
Published: February 19th 2018
Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Rural, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
Ella Davenport hasn’t been in a swimming pool since a bad decision ruined her chance of Olympic gold. So when Ella decides on a new career selling property, she chooses Chalk Hill. The country town is a long way from the water, with no pool in sight. Perfect!
Jake Honeychurch doesn’t want to sell his nanna’s house, but circumstances force his hand. Listing the property with the rookie real estate agent in town and asking a hefty price means it shouldn’t find a buyer. Perfect!
But determination and persistence are traits Jake admires, and Ella has them in spades. After all, no one ever made an Olympic team by being a quitter.
When news breaks of a proposed waterski park, a local developer starts sniffing around Honeychurch House. Ella’s first sale is so close she can taste it, until a sharp-eyed local recognises her. Between sale negotiations with Jake that keep getting sidetracked, and a swimming pool committee hellbent on making a splash, Ella has more to contend with than kisses and chlorine.
Can she throw off the failures of the past and take the chance of a new start? Or will her dreams of a new life be washed away?
West Australian author Lily Malone joins the band of talented fellow West Australian rural fiction novelists, who are all doing great things for contemporary romance. I was first introduced to Malone’s work when I read The Goodbye Ride back in 2014. It has been a pleasure to observe Malone’s writing evolve and her latest, Water Under the Bridge, is a novel that left me in awe. I admired Malone’s combination of solid characterisation, spectacular setting descriptions and the all embracing plot.
Ella Davenport is the feature protagonist in Water Under the Bridge, which is the first novel in a planned three book series, set in the WA small country town of Chalk Hill. Ella loves swimming but a terrible decision made in haste shot down any chances Ella had of making it on the professional swimming circuit. Trying to move on from career suicide, Ella decides to take a chance on a new form of employment, in real estate, in the rural based area of Chalk Hill. Ella knows the remote location of Chalk Hill means she can stay in hiding, no one will know of her Olympic dreams and there is a distinct lack of a swimming pool in the vicinity! Linked to Ella’s story is Jake Honeychurch’s journey. A property sale, Ella’s first, allows these two souls to come together. However, problems come in the form of a property developer, who sets their sights on the property deal Ella is trying to clinch. At the same time, the past Ella has tried to conceal is revealed by a local. Ella’s new life in Chalk Hill becomes one complicated mess, as she must deal with one issue after another. Will it send her running or will Ella find peace at Chalk Hill?
Nothing pleases me more than a new contemporary rural fiction release with romance elements from an author from my home state of WA. I’ve been very fond of the writing of Lily Malone, the author of Water Under the Bridge, for some time now and with this latest book, I feel she easily slides into the ranks of authors such as Rachael Johns, Fiona Palmer and Jennie Jones. Malone’s writing is effortless and so is her ability to deftly combine all the elements that make a successful rural fiction novel tick.
In Chalk Hill, the core setting of Water Under the Bridge, Malone has issued this reader with a familiar setting, which immediately served to propel me to this novel. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the exact location featured in Water Under the Bridge, I am familiar with the surrounding region. Lily Malone gets all the finer details of her setting just right in this novel. The locale came across as vivid and colourful. The community that resides in this small town are a likeable and realistic bunch. I loved the sense of community participation and mutual support that came out of this delightful small town. I’m so glad we get a chance to revisit the people and the locale of Chalk Hill again soon, via future books in this series.
Malone’s strength does lie in her characterisation skills, they are refined. I like the way in which Ella is represented. As the book progresses, we receive a thorough breakdown of Ella’s past, her achievements, her highs and her low points. I admit to being completely absorbed in her character journey, from the very start, to the closing moments of this novel. I liked how Malone fleshed out Ella’s character, showing us her vulnerable moments, her flaws and her admirable traits. Ella isn’t perfect, but who is? That is what is just so great about Malone’s style, it is so grounded. In Jake, the hero of the story, we have a handsome and genuine lead. I also enjoyed gleaning vital details on Jake’s background and I enjoyed following the growth of his character as the book progressed. Other notable characters featured in Water Under the Bridge include Erik, Ella’s loyal ex and Ella’s son Sam. Both make solid contributions to the path of this novel and are well constructed. Rounding off the character set are a bevy of community members, who form the foundation of Chalk Hill. Any reader will find it hard to resist developing a connection to this small town community.
Romance is definitely the order of the day in Water Under the Bridge and this is an area where Lily Malone truly shows us what she is made of. I really liked how Ella and Jake did have a great immediate attraction thing going on. It never felt forced or contrived. Ella and Jake’s pathway to love is a little bumpy, with a few roadblocks thrown in to liven things up. There was also a fair amount of swaying between feelings for this couple, which is understandable given the strains, as well as baggage they have brought into their potential relationship. If you like a little sizzle in your rural romance novels then this one will more than satisfy. It was in keeping of the style of the book and the relationship, which is always important to me as a reader when love scenes are involved!
Malone chooses to put the spotlight on a few themes in Water Under the Bridge. There is a good exploration of love, loyalty, emotions, finding your calling in life, starting over, family issues and developing an affinity to a community. Malone also opened my eyes up to the very fascinating professional swimming circuit at the Olympic level and the contentions at the heart of this sport. Equally, I enjoyed learning a bit more about an everyday career, a property sales consultant, operating in a rural based area, it was quite interesting! In addition, Malone draws our attention to the lack of resources and infrastructure in small country based towns such as Chalk Hill, the rural community town featured in Water Under the Bridge.
It is with delight that I recommend Water Under the Bridge to all readers, but those who have a passion for small town rural fiction novels, especially those with a healthy dose of romance, will revel in this new release. I look forward to revisiting the folk of Chalk Hill in the not too distant future.
Water Under the Bridge by Lily Malone was published on 19th February 2018 by Harlequin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Water Under the Bridge, Lily Malone, visit here.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty and Lace and Harlequin Books Australia. To read the original review on the Beauty and Lace website please visit here.
Water Under the Bridge is book #26 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge