Title: The Cafe by the Bridge (The Chalk Hill Series, Book 2)
Author: Lily Malone
Published: December 17th 2018
Publisher: Harlequin – Mira AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Australian, Romance
Rating: 4.5 stars
Fresh and down-to-earth in style, Australian author Lily Malone returns with a sparkling new ‘Chalk Hill’ romance that will appeal to all romance readers, from contemporary to rural romance. Perfect for readers who love Rachael Johns.
Child psychologist Taylor Woods needs a man. Flashy restaurateur Abel Honeychurch to be specific. Abe can help her get justice for her brother, Will. Taylor knows Abe, too, was scammed by the same woman who broke her brother’s heart and stole everything in his pockets.
But bringing a lying, cheating scammer to justice isn’t easy when all Abe wants to do is forget the whole sorry saga. He’s returned to his home town of Chalk Hill to lick his wounds and repay his debts, renovating his nanna’s house and opening the Chalk ‘n’ Cheese cafe.
He’s miserable. And it would be easier to stay miserable if everyone else around him wasn’t so darn cheerful. It’s wildflower season in Chalk Hill with a cafe full of upbeat bushwalkers, and it’s all Abe can do to remember to put sugar, not salt, in his customers’ cappuccinos. He definitely has no time for the mysterious red-headed guest who admires his cheesecake and adores his flat white.
Taylor’s mission to help her brother seems doomed – how will she gain the trust of a man whose every instinct tells him never to trust a woman again?
Book number two in West Australian based Lily Malone’s well received contemporary rural romance series, Chalk Hill, sees a brand new couple placed in the spotlight. The Cafe by the Bridge introduces Abel Honeychurch (Abe), a young man who is hurting from being duped by a woman. The very same woman also destroyed the life of another man, the brother of Taylor Woods. Taylor arrives in Chalk Hill determined to seek Abe out. Taylor wants to enlist Abe to help her to bring this scammer to justice. In this tale of trust, secrets and overcoming setbacks, Taylor and Abe negotiate a rocky road to love.
The Cafe by the Bridge welcomes two new characters into the tight knit fold of Chalk Hill. There is also some time devoted to revisiting two much loved characters from the first book in the series, Jake and Ella. The action this time around is centred on Abe Honeychurch, once a well known restaurateur, who has returned to the town of Chalk Hill, his hometown, with his tail between his legs. Abe was duped big time by a manipulative woman. Abe invests all the energy he has left in his nanna’s home and his little cafe, Chalk ‘n’ Cheese. But these projects do not seem to distract Abe from his broken heart and mounting debts. Abe is one unhappy soul and when Taylor Woods, a child psychologist, enters his cafe one day, his life takes an interesting turn. Taylor’s insistence to get Abe onside to help in the case of bringing the woman who robbed her brother of everything seems doomed from the start. Abe is resistant to any form of help. His gut tells him to keep a safe distance from Taylor, but she is one determined woman, who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Abe, on the other hand, just wants to be left alone to wallow in his own self pity.
Lily Malone dazzles us again! She delivers another fabulous read from the heart of a fictional town I have come to embrace deeply, Chalk Hill. What a homecoming to return to this delightful little township in WA, a community that provides all the feels. The Cafe by the Bridge was a heartfelt story. It made me smile, snigger and most of all, feel a great deal of empathy for the lead character, Abe.
Soon after beginning The Cafe by the Bridge, I was reminded of how Lily Malone’s writing just clicks together. Malone is able to convey a mixture of emotion, reality and warmth, along with her gentle flourishes of sardonic humour. I was feeling a little under the weather while reading this novel, but after immersing myself in Abe Honeychurch and Taylor Woods’ lives, I got that feel good injection. Just what the doctor ordered!
There was a nice reunion feel to this tale too. As I was already familiar with Chalk Hill and its inhabitants from the previous novel, so a great sense of familiarly washed over me. I loved the chance to catch up with Jake and Ella, both these characters earned a place in my heart after the first novel. I enjoyed meeting Abe and Taylor, as well as the other side characters that populate this tale. Lily Malone’s characterisation skills are always spot on, and I found nothing to fault with this current novel. Abe and Taylor are presented with such clarity that I could easily envisage each person and their feelings, as well as their actions.
The Cafe by the Bridge is a real tale of love resistance. Abe is a lost soul, who is adamant that he doesn’t want to get mixed up again with a woman. He is met by a feisty and determined soul, Taylor, a woman who exudes loyalty, but she won’t take no for an answer! Their push-pull style relationship was really great to follow along. The secrets that are exposed as narrative unfolds and the lessons that are learnt by this couple was portrayed well by Lily Malone.
For me, I really felt The Cafe by the Bridge casts a critical eye on the word trust. It defines the very being of Abe, the lead male character of this novel. It reminds us that trust is an essential aspect of human nature and without it in our relationships, it is hard to function.
‘It looked like a face you could trust. Except, of course, you couldn’t.
You couldn’t trust anyone these days, not till you got to know them, and sometimes not even then. The world was full of scammers and lairs, and women who’d sell their own child if it netted them enough cash.’
The story that underlines The Cafe by the Bridge also reminds us of the need to reach out for help when you need it. The experiences of this character set allows us to see that it is vital to seek out support. Lily Malone treats depression with the care and attention it deserves, alongside side themes of ageing, debt and family secrets.
I adored the flare of love that eventually sparks between Abe and Taylor, it was a joy to follow. Their burgeoning relationship and the steps they take to develop a circle of trust is played out against a stunning postcard to the south west region of Western Australia. I was taken aback by this brilliant tribute to our state. The characters trek familiar grounds and visit spectacular holiday spots that I have been very lucky to experience firsthand. Lily Malone’s special treatment of these picturesque locales will leave you breathless and wanting to visit, or revisit, each spot.
‘Little beach at Albany took Taylor’s breath away. A curve of beach like a Mona Lisa Smile, and the whitest stretch of sand she’s ever seen, so fine it was like walking on crushed chalk.’
Contemporary rural romance readers need to look no further than Lily Malone and her Chalk Hill series. The Cafe by the Bridge is another enthralling chapter to a much treasured series. Highly recommended.
The Cafe by the Bridge was published on 17th December 2018 by Harlequin – Mira AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Cafe by the Bridge, Lily Malone, here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin – Mira AU for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Cafe by the Bridge is book #8 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge