REVIEW: Reinventing Hillwilla by Melanie Forde
Life on a llama farm, set in remote “Seneca County,” West Virginia, transitions from contented to chaotic in this final novel in the Hillwilla trilogy — all under the watchful eye of canine guardian Ralph. Five years after we first met northern urban transplant Beatrice Desmond, she is finally adapting to her mountain hollow among the wary “born-heres” and is more open to the blessings in her life. She has developed a rewarding mother-daughter relationship with troubled local teenager Clara Buckhalter and is inching toward marriage with dashing, but complicated entrepreneur Tanner Fordyce. Meanwhile, Clara sets off on a productive new path, one that would have been unthinkable had Beatrice never come into her life. All of that progress is suddenly jeopardized by Clara’s scheming mother Charyce. Ultimately, the upheaval touched off by Charyce’s schemes serves as the catalyst for new beginnings for the Seneca County misfits (even Ralph).
Dear Ms. Forde,
I was lax and haven’t gotten to this final book in the Hillwilla trilogy until now. What a lovely reunion with these characters and an emotional ending to the series. Readers who want to see a middle aged woman coping on her own power and becoming part of a middle aged couple, without any condescending attitude towards them, need look no further.
I think newcomers could start here as there is enough backstory information provided (and not in an infodump) to get people up to speed with all the characters and past events but these are such believable people that I would suggest starting with the first book to get the full effect. When I say believable, I mean I easily got caught up in their lives and didn’t pull back thinking, “That doesn’t make sense” or “Where did that come from?” or “This only happens in romance books.” These aren’t perfect characters either. They make mistakes, get angry at times, get angry at other characters at times, worry, and second guess things but everything makes sense and feels real.
Beatrice Desmond inherited a friend’s small llama herd and needing a change in her life, she bought a small farm in southeastern West Virginia. She soon acquired a young ward whose trashy mama had put Clara into a dangerous situation. Later Tanner Fordyce came into Beatrice’s life via Beatrice’s outspoken friend Evie (who is a hoot). Now five years after everything started, Beatrice is facing more life changes. Her new boss is a bitch (no lie), Clara has ventured off to college in Bea’s hometown of Boston. Tanner is getting tired of Beatrice refusing to consider marriage. And Bea’s old friend and best dog, Ralph is only looking after his Human and the farm in spirit. Beatrice isn’t one to gleefully jump at change so how is she going to manage all the things coming her way?
The things that happen in the book are things I can easily see happening in the real world: Job changes, job loss, opioid dependence , social friction between newcomers and old timers, teenage angst, longing for that perfect family even if deep down you know it’s not going to happen, fear of change, clinging to what you know, remembering that your beloved dog has grown old and is no longer there. Everything flowed, everything fit and the writing is lovely to snuggle down in and enjoy.
The llamas are more front and center of this book and in the end, wind up being an inspiration for Beatrice’s next stage in life. Teen Clara faces fitting into a new environment and a change in her feelings towards an old friend. Other characters deal with middle life events (knee replacement, terrible boss, new job). The conflicts are reasonable and I never once thought “Oh, come on!!” Before I knew it, I had reached the end (sad) but the ending was lovely. B+