REVIEW: On the Hillwilla Road by Melanie Forde
This follow-up novel to Hillwilla explores how disparate characters can grow to need and depend on one another In Hillwilla, Beatrice Desmond, a former Bostonian Ivy Leaguer, found herself in midlife on a llama farm in remote West Virginia. Clara Buckhalter, a troubled young girl, drew Beatrice out of her lonely existence. Now, Clara attends a different school at Beatrice s urging, and finds herself involved with two new friends who are confusing and intimidating yet caring.
Beatrice s tantalizing friendship and romance with the dashing, wealthy, and extremely handsome Tanner Fordyce discover new and deeper connections though they continue to spar and infuriate each other. And Beatrice s farm replete with temperamental llamas; Ralph, her loyal English setter; and the occasional wild critter further serves as an oasis of refuge and healing. This sequel explores how such disparate individuals can grow to need and depend on one another, even as Beatrice finds herself confronted with a new, life-altering choice.
Dear Ms. Forde,
Since I finished the first book in the Hillwilla series, I’ve been looking for a spot in my reading schedule to slip in the second installment. Things pick up back in West Virginia with Beatrix on her farm with her llamas and teenager Clara, the rest of the Buckhalter clan, dashing international traveler Tanner, Beatrice’s BFF Evie, and one villain.
CW for the villain who actually starts the action in this book. His awfulness was laid out in the first book and is the reason that his step-daughter Clara couldn’t live with her mother. Just when I was seriously squirming in my chair about his actions, karma arrives and kicks him in the ass. Twice. Booyah.
Though the characters were established in “Hillwilla,” there is enough delicately sketched in detail about each and how they relate to the others that I think new readers of the series would do fine. Obviously for more depth, I heartily recommend starting with book one. There are some new people added (including a born-here who went there and is now sort of a come-here) to the mix and we see Clara settling into her new and more challenging school. Beatrice is still having issues with the natives being a “come-here” vs their “born-here.” Not as many view her as a snooty outsider anymore but as Beatrice discovers on a trip back to Boston, she hasn’t felt at home there in years either.
Beatrice might initially have felt put-upon when asked to take on care of Clara yet their relationship, despite a few bumpy moments, continues to deepen. Beatrice might be worried about her lack of parenting skills but there are plenty of times when the knowledge and experience she has is just what Clara needs. She’s not sure what her relationship with Tanner Fordyce is or where it’s going. Both are older, have endured some knocks from life and aren’t afraid of saying what they think.
Once again I feel I’m right in the middle of life and the beauty of the various seasons in rural West Virginia. I’m not sure if some of the rough edges have been filed off a little or if I’m just used to these characters now and feel comfortable with them. Some are still making mistakes and disappointing others – just as real people do. Some are trying to fit in while others are thinking of life outside these mountains. I am happy that the last novel is already out and will be ready when I’ve got a chance to dive in and see what is in store for everyone. B