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Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards

One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards

Ive been known to complain about author blurbs on books, but in the case of'One Mountain Away the cover quote is fitting indeed. Not only does it warn you up-front about the box of tissues you might need handy, but the quote comes from highly regarded womens fiction author Diane Chamberlain, of whose work this book is strongly reminiscent: it contains all the intensely personal narratives, the cross-generational relationships, and the big, bold themes Id expect from Chamberlains work, and given that Richards has some seventy novels under her belt, its little surprise that this is a confidently, richly constructed read.

After a slightly awkward beginning, one featuring a first person journal entry that feels less mysterious and intriguing than unanchored and out of place, the novel starts to settle into its stride when we switch over to a third person perspective. (The journal entries to continue to interperse the present day narrative, but theyre less intrusive as the story progresses.) Charlotte, whos both our diarist and our protagonist, arrives at the local chapel, and the awkwardness and untimeliness of her appearance there makes us wonder just why shes returned. We soon get the sense that Charlottes success as a property developer is one thats put her at odds with many in the community, and that her arrival at the chapel is a sort of capitulation, perhaps an olive branch. Immediately were driven to wonder for what reason, and why now.

The narrative slowly pans away from Charlotte, giving us a broader sense of her personality, her background, and where she fits in with the small semi-rural community of Asheville. We learn that shes a woman who has fought all her life for the success and status she now enjoys, but though both of these have helped obscure her impoverished, working-class roots, theyve also had a deleterious effect on her personal life. Her marriage and her relationship with her daughter Taylor have both been effectively destroyed not so much by Charlottes career, but what her career represents: a deep fear of somehow regressing to her lowly background.

Charlottes intransigent, vehement mindset about her daughter being raised to have the opportunities that she herself lacked is a huge part of the wedge that has been driven between them. On some level, it was Taylors rebellion against Charlottes narrow outlook about the appropriate ways to live a life that led to the former becoming pregnant as a teen. After the birth of Taylors daughter, Maddie (aside: why are all kids in this genre called Maddie?), the two become estranged, ostensibly over some harsh words spoken by Charlotte, but in reality probably because its a rift thats just been waiting to be formalised.

Its now ten years later, and Charlotte is attempting a reconciliation with both her family and the town that is so ambivalent about her. A life-changing diagnosis means that time is running out for Charlotte, but shes come to the painful realisation that though she now has the financial clout she has longed for all her life, the problems she wants to solve'cant be solved solely using money. They require getting involved on a personal level. And curiously, when Charlotte commits to wanting to do good in the world, events and situations conspire so that she can: its like what my husband says about the universe always giving you what you ask it for. When you realise that you have only one mountain left to climb, as Charlotte puts it, your focus and approach starts to change. And so Charlotte soon finds herself looking after a young pregnant woman, a situation that lets her do over her past with Taylor, helping an injured farmer by taking in a litter of pups, and smoothing over some of the difficulties that have arisen between her and her ex-husband Ethan.

This isnt an unpredictable novel by any means, and the narrative plays out pretty much in the manner that you expect it to, as well as along the time-frame that youd imagine. In addition to that, I did feel that some of the parallels were a little too-heavy handed, in particular the several (!) subplots involving young pregnant women or young mothers, and I did feel that the fact that Maddie was given a non-threatening but chronic condition was both a little familiar and possibly an unnecessary way of raising the stakes.

That said, this is a richly imagined read, and the characters in it come alive. I appreciated the complexity of the relationship between Charlotte and Taylor, and how that relationship was shown to have its roots in Charlottes childhood; and how its influence threatened to undermine Taylors relationship with her daughters father and with Taylors own father. Richards does an excellent job of teasing out the push and pull of these relationships, and the way that they can play such an enormous role in shaping who we are. I also appreciated the space given to developing the character of Ethan. An issue I often have with this genre is that male characters can be underdeveloped, but I felt that Richards not only fleshed out Ethans character, but gave him a difficult and demanding role requiring the negotiation and navigation of a number of difficult situations.

In all, this is an extremely solid read, and Im pleased to have discovered Emilie Richardseven if it is some seventy books into her career. Richards writes assuredly and with practised skill, and her ability to create well-drawn and sympathetic characters is commendable. As noted above, comparisons with Diane Chamberlain are apt, and fans of the latter should enjoy'One Mountain Away.

Rating: star Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richardsstar Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richardsstar Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richardshalfstar Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richardsblankstar Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards (very good)

With thanks to Harlequin Australia for the review copy

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Other books by Emilie Richards:

Sunset Bridge by Emilie Richards Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards

Rising Tides by Emily Richards Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards

Iron Lace by Emilie Richards Review: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards


  1. I havent read anything by Emilie Richards or Diane Chamberlain, but youve given me a good sense of what their novels are like. I laughed at your Maddie comment, because I really liked that name and wanted to call one of our daughters Madeline, but husband vetoed it both times. Maybe its a commonly liked name for women of a certain age!

    • Stephanie /

      I know quite a few Maddies in real life, too! Its just funny that theyre always old soul, precocious-type kids in these books. :)

  2. It sounds like a bit of an emotional tear-jerker!
    Oh and my daughters best friend a precocious 10 year old named Maddie!

    • Stephanie /

      For some reason Ive been picking up cancer books of late. Im running out of tissues at home!

      So funny about your friends daughter! All Maddies seem to be precocious!