All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Matilda Next Door by Kelly Hunter

on August 8, 2020

Matilda Next Door (Outback Brides Return To Wirralong #1)
Kelly Hunter
Tule Publishing
2020, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

When a long-anticipated holiday takes an unexpected turn…

Aussie farm girl Matilda Moore kicks off her dream trip to London by flat-sitting for her childhood friend. But London is daunting, crowded and noisy, and that’s before Tilly finds a baby on the doorstep. There’s a note attached: “Henry, if you’re reading this, please know the worst has happened.”

Probability expert Henry Church has finally returned home to Wirralong, Australia, to see his grandparents when he gets a phone call from Tilly that breaks every statistical analysis. The probability of him being the father is marginal. Plus, he knows nothing about caring for a baby. Emotions and socializing are even bigger mysteries. He begs Tilly for help—can she cut her holiday short and bring the baby to Wirralong?

Tilly will do almost anything for her childhood best friend, but falling in love with him and his motherless baby is an emphatic no. Out of the question. Or is it?

Recently I got the chance to read and review all the books in this series – there are 4, by Kelly Hunter, Fiona McArthur, Cathryn Hein and Barbara Hannay. I believe there was a previous quartet, also centred around the country Australian town of Wirralong but honestly, it isn’t necessary to have read those. Although I think I’d like to, given how much I enjoyed this.

Matilda, aka Tilly, grew up on a country farm, next door to where Henry Church came to live with his grandparents at age 8. Tilly is three years younger and patiently she befriended Henry, wearing down the wall he’d already constructed around himself. However when Henry was 18 he left Australia, having scored himself a scholarship to a prestigious British university. He has rarely returned – until now. He’ll be back for a month but Tilly will be in London for most of that, using Henry’s flat as a base and also undergoing a cooking class at a prestigious hotel. Her dream holiday turns out to be not at all what she expected, even before someone dumps what is apparently the 6 month old daughter Henry didn’t know existed, onto her after the death of the little girl’s mother.

This was my jam in so many ways. I love opposites attract stories and Henry and Tilly definitely fit that brief. Henry is quite reserved – he’s not actually British but he’s lived over there for quite a while and he feels British, in the way of his mannerisms and being sort of ‘uptight’ but not in a bad way, just in a way where it seems he never really learned to open up. His mother obviously had her problems, he doesn’t know his father and upon his mother’s death, he came to live with his maternal grandparents, the same ones that his mother had fled from. His grandfather is a lovely man, deep and thoughtful but seems to have been completely cowed by his sharp-tongued wife. Henry’s grandmother is now in the early grip of dementia and Henry has returned to Australia to see that right now, his grandparents do need quite a bit of assistance. By contrast, Tilly is open and a great people person – however she sees herself as lacking in sharp intelligence, which Henry has in spades.

This is also friends to lovers, as Henry and Tilly have known each other a very long time and were friends, although they haven’t really been friends as such, as adults. Henry has spent almost all of his adult life in the UK and also hasn’t been one to keep in contact. When Tilly arrives back in Australia with his child, Henry also knows that he’s probably going to need some help and Tilly isn’t really keen to return to London. So they are raising this child together, learning everything together and it definitely enhances the thoughts that they’ve both had about each other over the years. Henry was always very aware of the fact that he was several years older than Tilly though and when he was still in Australia, anything more than friendship was not an option. Now they’re both adults – the attraction is there, the bond is there however there are concerns, about whether or not the child is bonding them in a way they wouldn’t normally, if Henry plans to stay in Australia, as well as whether or not he can embrace deep feelings – and express them, which is definitely something he has struggled with, but also not been given the opportunity. Tilly gives him that.

What I really enjoyed about this is that the conflict is not overly dramatic in this story. There were issues but it wasn’t turned into a huge plot point that dominated the latter part of the story. Things happened, they sat down and talked them over in due course and moved on from them. And at the moment, that’s something that I really appreciated. The pacing of this story was actually very consistent – there was humour (the stuff about Tilly wearing Henry’s shirts whilst she was in his flat was hugely amusing to me) but also a lot of seriousness but mellow in a way, which gave me a really soothing reading experience. I particularly liked the complexity of Henry’s relationship with his grandparents, particularly his grandfather and the bumps that they have to iron out as Henry seeks to assert himself about the realness of his feelings.

This was an excellent first book and I am now looking forward to all the rest in a big way.


Book #152 of 2020

Matilda Next Door is book #50 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2020 – and that means that technically, I have ‘completed’ this challenge as 50 books was the goal I set myself for this year. I knew I’d read more but I tend to underquote myself sometimes, in order not to feel anxious about them! I will still keep adding each book I read by an Australian woman author to my count and continue to participate in the challenge.

2 responses to “Review: Matilda Next Door by Kelly Hunter

  1. Marg says:

    There’s actually two quartets before this and they are all good.

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