My review of 'The Goodbye Ride' by Lily Malone *****
The Goodbye Ride is the second of Lily Malone’s contemporary romances I’ve read, re-released this month by Escape Publishing. It’s a short story -11 shortish chapters and an epilogue - and not being a big reader of novellas I'm always keen to see how a romance story with an emotional edge is developed in this shorter form. The Goodbye Ride tells the story of Liv Murphy, a viticulture consultant, who’s returned to her childhood home of Hahndorf in South Australia where she's going to ‘say goodbye’ to her brother Luke. Luke was killed in a road accident three years before, in part to do with circumstances surrounding his relationship with Ben, another young man in the town. Liv and Ben are planning on taking a final motorcycle ride to a local river in memory of Luke who loved that trip, with Liv to ride Luke’s beloved Ducati Pantah 650. The first scene opens with Liv on her way to buy Luke’s bike from a local man their father sold it to in a homophobic overreaction to Luke’s sexuality and his love of riding bikes with his partner Ben. That’s when Liv and Owen cross paths. Owen Carson is a mechanic, fresh back from Antarctica and with a heart set on buying Luke’s Ducati, and he’s got more cash to play with than Liv. Liv’s heart is broken when she’s pipped at the sale by Owen, but nice guy Owen is already formulating a plan to do the right thing and get to know Liv better. This is a gentle story about ‘going home’ and a family’s unresolved grief over the loss of a son and brother, about guilt and blame, about self-punishment and healing. Because the emotional edge is around the healing part of Luke’s death (and not the actual death itself) it fits comfortably within a novella length story without feeling rushed or too intense. Owen and Liv are just ordinary young people who meet unexpectedly but soon find themselves in the middle of something they sense is going to be life changing. Being a novella, the conflict is not too intense, more an unfolding of growing trust and intimacy. The tension arises because the new relationship is fragile, particularly as Liv has emotional baggage in tow, but not in a self-indulgent way. Until the end it’s a bit of a knife edge as to whether life will get in the way of this fledgling but hopeful romance. Because the two main characters are very likeable, I found myself really wanting things to work out for them. The Goodbye Ride is a warm story for a feel-good dose of romance. I intended to read just a couple of chapters before bed but wound up finishing it by the next morning. The author’s writing style adds to the enjoyment because of its easy pacing, ‘real’ characters and the clarity of the visual imagery in each scene. A fine read.