Rating: 3 ½ out of 5
Long ago, Lainie Davis let go of her would-be dreams. She learned that even a mother’s love can be bought when, at fourteen, her mother threw her out, choosing her current live-in instead. Now, she’s learned the reality that the man you love will choose his vice every time over Lainie’s love. Lainie has had enough. Packing up her meager belongings after months of saving, Lainie leaves behind Nick and LA without a backward glance only to end up stranded on her way to her destination in the small town of Last Chance Mexico. There, Lainie is met with warm-hearted people who would give a stranger a hug before they’d betray them. Despite being a girl who doesn’t think she has room in her life for their lifestyle, Lainie soon finds her resolve melting towards these people. But it’s only a matter of time before her past catches up to her.
There is something about small town stories that stir feelings of nostalgia and I think this is one of the most syrupy books I’ve ever read that featured such a town. During at least the first half of the book, this is a panorama that is overemphasized – to such an extent that the people don’t seem sincere like I am sure their intentions were. Or that is how I interpreted the characters; I liked the people of Last Chance, their kindness just seemed to come far too easily and trusting Lainie shouldn’t have been as “simple” as it was. These people don’t just trust her with secrets, they give her access to their livelihood and what each of these mounting contributions do is play into one too many clichés. Though she wasn’t easy to relate too – or her situation wasn’t, I liked Lainie. Her hard shell was developed for good reason and where, to some she may seem harsh (she often calls it just as she sees it and though she has compassion – we see this in the latter half of the novel – she often speaks before she thinks), her attitude was really a front of protecting herself rather than being one of an impassioned soul. She was a character whose traits went beyond a favorite color or a bad habit and that was interesting. Given my aversion to females who curl up in a ball and refuse to function after a break-up, I also connected with Lainie’s willingness to continue living even while she did miss Ray – I must applaud Armstrong for her intuitive smarts in rewriting the scenario on this standard. Speaking of Ray, he was similarly intriguing as Lainie’s male counterpart. He was a person not nearly as fleshed out as that of Lainie, though he still stood his own against her and I believe challenged her in ways no one else did.
In ‘Last Chance,’ debut author Armstrong created a nice persona in which to hone her skill and expand on its participants. True to form, there is a potentially dangerous situation that carries the climax and I was impressed that the author didn’t string readers along – it’s over before it even begins and though each scenario has a downside (the prolonged vs. short-lived), I am siding with this exception, particularly since it “felt” more plausible. Even if I cannot say it was the best I’ve read in this year, Cathleen Armstrong is clearly out to prove she is a name to watch. Her lead characters are dimensional and her story was “edgier” (a bar owner, tattooed characters, teen drinking) than most of her peers. This leads me to wonder what she has on the horizon!
Find the review elsewhere:
Synopsis: The red warning light on her car dashboard drove Lainie Davis to seek help in the tiny town of Last Chance, New Mexico. But as she encounters the people who make Last Chance their home, it’s her heart that is flashing bright red warning lights. These people are entirely too nice, too accommodating, and too interested in her personal life for Lainie’s comfort-especially since she’s on the run and hoping to slip away unnoticed.
Yet in spite of herself, Lainie finds that she is increasingly drawn in to the dramas of small town life. An old church lady who always has room for a stranger. A handsome bartender with a secret life. A single mom running her diner and worrying over her teenage son. Could Lainie actually make a life in this little hick town? Or will the past catch up to her even here in the middle of nowhere?
Coming Next from Cathleen Armstrong: TBA
Available August 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.