Sunday, May 18, 2014

Just One More Last Chance...


I adore this series.
Cathleen Armstrong's books are delectable. Sometimes bittersweet, very down-to-earth and always uplifting, they've got a perfect tagline: Grace with a side of Green Chile.

How could I not love last Chance, New Mexico? The folk of this town are salt of the earth, from Juanita who ends every piece of advice with "Just a word to the wise," to Ben, the Sheriff's Deputy who's right there when you need him. 
They appreciate their humble roots, retain their rural ranching heritage, and are active about establishing community. 

This second novel, One More Last Chance, is a fine complement to Welcome to Last Chance, and while it can stand alone, I don't think you'd want to miss the whole series. 

This is the story of a girl- Sarah Cooley- who loves her hometown, and a guy- Chris Reed- who seems determined to change it. 
Well, to be honest, he's not interested in big changes, he just wants to shake up the menu at the Dip 'N Dine. 
But that's not the point. The point is that he shouldn't change anything about Last Chance, even if he's the new owner of the cafe! 
All Sarah's best memories are wrapped up in this place, and she needs it to stay stable and sane and the same.
But then it seems like Chris needs Last Chance to become his home too, and it seems to Sarah like he could use a friend.

So, why do I love these characters? 
Sarah is a school teacher, who genuinely enjoys teaching and working with kids. It's not just thrown in there to make her "maternal," it's a real part of her nature. She values laughter and family and time-tested traditions. 

Chris... he reminded me of an uncle of mine, who's also extremely caring, has a great sense of humor, and would drop anything and come help you. 
It makes sense that Chris is Uncle Chris before the story is over... no spoilers, but a wonderful part of the story is his niece coming to live with him.
Olivia is a wonderful little person, all by her seven year old self. She's had some tough times in life, and she alternates between being love-hungry and stand-offish, innocent and tough. 

Watching Sarah and Chris come together, naturally, out of love for Olivia was my favorite part. It makes the story so rich.

Yep. I'm packing up and moving to Last Chance, and I'm gonna live right next to Sarah's Grandma Elizabeth. We'll crochet away the evenings, and we'll have waffles on Sunday nights. Time to take a chance on Last Chance. 
A Place To Call Home is one of the most satisfying contemporary series I've read, and I'd recommend it heartily.

Cathleen ArmstrongI grew up in New Mexico knowing two things were true:  Any time you could spend reading was time well spent, and that one day I, too, wanted to write books. Both certainties presented problems. In the first instance, my parents and teachers felt that while reading was good, even wonderful, time must also be allotted to chores, homework, and even social interaction. Psssh. They never did convince me on that one.
The second difficulty was harder to get around. I knew I was supposed to write what I was familiar with, but my family had not cooperated in placing us someplace interesting. I thought if they had tried just a little harder, if my granddad had homesteaded in, oh, New York City, or my parents had taught school in, say, China, I would be loaded with fascinating things to write about. 

But as it was, we all lived in ordinary New Mexico, with its ordinary hundred mile vistas, ordinary thunderstorms boiling up on a hot summer afternoon and pounding the earth before they rumbled away at sunset. And ordinary people with names like Baca and Begay whose roots reached from hundreds to thousands of years into the pale, gravely soil. You can see my predicament.
The reading never stopped, but the writing was put on hold as I married my high school sweetheart, and moved with him first to Arizona and then to California. Our three children came, grew up, married and began families of their own with a speed that still makes my head spin.
Finally it is time to write, and I have long since realized that the last word that describes my home state is ordinary. Long ago it began to be known as The Land of Enchantment.  I can’t wait to show you why.

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