Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong Review

Welcome to Last Chance 
by Cathleen Armstrong
Series: A Place to Call Home #1
Publisher: Revell
Publish Date: August 1, 2013

289 Pages
Source: Bought
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon / B&N


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? (excerpt from Goodreads) 
 

Welcome to Last Chance 
by Cathleen Armstrong

My Thoughts:  Lainie Davis is on the run from a no-good situation with a no-good guy when her car breaks down in a small town called Last Chance, New Mexico. Even though Lainie has a destination planned, she finds herself stuck in Last Chance with no way out for the foreseeable future, or at least until she can save enough money to get her car up and running again. Over and over, the generosity of strangers finds Lainie the necessities that she needs, including a temporary job and a temporary home. 


Lainie has never experienced kindness like this before - a kindness that expects nothing in return. It isn't too long before Lainie finds herself finding comfort in Last Chance and the simple life the town provides. She loves the friendships the people have with one another, and how they easily include her into the fold. She admires the camaraderie they share when one of their own needs something or experiences problems - it seems as if the entire town just falls in and picks up the slack, as if they are one big family. 

Lainie begins to consider staying. Maybe. There is certainly a life to be had here in Last Chance...as long as her past - the one she was running away from at the beginning of the story - doesn't catch up with her and ruin everything. 

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Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong is a wonderfully quick read, but the quick pacing shouldn't fool anyone - it was quick for me because I was sucked into Lainie's story and how she came to love her time spent in Last Chance, New Mexico. While I found the pacing to be quick and the story very easy to read, there is certainly plenty of depth in these pages. See, Lainie plans to drive straight past this small town on her way to...well, another place. But that just wasn't what her life story was meant to be. Watching Lainie learn the lesson that sometimes OUR plan isn't THE plan was a great reminder for me. 

In a world where I often have a difficult time connecting to female leading characters, I found that I LOVED Lainie! She arrived into town a little bit unnerved and maybe even a bit standoffish toward others as they began to try to help her - as I mentioned, she was not used to this kind of help. But Lainie was young with a wounded heart, and she was fiercely independent, plus she was somewhat jumpy and untrusting given the circumstances that landed on the road in the first place. Lainie didn't expect to be fleeing her home - she didn't expect her car to break down - she didn't expect to have to remain in Last Chance. She didn't expect to be taking up residence in an older church-lady's home, staying rent-free in one of the extra bedrooms while she worked at a local diner to help pay for the repair to her car. She didn't expect to meet the local bartender and develop a (slowly building) mutual romantic interest. And she didn't expect to build relationships with any of these very interesting people and become enmeshed in their lives. Lainie didn't expect to care about Last Chance so deeply. 

While Lainie spends her time in Last Chance, she learns a ton from the people there. She learns how to love and how to be loved and respected in return. She learns what friendship means. She learns what kindness is. She learns that the past she came from is NOT the future she has to live out. Lainie can change the course of her life if she chooses to. 

And there is the romance. It is sweet and lovely and actually just what both Lainie and that bartender needed. I LOVED IT. 

GOODNESS GRACIOUS, I love this story. This is another perfect example of how a contemporary story takes me, hugs me, and stays with me long after I've turned the last page. I finished this book a while ago and I still find myself thinking about the town of Last Chance and these characters - wondering what they're doing and how things are going at the diner, things like that. Stories like this one are some of my favorites, the ones that dig deep into my heart and stick with me. AND! I love it when there is another story following so I can spend more time in a place I love, a place just like Last Chance. 

Speaking of Last Chance, technically speaking, the author does a great job of building up this little town in New Mexico so that I could visualize it. I was able to create a neat depiction of my own version of Last Chance in my head with the diner and the church and the town square. I was able to see the people walking down the sidewalks and driving slowly down the town streets, to observe a low speed limit, and just randomly interacting with one another. I feel like I have created my own version of what everyone looks and sounds like, and I love that so much. There is a small portion of time spent outside of Last Chance, and these times are also well-written, but Last Chance holds my heart as far as the setting goes. What a great little town. 

Last Chance is full, FULL, of a colorful and fully developed cast of townspeople. They are all different and they are all unique. Each person has their own story, their own secret, their own reason for living in a place like Last Chance, New Mexico. It seems like everyone understands this about everyone else, and perhaps that is why they all get along so well. The town seems to have a solid foundation, built on patriotism and faith, and centered around the church. The faith aspect of the book is solid but not overbearing, and I would venture to say that most contemporary-loving readers would find this book warm and refreshing and just as lovely as I do. 

OH HOW I WANTED THIS STORY TO KEEP GOING! I wanted more, which is really great because the follow-up, One More Last Chance, is just now available for purchase. Welcome to Last Chance is indeed a solid contemporary debut and I wholeheartedly recommend it for readers that enjoy those wonderfully happy stories that sweep you away, with plenty of depth but that end up resolving in ways that work out for the best. Readers that also love family relationships and great friendships will really love this one. 

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Welcome to Last Chance will appeal to fans of:

 Contemporary Fiction/Inspirational Fiction 
Romance: Slowly developing. No Triangle.  
Family Relationships, Friendships
Small Towns

Welcome to Last Chance by Cathleen Armstrong
is currently available for purchase.

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I want to hold this book up in the air and dance around with it!
(then push it into your hands and yell "READ!")


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5 comments:

  1. Ooh, this sounds really good! I like that she's so wary of kindness that she feels the whole town is *wrong* because they want to help her. Poor girl!

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  2. I love to hear of books that other people truly enjoy. I have been able to build my 'to read' list so much based on suggestions from others. This one has been added to my list!

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  3. I love stories that talk about small towns! There's something fun and intimate about people who live in such a tiny space, and who know each other's stories and lives, and who are a teensy nosy but also supportive. I really like the sound of Last Chance!

    Plus, I'm very interested in Lainie. She sounds like the kind of girl I could love, and I want to know here story!

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  4. This sounds like a book I'd totally love too!! I love when settings are small towns because more often than not they come with great town characters. I'm glad you enjoyed this one!!

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  5. Cathleen Armstrong has made a strong entrance into the world of Christian contemporary fiction, and I look forward to her next novel in the "A Place to Call Home" series!

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