At Home in Last Chance
About This Book
What happens when the life you’re running from won’t let go of your heart?
Kaitlyn Reed and Steven Braden have always had a similar philosophy of life: when the going gets tough, they get going—out of town and away from the problem. Now they are both back in Last Chance, New Mexico, and trying to start over.
Kaitlyn is working to reestablish a relationship with the seven-year-old daughter she left behind six months earlier. Steven is trying to prove to his family that he is not the irresponsible charmer they have always known him to be. As Kaitlyn and Steven find themselves drawn to one another, one big question keeps getting in the way: how will they learn to trust each other when they don’t even trust themselves?
I have read and enjoyed the previous two books in this series, Welcome to Last Chance and One More Last Chance, so I was looking forward to reconnecting with the familiar setting and characters. I was also curious whether or not I’d be able to like Kaitlyn as the heroine of this story, after she was so unlikable in the the previous book. But once again, Cathleen Armstrong wove together a charming, quirky, heartfelt story with a characters to root for and a sweet romance to warm the chilly winter nights.
Armstrong’s writing is very natural and direct, with an easy, almost conversational style that is effortless to slip into. This story had a good balance between prose and dialogue, but the pace and structure felt a little uneven. Some big moments were a little glossed over, but then the next chapter would start with a little hindsight recap of the event, making it feel a little like backtracking instead of forward momentum. I also felt the ending was a little too rushed and abrupt, and I would’ve like to see a bit more denouement.
As with the previous books, it’s the secondary characters—all the quirky, caring, nosy, and highly-opinionated residents of Last Chance—who really make this story shine. The town is definitely the heart and soul of this entire series, and I enjoyed revisiting the cozy familiarity of Last Chance. Series fans will enjoy further glimpses into Ray and Lainie’s (book one) and Chris and Sarah’s (book two) happily-ever-afters. And while this is a stand-alone story, I think readers will appreciate and connect with Kaitlyn and Steven much more if they have read the previous books.
Without seeing how screwed up Kaitlyn really was in the last book, and how her actions affected both her brother and her daughter, she might come across as bratty and self-centered in this story. Instead, knowing that history of her past behavior, I found myself really empathizing with her attempts to change and could see what a stretch it was for her to settle down in a place like Last Chance, how hard she was trying to earn back the trust and respect she so flagrantly abused in the past.
In terms of spiritual content, Steven and Kaitlyn both have a long way to go in their spiritual journeys, and I liked how Armstrong let their faith develop naturally under the gentle influence of the people around them. There is nothing over or preachy about this story, but by the final page you know these two reformed prodigals are heading in the right direction. And the final line of the book, while abrupt, provided some powerful symbolism to wrap up the whole A Place to Call Home series.
Steven never really leapt off the page for me. He was described in ways that made me feel like I was supposed to remember him from previous stories, too, but I didn’t, and instead he felt a bit cliché and one-dimensional. I think he just didn’t have as strong a story arc as Kaitlyn. His departure for the police academy is mentioned throughout the story, but wasn’t quite used to full advantage in developing his character and the story. No one mocked him for it, contradicted it, challenged his ability to make it . . . all very simple but effective ways this angle could’ve really added conflict and tension to the story.
Instead, almost all of the conflict was internal and based on Steven’s and Kaitlyn’s longings for acceptance and doubts about their worth. And while I was definitely rooting for them to get their own happily-ever-after, I wasn’t entirely convinced in the end that they’d earned it. They just didn’t have a lot to overcome in order to be together, save those internal doubts, and once they set those aside, it was pretty smooth sailing. There was no real heat like one might expect in a contemporary romance (even a Christian one), but given their wild and crazy pasts, I actually thought their desire for friendship was even more romantic, and the slow and steady build-up of their relationship was enjoyable, if not exciting. The romance in this story was not Fourth of July fireworks; it was the lazy sunset picnic in the park before the fireworks show begins.
Overall, like the soft afterglow of a desert sunset, Cathleen Armstrong invites readers to linger once again in the charming, quirky town of Last Chance. As its stark beauty and the tender hearts of its citizens work magic on the prodigal hero and heroine, so too will the reader be coaxed into the uplifting story of second chances and everlasting love.
Available January 6, 2015 from Revell