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by Sandra Ardoin

Sarah Cooley is happy to be home in Last Chance, New Mexico—a place where nothing ever changes—until she meets the new owner of the Dip ‘n’ Dine. 

Chris Reed sees nothing wrong with shaking things up a bit if it will bring people into his diner. It’s the residents of Last Chance, including Sarah, who insist on leaving well enough alone. 

 

Some things never change … and some things change you forever.

That tagline sums up the theme of One More Last Chance, the second book in Cathleen Armstrong’s series A Place to Call Home. For the most part, the story provides a lighthearted, homey feel with a few quirky characters, like the waitress whose idea of a whisper is when the people outside can’t hear what she’s saying.

Chris Reed is a chef whose employees won’t let him change a single item on the menu. He wants to add his own touch with things like “line-caught trout dusted with blue cornmeal and lightly napped in a tricolor chile cream.” But Carlos, the long-time cook at the Dip ‘n’ Dine, refuses to go along with Chris’ plan. Here’s the advice Juanita (the ever-opinionated waitress) gave Chris:

“Personally, I think that fish dish you were talking about sounds scrumptious. I’d order it in a minute.” … “And I think if you make just a couple changes, people will gobble it up, and Carlos might feel better about making it too.”

“Changes? Like what?” …

“Well, first of all use yellow cornmeal. That blue stuff just looks nasty when it’s fried. Food was never meant to be that color. Then, instead of going to the work of making all those sauces, just stir pickle relish into some mayonnaise. Fast and easy and gourmet as you please.” … “So what do you think?”

“I think you’re talking about fried fish and tartar sauce.”

While Chris is struck stupid the moment he sees Sarah, she’s not so impressed. After graduating from college and a disappointing relationship, all she wants is the familiarity of her small town and the anticipation of teaching at the elementary school. Chris and his new ideas represent an unwelcome change.

Chris is the type of man you want your daughter to marry. He’s a little clumsy around Sarah, but his heart is so good I wanted to push her in front of him and say, “Get it together, girl!”

Sarah’s excitement at being back home and on her own comes across in her determination to eat her way through every special on the Dip ‘n’ Dine menu and decorate her home with fifties castoffs. In the beginning she was a little too harsh toward Chris for me to truly like her, but her affection for her grandmother is sweet. And once Chris’ seven-year-old niece comes on the scene, Sarah’s true compassion shines. 

Yes, I enjoyed reading this story, but thought the romance was a bit rushed at the end. It was as if Sarah made up her mind at the last minute. But One More Last Chance is well worth reading just to get to know the hero and the people of Last Chance, New Mexico.  

A serious thread about family responsibility is woven throughout the novel and sets up the next book in the series. Hmmm … I’m wondering who has the nerve to take on that heroine and her issues.

Who is your favorite quirky character from a novel?

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: This book came to me free from the publisher, Revell, with the hope that I would mention it on this blog. There was no requirement for me to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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