A Chance of a Lifetime by Marilyn Pappano #Review

A Chance of a Lifetime by Marilyn Pappano #ReviewA Chance of a Lifetime by Marilyn Pappano

Series: #5 Tallgrass
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Forever on December 22, 2015
Pages: 401
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars      two-flames

The last book in the series ended on an ominous note with a prodigal son hitting absolutely rock bottom and knowing that ‘you can’t go back’ is no longer an option.  Calvin Sweet is coming home and Benny Ford might get to hear ‘why’ after all the years.  And let’s not forget Lucy and Joe whose story has been percolating in the background of the last few books.  This was probably my most anticipated Tallgrass book yet and I was not disappointed when I closed the last page.

This is the fifth book in the series.  It’s one of those series that goes along best if read in order, but is also written so that the reader can jump in at any point or read one as a standalone.  As a ‘jumper inner’, I can vouchsafe you on this.  Though yes, I do need to go back for the first two books.

The story begins with Captain Calvin Sweet arriving at the local army fort to voluntarily check into the hospital and then transition into the Warrior Transition Unit on his way to being parted from the army.  Twelve years of deployment broke him and at a weak point and deep in depression he planned to commit suicide.  If not for the intervention of a quirky car thief who stopped him by breaking his arm, taking him to the ER, and then robbing him, he might have succeeded.

The army post for his last, short assignment is in his hometown and that brings with it the challenge of facing his family, neighbors, friends, and that long-broken and hostile friendship with Benny one of his two best friends growing up.

Benny lost her husband in Afghanistan and her other best friend, Calvin long before that when J’Myel and Calvin parted and never reconciled.  Calvin never showed at her wedding or J’Myel’s funeral.  Why?  That is what she wants to know after all these years.  Now that he’s back, she will work up the fortitude to ask him.  But the Calvin who comes back isn’t the one who left.  This man has dark shadows in his eyes, a brooding heaviness and never smiles or laughs.  This one looks back at her with just as much anger and pain as she did him.  What happened years ago?

Lucy is finally taking the plunge on her catering business.  She is scared to death, but it’s not like she doesn’t have a financial safety net.  She has worked through much of her grief and will always love Mike, but now realizes she is lonely.  Her first time out dating didn’t net a guy, but dare she try for the one next door?  Joe has always seemed like a best bud and big kid, but lately he’s gotten a certain look in his eye and makes it clear that he is a man and he’s been waiting long enough for her to get back in the game.

Swirling around these two couple’s lives are the ladies from the Tuesday Margarita Club and the down home residents of small town, friendly Tallgrass including a little dog and needing teenage boy who both just want a home.

At this point in the series, the cast of characters has grown and the Tallgrass setting is cozy and familiar.  I enjoy each new installment as comfortable reading, but I like how there is depth and heart.  In this installment, Calvin has PTSD and guilt, Benny is carrying around some unresolved feelings, and Lucy and Joe have to both come to the point.  PTSD and other war injuries are handled with knowledge and care.  I didn’t know about the Warrior Transition Unit, but found its inclusion a nice addition.  Also, the situation with why Calvin and J’Myel along with Benny broke up their friendship was a strong element and by far the one that interested me the most beyond their reconciliation.  The reveal was heartbreaking and not quite what I was expecting.

The pacing is gentle and is very much character driven.  The easy writing, setting, and scenes back that up.  It was nice to be along for Calvin and Benny’s family affairs, town happenings, the widowed soldier wives’ Margarita club get togethers and coming together to help one of their own in need.  I didn’t realize it before, but each book adds in a dog character that pretty much steals my heart each time.

All in all, this book/series are satisfying in an understated way that can reach deep.  I think those who enjoy gentle small town romance with a post-military flavor should take a look-see.

My thanks to Forever for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met:

Romance Roundabout #188 CR
Diversity #32
Mt. TBR #79
Books N Tunes #21 Kid Rock ‘Only God Knows Why’

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • I was a ‘jump inner’ too with this series. lol Actually, I think I started with a novella then I read book #3. I’ve really enjoyed this series but I need to get around to finally reading this one.

    • Haha! Glad I’m not the only one, Angela. I went back and looked and I actually started with the novella, too. What a coincidence!

  • Argh, my library doesn’t have this series yet. I sure wouldn’t mind binge reading it. I’m adding book one to my wish list, so I don’t forget about it.

    • My library doesn’t carry them either. I’ve been watching the used book sales for the first couple.

  • While I don’t usually read this type of book, this one has me intrigued and I loved this review so I might just have to get this one now.

    • Haha! I’m the book temptress, Mary. I know what you mean. I read a review and end up adding books to my wish list that I wouldn’t normally read.

  • So glad the last book satisfied, it sounds like it had a slew of characters and I love the setting.

    • Yes, this series is one of my favorite small town series. They manage to balance light country, group of good friends and family with deeper issues that people face. I’m getting nervous now that most of the Margarita Girls are getting their romances b/c I don’t want it ending.

  • Goodness, here is so much going on here, it’s hard to tell which plot point to focus on the most. I love the fact that all of these characters are suffering through something which makes them a lot more easy to relate to! This seems like the perfect series that you can just BINGE on. 🙂

    • Yes, each book poses different sets of issues for the romance pair. There is always a bit of grieving b/c the ladies are all part of a widow group, the Margarita Girls. I’ll probably end up binging the earlier books at some point to get caught up. There’s only a six month gap between releases lately so it’s not too long a wait for the next book.

  • A gentle pace is more to my speed. I can’t do intense that’s why I haven’t been reviewing/reading anything remotely romantic lately.

    • The pace would work for you then, but yeah, these can get deep with the issues the people face. Though I will say, that she writes them with a lighter tone than most. They don’t get angsty which is what I like.

  • Aww I like this cover with the cute puppy on the chair! It’s nice to know it can be read as a standalone if you want to even if it works best in order.
    I don’t think this would be a book for me with the way it starts out with the character at the deep end of depression. I don’t like reading about that.It sounds like it deals with some heavy topics. I once read a book that started with the female hearing the news her husband got killed in a war and it was such a heartbreaking start of the book.
    I like the sound of how these two have a past, it’s always interesting to see how they work that out. And I enjoy reading books where the main character has their own business, so the catering business plot line sounds fun to me. And a fun cast of side characters can really add to a story. And that’s fun the focus is on two couples in this book. It does sound like a great character driven book. Great review Sophia!

    • Thanks, Lola!

      Yes, this one does start with the problem right up front, but it’s after the fact so he’s started finding his way back from the dark. The focus is on the healing and coping rather than the depression itself so that worked for me. Oh yes, this cast of characters are nice to enjoy. Lucy’s secondary romance has been in the background of the last three books so it was nice that it came to the forefront finally.

  • oh I so want to look into this one, I have such a weakness for small town themes.

    • Me, too. I never used to and now I can’t get enough of them.

  • Debbie Haupt

    Ah Sophia, my favorite kind of series one where you feel like a neighbor. Great reivew!

    • Yes, these are the curl up and get cozy types. Thanks, Debbie!

  • I don’t remember seeing this series before. I’ll have to check it out. I hadn’t heard of the transition unit either. I do appreciate authors talking more and more about PTSD and some of the struggles the military and those close to them go through.

    • Yes, this series sorta snuck up on me through a Christmas Antho I read a couple years back when #2.5 story was in it. So when I recognized the author on NG, I snagged #3 and have just kept snagging the series ever since. 🙂 Each book is neat b/c its set in a small town near an army base with ranches all around. The main character is always an Army widow with her hero from town, base, or ranch. The author takes a different aspect of loss into account with each story so they’re all a little different. They’re not depressing b/c it’s about the healing end of it and not the darker part of grief.