The Last Chance series is definitely one of my less than guilty pleasures that offers a bit of small town country charm, sweet romance, quirky yet loveable characters and even a touch of the paranormal. Each book offers up the modern retelling of the book the book club has on tap for that month. For this latest installment, the chills, thrills and atmospheric feel of Jane Eyre was the retelling as the residents of the Jonquil Inn deal with a ghost problem and a doomed romance.
The series is one that should be enjoyed in order since many of the background characters have had their own story, but it also has the benefit of being written in such a way that each book is also able to be read as a standalone.
The story opens with thirty-six year old, Jenny Carpenter, out at the old home near the river that she has purchased to turn into a lovely B&B. With the married of the local pastor to another local gal without half her homemaker gifts, she has decided to give up on finding a man. She will embrace her single womanhood and put her efforts into getting the inn up and running. A chilling event on her first night alone at the inn gives her a few second thoughts, but with the light of day comes other problems to her doorstep namely a rude stranger who insists she let him stay because he is Gabriel Raintree the house’s previous owner and he needs a quiet place to work on his latest book.
Gabe returns to Last Chance out of desperation. He has already missed one publishing deadline and he might miss this one two if he can’t get past his writer’s block. The old hunting lodge on the edge of the swamp that used to belong to his family is ideal. He would love to buy it back, but the determined owner refuses his outrageous offer, but after he uses his newly broken foot as leverage and her need for him to guest at a charity benefit for the local library, he at least is allowed to stay there long enough to finish his book.
With the arrival of Gabe, odd things continue to happen around the inn including the startling appearances and warnings from local oddity Zeph who once worked there for Gabe’s family. Inexplicable events are being blamed on the ghost of Gabe’s dead brother Luke, but both Gabe and Jenny watch each other askance thinking that the happenings might be from a more natural explanation. Beyond the ghost, various elements around town take notice of Gabe’s arrival. He writes thrillers and the uber religious element decide that his books are of the devil just like him. A not so honest politician capitalizes on the fervor about town for his own gains. The book club is speculating wildly that the new vicar in town might be just the guy for Jenny while they crack open Jane Eyre for a try. Someone leaves a graphic and scary scene in Jenny’s kitchen reminiscent of Gabe’s most popular book proving that someone a bit more hands on than a ghost might be involved. And in the midst of it all, Jenny divides her attention between setting up her B&B and the brooding, grumpy Gabe who has slowly grown on her.
Gabe finds Jenny’s wholesome goodness a soothing balm for his soul just as being back in his old family home starts to unleash his repressed memories from before when his brother was killed. Something tells him that the truth of the past is different from what he has been told. Good or not, he knows he has to keep his distance from Jenny and he definitely has to discourage her from getting close to him. He has dark secrets and he doesn’t want her touched by them.
While I’ve always enjoyed this series, it wasn’t completely satisfying either even if I had a great time reading them. In this one, I finally got the whole package. Truthfully, this one is a bit different from the rest of the series so it’s possible that others will feel the exact opposite from me. There is still the small town in the south and the quirky characters that really sparkle, but there is the touch of something more too. I think because it was the touch of chilly paranormal and thriller happenings along with the characters’ personalities that engaged me and kept me turning pages. There was the ‘is it a ghost or isn’t it?’ for a long time, the side story with Zeph that has been a long time coming and the characters of Gabe and Jenny who had their issues, but undue angst or immaturity weren’t some of them.
The main characters and their relationship gave me no issues. They were mature in age and I was glad to see that it translated into their dealings with each other and those around them. Alright, there was one thing that Gabe did that made me really want to smack him. He had good intentions which was why I sucked it up, but he hurt Jenny deliberately to achieve it and that wasn’t okay in my book. Gabe and Jenny were attracted, but it had to go all the way from enemies to friends to lovers so it was a long developing romance. It’s a sweet romance in that the sexy time or two is fade to black. I liked what these times said of Jenny more than Gabe. She has long been suppressed and living under everyone else’s expectations. Her thing with making the inn a success and being with Gabe let the real Jenny out of the cage and she was great. Gabe is so weighed down by his past that I’m surprised he could even breathe. I loved seeing Jenny help free him. He’s like a wounded bear in the beginning just as she was trying to be an unseen mouse. They brought out the best in each other and that’s what I love to see in a romantic pair.
The parallels to the Jane Eyre story were great. I love how the author does these retellings to the classic. I was freaking out at first that she picked the horror story that Jenny was reading at the beginning of the book because I am not one for the skeavy books. Nope the atmospheric feel of Jane Eyre is scary enough for me, thank you very much. It was cool to meet up with some minor characters who were recognizable from the original too. That twist at the end was pretty cool. Author got me there since I never saw it coming.
And speaking of minor characters, I loved bumping into all the familiar characters from the former books. I was particularly glad to get Jenny’s niece’s update since the Christmas novella with her story ended so abruptly. And Zeph! Thank you, Ms. Ramsay! I have been feeling for that poor man through the whole series. His secrets are out there and he gets up a bit of romance too.
To summarize, I loved this one and wouldn’t change a thing. I would love a chance to live in a play like Last Chance even if the gals down at the beauty parlor would be all up in my business. I recommend this one for those who enjoy small town romance with a bit of paranormal flavor and the series as a whole for those who like the sweet romance set in the small town south.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.
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