If I wasn’t already totally sold on this series, this book would have sealed the deal- a sad little orphaned girl, a cranky cat, a gambler who needs to be someone’s sure bet, an allergic preacher, a pretty vet getting a second chance, a bachelor auction, three sweet kittens, and a matchmaker’s prophecy. Yep, this was just a whole bowl full of home town goodness. It’s a romance set against the backdrop of a quirky, nosey, well-meaning small town between a man and woman who must fall in love with the idea of a family and getting beyond the issues of their pasts.
This is a book far along in the Last Chance series, but it will work just fine as a standalone or out of order. It’s more fun reading them in order so the people and their situations popping in and out in the background make more sense, but not absolutely necessary.
The story opens with Mike Taggart arriving in town with a sad, silent, tearful niece, Rainbow, who just watched her mother get murdered and is now stuck with an uncle she never knew who has a lot of conflicting feelings roiling around inside him too. Mike feels guilty over his little half-sister, Angie from the point he left her behind as a kid to get away from an abusive boyfriend of their alcoholic mother to letting her flounder on her own to now, when he has her daughter in tow and has no idea what to do for her other than to bring her to his other half-brother, Timmy. Mike, as a gambler and a guy with issues, knows he is not the person to bring up a little girl and so he feels that the Rev. Timothy Lake his long lost half-brother is a better bet. But first things first, he has to get Rainbow’s cat to a vet because the thing seems sick with all its weepy-eyed wheezing and sneezing.
Charlene Polk makes a quick assessment of the situation in her waiting room and jumps to a lot of conclusions about the expressionless man, the bedraggled bi-racial child and the cat she has clutched like a stuffed animal. Her own past and its mistakes come raring to the surface so along with a dose of medicine for the cat she delivers a dose of advice to the cold man who may or may not be who and what he says he is which naturally gets her a ‘butt out, lady’ type response. If only she could, but seeing Rainbow and Mike triggers something in her that she would rather ignore and can’t. Mike is all wrong for her even if he isn’t what she thought he was at that first meeting. He still plans to leave town so there’s nothing for her there, right?
Mike thought he could just leave Rainbow with Timmy, but it’s not that simple. Tim has no recollection of an older half-brother or living with Mike, his mom and his dad in Chicago. He only remembers his dad and the woman he thought of as mother in their Atlanta home. If Mike’s telling the truth, then his dad lied to him. Tim is cautious to believe the man who has arrived with a grieving niece in tow, but he can’t imagine what the guy has to gain by lying. Still, he’ll investigate and proceed with caution. In the meantime, he points Mike and Rainbow toward a sub-let condo of a parishioner staying in Florida and a child therapist to help with Rainbow’s issues of grief, trauma and not speaking. He has to keep the pair at a distance for a few reasons the least of which is he is allergic to Rainbow’s cat.
Mike settles in temporarily to the Last Chance community while he waits to transfer Rainbow to his brother. He has several further encounters with the beautiful, but critical Dr. Polk the Vet as his next door neighbor and a nosey well-meaning older lady across the hall who belongs to Timmy’s church. Slowly he learns what it means to have a whole group of people there to help and make him feel a part of something. As time goes by, it gets harder to think of separating from Rainbow, Charlene and everyone at Last Chance to go back to Vegas, but he is determined to do what is right by Rainbow in giving her the family that he never had and doesn’t deserve.
This story is full of a lot of feel-good, heartwarming, humorous yumminess. Each of the main characters- Mike, Charlene, Rainbow and Tim- all were engaging and I was truly into their stories. This isn’t just the story of a hero and heroine. There are actually a few stories weaving in and out of each other even connecting in places. It flows gently with only a few spikes of excitement. The passionate moments are even understated. The main issues are Charlene finally dealing with her parents and the guilt of her past. Mike learning that he doesn’t have to rely on himself. Mike and Charlene both realizing that love is a chance that is worth taking. Tim getting a family he didn’t expect and a romance of his own. Angel maybe getting his chance with someone who hasn’t yet accepted who and what they are. And of course Rainbow and her kitty clan finding the home they need. It was just one huge story that touched on important emotional things, but did it in a light, heartwarming way so that the reading experience was easy and cozy.
Only niggle is that I felt a few threads were left dangling and left me curious. I could figure out where most of them were going and maybe that’s the point- a few were still not finished yet and still going on. So I guess, I’ll try to be patient and see what happens in the next book. After all, I thought Amanda and Grant’s story ended abruptly and here things were in this one with Amanda getting a pretty good sized role and I got a peek back into how things were going for her.
So, to wrap it up, this was a delightful small town romance read in a series that is one of my favorite cozy reads. The passion is on the sweeter end with the romance and character development easing along slowly. Contemporary Romance fans who like small town, southern life, and quirky characters should give this book/series a look-see.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this one in exchange for an honest review.
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