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Your sociable little Bookie Monster has been let out to run free once again, wreaking havoc in her wake as usual. This week’s victim hapless quarry . . . er, subject: At Home in Last Chance, by Cathleen Armstrong.

The Cast: Kaitlyn Reed, model-gorgeous grown-up teen mom with some bunch-quitting issues (for those unlucky few who didn’t grow up around cowboys: a bunch-quitter is a horse or cow that always tries to run away from the main herd); Steven Braden, face-palm handsome and groaningly vain jerky kind of guy who hasn’t decided what to do with his life; Kaitlyn’s “all-right-already-every-character-is-physically-perfect” hunky big brother who has taken care of her daughter after Kaitlyn ran off and left her; and a host of other family members, good and bad. As Kaitlyn tries to earn her daughter’s trust again, and Steven keeps trying to hit on her (Kaitlyn, not the daughter…that would be just weird), they struggle with lots of family issues and constantly deny the fact that (of course) they are a match made in heaven.

The Pros:

– The writing was overall strong and lively. The slightly humorous opening scene drew me in (not humorous in a “teehee” way; more of an “well, we gotta laugh or cry” – I thought the author pulled that off well).

– The descriptiveness is vivid. Bookie Monster likes descriptions.

The Cons:

– In a few places, the prose seemed to, as they say, “remind me that I’m reading”. I found some spots a bit telly. Don’t just tell me “Steven felt great as he got back in his truck after seeing Kaitlyn and Olivia to their front door” (page 105). Show me how he drums his fingers happily on the steering wheel, gives a big wave to a complete stranger passing by (trust me . . . it’s a thing here in Texas), whistles a lively tune, etc. But that’s just the Bookie Monster’s preference.

– Only a few chapters in, I got extremely fed up with this Uncle Joe Jr. character. You can be safely assured that after the eighty-ninth time of Uncle Joe Jr. being referred to as “Uncle Joe Jr.”, I really do understand that Uncle Joe Jr.’s name just might be “Uncle Joe Jr.” Plus, the guy is a complete asshat. As is Kaitlyn’s mom. Bleh.

– Unfortunately, I didn’t find the story very compelling. After the first few chapters, I had to work to keep reading as it didn’t seem to be going anywhere special, besides family squabbles. About 2/3 of the way through, it lost me. The characters were all learning their lessons too fast. The Bookie Monster must confess that she skimmed to the end just to see if maybe Steven’s dog Speed Bump (yes, that really is her name) would get run over, or if the elderly matriarch of the family would die, or if Kaitlyn might struggle with her emotions and run away again. But no such luck.

Maybe the Bookie Monster just isn’t a romance fiend, which means that this book might be perfect for other readers. But she gave it the old college try. There were parts of it she enjoyed, but the rest just didn’t do it for her. She shall pass this one on to a home that will love it, and return to the land of her Westerns. Adios!

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