Home at Last Chance
Ms. Ramsey’s first book charmed me with its quirky plot, especially the sorrowful angel. The second book, Home at Last Chance, charmed me intermittently, but at times I felt the book lacked focus as it bounced from one story arc to another.
Right now, Tulane Rhodes’ life is in toilet. After getting the chance of a lifetime driving the Cup car for Jim Ferguson Racing, his behavior has gotten him in trouble with Jim and Jim’s sponsor, National Brands, manufacturer of Cottontail Diapers. Growing up or manning up hasn’t been easy for him, as his brother Stone and his uncle Pete know, but he is determine not to blow this. Adding to his troubles, the team engineer refuses to listen to his advice and he is not winning races. Then some fool in the advertising department comes up with a campaign, painting his car pink and putting a picture of a bunny on the hood of his car. If that is not enough, his crew now wears pink and he makes appearances at Value Mart, officiating over diaper changing contests. To add to the insult, he has a babysitter, Sarah, who is a nice girl and he just can’t resist nice girls.
Lacking the killer instinct is what got Sarah into this mess. After her boss Steve Phelps took credit for her Java Cup marketing plan, she put Steve’s name on a memo outlining the pink car and baby changing races. This was supposed to damage his credibility in the eyes of dragon lady Deidre Montgomery, National Bands Vice President of Marketing. Instead, Deidre implemented it and it is a big success, selling diapers like crazy. Steve wants Sarah out of the way, and since she doesn’t have any experience working as an advance, what better way to get rid of her then make her responsible for keeping Tulane out of trouble. After Sarah faints in the parking lot of Value Mart, she travels with Tulane to Last Chance, when his mother drags him home to visit with his dying uncle Pete. After she meets Haley, Tulane’s niece, she knows a perfect way to put an end to the pink car and diaper races fiasco.
Having Tulane associated with car seat education will improve his image while still selling diapers, and Haley is a natural. Tulane doesn’t want Haley to be exposed to ridicule since she spends a lot of time talking about her sorrowful angel, but he is open to the idea. He and Sarah agree to keep each other’s secrets. He won’t talk about her fainting in the parking lot, and she won’t mention his dad’s Golfing for God or that some of his family talk to angels. After Sarah calls Deidre with the idea, she is surprised at her enthusiasm. Very few people know that Deidre lost her own daughter because the car seat she used was incompatible with her station wagon’s seatbelt system. Of course, Deidre feels that something this close to her heart needs an impeccable spokesperson, and that person is not Tulane. She orders Sarah to find out all the dirt on Tulane’s family and report back to her.
When I first saw that this book was about Tulane, I was surprised I loved all the characters from the first book, especially Stone (Stony) and his family and Dash. I couldn’t understand why the next book in the series was about an unknown character, but I was willing to be persuaded. However, at times I felt like I missed part of the story. Tulane is supposed to have a thing for nice girls, but I never really understood why he felt the need to stay away from them. Tulane is ashamed of his daddy’s profession, and his family’s history. But, unless I am mistaken plenty of stock car racing fans (which I am not) live in the Bible belt, so I think demographically they are, if not the same people, at least very similar. So for a good part of the book, I just wanted to tell Tulane to man up and get over it. I had the same sentiment when it is revealed that he avoids visiting his dying uncle Pete, who was like a father to him.
Sarah is a good girl because she was raised that way. She is twenty-five years old, a graduate of Harvard and she blushes when she says hell. She is an almost virgin in a lot of areas like playing pool, bar fights, drinking margaritas, dancing the two-step, and passing cars on the right. While her mother wants her back in the fold, she wants to experience more of life, and Tulane is just the man to show her. She is caught between a rock and a hard place. Her boss wants the dirt on Tulane and she needs to please her in order to keep her job, but she has promised Tulane not to share his secrets. While Sarah is not my favorite type of heroine, I didn’t have a problem with her until page 213 when she did something in anger. Without giving away specifics, I will simply say that I strongly believe that women should be held to the same standards as men.
The story bounces around multiple subplots such as Sarah’s bosses, Deidre and Steve, retaining and grasping for power within National Brands, and the minister of Last Chance meeting an interesting married lady with troubles. I ended this book a little concerned. In the first book one of the characters seemed to have a story to be told, but he doesn’t make an appearance again, and then in this book a lot of time is spent with Deidre but her story arc seems to have an abrupt ending.
I do plan to revisit Last Chance again. While Tulane’s story didn’t set me on fire, I have high hopes about Caroline Rhodes’ story.