Last Doll Standing
Last Doll Standing is the second book featuring housewife and interior designer Cece Laramie. Unfortunately, this story does not stand at all well on its own, so, if you’re like me and dive in here, a great deal of the plot won’t make sense. I found myself reading Goodreads reviews of the first book, Pretty Dolls and Hand Grenades, searching for spoilers, a most uncommon occurrence in my reading life.
It’s been three years since Cece managed to have her husband’s mistress sentenced to life in a hospital for the criminally insane, and, despite the relief she feels, she can’t manage to shake the guilt. Sure, it’s nice not to have to worry about Katelyn anymore, but what if someone finds out exactly what happened at the scene of the explosion? (And I have to say here that I’m not clear as to what actually happened; “the explosion” is referred to several times throughout the book, without offering any clear explanation, which is very frustrating.) Still, Cece is determined to enjoy her life. Her interior design business has finally begun to take off, her teenaged daughter Josie is about to star in a prestigious production of Swan Lake, and her marriage couldn’t be better. Of course, things don’t stay sunshine and roses for long.
Josie is seventeen, a rising star in the ballet world, and an extremely troubled young woman. She has battled an eating disorder for the past few years, and although her dance career is about to take off, she’s filled with insecurities. When she is reported missing, the police immediately think she’s run off with a secret boyfriend, but Cece isn’t so sure. She can’t imagine Josie jeopardizing the career she’s worked so hard for in order to be with a boy.
To make matters worse, Katelyn shows up out of the blue, intent on blackmailing Cece. She wants to return to her life in New York, and needs Cece to help clear her name. Obviously, Cece isn’t completely on board with this idea, but, when Katelyn makes it clear that Josie will suffer if she doesn’t comply, Cece is faced with an untenable choice. Clearing Katelyn’s name will almost certainly land Cece in prison, but failing to do so could cost Josie her life.
The story is told from both Cece’s and Katelyn’s point of view. Cece’s chapters are told in first person, while Katelyn’s are relayed in third person. The difference in style was a bit jarring at first, but, once I got used to it, I found it quite a useful way of differentiating between the two women.
Unfortunately, I found it difficult to enjoy Last Doll Standing as much as I had hoped to, but this is mostly because of my lack of familiarity with past events. For example, it’s hard to know whether a certain character is real, or a figment of Cece’s imagination, something that would not have posed a problem had I read the previous book. The relationship between Cece and her group of catty-seeming friends was difficult for me to wrap my head around, and I found myself almost constantly baffled by Cece’s adoration for her cheating husband. She views her life as perfect, but, from my point of view, it was pretty much a mess, definitely not worth the trouble she put herself to in order to hang on to it. Even so, I’m giving Last Doll Standing a qualified recommendation to anyone who likes revenge stories with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure.