Chance of a Lifetime
The old-timey method of telling a tale meanders like a winding river, languidly moving from the main point, through adjacent stories and around pivotal points, finally arriving at the crux of the matter. Thomas is a master of this type of circuitous storytelling. Her latest Harmony, Texas, novel involves two sets of lovers whose tales intersect at some points, but neither ever dominates.
Harmony librarian Emily Tomlinson and truck company owner Tannon Parker were close as juniors in high school before tragedy struck. Now they’re lonely, broken people with a bridge the length of the Golden Gate between them. When Tannon’s mother falls ill, the bridge begins to tumble as Emily visits her mother’s best friend in the hospital.
Meanwhile Harmony attorney Rick Matheson is being targeted by someone who wants him dead. After he falls through sawn wooden steps, a friend of his family asks U. S. Marshall Trace Adams to protect him. Trace is taking a mental health holiday after she was the lone survivor of a shoot-out in what was supposed to be an abandoned warehouse.
As these four unlikely lovers draw closer and closer, my favorite Harmony characters, the “band” at the Buffalo Bar and Grill ruminate on love and life. Talented singer/songwriter Beau Yates, still trying to shake his stuttering, is courted by a girl who calls herself Trouble and drives fast along the highway at night. Beau’s partner Border Biggs, on the other hand, is knee deep in the simple pleasure of their owning their own place.
With these and so many more small town staples in place, including the library janitor, the owner of a bed and breakfast, the used bookstore owner, divorcing couples, and others, Thomas enriches the town and the story. Readers with a penchant for small town tales will be reveling and engrossed.
As the story wanders between Emily and Tannon’s coming to a workable truce and Rick and Trace finding the person who wants to kill Rick, the town comes to life. This would be a perfect tale except for a few glaring problems.
The mysteries of what happened to Emily, who Trace is, and finally who the attacker is are too easily solved. In other words, the first two aren’t substantial enough to be as mysterious as they’re presented. And the third is easily solved, leaving it anticlimactic at the end. The only real mystery is who Trouble is. And tragically that’s not solved in this book.
Despite these problems, Thomas’ world-building skill and bursts of humor blunt the glaring non-mysteries. Harmony is a nice place to visit, a place to have a warm cup of liquid, put one’s feet up, and enjoy the ride down the meandering river of a tale.