Chance of a Lifetime
There are two sad scenarios as a reader: one is when I realize I’m reading the final installment in a wonderful series and the other is when I realize I’m reading the first installment in a series that shouldn’t be a series. I had the latter experience reading Chance of a Lifetime, which I do not recommend you give a chance during your lifetime.
In Ireland, one year before the Potato Famine of the 1840s (I wouldn’t worry the period’s serious events will make the series tone grim since this book’s relationship to Irishness is having its Irish hero eat Lucky Charms in the contemporary world), Liam O’Connor falls in love with Cora MacLeod while preparing to rob her house. Charmed by the girl he mentally calls a “little cake” because her clothes make her look like a dessert, eventually something happens that ends badly – who knows what that is, but presumably it will be revealed further along in the series. What we do know is Cora should have married the well-to-do Finley Walsh and had an Important Baby. She didn’t. Instead, she keeps being absurdly selfless in future lives and dropping dead as a result. Liam is blamed because he “interfered with her destiny” and has been tasked by Heaven itself with remedying this in the present.
Liam is dropped into a pre-made life as a police officer in modern North Carolina, where he works with Cora, also a police officer, and dwells amongst the other new versions of people from his original life – Finn, his old friend-turned-boss Boyd, and his (married) ex-girlfriend Margaret. Liam and Cora end up living together because Cora needs a new roommate (the prior one moved to Sri Lanka, as young women from small towns in the South often do for no apparent reason) and soon Liam and Cora are doing nothing of great import together until the last section of the book when they encounter a mystery (presumably the actual solving will occur in another book – I’ve never read a story so impossible to spoil).
For such a high-stakes story – we’re talking the difference between Heaven and Hell and Life and Death here – it’s a completely emotionless read. Passion, Drama, Lust, Intrigue, and Romance were apparently tied up with prior commitments to other books (or possibly quarantined – you never know these days) when Chance of a Lifetime was written, and so Mundanity and Boredom were called in. Cora’s interactions with her love interests are astonishingly lackluster considering they are her time-travelling soulmates. Other than brief moments when she feels dim attraction, she has no connection to these men. And I do mean dim attraction; not only does this book have no emotional thrust, it has no physical thrusting either. Alas, the angels have set up a sort of electric fence so it hurts Liam to touch Cora’s skin (if only this was a hot romance and they resorted to creative dry-humping!). Margaret and Liam have it going on, though we never actually see it ‘go on’, and I was more than ready to permit Liam to break the no-sex-except-with-the-heroine romance rule and sleep with Margaret.
Cora’s police style tells you all you need to know about her: bait a suspect into a criminal act, arrest him, and then force his cooperation by lying to him about possession of non-existent incriminating evidence against him. Her feelings regarding her methods are as follows:
She cared about her job, and she was damned good at it. There was a fierce sense of pride and satisfaction that came with serving justice, and she was just about to serve up a double portion.
Liam is the most vivid character; a good portion of the story is told in his third-person PoV and he’s the only one with any clue what’s going on. Finn has one line in the first third of the book (and what a line it is: “Did you?”) and that sets the tone for his character, though I’d put money on him being secretly shady and that being used as an easy excuse for Cora to reject him and go live HEA with Liam in another book.
The actual writing is fine (I did genuinely like one sentence to describe Cora’s colleagues:
Where Otto looked like a smiley, squishy marshmallow, his partner, Happy, looked like the charred, brittle stick it was roasted on.
The big problem with this book is the structure is unfair to the reader. It doesn’t work as a standalone because there’s no resolution or payoff to any of its plotlines and it doesn’t work as a series starter because none of the plotlines or characters are remotely engaging enough to motivate reading the next book. The point of Chance of a Lifetime is that Liam and Cora and Finn are trapped in this story. The point of this review is I strongly suggest you don’t let yourself get trapped with them.