Last Chance Beauty Queen
A quirky, small town romance can be a comfort read. A feel-good romance with a quirky cast of characters can make a reader feel like she is visiting with old friends. Last Chance Beauty Queen did not bring me a case of the warm fuzzes, though. Maybe, like Chandler from Friends, I’m just “dead inside?”
Caroline “Rocky” Rhodes has a tough task facing her. Her employer, Senator Warren, requires her to accompany titled Englishman and all round Very Important Person Hugh Debracy to her hometown of Last Chance, South Carolina and assist him in his quest to build a factory there. The town economy is tanking, and the residents need a new source of jobs and the financial benefits a new industry would bring. There is a roadblock in Lord Debracy’s way, however. He needs to acquire a parcel of land owned by Rocky’s father in order to have highway and rail access.
The land acquisition deal is plagued with problems from the start. Rocky’s dad is reluctant to sell the land that holds his business and his personal mission, a Bible-themed miniature golf course named Golfing For God. Hugh’s business partner has disappeared and absconded with their capital. Rocky’s old flame Bubba wants to rekindle their romance. The Senator’s daughter wants to start a romance with Hugh. Hugh thinks he will have to go back to England and marry for money. There are citizen groups that oppose the destruction of Golfing For God and groups that support building the factory. There are angels that throw temper tantrums and break stuff. And there are some shady dealings going on at the chicken plant.
I found the plot rather convoluted. There were so many subplots and subplots to the subplots that I had trouble keeping track. This book is part of a series and, while it is not necessary to read the preceding novels, I felt a significant portion of the book was spent setting up storylines for future installments. To me, this was at the expense of the main couple’s romance. The romance did not really work for me, given the lack of time the protagonists spent together. I never felt that their emotions were real. Their courtship was shallow ,which left me disbelieving their “romance.”
With that being said, the book is not awful. It’s quite readable and neither the hero or the heroine are objectionable, though I kept picturing Hugh as Mr. Sheffield from The Nanny for some reason. Maybe it’s because he’s playing the straight man in the comedy. Hugh is a sort of renaissance man who likes to tinker with machinery and quickly blends in with the population of the small town. I did have to question his business acumen considering the situation with his partner and his financial woes which culminated in him considering marriage to a wealthy English lady. This seemed sort of mercenary and did not really fit with the rest of Hugh’s character.
Last Chance Beauty Queen could have been a fun romp through a small town with its quirky characters. Instead, much of the humor felt forced and the setup too contrived for me to find it enjoyable. That’s a shame. I was hoping I could look forward to future visits to Last Chance.