REVIEW: The Goodbye Cafe by Mariah Stewart

The Goodbye Café (Hudson Sisters #3)

Mariah Stewart

Simon & Schuster

$16.00 Trade paperback (ISBN 9781501145124)

$7.99 ebook (ISBN 9781501145162)

THE GOODBYE CAFE Mariah Stewart book cover

The Goodbye Café is the third and final installment in Mariah Stewart’s Hudson Sisters series. It chronicles the romantic challenges of Allie Hudson Monroe, the eldest of the sisters.

***WARNING: REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**

Allie worked with her biological sister Des and previously unknown half-sister Cara to renovate the Sugarhouse Theatre in Hidden Falls, Pennsylvania, per the last will and testament of their late father. Also per their father’s will, Allie and her sisters will only collect their inheritances once the theatre is reopened to the public. That moment will come none too soon for Allie, who yearns for her more sophisticated life in California — despite the divorce from her husband, and despite Allie returning to the joy of painting that she abandoned years ago after her marriage.

Allie also yearns for the distance so that she can get back to her secret vice: drinking. After being caught driving under the influence by Hidden Falls sheriff Ben Haldeman, Allie had been more careful but the stress of raising her teenage daughter Nikki, on top of the terms of her inheritance, sometimes drove Allie to take a sip from her secret alcohol stash. As life throws Allie several more curveballs as she prepares to leave Hidden Falls, will she succumb to her alcoholism, or use her newfound personal growth and family ties to overcome it — and open herself up to an unlikely romance?

This was my least favorite installment in the series, perhaps because Allie is not as sympathetic a character as her sisters Des and Cara. The author may have intended to write Allie as more uptight than the other two, but the uptightness came across as extreme brittleness in some instances. The alcoholism subplot, which may have been intended to soften Allie’s sharp edges and make the character more empathetic, seemed more of an afterthought and could have been explored more.

Another throwaway subplot surrounded their aunt Barney Hudson, in a sins-of-the-father type of way. Again, that subplot seemed more of an afterthought and could have been spun off into a separate novel, as Barney Hudson is one of the stronger characters in the series.

The budding romance between Allie and Ben was over-the-top cliché (mutual dislike turning to sexual chemistry and love), even for a romance novel which formulaically includes a Happily Ever After (HEA) ending. Oddly enough, the subplot featuring Nikki and teenage bullying made for a more engaging storyline.

Overall, The Goodbye Café does provide series closure but also opens the door for other books featuring the Hudsons and their kin. Hardcore Mariah Stewart fans will enjoy it, but for new readers, this may not be the book with which to try out Stewart.

The Goodbye Café can be found at most bookstores, as well as online.

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