REVIEW: The Last Chance Matinee

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THE LAST CHANCE MATINEE

Mariah Stewart

Publication Date: March 21, 2017

Publisher: Gallery Books

$16.00 Trade Paperback Original

ISBN: 9781501144905

Fiction

Book 1 in the Hudson Sisters series

Look for Book 2 in 2018 and Book 3 in 2019!

 

**DISCLAIMER: I received a free, advance copy of The Last Chance Matinee in exchange for an honest review and participation in the author’s blog tour.**

Secret siblings who only discover each other’s existence during the reading of a will. A bit  cliché, but it does make for an enticing bit of drama in The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart. The author of the popular Chesapeake Diaries series returns with the first book in her new series about the unwitting progeny of a deceased movie agent.

When Fritz Hudson dies suddenly, his daughters Allie and Des are summoned from their homes in California and Montana, respectively, to the Philadelphia office of Fritz’s best friend and attorney, Peter Wheeler, for the reading of Fritz’s will. Much to their surprise, there is a third party waiting : Cara McCann, Fritz’s daughter by his longtime New Jersey mistress.

It seems as if Fritz had some misgivings about how he handled his dual-family situation in life, because he sought to merge both families in death: in order for his daughters to each receive their share of their considerable inheritance, they all had to work together to restore a run-down movie theater owned by Fritz’s family in his hometown of Hidden Falls, Pennsylvania. Of course, Fritz upped the stakes of the inheritance: if either of the sisters refused to take part in the project, then none of them would receive their inheritance, and it would all go to earmarked charities instead.

The reluctant trio travel to Hidden Falls, where events reiterate the “Hidden” in the town name. Allie, Des, and Cara not only learn more about each other, but also about the layers of secrets that formed the father each of them thought they knew. Of course, each woman meets a man that is well-suited for her and discovers that small-town life , and theater restoration, and their new sibling relationships, aren’t all as bad as they thought it would be.

When I first started reading The Last Chance Matinee, Stewart’s use of the trite secret love child/inheritance battle trope made me roll my eyes. However, she inserted enough plot twists  (Addictions! More secret family members! Unexplained deaths! Missing heirlooms!) to rescue the book from being a carbon copy of most romances on the market. However, the characters of Allie, Des, and Cara are a bit stereotypical in their own rights (Allie as the high-strung, perfectionist firstborn; Des as the peacemaking, bleeding-heart middle child; Cara as the free-spirited youngest child).

Stewart’s secondary, yet important, characters are what keep the book from being boilerplate. Seth, the tattooed Army veteran; Nikki, Allie’s teenage daughter; and the indomitable and enigmatic Barney Hudson (plus her car) are among those that keep the story interesting, as their personalities provide welcome relief from, and add flavor to, the storyline.

The Last Chance Matinee is a beach read: light, airy, not too taxing on the brain cells. It’s a good escape. The plot moves steadily and while the “Happily Ever After” plot points (and subsequent setups for the next two books in the series) can be seen a mile away, even that obviousness doesn’t deter too much from the story. While I enjoyed the book, I was peeved that the entire story arc is being dragged out into three (or more) books.

I’m not a big fan of serials, and I would have liked to have the entire Hudson Sisters storyline packed into one book.  While I have a general idea of how each book is going to end (thanks to the obvious clues in The Last Chance Matinee), I don’t like waiting another year or two for the series to come to fruition. Blame the “now” culture of our society, but my interest in what happens to Allie and Des will likely wane between now and then, and I may not be inclined to pick up book #2 or #3 when they are finally released.

The Last Chance Matinee is a solid, entertaining read that doesn’t expect much from the reader. Fans of Stewart’s previous works will likely enjoy it, and it is a good entry to her writing for new readers (as I was).

 

Doubt

I’m re-reading Zero Day by David Baldacci, which is the introduction of his John Puller character. As I get into the story, one overwhelming thought continues to loom:

Why can’t I write like this?

My next Bastille novel is not progressing as I’d like, though I am loathe to admit it. I can tell because I’m finding too many other distractions. When a book is flowing for me, I focus on it and little can detract me from getting the words on the pages. Nowadays? I’m obsessing over tracing my family tree and going through boxes of old books, and thinking about whipping up a homemade batch of eggnog (’tis the season!). This effortless distraction is a clear sign that all is not well in the Tiffverse.

Why can’t I write like Baldacci?

I’m in awe of the way his words flow across the page, how he brings John Puller (and even Puller’s cat, named AWOL) to life, how even the scenery of the book leaps off the page. And I wonder how I can get to that level, or even a fraction of it, within the next month or so. Granted, Baldacci has been writing for almost half of my lifetime, and has many more books published to his credit. I’m a rookie author, he’s a veteran, and thus I should not really expect myself to be on his level right now. But I’m an overachiever, so of course I expect that of myself. 😀 Seriously, I don’t know how to be a rookie because I’m used to being around veterans. That being said…

Why can’t I write like that?

I am beginning to wonder, especially in light of feedback on my first novel, The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, if I am forcing myself to write in the romance genre; by that, I mean forcing myself to write within the carefully proscribed parameters/formula of the romance genre. Which would explain why I am having such a problem making progress on this installment of the Bastille Family Chronicles. My writing tends to naturally cross genres, so it’s difficult for me to stick to one or the other–which really irritates me when it comes time to classify my book for sales purposes (although at least most sellers offer the options of choosing different categories at once, so as not to pigeonhole in one genre). Still, I may be trying too hard to be one thing, instead of letting my writing be what it is. And that’s where I’m getting hung up.

That may be why I’m writing different books in different genres so early in my writing career; I don’t want to be pigeonholed, since the stories I write aren’t always about love and romance. My writing style is as eclectic as my reading selections, and I want to represent that to the fullest. I enjoy writing thrillers and suspenseful novels, and commercial fiction; more, dare I say, than writing romances. Then why am I writing romances? Simple: I like those too, and I read those, and that was the first book that I completed that was ready for publication. Plus, I’d already planned a six-book series around the Bastilles and their love lives. However, I am not solely or primarily defined as a romance author, as authors such as Nora Roberts or Brenda Jackson are.

Perhaps if I focus less on the “romance” label  (e.g., The Bastille Family Chronicles) and just write the story (e.g., A Bastille Family novel), it will take care of itself.

I will ponder that as I embark on yet another session of procrastination.

Thanks for stopping by.