Barbara J. Shelton’s Review of “Welcome To Last Chance” by Cathleen Armstrong

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Welcome to Last Chance

The red warning light on her car dashboard drove Lainie Davis to seek help in the tiny town of Last Chance, New Mexico. But as she encounters the people who make Last Chance their home, it’s her heart that is flashing bright red warning lights. 

These people are entirely too nice, too accommodating, and too interested in her personal life for Lainie’s comfort–especially since she’s on the run and hoping to slip away unnoticed.

Yet in spite of herself, Lainie finds that she is increasingly drawn in to the dramas of small town life. An old church lady who always has room for a stranger. A handsome bartender with a secret life. A single mom running her diner and worrying over her teenage son. Could Lainie actually make a life in this little hick town? Or will the past catch up to her even here in the middle of nowhere?

Cathleen Armstrong pens a debut novel filled with complex, lovable characters making their way through life and relationships the best they can. Her evocative descriptions, observational humor, and talent at rendering romantic scenes will earn her many fans.


What goes on in a small town?  Plenty!  Lainie Davis was about to find out that dark desolate night her crippled used Mustang rolled to a dead stop in Last Chance, New Mexico, abruptly ending her escape from life in Palm Springs to El Paso where she would be safe with her friend Lindsay…at least for awhile.  Her phone was also dead and the only light was in the High Lonesome Saloon across the parking lot where her car had given up the ghost.  Was this a dead end to her running as far as possible from the threatening dangerous ex-boyfriend, Nick?

The bartender Ray wasn’t too warm toward frazzled Lainie when she dragged into the bar to ask for answers about what to do next.  The town’s only motel was closed while the owner was attending a mayor’s convention.  She would need to wait until morning to contact the only mechanic in town.  While in the bar, the town drunk Les tried to “be friendly” with her and Ray squelched that, telling Les to go sit in the truck and wait for him to take him home after he closed the bar.  Lainie appeared brazen when she asked if Ray had an empty spot for her.  In desperate resolve she slept in her car.

Lainie began to experience the kindness offered to strangers when she entered the Dip ‘n’ Dine café across the street from the High Lonesome Saloon the next morning.  Fayette, the owner, recognized immediately that Lainie was in desperate straits and offered her a shower, breakfast and even called Elizabeth to ask if Lainie could stay with her while the car was being fixed.  That arranged. Lainie was uncomfortable over Elizabeth’s insistence that members of her household attend church.  However she trudged on to meet this unusual woman with momentary promise of rescue.

After showering, Lainie found something hidden in her backpack that sickened her and filled her with fear.  The package she found was evidently put there by Nick.  During her time in the café, she was able to contact her friend Lindsay and heard frightening news that Nick had called Lindsay looking for her.  Never before had Lainie had so many people, strangers at that be so concerned for her well being.  In a way it caused her to feel like running “like the wind.”   She noticed a police car pulling up to the café and wasn’t sure what to do by then, so she slapped a ten dollar bill on the counter and headed for the door when Fayette called out that she had change coming.

And indeed, Lainie had many changes coming!    Last Chance was certainly a town where everybody – all 743 – knows your name….and your business.  Cathleen Armstrong wrote her characters well with defining qualities about each one.    Everyone has a personality that’s either strong, weak or somewhere in between.  It was an engrossing read, so much so that it kept me from getting my needed rest at night.  Having been born and raised in a small town, I could identify with those things considered normal or unusual that happens in Everytown, USA.

Ms Armstrong writes strongly with color and conveys vividly the beauty of the country around Last Chance; romance with caution between the characters; the true Christian nature of the Last Chance residents; and problems in single parenting a self-indulgent child.  Lainie wasn’t familiar with Christian principles and values, but surprised herself when she sought to know more about God….and particularly when she began singing in the church choir. Cathleen Armstrong left a few conclusions unwrapped and hopefully this fine author will give another chance at a sequel to Lainie’s last chance.

About Cathleen Armstrong

Cathleen Armstrong

Cathleen Armstrong lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Ed, and their corgi. Though she has been in California for many years now, her roots remain deep in New Mexico where she grew up and where much of her family still lives. After she and Ed raised three children, she returned to college and earned a BA in English. Welcome to Last Chancewon the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for Women’s Fiction.

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