Last Chance Christmas. Hope Ramsay. Grand Central Publishing. September 2012. 352 pp. ISBN #: 9780446576079.
Lark Chaikin has just arrived in the small town of Last Chance, South Carolina where she intends to leave her father's ashes on a "Golfing for God" mini-golf course per his last wishes. She's still grieving and totally shocked when she meets the town's Chief of Police, Stonewall ("Stone") Rhodes. Before he tells her she can't leave the ashes, he makes some comments that indicate she will not at all be welcome in this town since it's believed that her father caused the death of Stone's grandfather. No, there's no proof but Lark's father left town on the same day Zeke Rhodes died. Stone proceeds to inform her she will have to get permission from the group that now is in control of this mini-golf course.
Lark is obviously upset but determined to honor her father's last wishes. It turns out that won't happen so quickly; in the meantime the town begins to take sides, with some believing the "assumption" about Lark's Dad and others now wondering and questioning what the precise facts are about the rumors that have been accepted as fact for years. Lark sets her sights on finding out as she knows her father only as the most gentle and kindest of souls. In the process she and Stone begin to get used to each other and she learns he is grieving still over the loss of his wife. While they discuss and seek answers for the death of Lark's father, the town matchmakers are also making their future plans for this unsuspecting couple. Lark isn't interested at all at first as her track record with romance is a bummer and full of trouble.
But there's something reasonable, something soft, something truly manly about Stone that begins to become quite appealing to Lark. As the romantic side of the plot heats up, the tension heats up as well when the background town plans and characters connected to Zeke Rhodes' death come to light.
So get ready for some Southern comfort food and hospitality mixed with small town thinking and attitudes that might not be so welcoming - all of which blend into a blooming holiday romance that sifts out the garbage, solves a mystery, and leads to what you can predict between this couple. However, because the reader knows where the plot is going on the romance side only increases the pleasure from sharing their story. Very nicely done, Hope Ramsay!