Last Chance Beauty Queen – Hope Ramsay

What fun. Stereotypes of the British peerage collide with stereotypes of Southern townfolk, and in the crash most of the clichés fall away.

This was a download from Netgalley (thank you!) which I enjoyed quite a bit: the story of Rocky Rhodes, who, and who can blame her, has remade herself in the city far away from her little Southern hometown: there she is called Caroline, and her beauty queen past is buried as deep as she’s been able to shovel. (I’d call myself Tallulahbelle to avoid being called Rocky Rhodes.)(After having killed both my parents for a name that borders on abusive.) Her goal is to ride along with the senator she works for until she makes it to Washington DC: that’s the world she wants to live in, not what she’s left behind. And things are going pretty well, when the track to DC loops her back home – just in time for the Watermelon Festival. Rocky has a history with the Watermelon Festival.

To her humiliation, she is roped into the anniversary parade, and into the pink and green dress she wore when she was its queen – and from the parade she is roped into another humiliating situation altogether. Every aspect of her life that she would prefer to keep hidden from her boss and from the hunky British peer he’s saddled her with naturally comes popping out: the baron, Hugh Debracy, has business with the slightly mad owner of a Scriptural Mini Golf establishment which, though it’s seen hard times, is still hanging on – the baron wants to buy it to combine the land with other plots and build a factory, and the owner – who happens to be Caroline’s father – refuses to sell. Which is where she comes into the picture.

I have a bit of a hard time reconciling the idea of a Christian romance (in terms of a good Christian girl, if not of a romance novel written for a specifically Christian audience) with the steamy sex scenes: a “good girl” who leaps into what looks like a one-night stand doesn’t sit well. Also an ill fit to my mind is the element of the weeping angel with the pragmatism of the rest of the story. It might be an easier path to slip into for someone who has read the other two books in the series, who knows the characters; to me it was jarring to go from a fairly straightforward and mundane (in that there were no supernatural elements) to passages of quirky mysticism.

I liked the characterizations. They flirted with caricature, but never married it: there were some believable personalities here, and likeable ones. Rocky’s father’s determination to keep the golf course preserved until repairs can be made is never belittled; Rocky is embarrassed by him and it, but loves him wholeheartedly nonetheless. There are several classic Romance Misunderstandings, along with a case of classic You Two Are Meant To Be Together And Just Don’t See It. But with the credible personalities, it all works. It was a fun read.

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