Mar 1 2013 9:30am

First Look: Alison Kent’s Second Chance Cafe (March 5, 2013)

The Second Chance Cafe by Alison KentAlison Kent
Second Chance Café
Montlake / March 5, 2013 /  $12.95 print, $4.99 digital

Growing up, Kaylie Flynn was shuffled from foster home to foster home before being welcomed into Winton and May Wise’s family. It was May who taught Kaylie the comfort of home, and the healing power of baking the perfect brownie. Years later, May leaves Kaylie the money she needs to open her own café in the charming Victorian they once shared. Now back in Hope Springs, Kaylie’s determined to finally make all her dreams a reality—and unearth answers to lingering questions about her past.

Soon, however, Kaylie’s carefully laid plans take an unexpected turn. The house needs far more work than she realized, and Tennessee Keller, the carpenter Kaylie hires, is proving to be a very handsome and very unneeded distraction from her quest to uncover the truth about her parents. When a crisis threatens to destroy everything she’s worked so hard to build, Kaylie must decide where her heart lies: with the ghosts of her past or the love and promise of her future.

I have an abiding affection for second-chance stories, and so I found the title of Alison Kent’s inaugural book for her Hope Springs series irresistible. What I found within the book’s pages was more than even my second-chance-loving heart anticipated.

First, there is the house where the heroine, Kaylie Flynn, is planning to open her café. It is a three-story Victorian located at the corner of Second and Chances in Hope Springs, Texas, and it’s due for reclamation. Kaylie is the proud new owner, and she is already dreaming of the changes she’s going to make.

The shutters would be the first thing she replaced. Several slats were broken, some dangling, others gone. They’d once been white, but the paint had since chipped and faded. A soft dove gray would suit much better. Or maybe the pale butter-yellow of Van Gogh’s stars.

Kaylie’s emotional attachment to the house is significant; it’s the place where as a ten-year-old, damaged from five miserable years in foster care, she was given a second chance by May and Winton Wise. The house is filled with memories of the eight years she spent in it, the best years of her life. She draws strength from the house and her memories of the couple she credits with saving her life.

“Coming here saved me. I wouldn’t be who I am today had it not been for May and Winton. Here I can do anything. Open a café. Start over. Face the past. Sleep.”

Returning to Hope Springs allows Kaylie to reconnect with the best of her past and to dream of a future.

She turned for the window, leaned her forehead against the glass, and conjured pictures from this place and the autumns she’d spent here. The zing of pine and damp cedar and Rio Grande Valley grapefruits, of yeast bread and nutmeg and cloves in cider. Tiny white lights draped in uneven ribbon from the porch roof’s edge, twinkling like holiday fireflies.

Kaylie was going to have lights year-round. She’d hang them before Two Owls opened and leave them burning long after the doors closed for the last time. She hoped to be eighty by then. She planned to live here forever.

Kaylie’s housemate and constant companion is her dog, Magoo. Kaylie adopted Magoo, now a two-year-old shepherd mix, from an animal shelter where he’d been left with his littermates. A reader doesn’t have to know that 3.7 million animals are euthanized in animal shelters every year to recognize that the adoption gave Magoo a second chance.

Within days of her arrival in Hope Springs, Kaylie has hired a contractor, Tennessee Keller. Ten, a preservationist who comes highly recommended, is a man with a compelling need to right wrongs, although his inability to right what he feels is a great wrong he did is a dominant force in his life. He deals daily with his guilt over failing his sister and brother. When his brother refuses to join the business he and Ten had once planned to build together and disappears after his release from prison, as an act of expiation, Ten hires parolees, giving them a second chance to redeem the life one bad choice messed up.

Ten had finally let it go. His brother was a free man, going it alone his own choice. That didn’t keep Ten from feeling he had never done enough to help.
And because of that, he gave parolees a paycheck and a boost onto their feet. He knew what it meant for a man to lose his mind for a single moment, and to have that single moment screw up the rest of his life.

The intriguing cast of secondary characters includes Mitch Pepper, a man who spent twenty-three years searching for the daughter he lost; Luna Meadows, a fiber artist who weaves her secrets and sorrows into the scarves made trendy by her celebrity patrons; Will Bowman, an intuitive lone wolf and one of Ten’s parolees; Indiana Keller, Ten’s sister, who is haunted by a moment in her past that left her missing both her brothers; and Dakota Keller, the mysterious missing sibling who is a presence in the story although he never appears. Each is in the need of a second chance. I suspect that second chances will become the theme not just of this first book but also of the series as more of these characters are given the opportunity to redeem their pasts. I look forward to reading their stories.

Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Kareni
This sounds quite intriguing. I'll be on the lookout for it.
2. MaryC
I have preordered Alison's book and can't wait to read it - thanks for sharing your thoughts!
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