I read about ‘Second Chance Grill’ in Goodreads, and being a doctor (a psychiatrist) thinking about having a break from my career and doing something completely different, the plot appealed to me from the beginning. I had not read the first novel in the series ‘Treasure Me’, but must say that although I’ve read the extract at the end of the novel, ‘Second Chance Grill’ stands alone and it seems that one could start reading at any point in the series.
The story in the ‘Second Chance Grill’ is that of Mary, a doctor who’s lost her best friend, Sadie, recently, and has a history of loses (lost her parents and was informally adopted by the parents of her friend Sadie, who also studied Medicine with her). The two girls had very similar backgrounds and they were planning on taking over the running of the free clinic that Sadie’s father had in Cincinnati. Her friend’s death and her aunt’s leaving her a restaurant in Liberty, Ohio, combined to change what she thought was her well-worked out future. Her initial plan is to stay there until she can turn the restaurant into a feasible business and then return to manage the clinic. As you will suspect, things don’t go quite as planned, and Mary experiences it all, from staff’s difficulties, problems trying to obtain health coverage for her employees (a very current topic in the US that become even more pressing towards the end of the novel), bad-press, jealousy, and… love. She is chosen, from very early on, as an ideal substitute mother by Blossom, a charming teenager with health problems, and the girl’s father, Anthony (a very attractive and fit Italian-American garage-owner and Mr Fix-It) makes her wish the girl’s fantasies become true. Mary is pulled between her wish to stay in Liberty and have a new family and what she feels is her duty towards the family who took her into their fold and nurtured her interest and skills in Medicine. It is a difficult decision
The author manages to combine smiles, pathos, sadness and laughter in her novel to make the reader feel satisfied. I’d like to say that life is a balance of sad and happy moments, but that is not true. As we know, sometimes everything seems to go wrong and at others everything is going so well that we worry it cannot possibly last. Some people seem very lucky and others get more than their fair share of bad luck. Sometimes it is the attitude and the spirit of the people that can put a spin on events. Ms Nolfi, like all good authors, knows that sad moments can enhance the happy ones, as too much sugar can make us all sick. I enjoyed the novel. It is easy to read, the main characters are well-drawn, believable and I, for one, would like them as friends. The secondary characters help to bring Liberty, the town, that is an important character in its own right (and I understand why it provides the name for the series) to life. They are also detailed enough to make the readers feel they know them, and I bet they’d be scene stealers in any movie (I’d love to see Theodora in the flesh and her driving skills put to the test!) It reminded me of Nicholas Sparks and of some bittersweet films one watches, that can make you cry throughout, but eventually you leave with a smile on your face and feeling all the better for it (one of my favourite’s the Italian movie ‘The Son’s Room’ by writer-director Nanni Moretti).
If you don’t enjoy romance, you expect flashy action or heavy erotic scenes; this is not your novel. If you want to cry, laugh, and finish your read with a warm feeling in your heart, go ahead and read ‘Second Chance Grill’. After reading the first chapter of ‘Treasure Me’ I very much suspect I’ll be back for a second helping of the Liberty Series and will continue to explore Ms. Nolfi’s career looking forward to more tears and plenty of smiles.