Book Review The Queen of Second Chances
Here's another somewhat overdue book review of The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr. It's a novel with a couple pivotal canine characters who help drive major plot points and excitement. Here's what I liked about the book, thoughts on places younger readers might feel lost, and a few minor quibbles.
If you're looking for something fun with a good dose of adventure and a little romance, I recommend reading The Queen of Second Chances.
The Queen of Second Chances Main Character
It turns out I have a fair bit in common with the novel's main character Carra (Carraway), including major in college, surviving a dog attack, and other little familial details. That always helps keep a reader engaged. Not that I don't enjoy protagonists from vastly different backgrounds too, but Carra felt relatable for various reasons, including the economics of her living situation.
Not sure about you, but I'm *exhausted with rom-com books or movies where everyone has a crap-ton of money.
Themes and Real Life
The Queen of Second Chances centers around the challenges older people face -- from scammers, including family members, to inane senior center programming and even family members with addiction causing all sorts of havoc.
Before Carra's innovations, activities at the senior center in the book remind me of the time my mother-in-law had to be in a physical rehabilitation center for a while and the entertainment included some local musician playing riveting [sarcasm] song selections like "How much is that doggy in the window?" She was horrified and annoyed by it all. Just because she needed some physical therapy and other help for a while did not mean her brain wasn't at 100%. Reference to that stupid song became a long-running family joke.
And, yes, I just used a cultural reference many might not understand (exactly how D.M. Barr does in the book), so you know? It's easy to do.
Rom-coms often feel rosier than reality, but The Queen of Second Chances feels grittier than that, in a good way.
Yes, the male lead is an elder-focused lawyer with political aspirations and deep donor pockets, but Carra convinces him to do some hands-on work with seniors in the community.
Adventures, Excitement, and Villains
A couple of the situations they get into are harrowing, so that adds a fresh angle to the rom-com genre.
Best of all, a couple of dogs play major (heroic) roles in a few critical scenes in the book. You'll be cheering for them. Yay, dogs!
I also appreciated that the books villains, such as they are, match my impressions of people working in certain types of professions, such as cheesy / manipulative sales types. Yes, I have some baggage.
Favorite Lines from Queen of Second Chances
Several key turns of phrase made me laugh. D.M. Barr definitely can craft vivid imagery with words, such as ...
"She looked as frantic and harried as always -- like a forgetful scientist who'd discovered, and immediately misplaced, the cure for cancer."
Where Younger Readers Might Get Lost
I marked perhaps a dozen spots where The Queen of Second Chances makes cultural references that younger readers might not get such as the old TV show Hee-Haw (that even I wouldn't know except that my grandparents sometimes watched it in the 1970s). I'm shocked to see online that I ran from 1969 to 1997. I had NO idea it was on that long. Ha!
So maybe be ready to look up references you don't immediately get. They are funny and descriptive, but you have to understand the context to feel fully engaged.
A Couple of Quibbles
I truly did enjoy Queen of Second Chances and greatly appreciate the entertainment and distraction provided. Just a few tiny quibbles of things I could have done without:
- A reference to Ayn Rand's philosophies
- Use of "master" as a word to describe someone who lives with and cares for a dog -- It's an old way to talk about dog people, and it ties back to slave ownership and really shouldn't be used anymore.
- The recommendation that someone say a dog is an "emotional support animal" to circumvent accessibility rules
- The not entirely true thing about when it comes to dogs that "it's all in how you raise them" -- Some breeds, some dogs, are how they are for genetic and other reasons. In some cases, no matter how well bred and raised and socialized, some dogs just aren't right or normal or may struggle with various behavior challenges in their lifetimes.
And, before anybody gets all wild about that, I'm NOT singling out a specific breed, including the pittie in the book. I mean that there is potential in all breeds for something to be off.
I'm breed loyal to border collies, of course, but I've fostered several pittie/mix babies over the years. Technically, Rodger on the far right was listed as mostly cattledog, but I'm guessing there was some pittie in him too.