Last Kiss, Luanne Riceís latest work, returns to the characters from her bestselling novel Beach Girls. Nell Kilvert is all grown up now at 17, and she is heartbroken. The love of her life, Charlie Rosslare, was killed almost a year ago, and she still has not found closure. Her inability to heal from her grief stems from one thing - the police still havenít discovered what happened to her beloved Charlie. Desperate, Nell calls the one person she thinks can discover the truth behind Charlieís death: Gavin Dawson, a private detective. But Nell doesnít realize what Gavinís return will mean for another important woman in Charlieís life - his mother, Sheridan.
Sheridan Rosslare is understandably lost after the death of her son. A world-famous country singer, she hasnít been able to pick up a guitar since the night she lost her son. Gavinís return only complicates things further. Once young lovers like Nell and Charlie, Sheridan didnít believe the time was right for her and Gavin and let him go. But he hasnít fallen out of love with her, and she isnít quite sure what her feelings are for him. As she begins to rediscover herself and the world around her, Gavin delves deeper into the dark mystery of Charlieís violent death and what it means for those who loved him.
Last Kiss is another winning entry into Luanne Riceís canon. While I canít say I enjoyed it as much as What Matters Most or Light of the Moon, it is a wonderful story. The murder mystery aspect makes the novel a bit darker than the usual Rice fare, but it is still light enough for her regular readers. In some ways the book reminded me of Sandcastles, a novel of which readers were a bit critical, but Rice seems to have corrected most of the flaws that frustrated her readers in that novel. Last Kiss does relate to its prequel, Beach Girls, but as with Sandcastles and What Matters Most, it is not necessary to have read Beach Girls first. That said, if a reader intends to read Beach Girls eventually, that book should be read first; otherwise, Last Kiss will spoil the ending.
The one element out of place in Last Kiss is the magic employed by Sheridanís sisters and grandmother. It seems to be a poor imitation of Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and doesnít really fit in with the overall story. However, it doesnít detract from the book either; it just seems like it doesnít belong.
Last Kiss is about all types of love, both young and old. It is about new love and old love, about saying hello to one who has been absent for a long time and saying goodbye to one who is never coming back. The heart of the novel is really in its characters; if you are a Rice fan, you will welcome their return. If this is your first Rice novel, you will enjoy meeting them for the first time. Either way, hopefully this book will find you eagerly anticipating Luanne Riceís next work.