The Last Circle of Love – Lorna Landvik

Published By: Lake Union
Pages: 288
Released On: 06/12/2022

Newly installed at All Souls Lutheran, Mallory “Pastor Pete” Peterson soon realizes that her church isn’t merely going through turbulent waters, but is a sinking ship. With the help of five loyal members of the Naomi Circle, the young, bold minister brainstorms fundraising ideas. They all agree that the usual recipe book won’t add much to the parish coffers, but maybe one with all the ingredients on how to heat up relationships rather than casseroles will…

Pastor Pete has her doubts about the project, but it turns out the group of postmenopausal women has a lot to say on the subject of romance. While Charlene, the youngest member at fifty-two, struggles with the assignment, baker-extraordinaire Marlys, elegantly bohemian Bunny, I’m-always-right Velda, and ebullient Edie take up their contributions enthusiastically. After all, their book is really about cooking up love in all its forms.

But not everyone in the congregation is on board with this “scandalous” project. As the voices of opposition grow louder, Pastor Pete and these intrepid women will have to decide how hard they’re willing to fight for this book and the powerful stories within―stories of discovery, softened hearts, and changed lives.

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

This was my first of Lorna’s books and the premise sounded like it would be a good place to start. In the end though, I found myself conflicted as I didn’t really enjoy it.

First the good points. It’s easy going, relatively short, quick to read and is a bit of fun.

However, I did get lost in several places with the number of characters. It was hard to keep up with who was who and what their purpose was to the story. I feel it would have been better to focus on a handful of main characters and give them more time to develop. Because there’s so many, we didn’t get any standout characters, they all just bled into each other.

I also think I’d have preferred just one narrator. Whilst it is written in the third person, we do get viewpoints from each “third person” as it was, sometimes within the same chapter. This didn’t help with the tone either and it made it hard to settle in to.

The tone didn’t settle for me. I can’t see exactly what felt off, but at times it was just this cosy comedy, then it went down a more adult route, then it became serious, then like teenage whining. It just didn’t settle into one which made it feel a bit bumpy.

It’s quite lighthearted and fun to begin with and then it seems like the author has chucked in as many important and sensitive topics she can think of, including gender identity, relationship troubles, alcoholism, sexuality, dementia, grief etc. And whilst I appreciate the use of them and wanting to give the plot more gravitas, I didn’t feel they added much to the overall story.

I wouldn’t say it’s badly written, I wouldn’t go that far, but it just felt a bit naive, like it was an early work that hadn’t quite been finessed yet. At less than 300 pages it is relatively short, but it still felt too long, too drawn out for me.

Overall, a pleasant enough read, if a little tepid.

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