The Last Lap by Christy Hayes

Publisher: CAH

Date of publication: March 7th, 2023

Genre: Romance

Purchase Links: Kindle | Kobo | Apple Books

Trigger Warnings: Grief, death of a sibling, death of a parent, parent with Alzheimer’s, evacuation due to hurricane, loss of business

Goodreads Synopsis:

Megan Holloway has learned a few hard truths in her twenty-eight-years. Life isn’t fair. People she loves always leave. And she’ll be stuck on Key West running her parents’ gift store and raising her twelve-year-old niece for the rest of her life.

Thirty-year-old Bryan Westfall has come to Key West to clean out his dead brother’s apartment and search for answers about the woman who died with his estranged older brother. Bryan didn’t know the woman had a daughter and he sure didn’t expect her sister to floor him with her beauty and biting brashness.

Bryan’s persistent need to help and Meg’s bumbling business skills create an unlikely union. The more time they spend together, the more their feelings become too powerful to deny. Meg knows Bryan is leaving at the end of the summer and Bryan knows Meg is holding back to spare herself needless heartache. When a hurricane forces them to evacuate, Meg mentally prepares to let Bryan go while Bryan wonders if home is where he came from or is with the woman who stole his heart.

First Line:

Megan Holloway could sell a fifty-cent snow globe to a traveling fool, but she couldn’t sell a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to her twelve-year-old niece.

The Last Lap by Christy Hayes

Meg is slowly drowning after the death of her sister and business partner, Amanda. She is running the family business, a gift shop located in Key West, and raising her twelve-year-old niece by herself. Bryan has traveled to Key West to find out more about the woman who died with his brother, clear out his brother’s apartment and find out what led to his death. At the top of his list: is talking to Amanda’s surviving family. But Bryan wasn’t expecting Amanda to have a daughter or that her sister would be so hostile. Realizing that Meg needs help, Bryan sticks around, hoping that Meg will relent. And she does, and soon, a summer romance blossoms between the two. But Meg is a realist and knows that her relationship with Bryan will end once he returns to Georgia. Or will it?

The Last Lap surprised me in a good way. As a first-time reader of Christy Hayes, I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this book. I figured it would follow the same formula as other romances. In a way, it did. But also, the author was able to put a different spin on Meg and Bryan’s romance.

The Last Lap is a medium-paced book set mainly in Key West, Florida, with some of Bryan’s beginning scene set in Georgia. Having never been to Key West, I loved how the author made it come alive. She created a close-knit community that rallied and protected their own (Meg and Lily). Those relationships (and the romance between Bryan and Meg) made the book.

I hate to say this, but I didn’t like Meg for a good chunk of the book. Listen, I get that she was mourning her sister and hated Corey passionately (she blamed him for their deaths). But it didn’t excuse her behavior towards Bryan. She was nasty to him. Thankfully, Bryan understood and did back off for a little bit. It was that and her older friend giving her a very stern talking that finally made Meg snap out of it. But, man, during that time, it stressed me out. She did even out and became likable after that.

I thought Bryan was a freaking saint during this book. He had to deal with so much. Bryan lost his older brother, who, by all accounts, was skating through life on his good looks and charm. He had to deal with parents who were distant from him but expected him to go through Corey’s apartment. Then, he found out that Amanda had a daughter, which made him feel responsible, and he had to deal with Meg, who was very hostile and grieving. Let’s not forget his best friend, who was separated from his wife and moved to Key West with him. So, yeah, he was dealing with a lot. But unlike Meg, he was able to process everything healthily. I think he was the best thing that happened to Meg and Lily. He helped them overcome their grief over Amanda’s death.

The storyline of Amanda and Corey’s death, Meg, Lily, Bryan, and the romance between Meg and Bryan was well written. The way the author wrote about grief and how Amanda and Corey would be missed are some of the more memorable scenes that I have read. The grief was palpable and almost suffocating (in Meg’s case). In Bryan’s case, there was such a strong sense of regret and what could have been. I liked how Bryan (and the sisters in the flower shop) helped Meg work through that grief. Lily’s grieving was a little more reserved, but it was there. But Meg did her best to ensure Lily’s grief didn’t spiral into something more. The romance was expected, but it was still sweet.

I want to mention some secondary storylines that caught my attention while reading. The first is Meg’s parents and her mother’s slip into early Alzheimers. It broke my heart, and when Meg saw her in Orlando, I cried with her. Her father was trying to be there for Meg and Lily but couldn’t because he needed to be near their mother. It was a heartbreaking situation.

In contrast, the storyline with Bryan’s parents was awful. Corey’s death destroyed his parents (like Meg’s). But in direct contrast, Bryan’s parents wallowed in it. As horrible as it is to say, Corey was the favorite child. Bryan just got the leftovers from them. Even Dustin (Bryan’s best friend) knew that. The more that came out about his childhood and how his parents favored Corey, my heart broke for him. What made me dislike them were two things. One was Bryan’s father’s phone call, telling Bryan he held no responsibility for Amanda’s daughter (he didn’t, but still). It wasn’t why he said it but how. The other was when Bryan figured out where Corey got his money. That phone call with his mother ripped my heart out of my chest.

The romance angle of the book was good. I wouldn’t quite say that it is Instalove, but it bordered it. Meg and Bryan spent much time together, and it evolved from there. The sex scenes were tastefully written and not graphic. It started with kissing and some fondling, and then the chapter ended. The next chapter was the next day which made it perfect.

There are trigger warnings in The Last Lap. They are grief, death of a sibling, death of a parent, parent with Alzheimer’s, evacuation due to hurricane, and loss of business. If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading the book.

I would recommend The Last Lap to anyone over 21. There is mild violence, mild language, and nongraphic sex scenes. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph.

Many thanks to Christy Hayes for allowing me to read and review The Last Lap. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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