Soapy sequel to Beginner’s Luck (2003) brings back 17-year-old Hallie Palmer, home for the summer and trying to lose her virginity.
After her freshman year at college, Hallie returns to bucolic Cosgrove County, Ohio. But she doesn’t go back to her family’s overcrowded house, moving in instead with the eccentric crowd at the Stockton estate: mother Olivia, son Bernard, his lover Gil and an alcoholic chimp named Rocky. In three short months, Hallie solves everyone’s problems. First on her list is reconciling the boyfriends. To everyone’s shock, Gil is now dating women; Bernard wallows in grief while staging a Dark Victory marathon. Next in line is reforming Hallie’s little sister Louise, who’s running with a fast crowd, wearing black eye shadow and flunking high school. Our heroine also strives to stave off the imminent bankruptcy of Herb the pharmacist, who’s being undercut by the evil Valueland. And Hallie has problems of her own. She needs to raise thousands for next year’s tuition, and she’s trying to decide whether to have sex for the first time. After all, how does she know he’s the one? (This whole subplot is handled in a manner more appropriate for a juvenile audience.) The plot and the laughably tidy resolution are predictable, but the real failing lies with the all-too-familiar personalities. Instead of developing her secondary characters, Pederson reverts to types: Cappy the rascally bookmaker, Olivia the bohemian matriarch, Ottavio the passionate Italian, Bernard the gay cliché. (He’s an antiques dealer, a gourmand and loves Ethel Merman show tunes.) Apparently she doesn’t think her readers are smart enough for anything subtler; every time someone makes an obvious allusion, the author feels obliged to explain: Hegel is a German philosopher; “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” is from an old Bette Davis flick, etc.
The charm and quirkiness of its predecessor are spread far too thin in this superficial follow-up.