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Review: Return To Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Return To Virgin River (Virgin River #19)
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2020, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Kaylee Sloan’s home in Southern California is full of wonderful memories of the woman who raised her. But the memories are prolonging her grief over her mother’s recent death. A successful author, Kaylee hoped she could pour herself into her work. Instead she has terrible writer’s block and a looming deadline.

Determined to escape distractions and avoid the holiday season, Kaylee borrows a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing, and as she drives north through the mountains and the majestic redwoods, she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local watering hole is the heart of the town, and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a friend—or a stranger—in need.

Kaylee’s world is expanding in ways she never dreamed possible. And when she rescues a kitten followed by a dog with a litter of puppies, she finds her heart opening up to the animals who need her. And then there’s the dog trainer who knows exactly how to help her. As the holidays approach, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to spend Christmas than Virgin River.

Well it’s been a long time between books for the Virgin River series – book #18 was released in 2012. I binged this series big time back then, thanks to Marg @ The Intrepid Reader. Robyn Carr moved onto other series’ but the popularity of Virgin River on Netflix perhaps, means we get to travel back to that small town in California and catch up with some favourites as well as get introduced to some new people.

Kaylee Sloan is heartbroken at the devastating loss of her mother. It’s affected her whole life. Upon her mother’s death she inherited her mother’s house but Kaylee isn’t ready to live in it yet. She’s also behind in finishing her latest book for her publisher so her intention is to escape to a cabin in Virgin River, a place she spent time at growing up. It will give her privacy to grieve and peace and quiet to meet the deadline hanging over her head. Her plan is scuppered though when the cabin is on fire as she arrives. Kaylee’s revised plan is to travel a little further out, but popping into Jack’s Bar & Grill means that Jack is pretty sure he can find her a rental that will suit.

In Virgin River, Kaylee finds more than just a place to hole up away from the world so that she can finish her book. As a writer she also finds herself fictionalising her life, which is a new genre for her, it’s good therapy and after a while, she thinks she might actually have something. She also finds a community – she’s welcomed by Jack and his wife Mel and embraced by the other locals who step in to help her find somewhere to stay, introduce themselves and offer up things they have or make or produce that she may need. Kaylee finds a tiny kitten and rather than surrender it to the vet to go to a shelter, she decides to adopt it. And even though she’s deathly terrified of dogs, she also finds a mother and her puppies in the woods and makes the decision to rescue them as well, with the help of dog trainer and her somewhat casual landlord, Landry. Kaylee and Landry bond during their time of shared proximity, having meals together and sharing tidbits of their lives. Landry has also experienced the grief of losing a parent and he’s further down the road than Kaylee and can offer some insight on the healing and moving forward process. He’s also determined to help Kaylee with her fear of dogs as well and it isn’t long before their friendship is burgeoning into something more.

It was really good to return to Virgin River! And this is a book that makes sure it gives you a glimpse of as many previous couples as possible – if they’re still living there, then chances are they appear in this book at least once, even if it’s just the briefest of mentions! Mel and Jack are prominent of course and Bree, Jack’s sister. There’s also Colin and Jillian, as well as quite a few others. Kaylee really embraces joining the local community, even though her grief is very raw and it’s affecting her day to day life at times. She and her mother were very close, she was an only child (on her mother’s side, her father has married again and has other children from other marriages) and her untimely death has left Kaylee so bereft. Slowly however, Kaylee finds herself learning to cope with her loss, taking comfort in a life that she’s building in Virgin River. She’s not sure if it’s the sort of place she would live permanently but it’s certainly a soothing balm – and the fact that Landry is there definitely doesn’t hurt! I really enjoyed Kaylee and Landry together, they had this laid back, easygoing kind of relationship, there’s not a dramatic conflict or anything. Landry does have a bit of baggage that needs resolving and his situation was a bit unusual but he’s a kind, caring and gentle person. They went well together also – you could see them building something together. They both worked in creative fields and enjoyed a quiet life, meals at home and the like.

There’s something very comforting about returning to a familiar place with familiar people like Virgin River. Everything is still kind of the same – Jack has a bit of grey in his hair but he’s still manning the bar and meddling in things when he can, Preacher is still cooking, Mel is still the most random midwife. I really need to get watching Virgin River on Netflix before season 2 drops and sink back into the world a little more.

8/10

Book #204 of 2020

 

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Review: What We Find by Robyn Carr

What We FindWhat We Find (Sullivan’s Crossing #1)
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2016, 352p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Join Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author of theVirgin River and Thunder Point series, as she explores the healing powers of rural Colorado in a brand-new story of fresh starts, budding relationships and one woman’s journey to finding the happiness she’s long been missing

Between the urban bustle of Denver and the high-stress environment of a career in neurosurgery, Maggie Sullivan has hit a wall. When an emergency, high-risk procedure results in the death of a teenager, Maggie finds herself in the middle of a malpractice lawsuit—and experiencing levels of anxiety she’s never faced before. It’s in this desperate moment that Maggie’s boyfriend decides he can’t handle her emotional baggage, and she’s left alone, exhausted and unsure of what her future holds. One thing is certain, though: she needs to slow down before she burns out completely, and the best place she can think to do that is Sullivan’s Crossing.

Named for Maggie’s great-grandfather, the land and charming general store at the crossroads of the Colorado and the Continental Divide trails have been passed down through the generations and now belong to Maggie’s estranged father, Sully. Though raised by her mother and stepfather after her parents divorced, Maggie has always adored Sully—despite his hands-off approach to fatherhood. When she shows up unannounced in Sullivan’s Crossing, he welcomes her with opens arms, and she relishes the opportunity to rebuild their relationship.

But when Sully has a sudden heart attack, Maggie’s world is rocked once again. Consumed with his care, she’s relieved to find that Cal Jones, a quiet and serious-looking camper, has been taking over many of Sully’s responsibilities as he recuperates. Still, Maggie is suspicious of this mysterious man’s eagerness to help—until she finds out the true reason for his deliberate isolation.

Though Cal and Maggie each struggle with loss and loneliness, the time they spend together gives Maggie hope for something brighter just on the horizon…if only they can learn to find peace and healing—and perhaps love—with each other.

I love a good series and a few years ago I spent a lot of time binging on Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series. There was a lot of books in that series, somewhere close to 20 and I loved the whole community that she developed. I tried the spin off series, Thunder Point and I have to admit, it just didn’t grab me in the same way but I was willing to give a new series (removed from those two) a go and overall I think it was a pretty good start.

Maggie is a neurosurgeon who is going through what could only politely be termed as a bit of bad luck. She’s being sued, the partners of her practice are being investigated, she’s suffered a personal tragedy and on the back of that, her boyfriend breaks up with her. She flees responsibility for a while to visit her father Sully. Maggie loves her father dearly but still carries around with her a lot of issues about their separation in her childhood and his sporadic parenting thereafter. When Sully has a heart attack not long after Maggie arrives, it brings a lot of these fears and resentments to the surface as she struggles to understand things that happened years ago.

Maggie is also preoccupied from the start with one of the guests at her father’s camping ground, named Cal Jones. She doesn’t really have much of a reason to be suspicious about him but for some reason she makes all sorts of assumptions about him, most of which couldn’t be further off the mark. A long running joke is Cal telling her he’s “just Cal” and refusing to tell her what it’s short for. She tries different versions of names that Cal could be short for, occasionally googling variations in order to find out anything about him when he continues to play his cards very close to his chest. I enjoyed that a lot, and I felt like Cal brought out a side in Maggie that she desperately needed to embrace. In fact all of Sullivan’s Crossing did that. She’d spent so long studying to become a doctor and working in a high pressure environment that sometimes it felt like she must’ve not had fun or relaxed properly in years. Although she’s taking time out because of bad situations, it gives Maggie the chance to live life at a bit of a slower pace. She’s pretty uptight (evidenced by her inability to grasp what Cal is doing just hanging out). I thought the slow reveal of Cal was really well done – there are some little hints dropped to the reader that Maggie isn’t privvy to until much later when Cal finally decides to tell her exactly what he’s doing in Sullivan Crossing and why. I wasn’t sure about them together at first, their earlier interactions lacked a bit of chemistry and they seemed to go from Maggie’s suspicious looks to sharing drinks by the campfire (and more) quite quickly. But the longer it went on, the more I warmed up to it.

I am pretty interested to see where this series goes – the setting was good, perhaps the best part. Robyn Carr does do setting up a small community and building the characters within very well so I’ll definitely continue on.

7/10

Book #62 of 2016

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The Hero – Robyn Carr

HeroThe Hero (Thunder Point #3)
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2013, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Devon McAllister is a woman on the run with her 3yo daughter Mercy. She took an opportunity and ran with it, escaping a situation that had become intolerable. She ends up in Thunder Point, a tiny town on the Oregon coast, relying on the kindness of Rawley, who not only picked up her and Mercy and gave them a lift but also offered them a place to stay.

The people of Thunder Point welcome Devon and her daughter and they don’t ask too many questions, something that makes Devon happy. Although she’s told a few people a little of her situation, enough for them to figure out the rest, she doesn’t want everyone knowing her business. And she’s got to stay quiet and keep a low profile because she doesn’t want to be found either. She sets about getting herself a job in the small town as a receptionist in the newly-opened doctor’s surgery and finds a place for Mercy and herself. Here she begins to see, is a place where she can begin to build a new life for herself and her daughter, a more normal life.

Spencer Lawson has also recently moved to Thunder Point, all the way from Texas. The father of a young boy, the widower has moved north to be closer to Austin’s biological father Hank Cooper, aka Coop, the owner of the bar and grill on the beach. He wants them both to have a hand in raising Austin and so he’s taken the position of coach of the local high school football team. They’re a talented bunch and Spencer knows that he can do a lot with this team. They’re boys relying on good performances for scholarships and Spencer has the time and the know how to get them what they want.

What he didn’t count on was Devon McAllister. Having recently lost his wife to cancer some months back after a very long battle, Spencer wasn’t looking for a relationship. But there’s something about Devon that draws him in and he’s also just what Devon needs too – someone who listens, who is gentle and thoughtful and doesn’t attempt to dominate her thoughts or her actions. But both of them have baggage -and one last terrifying moment connected to Devon’s past- to overcome before they might be able to reach out and grab the happiness that awaits them.

After the perplexity of the second book in this series, The Newcomer, I was a bit apprehensive about reading this one. Fortunately it seems to make a return to the format Robyn Carr is known for – devoting each book to a new couple but giving plenty of the previous couples, all of whom live and work in the small town she has chosen for her location. Although I am enjoying the setting of Thunder Point just as much as I did Virgin River, I have to say that the stories aren’t quite grabbing me as much as they did in her previous series. I also can’t put my finger on why that is – perhaps it’s just that Coop doesn’t carry the responsibility as well as Jack did or maybe it’s just that I find the two different series’ too similar to be able to appreciate Thunder Point on its own merit. I’m not sure what it is really.

This book is a definite improvement on the last book, however. Devon McAllister is running from a situation that she no longer wanted to stay in. Frightened and determined to find a corner of the world where she can’t be found, she ends up being embraced by the community in Thunder Point, most notably Rawley who works at Coop’s bar, Coop, Spencer and Coop’s fiancee Sarah. In them Devon gets support and assistance and most importantly, friendship. She’s lived a somewhat lonely and isolated life – which made her ripe pickings to end up in the situation she then had to flee. What’s interesting is watching Devon change from a woman who jumps at shadows and fears most things to a woman who becomes confident in her own abilities to work and take care of herself and to carve a niche for herself in her new town. There are quite a lot of things that fall into her lap – for instance she is introduced to the new doctor who just happens to require a receptionist and this just happens to be the field Devon worked in before she ended up in ‘the situation’. Also the young doctor is a widower with two small children similar in age to Mercy and it’s easy for his babysitter to just add Mercy to her crew – just like that! As the mother of two small children I can say that it is not ‘just like that’ to add another child to the mix, particularly an unknown one. That is glossed over rather a lot and I do feel for 19yo Gabriella who now finds herself minding 3 children most of the week! Also is the doctor rich? Because in lieu of paying Gabriella for her nannying services, he pays her college tuition instead. That sounds frighteningly expensive – someone is getting the raw end of the deal here but I’m not entirely sure who it is!

The romance between Spencer and Devon is rather sweet – I did wonder when I first heard that this book was about Spencer, if it would seem ‘too soon’ for him. He did just lose his wife four months ago to cancer. But her illness was a long battle (about 4 years I think) and he had plenty of time to prepare himself and to say goodbye to her and the life they shared together. And no one really wants to be alone – if he passed on an opportunity to be happy with Devon because he hadn’t grieved long enough, who knows when another situation where he could find happiness might come along? So in the end that didn’t bother me quite as much as I thought it would. However once again, the title is an odd choice for this book.

The next book sounds like a very interesting pairing – I’m looking forward to that one.

7/10

Book #223 of 2013

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The Newcomer – Robyn Carr

NewcomerThe Newcomer (Thunder Point #2)
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2013, 368p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Single parents Gina James and Deputy Sheriff “Mac” MacCain have waited a long time before taking that first step to finding happiness with each other. Both became parents very young and while Gina only has her daughter Ashley, Mac has three children to raise. For years the two of them have maintained the just friends line, not wanting to upset the delicate dynamics of friendship between their two families. But recently there’s no denying that they want to become more. Much, much more.

Finding alone time can be a problem when there are always kids and other relatives kicking around. They’ve been taking it slow but the idea of merging their families is becoming more attractive but before they can get there, Mac’s wife, who hasn’t been seen in 10 years or heard from in over five, sweeps back into town looking to reconnect with her family. Gina is immediately put on the backfoot by the glamorous Cee Jay, who could threaten her fragile new relationship.

Cooper and Sarah are another couple that’ve found happiness together in Thunder Point. Cooper was originally just passing through but now he’s decided to stay and make a go of it with the bar he inherited and has completely redone. They’re taking it slow too but lately Sarah has become distant and preoccupied and Coop’s not sure what is up but he’s wondering if it’s something to do with the ex-husband that made her so reluctant to get involved with him but Cooper is then distracted by a bombshell.

Gina’s teenage daughter Ashley thought that she had the most perfect boyfriend but she’s about to get a nasty shock when the baseball star throws her over for an older girl at his college. At such a young age, Ashley is going to learn how much your first love can break your heart and she’s never needed her mother more than now.

The Newcomer is the second novel in Robyn Carr’s new Thunder Point series and I have to admit, it was different to what I expected. I’m used to the previous novel introducing the new couple and although other people and story lines make an appearance, most books tend to focus on the one core couple and their issues getting together and finding their happy ever after. This book doesn’t do that. Equal amounts of time seem to be devoted to Gina, Mac and their desire to be together in a more permanent way and what that might mean for their families and the fact that Mac’s long lost ex-wife has shown up, Coop and Sarah and their fledgling new relationship and also teenage dramas for Ashley, Gina’s daughter. I’m not entirely sure that this new format worked for me because the book seemed to lack some direction and focus. It wandered aimlessly around Thunder Point, dropping in on people here and there, mostly reiterating stuff we already know from the first novel, The Wanderer.

To be honest, I didn’t really find Mac and Gina’s drama all that big. They are two single parents who are thinking about how their actions might impact on other members in their families before they do something. That’s fair enough and it’s great that they’re talking about it and that they’re considerate. But the solutions are rather obvious and I’m not sure why we have to read the same conversation a couple of times before they take the plunge and agree it can be done and they can see themselves married. They’re lucky in that their two teenage daughters are best friends and get along fabulously and that Mac’s daughter adores Gina and vice versa. Mac’s other two children are also very familiar with Gina and like her a lot, which is a huge amount of drama out of the way when it comes to blending families. Although the arrival of Mac’s ex-wife promises drama, none of it actually eventuates because Mac long ago stopped feeling anything for Cee Jay and her motives were pretty easily discovered to be dubious.

Cooper was a man who had never put down roots before arriving in Thunder Point and he’s shocked to find out that he now has even more of a reason to stay in one place. This story line was rather a surprise to me but it all went so smoothly that it probably could’ve been dealt with in less page space or even possibly incorporated into his own book. I was surprised to find Cooper and Sarah such a strong part in this book still (and it looks like this might continue into the 3rd novel as well). It’s not that I don’t like them, I do, it’s just that I did expect the story to have mostly moved on from them and them to play a more background role. Will have to see what happens as the series progresses.

The teenage drama with Ashley felt like a current issue (cyber-bullying) that Carr wanted to explore in some way and although it was well done, it seemed overly dramatic at the beginning and resolved very easily in the end. I expect that Ashley will return later on in a future novel where her story will be further resolved probably when she’s older and has been to college, etc.

Although I did like this book, it really felt like I was reading The Wanderer Pt2 rather than a new novel. The title also confused me – I’m not sure who it’s referring to and it really did seem to fit with the story inside. I will read the next novel, The Hero which is out in a couple of months but I do hope that it’s a little more focused than I found this one to be.

6/10

Book #167 of 2013

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The Wanderer – Robyn Carr

WandererThe Wanderer (Thunder Point #1)
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2013, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Former Army helicopter pilot Hank Cooper is heading to Thunder Point on the rocky Oregon coast. Hank has never been a man for putting down roots – when he wasn’t on a job as pilot, he lived out of a fifth wheeler, towing his toys around and being free. He kept loosely in touch with some old Army mates including his mechanic Ben, who lived in Thunder Point. When news of Ben’s death reached Hank, along with word that Ben had left something for him, Hank thought it his duty to see his friend right.

Ben ran a bait shop that doubled as a bar with cheap drinks and food – it’s definitely not a flash building and even though Ben owned the land around it it’s clear that he was cash poor. Hank is stunned to discover that not only has Ben left him the bar/bait shop but also the extensive land around it with a note that he knows Hank will know what to do. Hank doesn’t want to put down roots and there are no jobs for a helicopter pilot in Thunder Point but he knows that Ben would not have wanted him to just sell up and get the hell out. The land is in a prime location, right on the cliff with its own private beach and would net a tidy sum but Ben kept it for a reason.

Sarah Dupre has devoted so much of her life to raising her younger brother. Still mourning her recent marriage break up, she is definitely not looking for anything. And at first when she meets Hank Cooper, she’s suspicious of him and his motives towards her younger brother even though she realises quickly that he’s just looking out for Landon. She’s determined to avoid any kind of involvement with Cooper, even though he’s made his interest rather clear. But Sarah hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to have someone there at the end of your day, to spend time with, to wind down with. And even though she’s complicated and still feeling the scars of her marriage breakdown, what Cooper is offering is hard to resist.

Cooper only ever meant for Thunder Point to be a temporary stop on his itinerary. He can’t be out of work forever and he’s always been the type that kept moving. But the longer he stays in this beautiful little town, the more time he spends unravelling its secrets and what really happened to Ben, the more he realises that he has a choice – to move on and resume his old life or to stay and embrace a new one.

The Wanderer is the first in Robyn Carr’s new series of Thunder Point which has spun off very loosely from her Virgin River series. Hank makes an appearance in one of the novels (he’s a former Army buddy of Luke Riordan’s) but my memory on him was very fuzzy and you definitely don’t need to have read the VR books to read this one. For those who have though, there’s a very familiar feel to this book – it’s like an old friend, almost like a reread but with new people to get to know.

Hank is in Thunder Point to settle some business that his old Army friend Ben left him and he finds himself feeling obliged to stay and see things done to rights for Ben. It’s clear that he had a lot of respect for Ben and even though they weren’t close in the physically catching up sense, they kept in regular contact via email. Hank (or Cooper, as he is commonly called) begins to find his way around the town, making friends with the local Deputy Sheriff Mac and a young kid at the high school named Landon, a football star who is being bullied by others on the team. He finds himself putting down roots without even realising it, especially when he meets Landon’s older sister Sarah. Neither of them are looking for commitment and both of them almost trip over themselves trying to assert that this is just temporary and no one will get hurt because it’s just casual and they all know the score up front.

There are some nice secondary romances running through this novel, in Carr’s way – that of the Deputy and a local single mother and also the teenage Landon. Thunder Point is bigger than Virgin River, so there’s a lot more focus on the town – the local diner and bar/restaurant, the high school and their football team as well as Ben’s place, which is sure to become a real icon of the town. There’s an emphasis on the community and how they are protected from a lot of the tourist resorts and can keep that small town feel (but how the threat can loom in the background, ready to come front and center if necessary). I can see the potential for this to really grow as a series and expand with the town itself. There’s a different feel to the Virgin River books in a way – the issues feel less confronting, less dominant and more contemporary. The obvious one in this novel was bullying but it didn’t take over the story. Carr does well balancing Cooper’s story, Mac’s story and Landon’s story.

All in all, this was a promising start to a new series and one that I think I’m going to enjoy a lot. I think it will appeal to a lot of Robyn Carr’s fans and hook her some new ones as well. The good thing is with Robyn Carr, you know you never have to wait too long for the next book – the second Thunder Point novel is currently scheduled for release in June of 2013 and the 3rd in September.

8/10

Book #80 of 2013

RobynCarr_AuthorPhoto

 

Now I’m happy to welcome Robyn to my blog where she’s helpfully answered a few questions about her most recent novel, the first in the Thunder Point series.

Q: What would you tell someone who is coming to Thunder Point for the first time? What do you want them to know about the town as they jump into The Wanderer?

A:  My husband and I have moved around a lot, thanks to his years in the Air Force and commercial aviation.  Have you ever had the experience of living somewhere that just didn’t feel like your town?  Or, conversely, landing somewhere that made you think you were meant to be there?  When we drove from Texas to Sacramento and crossed over the Sierras into the Sacramento Valley, I remember thinking, Ahhhh, I’m a Californian!  I never realized!  I was instantly comfortable with the landscape, the people, the climate.

Hank Cooper has always been a wanderer.  He’d lived and worked in a lot of beautiful and interesting places, but there’s something about this small coastal town and the people there that just hook him and make him think for the first time in his adult life, Maybe I’m home.

Q: You’ve always been known for your strong female characters. The women in Thunder Point are no strangers to struggle, and we can already tell there are going to be some great stories coming from them! Why do you feel strong women are so important in your books?

 A:  Well, they’re role models.  They’re admirable, which doesn’t mean perfect, it only means they’re indomitable and courageous and hopeful.  They’re basically good, intelligent, optimistic people.  They’re the kind of people I personally want to read about—I’m not real big on weak, weary, insipid characters who are older than five.  None of us can escape struggle—it’s part of life.  But whether we face it with determination and optimism or cringing weakness and fear makes all the difference in the outcome.

Q: Readers fall in love with your male characters. Hank Cooper, aka Cooper, (from Robyn’s bestselling Virgin River series) is especially dreamy… Is there an actor who you would like to see play his role if the series was ever turned into a movie?

 A:  I don’t know the names of the younger actors very well, but James Denton seems to fit the profile.

Q: The Wanderer has an element of mystery with the death of Cooper’s friend. (Don’t worry—we won’t give any spoilers!) Do you like writing suspense? Do you think we’ll see more suspense with the other books in the series?

A:  I don’t actually think of that as suspense.  Suspense is when you imagine you’re being chased by a guy with a bloody knife.  Nor do I think of it as mystery even though there is a mysterious element.  I think of it more as unanswered questions and a very obvious element of surprise coming.  It’s also suspenseful, in a way, waiting for the results of a biopsy or worrying about how the new kid at school will be received—with rejection or welcome?  But I think of those issues, the dramatic problems of daily life, and they’re quite mainstream, which means the average person will relate on some level—it either happened in their family, their neighborhood or their town.  That’s the grist of a small-town drama.  Whether the problems are large or small, there are conflicts to resolve and in doing so, the characters become more defined.  I hope this mirrors life —as we live and learn, come to terms with our personal issues and life in general, we are a compilation of stories to be told.

Wanderer

 

Thanks to the publisher and Little Bird Publicity, I have one copy of The Wanderer to giveaway. This giveaway is restricted to US residents only, please fill in the form to enter!

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My Kind Of Christmas – Robyn Carr

My Kind Of Christmas
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2012, 314p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Angie LeCroix has come to Virgin River for some rest and relaxation. Recently she was in a terrible car accident which left her severely injured and having to learn to do the simplest of things, like walking, all over again. It’s made her take stock of her life and question what she wants to do with it. Once always so focused on becoming a doctor, Angie has taken some leave from medical school, something that doesn’t sit well with her mother. She thinks that the accident is making Angie act differently and wants to get her in to see specialists but Angie just wants some peace and quiet and some time to think. So it’s off to visit Virgin River and see her Uncle Jack, his wife Mel and their kids and also her Aunt Bree and her husband Mike and their daughter.

Patrick Riordan is the last of his family to still be swinging it bachelor style. Recently he suffered a traumatic loss when his fellow Navy pilot and best friend was shot down during a mission. His current girlfriend also broke up with him and Patrick now has some generous leave from the Navy to sort his head out before he makes up his mind whether or not he wants to take up a squadron or cash out of the Navy altogether. He’s been going through some things and some time up in Virgin River, in his brother and sister-in-law’s remote cabin is just what he needs. He’s close enough to his brothers Luke and Colin so that his family won’t make a fuss and track him down, but he’s also got the chance to take in plenty of solitude.

Patrick and Angie thought the both wanted to just be left alone this Christmas – but that’s until they set eyes on each other. Their attraction is immediate and even though they both know it can only be temporary (they both have plans for the future) it’s clear that they can enjoy the present. And it seems like everyone in Virgin River has a say about their hooking up, not least of all Angie’s Uncle Jack who is having a rather difficult time with the fact this his young niece is all grown up now, ready and able to make her own decisions about life. Tired of being treated like a child who doesn’t know what she’s doing, Angie plunges headlong into an affair with Patrick, knowing that she could very well lose her head -and her heart- to this man who seems to be committed elsewhere.

My Kind Of Christmas is the 20th installment in the Virgin River series that I began reading around 18 months ago. It’s a series that has maintained a fairly steady quality rate – a few have been slightly below par but on average, the books are fun and enjoyable with a relatively simple and very predictable story line.

In this one we’re introduced to Angie LeCroix, 23 and the niece of the unofficial mayor of Virgin River, Jack Sheridan. The ‘hero’ in the very first Virgin River novel, Jack has been an ever-present figure in all of the subsequent books as he owns Jack’s Bar and Grill, basically the only place the citizens of the small town can get a drink or something to eat. It’s the social hub of the town and where a lot of the interactions take place between characters, which suits Jack just fine because so far he’s never met something he didn’t like to meddle in and his niece’s budding attraction and relationship with Patrick Riordan is no exception. It almost got to be annoying, everyone treating Angie like she was 14 instead of 23. I get that she’d had an accident and was recovering, but she didn’t get a lobotomy. She’s an adult perfectly capable of making her own decisions – thankfully they reined it in just before it got to the ridiculous stage but it made me doubly glad that people in my family mind their own business.

Patrick is the last of the five Riordan brothers to get his story, so far we’ve already seen Luke, Sean, Adrian and Colin fall on their swords in Virgin River and the books featuring Riordan boys have been some of my favourites. I really liked Patrick, although I thought a couple of times he needed a good smack upside the head for good intentions but totally unrealistic! He thought he was going to do the right thing but in all honestly his plan would never have worked and he’d have just made himself and someone else miserable most likely. He met Angie at just the right time to prevent that from happening and thankfully his connection with her finally helped him see that there was more to life than duty and that love had a very important place.

This wasn’t one of my favourites in the series but it was a pretty solid one – I’d have liked to see a little bit more Patrick and Angie to be honest, and a little bit less everybody else. I know Angie has a big, extended family who all have opinions but I’m more interested in the story of the two people that are finding each other, not what everyone else has to say about it, be it good or bad.

7/10

Book #216 of 2012

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Sunrise Point – Robyn Carr

Sunrise Point
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2012, 378p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Nora Crane has done it tough most of her life. An unsympathetic, often narcissistic mother, an absent father and then a boyfriend who left her abandoned with two young children in a house without proper heating or even sealed windows in the middle of winter in a place in the middle of no where called Virgin River. Nora is used to making a go of it on her own, she’s used to struggling. She wishes she had better opportunities for herself and her children and she’s prepared to work for them. What she wasn’t prepared for, was the way the town of Virgin River opened its arms to her when they found out about her struggles. After her mostly absent boyfriend was arrested and carted off to jail, the town realised just how dire Nora’s situation was and they rolled up with help sealing up her windows, babysitting offers for her two young girls, a part time job at the local clinic and general friendship and support. After a long time without one, Nora begins to find herself seeing Virgin River as home.

She spots a flier advertising jobs at the Cavanaugh Apple Orchard, a few miles out. She’s determined to go and apply, as the money and hours are good. There’s a daycare opening at the soon-to-be-completed school and she’ll be eligible for a reduced rate. Even though she’s slight, she’s used to carrying a 10 month old around all day and she’s convinced that she won’t have much trouble picking and lugging apples all day. The owner of the orchard, Tom Cavanaugh, isn’t too sure. He fails to see how a young, pretty, delicate-looking lady like Nora is cut out for this job and he turns her down flat. Luckily for Nora, his grandmother sees her potential and her determination and insists that Tom give her a job.

Nora works hard and comes to win Tom’s trust and admiration, especially when he learns of her circumstances. As she picks apples throughout the season, the two of them find themselves becoming closer and closer, even though Tom has very clear ideas about the sort of woman he would like to make Mrs Cavanaugh. They don’t include a single mother of two, no matter how attractive he finds her and how much he comes to enjoy her spirit and even like her two small daughters.

If Nora definitely isn’t his type…then how come he can’t get her out of his head? How come she’s all he thinks about, even when he’s with someone else?

Sunrise Point is the 19th installment of the Virgin River series and the most recently published title. A couple of books ago we were introduced to Nora, a woman in her early 20s who was down on her luck with two small children to look after. In the previous book we were given a passing introduction to Tom Cavanaugh when Jack greeted him like he’d been popping in and out of the whole series the whole time, when he’d actually just returned from several years away from the town, as (what else?) a serviceman, stationed overseas. He’s returned to take over the reins of his family apple orchard – his grandmother, his only other family is getting on a bit and she can’t handle the picking season alone anymore, even if she is extremely sprightly and energetic for her age. A long time ago she was given a chance by a family and she ‘pays it forward’ by seeing something in Nora and giving her exactly the same chance.

I admired the heck out of Nora – she might possibly be my favourite Virgin River female since Ellie Baldwin in #9, Forbidden Falls. She had known hardship almost her entire life and had been left in Virgin River to fend for herself with no money and no possessions. I admired her tenacity and determined spirit and the way she was ready to do anything that meant she’d have a little bit of money for herself and her girls to start towards a better life. She walked to the orchard (about 3.4miles from memory) to start just after sunrise and worked hard and then walked home. She sacrificed a lot of time with them in order to support them and as a mother of children similar in ages to Nora’s (hers are 2 and 9 or 10 months, mine are 3 and nearly 8 months) I appreciated just how enormous that sacrifice was. She was scarred by the things that had happened to her, which made her slow to accept help or to re-establish contact with someone from her past who she had lost touch with, but I understood that. She was protecting herself and her children, which was very important to her.

I didn’t like Tom quite as much – well I did at first, but several things he did and said over the course of the book irritated me just a little. I didn’t appreciate his attitude towards Nora being a single mother, as though to be involved with someone in her situation was unpalatable and I didn’t like the shallow way in which he went about dating someone in order to find a wife. It didn’t reflect well on him and it wasn’t really what I expected.

This book did differ in most, if not all of the previous ones I’ve read in that the romance was definitely a much slower ban. The two main characters don’t even kiss until about 75% of the way through the book, whereas mostly the attractions are quite quick and the relations begin a lot sooner! This felt fresh, quite different, in that it didn’t take that path which is I think, quite true to Nora’s character. I do like how Tom was pretty much forced to reassess his prejudices in the end.

8/10

Book #77 of 2012

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Redwood Bend – Robyn Carr

Redwood Bend
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2012, 377p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Katie Malone is leaving Vermont after a failed romance – well actually, not so much failed as non-existent. It’s the summer holidays so she’s taking her 5yo twin boys and having a proper holiday – Disney World before flying to Sacramento, picking up her car and driving up to see her brother in Virgin River. Connor has settled in permanently now that he’s met Leslie and Katie feels the need to be closer to him. After all the boys need stability and Uncle Connor has always been a big part of their lives.

On the winding mountain roads outside of Virgin River, she gets a flat tyre and although she can change a tyre herself, the lug nuts are done up far too tight for her. She flags down some motorcycle riders and they all stop to help her. Katie’s eye is drawn by the handsome Dylan whom she immediately recognises as a former TV child star. To Katie’s surprise (and Dylan’s) they happen to run into each other again, in Virgin River. Dylan and his fellow riders are camping there for a few days, doing a little bit of sightseeing on the beautiful roads nearby and a lot of eating Preacher’s delicious foods.

Dylan is interested in Katie – very interested – but a traumatic childhood involving his parents marrying multiple times, bucketloads of brothers, sisters, half brothers, half sister, stepbrothers and stepsisters has scarred him. He’s not looking for commitment and he’s never dated a woman with children before. Remembering how he felt when partners came and went from his life as a child, he’s cautious about impacting on the lives of children. He tells Katie that he’s not a good bet and that he’s only out for something casual.

At the moment, Katie is fine with that. She’s been a widower for 5 years and she’s dated a little bit but there hasn’t been anyone serious since she lost her husband in Afghanistan before the boys were born. She thinks a little fling with the handsome Dylan might be just what she needs to soothe her ego after she got it so wrong in Vermont. After all, Dylan has been upfront about what he can offer – he’s only passing through and he’s definitely not looking for anything long term. Katie thinks she can handle that but when it comes time for Dylan to move on, she’s in for a couple of very surprising discoveries.

Redwood Bend is the 18th novel in Robyn Carr’s highly acclaimed Virgin River series and this one sees Katie, who readers will remember as Connor from #17’s younger sister, making her way to Virgin River to visit her brother. Now that what kept them apart has been resolved, Katie is looking forward to being close to Connor again. He’s looked after her since the premature loss of their parents and she wants to be close to him for her twin boys’ sake as well. She isn’t sure if she’ll settle permanently in Virgin River, the boys may have needs that will mean living in a larger town. But she’s going to take some time there and see her brother and get to know his new partner Leslie and hopefully just relax.

The arrival of Dylan Childress into her life changes that. A former child star, Dylan faded out of the limelight many years ago and has since been living in Montana, running a charter plane company. Taking a bit of a break and using it as an opportunity to investigate business practices in a down turned economy, he finds himself sticking around in Virgin River a lot longer than he originally planned. There’s some fireworks happening between Katie and him and he can’t bring himself to leave yet.

Redwood Bend is another highly enjoyable novel in this mammoth series. It’s very hard to keep things feeling fresh when you’re 18 books in but this one definitely felt it and I think that was more because of Dylan than anything else. He’s a little bit of a playboy and a classic commitment phobe and he’s lots of fun. Despite his mouth saying one thing, his actions quite clearly say another and I really liked his interactions with Katie’s young sons who are quite mischievous. Even though he clearly didn’t stick to his claim to not want to become a presence in children’s lives, I felt he actually had a very good reason for saying it. He was the product of a many-times-over broken home and had experienced first hand the impact casual relationships and a revolving door of family members can have. His case was extreme and not typically the norm but it was definitely a solid background to back up his anti-commitment stance.

I liked Katie well enough but I have to admit Connor did annoy me a bit in this book. I get that the groundwork was laid a long time ago about him always having taken care of her but she is a grown woman, capable of making her own decisions and it’s stated many, many times that Dylan was honest with her about what he could offer and that he would eventually be moving on. I felt like Connor’s treatment of Dylan was pretty uncalled for and extremely overbearing, making him out to be some deliberate heartbreaker when it wasn’t the case at all and Katie agreed to something casual. Now of course this is Virgin River and it’s no spoiler to say it of course was always going to turn serious (characters all get their happy ever afters in these books, it’s a romance series after all) but Katie was in the mood for a fling and got it. Connor really could’ve turned down the overbearing alpha male just a fraction and it would’ve been a little more palatable!

Still an excellent contribution to the series though! Can’t believe I am nearly all caught up – I have 1 to go, which I will be getting to very soon and then I’m up to date. But probably not for long, given the amazingly swift way that Carr adds to this series.

8/10

Book #72 of 2012

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Hidden Summit – Robyn Carr

Hidden Summit
Robyn Carr
Harlequin MIRA
2011, 347p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Connor Danson is supposed to be keeping a low profile. He’s in Virgin River under a sort of witness protection, having had the unfortunate experience of witnessing a violent crime. He’s also the only witness, has experienced threats against him and his business was burned down. The DA has decided it’s best to keep Connor somewhere quiet, somewhere remote until the trial, so that he actually makes it to the trial. So Connor has come to Virgin River, a tiny town in Northern California, working in construction. He’s not supposed to form any relationships and when he agreed to that condition, he didn’t see it being any problem. He’s divorced and it wasn’t a good experience.

Leslie Petruso is also divorced. Originally from Grant’s Pass, she’s worked for Haggerty Construction for years. Faced with her ex-husband and his pregnant new wife everywhere, she’s resigned from the main office and headed down to Virgin River to be the office manager for Paul Haggerty in his new branch. Paul has plenty of work and plenty of workers, none of which are much up to filing and keeping things in order. Leslie has always been a good employee and Paul has assured her she’ll always have a job with him. She’s grateful for the chance to move away from all her painful memories and hopefully build a new life for herself that doesn’t involve her well-meaning ex-husband.

So neither Connor, nor Leslie are in the mood for any romance. But then they meet each other… and although they get off to the wrong foot due to a misunderstanding on Connor’s part, it isn’t long until the sparks start flying. They are determined to keep things casual – after all Connor knows that any minute the trial could get a date, or he could have to move somewhere else. He’s doing this because it’s the right thing, but also because he’s got a younger sister who  is a widow with two young sons of her own and he’s been looking after her for a long time. He needs to keep them safe. And Leslie isn’t after anything serious. She put so much into her 8 year marriage that she almost lost herself. Now she’s finally starting to find herself again and live her own life without having to devote so much of herself to someone else. Casual is good, laid back is good. It’s about all she can handle right now.

But sometimes love just gets in the way, no matter how reluctant its participants!

Hidden Summit is the 17th novel in Robyn Carr’s highly successful Virgin River series. In this installment we meet two characters that are brand new to the town, Connor having been placed there by the DA’s connection to Brie Valenzuela. He’s been given a job with Haggerty construction, he’s renting one of Luke and Shelby Riordan’s cabins and he’s been introduced to Jack’s Bar and Preacher’s amazing meals. He’s worried about his younger sister Katie and her two boys but apart from that, he’s discovering Virgin River isn’t too bad. Winter is fading away into a beautiful spring and everyone keeps promising him that Virgin River is about to become beautiful. And things are definitely looking up when he spots Leslie.

Leslie’s marriage breakdown nearly destroyed her. Her husband’s unfaithfulness and walking out came as a total shock and his insistence that they be best friends, that he cares about her deeply still makes it very difficult for her to be able to let go and move on. Even though she no longer wishes to reconcile, she can’t be free while he and his new wife are a constant presence in her life. And so she finds herself in the quiet town of Virgin River, making new friends, starting over in a life for herself.

I really enjoyed this one – it was definitely toned down on what I consider to be some of Carr’s deep issues and that allowed the story to flow and the characters to really shine. Connor is lovely – a simple, good man who unfortunately happened to witness something shocking. He did the right thing and put himself and his remaining family in danger as a result but still vowed to be strong and give the testimony the prosecution need. Leslie was refreshing too in that her marriage breakdown and divorce was written differently to the ‘norm’ with her overbearing ex-husband desperate to maintain face and prove how wonderful he was by the fact that he and Leslie had stayed such good friends. Leslie was full of sass and I really loved her way of dealing with her ex-husband when he turned up in Virgin River to ‘check on her’.

Virgin River continues to grow and thrive, now getting a school as well. Jack is still Jack, sticking his nose into everyone else’s business at the bar and gossiping like a little old lady. This story also neatly sets up at least the next two books, introducing us to Connor’s younger sister Katie who will take centre stage in number 18 and also to Leslie’s neighbour, a young single mother and book 19 will revolve around her. I enjoyed both characters so look forward to their upcoming stories – both of which I already have in my possession, just need to squeeze in to my reading schedule!

Connor and Leslie’s story is heartwarming and feel good as two people who are slightly damaged by their previous experiences with love and marriage find each other and heal. I really enjoyed both of them as characters, separately and also when they were together. This one is probably one of my faves of the series.

8/10

Book #60 of 2012

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Deep In The Valley – Robyn Carr

In May or so of 2011, Marg over at Adventures of an Intrepid Reader introduced me to the Virgin River novels by Robyn Carr. There’s quite a few in the series so far and I think I read about 15 of them between May and December. There’s something rather addictive about them.

Marg picked up this book, Deep In The Valley through Inter-Library Loan and passed it onto me before the due date so that I could read it too. We agreed to do a joint review discussion on it – the first part is over at Marg’s blog here and I’m hosting the second part. My thoughts are in italics and Marg’s are red!

B: Right so basically we’re in a tiny town, which June grew up in. She’s the daughter of a doctor and now she’s the doctor herself, doing all manner of things from delivering babies to fixing up local marijuana growers suspicious looking wounds. As always, there is a woman in distress that the whole town pitches in to assist get back on her feet, a pastor with busy hands that the town is fed up with and an undercover DEA guy who has ‘love interest’ all over him. And June has hired a ‘city bloke’ to help her with the general doctoring but is skeptical about him lasting.For me the story was just -okay-. Nothing really stood out, perhaps because I felt like I’d read some of it before. I thought the romance was very underdone! I’m used to more interaction and more scenes between the two love interests! That was disappointing to me because I was quite excited about the whole undercover DEA agent thing. I thought it had some potential for some great scenes, maybe some angst and some tension….but there were depressingly few scenes, very little tension and no angst. Of course given this is a trilogy, that may come later, but things were both very easy and very light on in that department so far.I did rather like the city doctor who moved to Grace Valley, I thought he was an interesting character and the reveal of his background was done well, despite June’s totally lazy attitude towards checking his references! I also liked the town rallying to help Leah, the victim of domestic violence, get her life back on track because that’s such a typical Robyn Carr staple. Although that plot thread wasn’t without its issues either, such as the ridiculously unbelievable court case at the end. Did anything in the story stand out for you? Did it strike a better chord with you than with me?
M: Not really. This is probably the most disappointing read for me by Carr. It was the usual easy read but without the addictiveness of the usual Virgin River reading experience. Having said that, the completist in me couldn’t resist reading the next book in the series already.

Did you like any of the characters in particular, or was there one of the storylines that stood out for good or bad reasons? (Spoilers Ahoy!)There was one thread that left me shaking my head in particular and that was in relation to a young woman named Justine who was involved with the town minister who happened to be married. There was lots of drama relating to that particular issue which was fine. Even with the fact that she ended up be suffering cancer and not pregnant as she thought was fine. However, the closing scene of the book was Justine marrying a much, much older man. That relationship just seemed to come completely out of nowhere!

B: Not just older, but ….older. Wasn’t he in his late 70s? And Justine was 25 or so? That whole story left me with an icky feeling. Firstly yes, Justine was having an affair with the town sleaze, the pastor of all people, who tried it on with everything female in a 100km radius. Despite the fact that his wife was obviously suspicious of him, they took the moral high ground when the story of Justine suspecting her pregnancy came out, accusing the small town of running them off. Sam, the man Justine ended up marrying, stepped in to support her and although it turned out she wasn’t pregnant, they still ended up marrying randomly at the end of the book. Given you’ve read the next one, do they reappear? I’m curious….

M: Yes, they reappear. Most of the characters too. The second book is better, although I am pretty sure that there are a couple of things that will push your buttons!

B: I liked Jim (the undercover DEA agent) when he first appeared but I think it was far too obvious who he was and the reveal was done without any real tension. I might’ve found it a lot more interesting if June had really found herself attracted to someone that she thought was shady! Instead she pegs him as law enforcement so quickly that it’s laughable! Apart from that, no one really stood out for me. In fact if I had to think of a word that describes everything about this book, it’d (unfortunately) be average. Average writing, characters, plots, etc.

M: So, if we were to summarise, then the overwhelming reaction to this book is…it’s not Virgin River even though it does look a heck of a lot like it?

B: I can’t believe it’s not Virgin River! But yes…basically you’re right. It looks similar on the outside but it’s kind of like the poor man’s version on the inside. There’s a lot more to like in the VR books.

6/10 for me

Book #202 of 2011

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