Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Anyone Know A Good Real Estate Agent?

Remember a few months ago when I decided to up and move to Grace Valley, California? The fact that there's no such place didn't deter me for a second. After reading Robyn Carr's trilogy set in the cozy town, I wanted to live there. Yes, I did say "wanted," as in past tense. Now, I'm looking for real estate in Virgin River, another cozy little town just up the road from Grace Valley. You guessed it - the town plays a major role in Carr's newest series. The author promised me that if I liked the Grace Valley books, I would love the Virgin River novels. Guess what? She was right. Now, I just need to find a good real estate agent ... I'm thinking I need a little property right across from Jack's bar ...

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Virgin River, the first book in the series, begins with the arrival of nurse/midwife Melinda Monroe. Tired of her career as an E.R. nurse in the city, she thinks she's more than ready for the quiet life of small-town nursing. That is, until her Beemer gets stuck in the mud on a lonely road; the "adorable little cottage" (15) she's been promised turns out to be a collapsing hovel; the elderly doctor she's supposed to be helping growls in her citified face; and she realizes there is no Starbucks to be found. Anywhere. Suddenly, she's ready to pack it in and high-tail it back to L.A.

As much as she wants to flee, there a few things stopping her: (1) She knows only sorrow waits for her back home; (2) a newborn appears on the doorstep of the doctor's office, and (3) Jack Sheridan, the handsome owner of a homey bar, is starting to grow on her. She still plans to leave, but not until the baby has found a proper home. In the meantime, she's called on to deliver babies, check on homebound patients, and even deal with emergencies that have her careening down narrow country roads in the back of Doc's pickup. It's medicine as Mel has never experienced before. Challenging. Exciting. Fulfilling. It also becomes dangerous when she runs into Virgin River's nastier elements. Although she's been warned about "growers" hiding in the hills, nurturing their marijuana crops, Mel can't resist trekking into their territory when she knows someone needs her.

Before she realizes it, Mel has become firmly enmeshed in the little town. As she gets to know the townsfolk with all their quirks, mysteries and passions, she begins to forget the hurts of her own past. But that doesn't mean they aren't still there. Can she set aside her own sorrows long enough to embrace the cozy little town, the cranky old doc and the one man who can love her through her pain?

The second installment in the series, Shelter Mountain, focuses on my favorite character, John "Preacher" Middleton. Looking like "Jesse Ventura with attitude" (VR 34), Preach is a big guy with an even bigger heart. Loyal to Jack on the battlefield and off, he has stuck by his friend for years. Together, they run Jack's Bar. While Jack plays bartender, counselor, and people pleaser, Preacher works his magic in the kitchen. The situation works perfectly for the gentle giant, who prefers cooking to speaking any day.

One rainy night, when Preacher's about to close up the bar, a young woman and a toddler come straggling in. He notices the bruises she's tried to hide with makeup, and the split lip that can't be covered. It doesn't take a genius to figure out her sad story. Even though the woman - Paige - is desperate to get as far away from her abusive husband as possible, Preacher convinces her to stay the night in Virgin River, where she can rest up and get medical attention from Doc and Mel. A night stretches into a week, then a month. The longer Paige stays under Preacher's protective gaze, the more comfortable she becomes. Her husband still haunts her thoughts, but there's something about the town and its big-hearted cook that gives her strength.

Paige isn't the only one finding refuge in Virgin River. After tragedy strikes Mike Valenzuela, Jack and Preacher's Marine buddy, he holes up in the town. Physical therapy, the closeness of friends, and time, seem to be help, but will he ever be the same? Will he ever find the kind of contentment that Jack has? Ricky, to whom Jack is like a father, will also need the town's support when he faces a crisis of his own. And then there's Mel, whose baby seems to be coming a little too fast, a little too soon. Helping neighbors comes naturally to folks in Virgin River, but lately, lending a hand's becoming a full-time job. Can the people band together to protect their own? Will a raging ex-husband threaten Preacher, Jack and their friends? Or will he learn the lesson so many have before - nobody messes with Virgin River boys or their women.

A brutal rape shatters the Sheridans' peaceful life in Whispering Rock, the third novel in the series. The victim is Jack's beloved younger sister, Brie. A prosecuting attorney in Sacramento, she worked tirelessly to bring down a serial rapist, only to watch him walk when witnesses refused to come forward. Now, she's laying in a hospital bed, bruised and battered by the very man she tried to incarcerate. Jack rushes to her side, as does his Marine buddy, Mike Valenzuela. Still recovering from a gunshot wound, Mike has taken up residence in peaceful Virgin River. He's recouping, slowly, and not too keen to jump back into police life. But, this is Brie - beautiful, smart, spunky Brie - he'll call in his old contacts if it means bringing her attacker to justice. And, okay, he wouldn't mind getting closer to the pretty prosecutor.

As Mike helps Brie recover from the trauma, he finds himself transforming. He's healing, although his below-the-belt wound makes him wonder if he'll ever be the Cassanova he once was. Still, being around Brie makes him happy in ways he's never imagined. Of course, Jack's not too pleased about the romance, and Brie's too hurt to notice Mike's growing feelings for her. He does have his work to keep his mind off her - as the new town constable, he's finding that even quiet little towns like Virgin River have their ugly underbellies.

Mike's not the only one of Jack's Marine buddies having trouble - Preacher and Paige are battling infertility while Paul's tortured over his attraction to his best friend's wife. Mel's no Marine, but she's got her hands full with the town's moms-to-be. When several teenage girls appear at the clinic, whispering date rape, Mel vows to find the perpetrators. With Mike's help, she uncovers some disturbing goings-on among the valley high schoolers.

Even with all the disturbance, life in Virgin River chugs along. Jack's building Mel her dream house; Newcomer Tom is besotted with the gorgeous Brenda; Lily Anderson gets troubling news; and Preacher's a little too vocal on ovulation day. It's just another year in the peaceful little town, where neighbors help neighbors through whatever comes, be it a happy birth, a shocking death, or a newfound love.

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With the Virgin River series (which is a long way from finished, by the way), Robyn Carr works the same magic that drew me into her Grace Valley books. She starts by creating a town - beautiful, quaint, charming - the kind of place where no one locks their doors and folks settle their debts with fish and homemade jam. Then, she fills it with people - characters who are quirky enough to be interesting, but familiar enough to be believable. They're gentle folks, good folks, the kind of people who watch each other's backs. Then, because little towns with little action don't make for good fiction, she stirs things up a bit. Finally, Carr steps back and gives her characters room to do what comes naturally - love, grieve, live, die. Through it all, they lean on their friends, love their families and protect their town. It's not a perfect world - after all, the woods hide some serious pot farms, and violence exists even in the quietest of towns - but Virgin River comes pretty close to ideal.

Female readers will fall hard for the Virgin River boys - big, strong ex-Marines who would sooner die than see a woman hurt. They hunt, fish, cook and cradle babies with equal ease. Sure, they're a little too good to be true, but who cares? They work hard, love passionately, and protect their own. I think I'm in love with all of them.

So, is there anything I don't like about the series? Well, it's pretty predictable, and there's a lot more (and detailed) sex than there was in the Grace Valley books. The novels are basically PG/PG-13, but there are some definite R moments. Beyond that, what can I say? I love these books. They exude such warmth that I just want to crawl between the covers and curl up in the pages. Yeah, I'm a dork, but the story really is that good. Come for a visit - I give you 10 pages before you, too, are hunting down a realtor.

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Obviously, I love me some Robyn Carr. I'm stoked that I've got the next two books in the Virgin River series sitting on my shelf. My review of A Virgin River Christmas should be up in a few days, but you'll have to wait for my thoughts on Second Chance Pass (it doesn't come out until February, so I can't review it 'til next year). If you just can't get enough of Jack and the boys, be sure to check out Robyn's website for more Virgin River news. She just added a gorgeous video you're going to want to see. Go on, get clicking. I have me some Robyn Carr to read.

3 comments:

  1. I haven't heard of this author, but her books sound interesting. If they make you want to up and move to a fictional setting, I'm sure they are great reads. Thanks for the recommendation!

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love the review. I feel the same way--and I normally hate small towns!

    You're going to love VR Christmas, as well. It's climbing the charts, made the NYT Bestseller list, etc.

    I had to double check, but I still can't find the grade!?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Haven't heard of this author, but if you find that real estate agent, let me know mkay?

    ReplyDelete

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