Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Warning: Irritating Redhead Invades Virgin River in Carr's Christmas Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

If you're dying to get a glimpse of the Virgin River magic without signing on for the whole tour, then A Virgin River Christmas is the book for you. Of course, you will be depriving yourself if you don't begin at the beginning, but this one works well as a standalone. If you have read the first 3 books, you will be happy to know that plenty of VR folk make an appearance in this novel, but they stay mostly in the background. The starring roles belong to Marcie Sullivan, a stubborn redhead, and the equally bullheaded Ian Buchanan.

When the story opens, Marcie is on a mission: She's determined to find the Marine who saved her husband's life in Fallujah. To other people, it probably didn't look like much of a life - Bobby lived in a vegetative state for more than three years - but Marcie thanked God for every extra minute she got to have with her high school sweetheart. Now, that Bobby's dead, Marcie wants to find Ian Buchanan, the hero who saved her husband. She knows only that he lives somewhere in the mountains of Northern California. Maybe it's one of those needle-in-the-haystack kind of things, but Marcie knows she can't move forward until she finds Ian. She has things she needs to give him, questions she needs to ask. Her family thinks she's crazy, and maybe she is, but Marcie has to find Ian, has to know why a man Bobby so admired would abandon her husband when he most needed attention.

Marcie's search turns up very little, until she hits the small town of Virgin River. The folks at Jack's Bar don't recognize Ian's picture, but recommend that she search out some of the remote cabins in the woods. Lo and behold, she finds a mountain man who vaguely resembles the Marine in her picture. Despite a grizzly reception, Marcie refuses to leave the property until Ian speaks with her. Camping out in her car has taken a toll on the feisty redhead, and she soon falls ill enough that the crusty Marine has no choice but to take pity on her. As he nurses Marcie back to health, the two form a tentative friendship, one that rides on never discussing the war. Can Marcie get through to Ian, or will he kick her out before she's able to say her piece? Why did Ian hide away in the mountains, avoiding his ill friend? Can Marcie penetrate Ian's hard-as-flint exterior, and find the hero Bobby worshipped? Or is that man gone forever? Will Marcie find what she's looking for, finally enabling her to move on with her life?

If you've read any Robyn Carr, you probably already know how the story will end. I won't spoil it for you, just in case, but it's definitely predictable. The funny thing is, with these books, I really don't mind. Who cares if I know what's going to happen, I just want to spend the time enjoying my good ole' Virgin River friends, you know? So, anyway, A Virgin River Christmas is pretty standard Carr. I have to admit, this book is my least favorite in the series, probably because Jack doesn't have a starring role. Ian Buchanan did capture my interest - he's a complex, interesting character - but Marcie drove me absolutely nuts. So. Irritating. However, she differed from Carr's previous heroines in an important way - although she had suffered in her life, her troubles hadn't broken her, and she didn't come off as "damaged" somehow. She took her sorrows as they came, and let them mold her into a strong, determined woman. So, I liked that about her. Personality-wise, though, I wanted to strangle her. Despite that, I think A Virgin River Christmas is a sweet, hopeful novel that sets a nice mood for the holiday season. If it wasn't for that darn Marcie, I'd give it a solid A, but she kind of soured the book for me. Luckily for me, I just so happen to have a copy of Second Chance Pass nearby, and all the kids are sleeping soundly ... I just might need a little Jack to send me off to sleep with sweet dreams ...

Grade: B+

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