Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Second Chance Pass Makes V.R. Folks Fight For Their Happy Ending

The good folks of Virgin River, California, shoulder their ups and downs without a lot of
complaints Hardworking mountain people, they prefer to get on with life and leave the drama to the city crowd. Lately, however, life seems to be bringing more downs than ups, and the little town is not without its drama. All the excitement makes Second Chance Pass, Robyn Carr's 5th Virgin River novel, a fast, absorbing read. Never fear - Carr's not crossing to the dark side - the book still has all the cozy goodness of its predecessors.

Warning: While this review contains no spoilers for Second Chance Pass, I may inadvertently spill secrets from the earlier books. Trust me - if you haven't read the beginning of the series, do it. If you've already indulged, read on ...

The story opens with a discouraged Paul Haggerty drinking away his sorrows in an Oregon bar. Although he's still head over heels for Vanni Rutledge, he can't bring himself to tell her. That would mean betraying the memory of her deceased husband, Paul's best friend, Matt. No matter how passionately he loves her - has always loved her - Paul can't burden her with his guilty love. He stayed by Vanni's side through Matt's funeral, through her grief, through the birth of their child; now, it's time to head home and get on with his life. The only problem is he can't let go, and that leads to a one-night stand that gets him into even bigger trouble. Tortured by his poor decisions, Paul distances himself from the only person who can really bring him comfort. Meanwhile, Vanni can't understand Paul's reticence. Sure, she's still grieving her husband - she'll always miss him - but she's ready to move on. With Paul. Only, he's hiding in Grants Pass, ignoring her. Can't he see how she feels about him? And why is he being so cryptic about his life in Oregon? Is she better off with the handsome pediatrician who's all too available? Down at the bar, startling news from Ricky has Jack and Mel in a tailspin. Mel's second pregnancy has been tougher on her than the last - Jack's worried, with good reason, it turns out. Then there's Tom, who's relationship with Brenda's getting so hot everyone can feel the heat. What will happen to Brenda's tender heart when he ships off to boot camp? Speaking of heat, wildfires are burning up the hills, edging ever closer to the forests of Virgin River. A blaze could mean scarred trees, destroyed home and total evacuation of the little town.

Of course, good things are always happening right along with the bad. There's a baby on the way for Preacher and Paige; a happy surprise for Mike and Brie; plans for adding on to the bar; and romance is in the air for more than one bachelor. Even when friendships become strained between a few of our favorite players, the Grace Valley crew calmly moves forward. As usual, love, friendship and good humor sees them through their troubles.

My biggest complaint about Robyn Carr's books - and, really, it isn't much of a complaint - is that they're predictable. With Carr, happy endings always prevail. But you know what? It doesn't bother me. What I love about Carr is her ability to create the kind of warm, cozy towns everyone wants to live in, and the kind of good, loyal people everyone wishes they had as friends. Even though I know how the stories will end, I still want to read them. That says a lot about an author. Having said that, I need to say this - Carr really puts her characters through the ringer in this book. More than ever before, they have to fight for their happy ending. This makes Second Chance Pass the most exciting in the series so far. Virgin River, the first novel, will always be my favorite (since that's when I fell in love with sexy Jack *sigh*), but this one runs a close second. I couldn't put it down.

Grade: A

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