Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Meet you at Jack's Bar: An Introduction to (Not So) Virgin River (1-5)

When it comes to being somewhere, in the genre of Contemporary Romance, there's nothing as popular as the small town romance. It's timeless and adaptable to new characters moving in as others move on with their HEAs.

And as far as classics go, there's not many places as well-loved as Virgin River.

So, being the romantic that I am, I packed my bags and decided to hit the road.
Virgin River (Virgin River, #1)Virgin River by Robyn Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really thought this was going to be a super cozy, religion and purity brought me to love sort of story. The cover led me to believe I knew where we were headed.

I mean, that's a very nice front porch.

Meredith is a doctor coming off the heartbreak of losing her husband in a violent and unexpected way and wants to start over as a small town doctor, away from the chaos and dirty streets of LA. And like any good romance, when the heroine takes off she ends up in a town of Hot Available Men. She thought it would be a cute postcard sort of place, and is ready to turn right the hell around when she sees that it’s not. It’s a town broken in some places but they’re trying to take care of themselves and each other as best they can, and it's feeling as American as that front porch. She stays to help Doc and a baby that ends up on her doorstep.

Yeah. A baby. On her doorstep.

Across from which is Jack’s bar.

Run by former marine Jack Sheridan. Oh, Jack. He’s a different sort of hero. There’s something salt of the earth, dude next door about him. But better. He's Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights. He's a man's man that's good and solid and can lead a troop of crazy wolves. He makes me want to give him babies. He'll build his family a house with his own two hands,  show up for his friends, and chop up some wood before the day is out. This isn't an overly drawn, swoony with glistening chest kind of guy. There's an honesty and charm to this that feels like a really good TV series you might want to watch every week.

This town and its people are drawn so well, becoming so much more than what's expected from a small town story, but doesn’t get bogged down with the Introduction Dump. “Okay, so this is So and So and they run the This and That and they’re related to What’s His Face…”

What happens between Jack and Meredith is honest and super hot and it's the kind of life that deserves that front porch.

Shelter Mountain (Virgin River, #2)Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really, really wanted to love Preacher's story. The big man. The scary cause he might kill you but is actually a gentle giant. Here was Beast. And I could be Belle. I have the basket full of books and patterned dress to prove it.

So when I met Preacher in Virgin River, I knew his story would be mine.

And it wasn't. And I hurt over it. He was just so gentle, and his match gentle. It was like watching fabric softener fall in love.

I needed more. So much more. And unfortunately the match of Paige and Preacher just didn't offer it. The whole thing got awkward after a while, like they were meant to be siblings. Maybe they should have checked their genealogy records, I don't know. So when they're finally getting down to business the whole thing derailed into a place where I kinda felt like I shouldn't be reading this.

Rick and Liz? Broke my heart. Especially Rick. Babies having babies. Acting so grown-up. This town is fertile as shit. Watch your ovaries, ladies.

The best parts of this book, what kept me reading hoping for more, were Jack and Melinda again. I love that they're still happening and their story is still being told. Watching Jack deliver the baby? This man could feed me granola and tell me we were gonna go live off the grid and I'd make him another baby.

Whispering Rock (Virgin River, #3)Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unlike some of the other reviewers, I enjoyed this one much more than the previous one. Granted, not as much as Virgin River, because it's hard to dethrone Jack and Mel, but Mike and Brie had way more dimension than Paige and Preacher.

This story started fast with Mike getting the call about what's happened to Brie. It's heart-wrenching to watch the Sheridans all come together, and how close this comes to breaking Jack. The slow progression of healing and trusting. It got to me. I'm involved now. I appreciated the way the whole thing was written, and I really enjoyed Brie. She was shattered and vulnerable, but still had her wits about her. She knows she's losing it, and there's a strength in that. So to watch her hand her heart to Mike, and while it didn't take up a majority of the story, it was still enough for me. Because as characters those two were enough.

People are having babies like it's their job and they're doing it at home. Carr has a knack for writing that doesn't feel preachy or like a brochure. The things happening to the teens in town are kind of disturbing though. That supposed grower is still hanging out in the shadows, intriguing me. All these good, solid men and I'm eyeing the one criminal.


A Virgin River Christmas (Virgin River, #4)A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This might have been my favorite Virgin River yet.

Wait, maybe it wasn't, because I did love the first so much, but this one? I don't know how to fully explain how much I loved the story of Ian and Marcie. I reviewed it in my Christmas post, where I gushed and swooned and there was just so much tinsel.

Second Chance Pass (Virgin River, #5)Second Chance Pass by Robyn Carr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, this book is about Paul Haggerty, upstanding hottie whose actually kind of shy and awkward around the ladies, and Vanessa Rutledge, his best friend's widow. Said best friend just died in Iraq while she was in Virgin River eight months pregnant. (Of course she was. This is Virgin River.) This stuff can get super depressing, and I was hesitant to pick up this book because I knew going in that it was finally time to deal with the Paul and Vanni situation.

Lo and behold, this book isn't even about them.

Where did they go?
In a 400 page book, Paul and Vanessa are all wrapped up and solved with a big red bow by 50. Maybe it was a little later then that, but not really. Halfway through this book it becomes about Virgin River, which was actually very okay, because I got tired of Paul and Vanni quick. We're told over and over how Vanni's such a spitfire, but really she's kind of a snot. She grated. Some people don't like Mel. I love Mel. She's tough, but there's something very warm and true about her. I didn't get warmth from Vanni. She kept complaining about Carol (dead husband's mother) being so meddling and kind of hoity toity about stuff, but...come on, Vanni. Pot, kettle? Nothing? Not seeing it?

She and Paul were sort of like Preacher and Paige for me, not as soft but almost as awkward. I wanted Paul to be happy at first, so I was rooting for them. But then Paul got her and it was just so mushy and "You know I love you? We can talk about your dead husband whenever you'd like. He was my best friend. You know I love you, right?"

Yes, Paul. We got it.

I was glad that once that was done we got back to everyone else. That's why I read this series. It's why I also can't read them back to back, because there's just so many people and I feel spread thin by the end of it. It's hard to keep up with whose having a baby this chapter and everyone is hunting or breastfeeding and it's all very earthy, and if it wasn't for the marines using some salty language I'd be over in the corner looking for a door out of this place. I love that these stories can be all about home and hearth, but aren't cookie cutter in their telling of it.

Yes, teenage boys are ready to get married even as they ship off to war and they're all so good, almost unbelievably good, but yet, I believe it. Damn it, I believe it. Virgin River almost seems mythical in that way. Away from the noise of other places. These are some lusty marines who go nuts over pregnant women like it's up to them to repopulate the world, and maybe this far into the woods they are led to believe that.

But I won't be coming back for awhile. Paul and Vanni killed my buzz and I need a vacation and to keep an eye on my uterus.

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