April 2007, Woman's Fiction
MIRA, $6.99, 416 pages, Amazon ASIN 0778324907 Part of a series
The third time was the charm for me. After reading two not very enjoyable books, I picked up Virgin River and was totally engrossed in a charming story. The good thing is, itís the first in a trilogy Ė I will be at the store to buy the other two books as soon as they come out.
Melinda Monroe was a nurse midwife, married to a doctor. She and her husband Mark lived in Los Angeles and pretty much had it all. They loved each other, they liked each other, they loved their jobs, they had a beautiful house, and all the goodies they could want. The only thing that marred the perfection of their lives was that Mel couldnít get pregnant Ė but they are ready to try in vitro, and theyíre still young. When Mark was killed by a robber in a convenient store, Mel shattered with grief. She found she couldnít cope with the tension and crime in Los Angeles anymore and accepted a job in the small northern California town of Virgin River.
The job comes with a rent free cabin, and the opportunity to work as local doctorís assistant and resident midwife. So Mel sells everything and takes off with dreams of a pretty little place like Mayberry running through her head. But when she finally arrives, after almost falling off the mountain on the twisty roads, she finds the cabin is a hovel and the town isnít really a town at all. Thereís no police force, no school, no stores Ė itís mostly a collection of homes and farms, and to get food or just about anything else, you have to negotiate those treacherous mountain roads. The doctor in residence, old Doc Mullins whom she is supposed to help, defines the word grumpy. The center of the community is a bar/cafť owned by Jack Sheridan where most of the locals hang out along with the hunters and fishermen who are drawn to Virgin River by the excellent fishing. The scenery is to die for with beauty to spare, but for an urbanite used to her comforts, itís too rural and too much to be endured and Mel declares sheís out of there!
However, things happen to change Melís plans. Someone leaves a newborn baby on Docís steps and Mel bonds with her. Clearly she canít leave this child (and it takes social services a long time to get there) so Mel says sheíll stay Ė a few days. Jack fixes up the hovel into a comfortable little home which helps Mel feel better. When Mel goes to the tavern for a cup of coffee, she discovers that Preacher, an excellent cook, btw, can make better coffee than Starbucks. Mel gets to know some of the locals, and a woman comes to her to ask for help with prenatal care Ė it seems that Doc is getting too old and arthritic to deliver babies. Mel thinks she might stay a little longer, and as time goes by, Mel begins to fit into the community like a piece into a puzzle.
Donít expect melodramatic incidents and overwrought emotions here. This is a story about real people and real problems. Mel is very much the focus of the book and she is a wonderful character, strong, compassionate, and a woman who loves her work. Mel truly loved her husband and if circumstances had been different, they would have stayed together forever. It was a treat and a half to read about a good former spouse. As Mel grows closer to the people of the community of Virgin River, she finds herself being able to practice the kind of midwifery that she loves. Here, there is Mel, the baby, the mother-to-be, and she can truly practice hands-on care. Although the community is small, it has its share of problems and even some crime (which will be addressed in a future novel.)
Now to Jack Sheridan. Sigh!! What a wonderful man he is. Jack is a quiet alpha male Ė a former marine who served in all the conflicts from Desert Storm on. During his tour of duty, Jack became a sergeant and the kind of leader who was worshipped by his men. They would follow him into hell dressed in a gasoline suit. Several of the men from Jackís platoon come to the bar to fish, drink, smoke cigars, and act manly, but mostly because they revere Jack. He never found a woman he could love, but neither has been a user. Jack is ready for someone to love, and Mel is the lucky woman. He takes such good care of her, and is there for her when she breaks down on the anniversary of her husbandís death. Frankly, he is perfect and I fell in love with him myself.
The second book in this trilogy, Shelter Mountain, will be out in May, and Whispering Rock will be released in June. I canít wait. Iíve read some of Robyn Carrís earlier books and have enjoyed them very much. She writes womenís fiction with a large helping of romance and itís a combination I love. Since I also love books set in small towns, this book was just what I was looking for. I know it will become a favorite comfort read.
-- Ellen Micheletti
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