31 August 2013

Virgin River (A Virgin River Novel, Book 1)


When the recently widowed Melinda Monroe sees this ad she quickly decides that the remote mountain town of Virgin River might be the perfect place to escape her heartache, and to reenergize the nursing career she loves. But her high hopes are dashed within an hour of arriving: the cabin is a dump, the roads are treacherous and the local doctor wants nothing to do with her. Realizing she's made a huge mistake, Mel decides to leave town the following morning.

But a tiny baby, abandoned on a front porch, changes her plans...and a former marine cements them into place.

Melinda Monroe may have come to Virgin River looking for escape, but instead she finds her home.

First line: Mel squinted into the rain and darkness, creeping along the narrow, twisting, muddy, tree-enshrouded road and for the hundredth time thought, am I out of my mind?

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by MIRA Books, 2007; 386 pages; purchased at a library sale.

My thoughts: This is a series and author who I see a lot of buzz about. On different blogs, on Twitter, and I see the books everywhere. So when I came across this book at a library sale I snatched it up. One thing I love about library sales is the chance to discover a multitude of new authors without spending a fortune. The spending comes later, when you then need to accumulate every other book that author has written.

Mel was married to a doctor and was happy with her life, working together in the ER, living in the big city, shopping at fancy stores and living the fast life. The only thing missing was a baby, which she and husband had been unable to conceive. And then an armed robbery at a convenience store took her husband away from her. Nearly a year later she is still deep in grief, and burned out on the trauma and adrenaline that accompanies medical care in a high turnover city emergency room. The midwife job in a small quiet town sounds like a perfect opportunity to get away, to go where nobody will know about her loss and look at her with pitying eyes. Her friends and family all think she's crazy, and her sister desperately wants her to come to her home in Colorado instead. But Mel sells her home, packs up and heads out.

She regrets it immediately. The woman who placed the ad was not quite truthful in her representations of the job or the accommodations, and before Mel has been in town a few hours she's made the decision to leave. Then she finds that baby mentioned in the blurb. Now, at this point, I assumed that Mel would end up taking in the baby, set down roots in town, marry a local and they would live happily ever after as a little family unit. I mean, how many romances have you read with an abandoned baby that did not play out that way? So I was pleased as the story progressed to have Mel, despite getting attached to the baby, not end up being the one to keep it, and the story not revolving around it but moving on to other facets of Mel's new life. Score one for the author for avoiding that plot cliche.

Jack owns the local bar/restaurant, lives on the premises, spends his free time fishing, and occasionally goes to another town where he has a lady friend. He's never been interested in a serious or long term relationship, but he's not a playboy. He's a good guy who was in the military for a long time, mentors a young teen who lives with his grandmother, and willingly pitches in to help out anybody and everybody in Virgin River.

None of the characters in this book are one dimensional. They are all very real and it was easy to connect with both Mel and Jack. The author gives us very good insight into their psyches and what makes them think and act the way they do. This is Mel and Jack's story of course, but the secondary characters are anything but just secondary. In fact, there was one character who we probably are not supposed to like, and this could be considered a spoiler, so I'll say more about that at the end of this post and don't go down there if you avoid spoilers.

The romance between Mel and Jack builds up slowly and naturally, with the characters cementing a firm friendship first. Jack is patient, knowing that Mel has to come to terms with the loss of her husband and the idea of moving on, and when Jack and Mel first make love I wasn't entirely convinced that the timing was right. And it's still not a smooth road to happiness after that. Issues don't just vanish with the joining of two bodies, and the author handled that fact well.

By the end of the book, I had laughed and I had literally cried. Lots of books make me laugh, but not many bring real tears. Before I'd even turned the last page, I was anxious to revisit the town of Virgin River, and I picked up books 3, 9, 10, 17 and 18 on a shopping trip yesterday, and I already had 15 and 19 in my TBR pile, but being anal about reading series in order I still have to find a copy of the second book before I can continue.

SPOILERSPOILERSPOILERSPOILER (I'm still trying to work out how to do the show/hide thing but after twenty minutes of either IE or blogger not cooperating I've given up for today)

There are lots of marijuana growers hidden in the countryside in the outlying areas, and one of these men comes to Mel's cabin late at night and insists she accompany him to deliver a baby. She's afraid to go with him and rightfully so, but he won't let her call anyone else, won't let her follow him in her own car, just insists she must come because the baby and mother need her. He doesn't pull a weapon on her, doesn't force her but doesn't really give her a choice, just keeps talking, cajoling, insisting...politely yet still firmly...until she finally gives in and goes. Now, maybe it's just me, but I think this scene was my favorite in the book, and I would have loved to learn more about this man, get to know him...I was drawn to him, attracted to him. I don't know if the author intended that, or if it's just because I'm not right in the head.

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