Back cover copy: John “Preacher” Middleton is about to close the bar when a young woman and her three-year-old son come in out of the wet October night. A marine who has seen his share of pain, Preacher knows a crisis when he sees one – the woman is covered in bruises. He wants to protect them, and to punish whoever did this, but he knows immediately that this is more than just instinct. Paige Lassiter has stirred up emotions in this gentle giant of a man – emotions that he has never allowed himself to feel.
Then Paige's ex-husband turns up in Virgin River. And if there's one thing the marines' motto of Semper Fi – always faithful – has taught Preacher, it's that some things are worth fighting for.
Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Harlequin MIRA, 2007.
How acquired: Bought.
First line: A fierce and unseasonably cold September wind blew chilly rain against the windows.
My thoughts: On a stormy night Paige Lassiter and her young son are running from an abusive husband, their destination still miles down the road, where they will take on new names and pray he doesn't find them. But Chris is running a fever, and Paige has left the highway in search of a motel where they can both get some rest. After miles of driving, she finally stumbles across a small establishment in the tiny town of Virgin River, and seeks shelter from the rain.
The bar is owned by Jack, the hero of the first book in the series, VIRGIN RIVER. Preacher, who served with Rick in the marines, does the cooking, among other things. He used to live in a room upstairs, but after Jack and Mel married, Preacher moved into Jack's apartment out back. He spends his days puttering around the bar, and fishing, and lives a quiet, rather solitary life, which he's quite content with. And then Paige comes barreling through the door with her small sleeping child and her bruised face, and Preacher's life will never be the same.
The romance between Paige and John – his real name, and the one Page calls him by, so the one I'm going to use from this point on - builds up very slowly. Paige is anxious to get back on the road towards the new life she has planned for herself and Chris, even though it will be a life of living in hiding. She's sure that the longer she stays in Virgin River, the more likely her husband, Wes, will track her down and show up one day. John feels fiercely protective of both Paige and Chris, and offers her the use of his old room upstairs for as long as she wants it, continually coaxing her to stay a bit longer but never putting pressure on her.
Chris is asleep when they arrive and doesn't actually meet John until the next morning, and John worries that Chris will be afraid of him because he's such a big, scary, mean looking man. He treats both Paige and Chris with patience and respect, and his interactions with Chris, who attaches to him quickly, are sweet and some of the best scenes in the book.
Of course John and Paige will end up together, but their romance was very well paced. John has never been in a serious relationship and never even really considered the possibility of falling of love. It's a nice change to read about a hero who doesn't have a lot of experience with women.
John pinched his eyes closed and prayed for control. He hoped he would be able to tell when she was satisfied -- he wasn't completely sure how that worked. He'd never paid attention before. A lot of panting and squirming, he assumed. Maybe he'd get lucky and she'd just tell him.
While this is Paige and John's story, characters from the first book are still prevalent. Jack and Mel get plenty of page time, even traveling to visit Jack's family, where Jack and his dad and brothers-in-law have a hilarious conversation about pregnant women that had me laughing out loud. Rick, the teenager who works at the bar, is also featured in a heartbreaking story line that affects all of the characters. And if you read my review of the first book, you know about my fixation on the mysterious marijuana grower who required Mel's help with a young girl in labor. I kept hoping he would make an appearance and he did, a couple of times, and we even learn his name, though not much else about him. I'm really hoping that he continues to show up as the series progresses.
And one of Jack and John's military brothers, Mike, comes to Virgin River to recuperate after being shot. Jack's sister Brie is also around in the latter part of the book, and I'm looking forward to the next book, whispering rock, which is about her and Mike.
Robyn Carr is wonderful at creating characters who are so realistic, so...human. Whether they are main characters, secondary characters, or bit players, they are never one-dimensional or cookie cutter.
Why can't I live in Virgin River?