As the 12th novel in the Virgin River series by Robyn Carr, it almost feels like there should be a standard opening paragraph for these books. The author just keeps them rolling off the presses and they just keep grabbing our feelings and our reading imagination. However, those of us who have lived in Northern California at some point in our lives find that visualizing the context of these novels gives added satisfaction in the reading. I, for one, keep on loving these stories, and while I admit that some are more interesting to me than others, have found the most recent releases to be some of the best so far. As has been the case so far, each novel introduces the reader to new characters who have discovered Virgin River, CA, and who have almost immediately fallen in love with this little town, and who have come there for a variety of reasons.
Jillian Mattlock and Colin Riordan would appear to have lives that are as different as night and day. Yet both have arrived in Virgin River, seeking shelter from the disappointments of life, who are seeking a place of peace and hiddenness after finding their carefully orchestrated lives upended and their futures totally in doubt. Jillian's involvement in a company she helped to build over a ten-year span has been brought to an abrupt end by the machinations of an unscrupulous man pretending to be deeply in love with her. Colin has been gravely injured in an aircraft crash and his plans to be both a military and civilian pilot have been as shattered as his body. Jillian finds an old home that reminds her of her great-grandmother's property, with 10 acres of land just waiting to become flower beds, orchards, and vegetable gardens. With her gardens and rows of vegetables and orchards, Jillian begins to allow the earth to renew her. Colin finds that a long dormant talent for painting is all he has to fill endless days of healing and rehabilitation. They find each other and recognize a mutual set of needs. Yet they neither one wants permanence--the future is too uncertain--yet they are totally unable to resist their mutual attraction. Through the days of Spring and Summer they grow closer and closer while each plans to "move on" in the Fall.
Jillian and Colin's affair is a beautiful love story, filled with their delight in one another's hopes for the future, their common appreciation for the beauties of nature and wild life, their genuine appreciation for one another's inner strengths and the awareness that each has become for the other a sexual addiction they are not sure they can live without. Throughout the story the reader is aware of the tentative nature of life, the recognition that no matter how carefully a person plans for the future, there are no guarantees, no way of predicting that seemingly good choices and relationships can turn sour very quickly. How can two people who truly love each other say goodbye, knowing fully that their life paths may never again cross? As in all Virgin River novels, the cast of characters includes persons from previous novels and I have to own up to liking that fact a lot. I have always felt cheated when a good novel ends and the literary acquaintance with those characters does not continue. Ms Carr has allowed her readers to get in on the continuing sage of these individuals and families, even though they may be brief glimpses or perhaps a more extended updating of sorts.
This is no pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by kind of novel. It is about real pain and hurting hearts, inner wounds and stillborn dreams, insecurities born of doubts about one's abilities or from the unwillingness to once again wade into life's battles for survival. And does one only survive, or can people who have had their lives unended find the strength to recoup and once again be productive in a meaningful way? That is really the substantive question behind this novel, and it is told in compelling and engaging way. This novel poses important questions and answers some of those questions in surprising ways. It is one of the aspects of this story that held my interest from beginning to end.
Whether or not you are a Virgin River fan or if this is your first Virgin River novel, I think you will find that this is one of Ms Carr's best. I give it a rating of 5 out of 5.
This novel is being released by Harlequin in February, 2011.