Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Virgin River by Robyn Carr
Publication Date: March 27th, 2007
Publisher: Mira Books
Wanted: Midwife/nurse practitioner in Virgin River, population six hundred. Make a difference against a backdrop of towering California redwoods and crystal clear rivers. Rent-free cabin included.
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 former marine Jack Sheridan cements them into place.
I’m finally starting to find out what Contemporary books work for me! Hint: this is one of them.
I have been putting off reading this book and watching the Netflix series for ages because the trailer was too reminiscent of Hart of Dixie for me (with the same actor seemingly playing the exact same role) but upon finally reading Virgin River, I realized I had it wrong. Virgin River is definitely it’s own story and I really enjoyed it.
The story is not epic in scale and it’s not something totally new but I had a lot of fun reading it and cannot wait to continue this series which is… 21 books long? Wait, what?! *ahem* OK, guess I’m in this for the long haul. Who would have thought that a small town story could have so much stuff going on!
One of my favourite parts about this book is how honest and relateable the characters are and I know that they are going to be flushed out more and more as the series progresses but this was a perfect introduction. I will admit though that I would be totally happy if every book focused on Mel and Jack lol but I am very intrigued by everyone else in Virgin River. Carr was able to introduce a whole slew of characters in this first installment in a way that peaks your interest just enough for you to feel connected to each person. There were a few moments where I felt like she was just listing off people’s names but when you realize how big this series is, it’s important to be given names early on that will pay off as time goes on.
I think that the biggest flaw in this book is simply the time in which it was written. You wouldn’t think that 2007 was that long ago but sometimes it’s painfully obvious how far we have come in terms of what is and isn’t totally acceptable in literature these days. That’s not to say that some people may be very into some of the dynamics but I’m personally not a huge fan of some of the ‘alpha-male’ moments that Jack has (for example saying he wants Mel to be ‘his’). And I don’t like how she includes sex scenes between two minors in an adult contemporary/romance book… but not every part of a story needs to be a winner. I just hope that as the series progresses that the content also evolves.
The better parts of the story really do revolve around the characters. I loved each back story and want to learn more about everyone. We see a lot of growth in Mel in terms of how she deals with grief and starting over which I would personally find very hard to write but Carr made it seem effortless. Each moment made sense and I found myself agreeing with Mel in her reactions and choices - which I can’t always say is the case with some books. I liked that Jack was the type of male character that I don’t see written often - he is very realistic. He isn’t some man who is sitting around waiting for a woman to come to his town. He has a life, a relationship (kinda), a history and is a true mainstay of the town. As I also said before, there are a ton of characters that get introduced and so many of them are great but I can’t go in depth with all of them so a couple of other honourable mentions go to Preacher, Doc Mullins and Joey.
This is the type of book that is very much character-driven but Carr is also able to weave in some conflict with some illegal activities happening just outside of town that affect Virgin River to add a little bit more action into the narrative and I appreciated that. I love good character stories but external conflict always adds more to me.
I do already have book 2, Shelter Mountain, and expect to be reading it soon!