By Robyn Carr
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Independence seems within the grasp of Nora Crane when she sees a note on the bulletin board at the Virgin River Presbyterian Church inviting applications for apple pickers at Cavanaugh Orchard. Nora isn’t afraid of hard work. She’s willing to do almost anything honest to support herself and her two daughters, two-year-old Berry and nine-month-old Fay. Things are much better for Nora and her girls than they were just a short time ago, thanks to the kindness of Pastor Noah Kinkaid and other citizens of Virgin River. But as much as she appreciates the help, Nora wants to earn her own way, and if walking 3.4 miles each way and picking apples to earn a decent salary will allow her to give her children what they need, she will do the work gladly.
Tom Cavanaugh is an ex-marine who has returned home to help his grandmother run the family orchard. Once he couldn’t get away from the farm fast enough, but deployment in a war zone gave him an appreciation for the life that he could have following in his grandparents’ footsteps. Now he has big plans for the orchard and for his personal life once he finds a woman with whom to share it. Nora Crane is definitely not that woman. Tom is attracted to her, but he is looking for a woman like his grandmother—“settled, smart, a strong moral code.” Nora, mother of two and already divorced at twenty-three, could not possibly be that woman. Tome gives her a job only when his grandmother intervenes for Nora.
As Nora and Tom work together, they discover they have more in common than either suspected. Tom and his home seem like a dream to Nora, and she realizes quickly that she needs to protect her heart. Nora impresses Tom with her determination and work ethic, and his protective instincts kick in. Soon they are spending time together after work, and Nora and her daughters are winning his heart. His grandmother Maxie is doing all she can to promote the match, but a visit from the widow of one of Tom’s Marine buddies, who at first appearance is the kind of woman for whom Tom has been looking. Nora also has baggage from the past as she must come to terms with the father she believed had abandoned her.
Readers familiar with the series will recognize Nora as the needy young mother who receives one of the community Christmas boxes in Bring Me home for Christmas, Carr’s #1 bestseller. She is a character who is both likeable and sympathetic from the beginning. She was only nineteen when she became involved with a pro baseball player turned drug addict, her mother kicked her out when Nora came home pregnant, and her father ceased to be part of her life when she was six. Despite all these negatives, she demonstrates a quiet, stubborn strength, and she is devoted to her children. She also possesses intelligence, a sense of humor, and a kind heart. Tom is not as immediately likeable. He makes snap judgments, and is too certain of his own “rightness.” But his grandmother shakes him up a bit, his alpha caretaking is endearing, his heart beats his head to the right place, and he proves himself sigh-worthy material in the end.
As is usual with Carr’s books, the secondary characters add richness to the story. I adored Maxie! She may be seventy-four, but she is a vital woman who takes joy in her past, lives fully in the present, and looks toward the future with hope. She loves her grandson, whom she and her husband reared, but she sees his faults as well as his strengths. And she doesn’t hesitate to call him on his wrongheadedness when necessary. There’s an interesting clash between Jack Sheridan and Hank Cooper, another former military man and friend of the Riordans. I expect to see Luke return in one of next year’s books.
Sunrise Point is the nineteenth novel in Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series. While I like some of the books better than others, overall they show amazing strength for such a long-running series. Sunrise Point is a strong addition. It’s more a hybrid of women’s fiction and romance than straight romance since Nora’s journey is as important as her and Tom’s relationship. The appearances by other Virgin River characters are more limited than usual in this book, and this means that it can be read as a standalone. If you like community-based stories, stories with a strong military connection, or contemporary romance that showcases the extraordinary qualities of ordinary people, you can’t do better than Robyn Carr’s Virgin River books.
I've read all nineteen Virgin River books plus the novellas. I think this makes it the longest-running romance series I've read, although Carola Dunn's Daisy Dalrymple mystery series is up to twenty now. What's the longest running series you've read?