Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday Review: The Wanderer

The Wanderer
By Robyn Carr
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Release Date: March 26, 2013

The bad news is Robyn Carr is not giving her readers the three to five new Virgin River stories that they have eagerly anticipated each year but one since she introduced the series in 2007. The good news is that this month, almost exactly six years after the publication of Virgin River (the first book in the series that has earned Carr thousands of new fans and taken her to the top of bestseller lists), she is introducing a new series, Thunder Point, that promises to be just as addictive as the Virgin River books.

Life as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot conditioned Henry Davidson Cooper, Jr., known as Hank but more often as Cooper (sometimes Coop to his friends), to the nomadic life that he has continued since leaving the Army. In Virgin River, California, on a hunting trip with his old buddy Luke Riordan (Temptation Ridge, VR book 6), Coop learns that Ben Bailey, another friend from his Army days, has been killed and that Cooper is named in his will. Cooper wants more details about his friend’s death, and it is that wish rather than a compelling interest in his inheritance that sends him to Thunder Point, a small town on the Oregon coast.

Upon his arrival in Thunder Point, Cooper discovers that while the circumstances surrounding Ben’s death raise questions, the lack of evidence pointing to foul play has led the local coroner to rule the death as accidental. Cooper plans to stick around for only a couple of days enjoying the scenery, but then he learns that Ben has left him a run-down bait shop and bar and a valuable piece of beachfront property highly coveted by developers. Cooper feels that he needs to stay long enough to determine what Ben hand in mind when he left instructions for Cooper to “take care of things.”

Sarah Dupre is another recent arrival in Thunder Point. A search and rescue helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard, she found Thunder Point when she was looking for a place to move to avoid running into her former husband, a chronic philanderer, at every turn. The small town seemed like the perfect spot for her, her sixteen-year-old brother Landon, and their Great Dane, Hamlet. Even though they have been in Thunder Point for only a few months, it’s beginning to feel like home. Sarah is making good friends, and Landon, who has been Sarah’s ward since their parents were killed more than a decade ago, has earned a spot as quarterback of the high school football team.

Neither Cooper nor Sarah is looking for a long-term commitment. Cooper’s history has convinced him that he’s not meant to be a husband, and his residence in Thunder Point is strictly temporary. Sarah, disillusioned about romantic love after the betrayal of her ex who she believed to be ideal husband and father material, is fiercely guarding her heart from entanglements. But the chemistry between them is strong, and the two engage in a friends-with-benefits relationship that soon has them reconsidering the possibilities.

Fans of the Virgin River series will find in The Wanderer the same strong community identity and large cast of secondary characters, each with his/her own intriguing story, that has made the earlier series so beloved. But Thunder Point is more than just a reimagining of Virgin River. Larger and less quirky and isolated than Virgin River, and without Virgin River’s pervasive military connections, it is a distinctly different place—geographically and in other ways.

Thunder Point felt more familiar to me than did Virgin River. The library, the schools, the local businesses ranging from a grocery store to a real estate office, the presence of Golden Arches and neon bell, the citizens who work in surrounding towns, Friday night football games, and homecoming dances—all these serve to make Thunder Point similar to countless other small towns across the United States and to make it different from Virgin River. But the cast of characters promises the same range of stories that exists in Virgin River. A secondary plot involving Deputy Roger “Mac” McCain, divorced father of three who is in charge of the satellite office of the county sheriff, and waitress and single mother of one, Gina James, sews the seeds of the major plot for the next book in the series. A romance between Mac’s Aunt Lou and a younger man and the budding romance between Mac’s oldest daughter, Eve, and Sarah’s brother suggest that Carr will showcase romance at different stages of life, as she did in the Virgin River books.

I’ve been reading Robyn Carr’s books since the days when she was writing historical romance. For years, she was on my list of she’s-so-great-I-don’t-understand-why-she’s-not-more-appreciated authors. I can remember the excitement I felt when I first read Virgin River and believed that it would be the novel that brought her work the attention it deserved. The very success of the Virgin River books means that The Wanderer couldn’t evoke that same excitement. But it has the heart and the soul of the earlier series. The Riordan connection means that there is a link between Thunder Point and Virgin River, as there is between Virgin River and Carr’s even earlier Grace Valley series. 

In short, The Wanderer has everything it needs to make it Thunder Point a worthy successor to Virgin River. I highly recommend the book to Carr fans and to any reader who has a fondness for small-town stories with characters who capture your interest and win a spot in your heart. The first book will be followed by The Newcomer on June 25 and The Hero on August 27. I can’t wait!

If you are a Robyn Carr fan, how do you feel about the winding down of the Virgin River series? If you have not read the Virgin River books, why not?


irisheyes said...

I'm actually okay with Virgin River winding down. I'm ready to let Robyn take me on a new journey into a new city with new people. In fact your description of a normal small town with all that entails sounds very fun to me.

The only thing about this new series that has me bummed is that we have to wait more than a month for each new installment. LOL I've been reading the blurbs and excerpts and it's looking like it's going to have everything I love in a series. The fact that she's doing the generational relationships again is totally awesome. I cannot wait!

quantum said...

I have read most of the Virgin River books now and like Irish am about ready for a change.
I hope the new series will be available in audio format.

I think Carr must be very popular in the UK as her earlier historical books are now appearing on audible: Right of Arms; Everlasting Covenant; Troubadour's Romance; The Blue Falcon.

Does her magical writing in Virgin River extend to these historicals?

Janga said...

Irish, one of the things I love most about the new series is that it gives Robyn more scope to introduce new characters in a different setting while at the same time, the VR connection allows peeks at VR characters if she chooses to include them. I hope she will.

Janga said...

Q, Robyn Carr has recently reissued digital versions of her early books. I think they are widely available now. It's been a while since I read them, but I think the voice is different and the writing less polished. My favorite is The Bellerose Bargain, but I like the Restoration Period and wish more historicals used that setting.