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Friday, July 03, 2015

Insight into the works of Robyn Carr by Jeri Neal


Many TRRC readers are new to the prolific and popular writing of Robyn Carr. The New York Times best selling author of nearly 50 novels, has written three distinctive series beginning in 2001 with the Grace Valley books. Before and after she penned these series, Robyn has written a number of standalone books, historical romance and women’s fiction. Yet, I think it is safe to say that her absolutely wonderful writing talent has been focused correctly on the three series we’ve all enjoyed. I will try and summarize and link the series here.

Grace Valley books were made up of three novels: Deep in the Valley (2001), Just Over the Mountain (2002), and Down by the River (2003). These books are focused on June Hudson, a family physician who has grown up in the Grace Valley area and has chosen to return to practice medicine with her father. These books are delicious and give us a snapshot of small town life. In the second book, June falls secretly in love and that book introduces Jim. The third book carries on their story and brings in all the other fascinating characters from June’s family and community.

The second series Robyn Carr penned were the Virgin River books and they are linked to Grace Valley. These books tended to be published in groups of three, all give stories of Marines who have returned home. The first, Virgin River (2007) formed the cornerstone of the series and tells the story of Jack, who owns the local bar, and Melinda, the midwife who inadvertently ends up in Virgin River. The characters flow out of this book and include John, aka “Preacher”, the cook at the bar, Paige, running from an abusive marriage ( Shelter Mountain, 2007), and Jack’s sister Brie, a prosecutor who retreats to Virgin River after being viciously attacked by a client. Her love story with decorated Marine Mike forms the basis of Whispering Rock (2007).

In 2008 Carr writes the first of several holiday books, A Virgin River Christmas, the story of Marcie, widowed, young, and in search of the soldier that tried to save her husband. When she finds Ian readers are introduced to characters that emerge in later books, namely Marcie’s sister Erin. Other holiday books have included Under the Christmas Tree (2009), Bring Me Home for Christmas (2011), Midnight Confessions (2010), and the last book in the Virgin River series, My Kind of Christmas (2012), which pulled together many of the past characters and caught us up with their lives.

The additional series of three books for Virgin River begins with Second Chance Pass (2009), the story of pregnant Vanessa, who comes to her retired general’s home as she waits for her husband to return. His untimely loss forms the basis of this book and the growing feelings emerging between his best friend and Vanessa. Vanessa’s cousin, Shelby, is featured in the next book, Temptation Ridge (2009) and readers are introduced to the Riordan brothers. Shelby falls in love with Luke, the toughest of the bunch. In Paradise Valley (2009), Rick, a young man and Jack’s protégé, is badly wounded in Iraq and comes home to recuperate, pulling away from his high school love, Liz. Forbidden Falls (2010), which Robyn Carr thought might have some controversy associated with it because it involved a young minister, actually ended up being one of her most popular novels. There is actually a novella, Sheltering Hearts, also published in 2010.

Riordan brothers figure prominently in the next three books: Angel’s Peak (2010), Moonlight Road (2010), and Wild Man Creek (2011). Promise Canyon (2011) tells Clay’s story as he works as the new veterinary assistant in town. Harvest Moon (2011) continues some of the plot started in Wild Man Creek as Jill’s sister, Kelly, a chef, comes to Virgin River and meets a widowed screenwriter with a difficult teenage stepdaughter. The following three books, Hidden Summit (2012), Redwood Bend (2012), and Sunrise Point (2012) were of more distanced characters. Yet, all were connected to the original people introduced in the first three books of the series.

The protagonist for the first book in the third series, Thunder Point is Hank Cooper, a friend of Luke Riordan from the military, who actually gets word that his good friend has died in Thunder Point, while he is in Virgin River. This first book in the Thunder Point series is titled The Wanderer (2013). Cooper ends up inheriting his friend’s beachfront property and complicating his normally transient nature is a beautiful Coast Guard pilot, Sara. Like Virgin River this town is populated with characters that figure prominently in future books. These books, the most recently published include The Newcomer (2013), The Hero (2013), The Chance (2014), The Promise (2014), The Homecoming (August 2014), One Wish (February 2015), and the newest books, A New Hope (July 2015) and Wildest Dreams (September 2015).

Interestingly, I read an interview done with Robyn Carr that was posted online. She indicated that her first two series were finished and there would be no more books about Grace Valley or Virgin River. She anticipates a long series with Thunder Point.

As you might have realized, I’ve been reading and reviewing these books for TRRC for many years. I have read every book in all three series and my all time favorites have to be the first three Virgin River books and then later the Riordan brothers novels. The compelling themes in all these novels were of military men who had overcome diversity and would find a romantic relationship with a complicated woman. Robyn Carr has touched on every imaginable human conflict and issue with these complicated, interlinked novels. The remarkable part is that she has managed to do it without preaching or lectures.

In summary, while I liked the earlier books involving Grace Valley and Virgin River the best, I have to say that her latest, the Thunder Point series have seemed more like the complicated stories of earlier books. I thought Thunder Point books started out a little slow and the novels were less affectively complicated. Of course I hated to see the Virgin River books end. In spite of these small criticisms, Robyn Carr is still one of my all time favorite authors whose books reside on my keeper shelf and who I read over and over and over….. Any mistakes I’ve made in this list were all mine to make but I hope this helps clarify the series for TRRC readers. Here’s to a talented and prolific author!

By: Jeri Neal

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