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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Review of Robyn Carr's VIRGIN RIVER

Virgin River (Virgin River, #1)Virgin River by Robyn Carr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I flipping loved this book.

It's my first Robyn Carr book. I've read a lot of good things about her here on Goodreads and also on Amazon, and I ordered several of her books this spring, hoping to get some time to read them.

Recently widowed Melinda Monroe, a certified nurse midwife, decides that to move beyond her grief she must start her life again. She sells almost everything she owns and moves to Virgin River, a tiny town in the middle of the California forest. At first it seems the transition from the violence of working in the hospitals in LA to living in a town that doesn't even seem big enough to be a town is going to be too much for her. But she quickly finds herself drawn closer to this tiny community and its resident, particularly Jack Sheridan, a former U.S. Marine who runs the closest thing the town has to a bar/restaurant. Watching Mel and Jack fall in love was pure pleasure.

I particularly loved the medical realism of the midwifery scenes. I read in reviews that some readers didn't like all the pregnancy/childbirth/breastfeeding talk that naturally goes with Mel's career, but as someone who had two midwife births and breastfed for a long time, I really appreciate that. Though certainly motherhood isn't for every woman, I think having a baby is the most amazing thing women do, and having a midwife as a heroine was truly wonderful. The birth scenes were realistic, but not gory at all.

The quality of the author's research was apparent not only with regard to midwifery, but also the hero's military background and law enforcement aspects of the story, as well as the milieu of the small town and the surrounding countryside, where some residents are wonderful people and some are not.

I also enjoyed the fact that the heroine was strong but not "kick ass." I just don't enjoy reading about heroines who kick butt and are oh so tough. Bores me. I much prefer feminine heroines who can be strong — but in a feminine way. Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the hero to be the one who kicks ass. Heroines with knives, tattoos, and tough ninja moves who swing through the skyscrapers on ropes braided from their own chest hair just don't do it for me.

Though profanity doesn't bother me — how could it? My books are full of it — this book has only mild profanity. The sex is romantic and descriptive rather than erotic and extremely detailed. That's fine with me, because I can take either, provided it's well written. I just like a well-crafted love scene.

I found Carr's style to be captivating. Let's put it this way: I didn't plan to read a book tonight. I sat down with this kind of by accident at about 9 PM and read it in one sitting, finishing at about 2 AM. That doesn't happen for me very often — maybe once a year or once every other year.

Thanks, Ms. Carr, for the hours of enjoyment. Looking forward now to the rest of this series.

13 comments:

Sounds like a great book, Pamela. This one is going on my TBR list.

Ronlyn said...

Thanks for the review. I'll keep my eyes open.

SN said...

It was just okay for me. I have about two million things I'd rather read about than pap smears and pregnancies - and as the series goes on, that's all there is.

Robyn Carr is an astoundingly talented writer, but I don't like her women's health bonanza.

Plus I hate Mary Sue, self-righteous, ‘I’m going to force every woman in town to have her breasts examined’ Mel. Books three and four (the Christmas one) are my favourites.

SN said...

Whoops, forgot.

I do agree though about the heroines. I like women to be women, men to be men. Women can be tough without being She-Men.

When it comes down to it, most women who read these books would never be running around with guns, kicking arse, saving the world with their brawn. Better authors (like you!) can maintain femininity and keep their characters strong.

But Mel is awful. In a later book she tells another woman she’s ‘unusual’ for being a virgin in her mid-twenties – tells her right after she’s forced her to have a pap smear. It’s so unprofessional and unkind. Robyn Carr won’t acknowledge not all women want marriage and babies before twenty-five.

I guess I was never going to love this series though, because I don't like babies, don't want babies, and have never understood women who are obsessed with them. I don't understand why it's considered ‘normal’ for a woman to be desperate to reproduce, and you’re considered defective if you don’t want it. Those expectations are never put on men! I feel I deserve to believe I'm a worthwhile person regardless of whether or not I reproduce.

Hi, Jennie — It really enjoyed it1 I hope you do get the time to read it.

Hi, Ronlyn — I know you'll love Jack and Preacher. :-)

Hi, SN — Absolutely, women have value even if they don't want to have kids. I think the romance genre doesn't offer a lot of depictions (other than Eve as in "Roarke and Eve") who aren't actively wanting babies.

In reality, more and more women are making that choice. On the one hand, I envy their lack of stretch marks and financial well being. On the other, I love my boys and would rip my own heart out for them.

For a long time, I couldn't imagine myself having kids. I say "a long time" — that was my teen years. I hated babysitting people's little bratty kids. Then I got gobsmacked by hormones or something at 20 and all I could think about was babies. Had two, and that cured me. :-)

My mother was a L&D nurse, and I have several friends who are certified nurse midwives. I've thought of leaving journalism and going back to school for two years to become one myself because there are places in the world where CNMs save lives every day. (One of my friends runs a midwifery clinic in Uganda near the IDP camps and is a true hero in my eyes.) That seems so much more relevant than journalism, but...

Forcing people to have PAPs -- that's awkward. I guess I'll have to see how her character unfolds. I wonder if the author is taking on the issue in a "public service" sort of way.

And THANK YOU for saying that I keep my heroines feminine but strong. She-roes just don't do it for me, but my heroines have been called wimps. I've always felt they were pretty strong women — even if they do have a penchant for tears that they inherited from their author. (I cry at the drop of a hat! So does my sister.)

I guess one other thing I enjoyed in the book was her reference to women from prison being brought in and shackled to their hospital beds...

That is, of course, an issue dear to my heart.

Phyl said...

I loved this book and I ended up devouring the whole series. As with any series, some books are better than others. I think what I really like about the series is the sense of community that she created in Virgin River. It's a utopia that sounds too good to be true.

I understand SN's reaction because the series does seem to be all about the babies. It often made me wonder why *I* liked it so well, LOL. I guess it comes down to good writing, an attractive setting, and characters with great chemistry.

P.S. Hope you're feeling well!

Diane W. said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I'll put it on my TBR list!

Oh, and I don't like macho women heroes either. I guess because I just can't relate. If I were in the situations some of these heroines are put in (yours come to mind), I'd be a complete mess! I think your women are very strong. But there are the biological facts of life as well. Not very many 120 pound women (who live ordinary lives and aren't police officers or military personnel) can take on a 225 pound man who's all muscle and trained to be a killer. It's not realistic. And, if it were me, I'd be curled up in the fetal position, sucking my thumb. Your heroines are amazing!

Oh, and about the crying thing....I cry at everything. I was always afraid whenever I was anchoring or reporting that I would burst into tears on the air. And, to paraphrase Tom Hanks..."There's no crying in broadcasting!" But let me tell you...some stories were tough.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the Virgin River series, I devoured all 10 and loved them all. I understand there are 3 new ones in 2011. But you, Ms. Clare, are my all time favorite author. I have read 280 romances in 8 months, thanks to my kindle, including your 4 I-Team series, which are phenomenal, and 2 of your historicals, the rest will be read soon. You are an amazing author and I love your blogs. Thank you. J. Emerson

Hi, Phyl — Interesting that you enjoyed it despite the baby boom. I think the idea of a close-knit community is compelling to most people because few of us have that. I'm glad to know I have some good books ahead of me. The characters did have chemistry, for sure. And I really adored them.

I am feeling better. It's slow but sure. My next checkup is Nov. 2. I still get tired very easily. Thanks so much for the good wishes!

Hi, Diane — I'm glad to know I'm not the only crybaby. I once got choked up while delivering the address at a college graduation ceremony. Man, was that every embarrassing. Wanted. To. Die.

I think doing broadcast would be tough that way. I can cry my eyes out while I write a column or an article and no one knows. But if I were on the air or on the TV...

When we covered the Columbine Massacre, I lasted three days — and then I flipping lost it. We're talking sobs.

Hi, J Emerson — Oh, my goodness! Thank you so much. I am so glad to know you've enjoyed my stories that much. I don't even know what to say. I do try to put everything I have into them.

I will say that 280 books in that short a period of time is amazing. That's a LOT of reading.

Hopefully, you'll enjoy the other historicals and BREAKING POINT, too.

Thanks for your very kind words. You made my evening.

P.S. to J — I'm glad you enjoy the blogs, too. I really had no idea what I was doing when I started writing this blog, but it turned into just a very relaxed way of communicating with you all — and a great place to display man-chest now and again. ;-)

Jane said...

I've never read any of Robyn's books, but I've heard people rave about them for a while now.

Mollie said...

This is one of my favorite sereis. All of her books are just so heartwarming. They're the romance version of a toasty, warm blanket!

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