Once again we visit that remote but winsome locale in Northern California, north of San Francisco in Humbolt County, an area with mountain peaks and valleys, some of the world's oldest redwoods, and people who are happy and sad like everywhere else. In this series, author Robyn Carr has crafted a saga that includes the on-going stories of individuals and families in this little community, one that is tucked away and gets little attention by those outside its borders, but within which lives and breathes hearts that are merry and some that struggle to get through each day, and others that work hard to give and take for themselves and the sakes of others.
You still have the delightful cook at Jack's Bar, Preacher by name, one who just seems to be able to bring the best out in food, who is probably a true culinary artisan, but who just keeps on delivering tasty delights without even knowing it. But this novel is about two Native Americans, one a veterinary tech from Los Angeles who needs to be near family and far away from a debilitating relationship with a spoiled former wife, a marriage that should never have happened. The other is a smart, ingenious, hard-working, family-loyal, fun-loving woman who has chosen to live a hidden emotional life because of a teen relationship that damaged her sense of her own worth and her trust in her own instincts. Clay Tahoma is Navajo, loving his family and wanting to be near his sister, her raucous and wonderful family as well as being able now to bring his son from Arizona to be near him. Lilly in Hopi, but she has chosen not to embrace her heritage, still cherishing the relationship with the grandfather who has raised her, but feeling the need to be on her own and independent of the connections that form her sense of herself far more than she realizes. This novel is really their story, but the ups and downs of the community, the hurts and struggles of some of the families that began in preceding Virgin River novels continue on as Clay and Lilly find their way toward each other.
Some reviewers have found that these later Virgin River novels to be "more of the same." I, on the other hand, find them compelling as I would any continuing story. This novel like the others is multi-layered: on the one hand you have the characters that form the core of the novel; on the other hand you have their story over against the backdrop of the continuing story of the Virgin River community. So each novel seems to bring the reader in contact with characters that have become familiar with, whose lives continue on while new residents and their dilemmas are introduced. I like that mix a lot.
I also very much appreciate the effort the author made to bring out the issues that surround the Native peoples of this country. Many are not aware that California has more Native American reservations within its borders than any other state in the Union. The Northern California areas are especially rich in Native culture and tradition, and bringing Clay with his Navajo traditions together with Lilly and her Hopi context made for a wonderful and rich love story. Bring in the conflict caused by a spoiled and dysfunctional ex-wife and you have the stuff of good romance fiction. I have to own up to being in tears when I got to the end--a resolution to Clay and Lilly's story and their concerns that moved me deeply. It is not easy for many Native peoples to live with the clash of cultures represented by the wider American culture as it butts up against their Native traditions, many of which are far more concerned about the integrity of the land and the health of the earth than those who are driven by technology and the personal drive for wealth and power.
So I continue to enjoy and find great worth in this Virgin River Series, and this like the others I have read was a joy for me. I recommend it as a very good read and one that is a fine addition to those which have preceded it. I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5.
This Book is due to be released by Harlequin Books on 01 January 2011