Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Second Chance Pass by Robyn Carr ****

This is the 5th installment in the Virgin River series, and continues the stories of the residents of the fictional northern California small mountain town of Virgin River. This one is mainly Vanessa and Paul's story.

Paul was in love with Vanessa from the moment he saw her across a crowded room - but his best friend Matt made the move on her first. Matt and Vanessa were married, and Paul had to stand by and watch his best friend and his love in their bliss. Matt went off to Iraq, leaving Vanessa pregnant and living with her dad, the general, and younger brother Tommy, in Virgin River. Matt was killed, and Paul stood by Vanessa, helping her with her grief, even helping deliver Vanni and Matt's son. But he had his own grief - losing his best friend and watching his love suffering, but knowing she would never love him.

Thinking Vanni would never feel the way he did, he left Virgin River and went into the arms of a "friend with benefits" for comfort.But Vanni did feel the way he did - and she constantly called him, asking him to come back and visit. Each figured the other thought of him/her as a brother/sister - and each wanted the other. Dang! The Big Mis! And it's further complicated by Ms Friends-With-Benefits telling him she was pregnant with his child...

A lot of the feedback I've read about this book has people having a lot of opinions - that Vanni didn't mourn Matt enough, that there are too many people to keep track of, that it doesn't live up to the earlier books, that there weren't enough mentions of Preacher. Well, I disagree - Preacher wasn't my favorite character anyway, but he was mentioned a lot.

This is women's fiction with a strong romance component - the story, while there is a focus on the main h/h, isn't JUST about them. It's about the town and its inhabitants, and it's about their families and friends. While building a strong fictional community of people who care about each other and help each other, there's also the undercurrent of truth and reality - pot growers, spousal abuse, dangerous pregnancies, mental illness, death. (Well, actually maybe all of those aren't as prominent in this book as in some earlier ones.) The good guys, the alpha marine heroes, are strong, tall, handsome, built and all have this incredible soft marshmallow heart inside that loves pregnant women and babies and all things domestic. Plus there's lots of male bonding and a touch of talk about feelings between the men. Yeah, there's fiction for you!

But it's done in a way that makes you believe it, makes you long for that small town, those friends, that family that is big, boisterous, loving, perfect. There are suspenseful situations as well, that have you on the edge of your chair, even knowing Carr isn't going to kill off her main characters and that the h/h will get a happy ending!

I didn't like Vanni's character - she was too impatient, too shrill, jumped to conclusions and seemed to walk all over Paul. It took Paul long enough to man up and come forward, and when he did, we're supposed to believe he went from passive to assertive overnight. It wasn't that credible, but I was ok with it - maybe once he said it out loud it was more true for him. I still enjoyed the book all in all.

I'm all about a good narrative, a well-told story, and I don't need any particular format or plotline or anything - just entertain me, make me feel what the characters feel, leave me smiling and happy at the end, and I'm good. 4 stars and a series for the Serial Readers Challenge.

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