November 2008, Contemporary Romance
MIRA, $6.99, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 0778325733 Part of a series
About a year ago, I fell in love with Robin Carr’s Virgin River trilogy. She continues here with a short-ish, Christmas-set story that is a lovely addition to the series.
The life of Marcie Sullivan’s Marine husband was saved in Iraq by his best friend and commander, Ian Buchanan. Unfortunately ,he never recovered from his injuries and, after four years in a vegetative state, he finally passed in Marcie’s arms. As for Ian, he has disappeared after breaking off with his fiancé, leaving the Marines, not contacting friends and family, and not answering Marcie’s letters.
Marcie needs to deliver the news of her husband's death, so she goes in search of Ian. With little money or food and an old VW Bug, she goes off into the mountains of Northern California searching for any sign of Ian. When she finally finds him, she’s shocked; he’s living in the middle of the woods in a one-room shack with no plumbing. No one knows who he is, and he looks like a grizzly bear. Though he shows no sign of wanting her around, Marcie stays – and winds up ill and in his care. While she recovers, Ian and Marcie become reacquainted, and slowly begin to unravel what had happened, why Ian ran off, and whether or not the hermit life is what Ian really wants.
As you might expect, we do a fair amount of revisiting previous characters, though it's not overwhelming, nor should it confuse or irritate new readers. Also, as those familiar with the small town of Virgin River might expect, there's a heavy theme of supporting the troops that manages to avoid being political. While it was lovely, it felt almost unrealistic - the community of veterans seemed almost too much of an ideal, and not the reality. Maybe this isn't the case, and there are Virgin River-like towns all over the country with that support system in place, but I just have never seen them outside of military bases.
I really enjoyed the development of Marcie and Ian’s relationship. They have a very difficult past and both of them have a number of issues to overcome, still Marcie and Ian grow immeasurably and are incredibly strong, courageous characters. Though this book is shorter than the others, the characterization, development, and depth of Marcie and Ian are better than many other, longer, stories.
A Virgin River Christmas certainly covers a number of difficult subjects: The war in Iraq, PTSD, life for veterans, death, sacrifice, and loss. However, Carr does this with grace, respect, and an appreciation for the reality of the situation that I’ve rarely seen in any other author.
-- Jane Granville
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