This year, Becca Timm knows the number one item on her Christmas wish list—getting over Denny Cutler. Three years ago, Denny broke her heart before heading off to war. It’s time she got over her silly high-school relationship and moved on.
So she takes matters into her own hands and heads up to Virgin River, the rugged little mountain town that Denny calls home, as an uninvited guest on her brother’s men-only hunting weekend. But when an accident turns her impromptu visit into an extended stay, Becca finds herself stranded in Virgin River. With Denny. In very close quarters.
As the power of Christmas envelops the little town, Becca discovers that the boy she once loved has become a strong and confident man. And the most delicious Christmas present she can imagine.
I feel it important to state right off the bat that I am a confirmed Virgin River lover. Every time I finish one of these books I have this persistent desire to find a place where these characters actually exist so that I can be a part of their lives. For whatever reason, these novels really speak to my heart. This holiday story is no exception.
Both the main characters are people who have endured pain and brokenness in varying degrees. Becca has struggled for three years to move past the broken heart, the questions, the sense of not really knowing how this all came about when Denny moved away from her emotionally and without her even knowing it, re-enlisted in the Marine Corp and was almost immediately sent to Afghanistan. Yes, his mother’s death was terrible and ripped his heart out. But the one person he didn’t turn to was Becca, the woman he claimed to love and wanted to marry. Instead, he shut down and then he was gone, without a word for over two years. When he returned Becca’s anger was significant and she told him to get lost. Enter Doug, a UCLA law student who is smooth, good looking, from old Boston money, and he wants to marry her. Yet the old love, the old hurts, the old memories of Denny just won’t go away.
There there is Denny, a young man who took Becca at her word and “got lost” as ended up in Virgin River, largely because his mother had told him that Jack Sheridan was his dad. As it turns out (and you can read about that in a previous novel), Jack was not his dad, but Denny found in Jack the kind of man he would have wanted as a parent and their relationship was strong and close. He has made a place for himself and is on his way to putting down even deeper roots when Becca shows up with her twin brother–Denny’s best friend–and two other guys with whom Denny had been planning an all-guys week of hunting and fly fishing. Their initial encounter didn’t go well, neither did the following day as which time Becca jumps out of Denny’s truck, twists her leg, and ends up with a shattered ankle which required surgical pinning. The added time she was required to spend in Virgin River was initially upsetting and yet, whose to know if it was providential.
This is a story that will seem “sappy” to some and yet it has about it the kind of sense that these two people really needed to talks out their break-up and resolve the questions that were in both their heads. It is also an in-depth look at a community that is striving to survive and thrive in the midst of a very harsh economy and which is already the kind of town that looks out for everyone. By virture of their remote location, they must rely on one another more than many communities, and as Christmas is approaching, their sense of needing to “be there” for one another is even more keen. It is also a look into Becca’s family dynamic, her relationship with her twin brother, her need to be a person in charge of her own destiny, and how she deals with the pressures from family and friends over the issues in her personal life. There is also the sense that the needs of the Virgin River family begin to help both Denny and Becca to sort out who they really are and to identify the path they must each travel in the future. Sappy it may seem on the surface, but I think there are some weighty issues involved in this novel that are relevant to how we all live and how we perceive ourselves and others.
This may be a story that is wedded to the holiday season as its context, but I think it is one that is timely no matter the time of year. It is one that I really enjoyed and think it is full of value and substance.
I give it a rating of 4.5 out of 5
You can read more from Judith at Dr J’s Book Place.