Anyway, onto books. So today, double feature reviews... Paradise Valley by Robyn Carr and The Warrior by Sharon Sala, two of my favorite authors' new releases. I've read them a while ago, but I think now is a good time to review them.
Paradise Valley by Robyn Carr
published by Mira in April 2009
Marine corporal Rick Sudder is home early from Iraq—his tour ended abruptly on the battlefield. The carefree boy is gone, replaced by a man who believes his future is as bleak as his mirror image. But can the passion and commitment of a young woman who has never given up on him mend his broken body and shattered heart?Genre: contemporary romance
As the people of Virgin River rally around Rick, another recent arrival tests the tightly knit mountain town's famous welcoming spirit. Dan Brady has a questionable past, and he's looking for a place to start over. He'd like it to be Virgin River... if he can find a way in. But he never expects to find it in the arms of a woman who was as much an outcast as himself.
For a favorite son returned from war and an outsider looking for a home, Virgin River offers them a chance to make peace with the men they once were... and to find the dreams they thought they'd lost.
Series: Virgin River, book #7
The Story: LOL, well you know Robyn Carr, right? There's always so much more going in her books than what the back blurb describes. Yes, the main story of the book is about Rick Sudder and his sweetheart, Liz. Rick left Virgin River to become a Marine and he's been sent to Iraq. Unfortunately for him, his tour will be short-lived and he returns home without a leg. Understandly angry, he pushes everyone away: Jack and of course, Liz - since she now deserves better... but how long with the residents of Virgin River put up with Rick's nonsense?
In addition to Rick and Liz' story, we catch up with Cameron and Abby whose one night-stand resulted in the pregnancy of twins. The problem? Well Abby was in the process of divorcing when she met Cam. She now has a credit card debt of 10,000$ thanks to her ex-husband and needs his alimony money to pay off the debt... which she's not going to receive if people discover that she's pregnant and therefore, is hiding in Virgin River. Meanwhile, Cameron is sure that Abby is the woman for him... He's been longing for a wife and children and it seems his wishes are becoming true... if only he can win Abby over now.
Oh, there's also a newcomer to Virgin River... or a "returner." After a short stint in jail, Dan Brady - the enigmatic pot grower, is back. However, he's done with the illegal work. He's back in Virgin River because he enjoys the lifestyle and community and hope to be accepted.
My Opinion: As usual, Ms Carr has written a sweet book :) However, there was a lot going on in this book and it felt to me Ms Carr was just breezing through the story-telling. This is her style, lots of storylines, but sometimes, it doesn't work to her advantages.
Right away, I have to tell you, I've never been a fan of Rick and Liz. I found Rick okay, but Liz... I don't know... Would it be wrong for me to think she acted like a hussy in the previous trilogy? Oh, I admit that's what happened to her is heart-breaking and that she has matured a lot... but still, I can't help it to think she brought it onto herself. As a result, she's not really my favorite character... so yeah, Rick and Liz not being my favorite couple... from the beginning, I felt so-so about this one. I also can't help wishing that Rick and Liz would be older when all this new tragedy took place... However, I guess what Ms Carr wants to show is that tragedy and love can happen and age doesn't matter at all. Still, I wonder if Rick would have handled it better? Probably not.
I can't help to think that Rick reacted very childishly and I know, I know... he lost a leg. It's a trauma, but pushing aside everyone around you is really not the solution. What was he angry at anyway? Himself for being like a black star and bringing bad luck to everyone around him? You're 20, what are you going to do with the rest of your life? Self-pity? So good for Liz to standing up to him and holding her stand.
Let's move on to Cameron and Abby. Cameron is like a great guy, but Abby... hmm. I just found her annoying, because she was pushing away Cameron for no good reason. All I wanted to tell her was: Look, you didn't get pregnant on your own. So the father of your babies is actually happy and touched, so he cries in front of obstetrician. You're really going to be mad because of that?!? I don't know, it was hard to sympathize with Abby because Cameron was such a great guy and at times, I felt that Cameron deserved a better partner. In the end, the problems were resolved a bit too easily... I felt that it was a lot of fuss for nothing... I'm also sad about the fact that it seems Cameron won't be staying in Virgin River for long :(
Finally, there were two other "storylines." One was the continued romance between Walter and Muriel. Have to say, I wasn't that interested in their romance, but it was nice and sweet. Like a breather for all the things that are happening. It's also nice to see that you're never too old to fall in love and make it work. The last storyline was about Dan Brady and his return to Virgin River. I like his character and the ambiguity surrounding him. It's unfortunate that we only caught glimpse of him and of his past. As I expected, it seems that Dan Brady is going to have a relationship with Cheryl, Virgin River ex-town drunk. I have to admit, I'm not very happy about it - ask Holly, I bugged her so much about it LOL. I don't like Cheryl's character... yes, it might be prejudices or more like, I don't want to read about a former alcoholic. I mean, those relationships are usually preachy and angsty... Then, I'm not the author though, so it's not me who gets to decide. So far, I'm happy that Ms Carr is taking it slowly between Dan and Cheryl. It seems to me that their storyline in Paradise Valley is just an introduction, setting up the premises and we will get more of them in the next book of the series (I'm assuming there is going to be one), a bit like Paul and Vanni in Whispering Rock. Oh, and also I thought it was a bit too convenient that Dan could understand Rick so well ^_^;
Overall, I thought that Paradise Valley was okay. The main problem is that I connected nor felt any attraction to any of the characters. I didn't feel the burning need to turn the pages and find out what would happen to them. Also, Ms Carr has to be careful in my opinion. I know it's part of her writing style to have so many storylines in one book and it works well, when she has a solid "main" couple to fall back on... However, when she has so many different relationships at different stages and none of them really stands out, then it leaves the readers disatisfied and wanting more... and it's a sad way to follow-up a strong book.
My Grade: B-. All in all, I'm still enjoying the series. I like the characters and the feel in Virgin River, the community. However, the romances in this one were all "misses" for me. I hope there will be more books in this series with stronger romances in the future! :)
The Warrior by Sharon Sala
published by Mira in April 2009
John Nightwalker is a strong, rugged Native American soldier who has seen many battles. While hunting down an old enemy, he crosses paths with Alicia Ponte. On the run from her father — a powerful arms manufacturer — Alicia seeks to expose her father's traitorous crimes of selling weapons to our enemies in Iraq. But Richard Ponte will do anything to stay below the radar... even if it means killing his own daughter.
Drawn to the mystery that surrounds Alicia, John feels compelled to protect her. Together they travel through the beautiful yet brutal Arizona desert to uncover deadly truths and bring her father to justice. But their journey is about to take an unexpected turn…one that goes deep into the past.
Genre: contemporary romance with paranormal elements
The Story: 500 years ago, John Nightwalker's tribe was attacked and slaughtered by Europeans. That night, John should have died as well, but the Old Ones granted him his wish - revenge. For the past 500 years, John has lived a lonely life in which he could heal any kind of wounds and never age. He's been looking for the man who led the attack - or more precisely, for his soul, for that man has died and been reborn many times. Whenever John is close to him, he can feel it in his heartbeat.
This time, John's enemy has been reborn as Richard Ponte, a powerful man whose business is to manufacture and sell weapons. His luck runs out when his daughter, Alicia Ponte, discovers that he's not only been providing weapons to the US armies, but also to a multitude of terrorrist factions. Shocked, disgusted and scared, Alicia runs away and is ready to reveal her father's crime... but to whom? Her father is a powerful man with a lot of connections and who is not ready to be ruined, even if it means eliminating his own blood? Who can she trust? Isn't that gorgeous Native American just a bit too eager to help her?
My Opinion: Like I said in a previous post, I've been a bit apprehensive when it comes to this book. I love Ms Sala's works; she is one of my favorite authors. However, the last book, The Healer, also featuring a Native American (well sort of) hero was very similar to another previous book of hers and I was afraid it would be the same with this book as well.
Well, I worried for nothing. This is indeed a very unique book :) I thought it was quite interesting... the fact that John lived for 500 years, without dying and aging. It is a lonely life... and funny how in every book - when they have lived such a long time, the characters are able to amass quite a lot of money :) I liked John's character a lot; however, there was not much development or depth I think. He was just a very solid man, living his life with a purpose. Sure, his first instinct was to use Alicia to get to her father. Who can blame him? He's lived 500 years just for that moment... Alicia surprised me though. I thought she would be a lot more pampered and sheltered, but turns out she had quite a backbone :) You also have to be strong to go through what she had... I mean, to turn in your father... It's not as if she had a bad relationship with him and wanted to get back at him. I think she loved her father, although they didn't have a close relationship... It's just that his crime was way too atrocious for her to stand by his side. I think that Ms Sala wrote Alicia's character very well... the turmoil of her feelings - being righteous, but at the same time feeling guilty and the pain of knowing that your father wants to kill you. Not anything I'd like to go through. So I think that Ms Sala did a great job writing it.
The intrigue was interesting as were the twists :) It was funny to see John outwit Ponte's hired men :) The relationship between John and Alicia was interesting as well. While not completely believable in real life, it was for a romance book. I like the fact that they didn't jump in bed together right away. It's funny how often I write this, that the author took her time developing the relationship, but it's true :P Yes, they were attracted at first sight and I have no problem with that... but to go to bed a few hours after you've met, euh no, that doesn't work for me.
The most interesting part for me was when John had to reveal his secret to Alicia and her disbelief. I mean, no matter how much you want to trust the man you love, when he comes to you and tell you he's been alive for 500 years and he's been after your father's soul, it's just a bit hard to believe. It's equally hard for the man when the woman he loves just doesn't believe him. What I like the most about this relationship and what makes it so unique is that Ms Sala didn't force the issue between the H/H. No epiphany, no incident that would make Alicia believe or John proving to Alicia, etc. What Ms Sala showed with this relationship is that it sometimes, the truth and beliefs are not important. What really matters is the love between two persons and acceptance. Instead of accepting John's story, Alicia chose to believe that John really believed the story he told her. As for John, he accepted that his story was soooo incredible that Alicia could not believe it. It's really a fine line and I'm not sure that I'm explaining it well, but I thought it was fresh and insightful. I really liked that fact that Alicia did not ask for proof and that John accepted the fact that Alicia just couldn't believe it. Which I guess it's the reason why he didn't told her that she was the reincarnation of his wife, White Fawn... and you know, in the end, it really didn't matter.
My Grade: B. The Warrior is not the most poignant book by Ms Sala, but it's a good and enjoyable one. I think I was silly for not reading it earlier :) and again, Ms Sala reminds me why I like her so much... because her books are different. Her writing style and her ideas :)