Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr

Disclaimer: I've received Redwood Bend as an eARC from Netgalley


Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr
published by Mira (Harlequin) in February 2012

Katie Malone and her twin boys’ trip along the beautiful mountain roads to Virgin River is stopped short by a tire as flat as her failed romance. To make matters worse, the rain has set in, the boys are hungry and Katie doesn’t have the first clue about putting on a spare. As she stands at the side of the road pondering her next move, she hears a distinct rumble. The sight of the sexy, leather-clad bikers who pull up beside her puts her imagination into overdrive.

Dylan Childress and his buddies are on the motorcycle trip of a lifetime. But the site of a woman in distress stops them in their tracks. And while the guys are checking out her car, she and Dylan are checking out one another.

In one brief moment, the world tilts on its axis and any previous plans Katie and Dylan might have had for their futures are left at the side of the road.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Virgin River series, Book #18

The Story: Katie Malone is a widow raising 5-years-old twin boys. She's moving to Virgin River to be closer to her brother, who's been the only male influence for her sons. On the way to Virgin River, she gets a flat tire and is helped by leather clad bikers. One of them she recognizes as Dylan Childress who used to be a child/teen actor and made Katie dreamed.

Dylan is on a motorcycle trip with his friends and colleagues, but he has other purposes to be in California. He has a small charter flying company in Montana and he is facing some hard time with this economy. He hopes to visit other airports and struck some deals with them... If not, he'll consider his back-up plan - go to Hollywood and make one or two movies to tide things over till the economy picks up.

Neither expected romance, but that's exactly what they found... but the road to a HEA ending won't be easy.

My Opinion: Wow, book #18!! Hard to believe it's been almost 5 years since I picked up Virgin River on a whim!! Even after so many books, I find Virgin River and Jack's Bar to be warm places - almost idyllic - that I'd love to visit :) Guess Ms Carr has been doing a good job :) While the place has not lost its charms, the books themselves have been a bit like a roller coaster with ups and downs. They are definitively some that stand out, like Wild Man Creek, which is why I keep reading the series. I was hoping Redwood Bend would be one, especially since it got positive feedback... unfortunately, it wasn't. Before I launch myself into this review, I'd like to mention that I did not read Hidden Summit, the previous book in the series. However, I don't think I missed any vital information and it didn't impact my enjoyment of Redwood Bend. All right, here we go :)

For me, the strength of Redwood Bend was the setting and the characters. There's a reason why readers keep reading the Virgin River series. Obviously, the writing is good :) But the real reason is the setting, the place itself: Virgin River. It's the rustic and isolated feeling Virgin River gives off, the warmth and helpfulness of its inhabitants. It's a quiet and charming place to be, a bit too true to believe and perfect for fiction :) Yes, the conditions are harder... but the concerns and priorities are different and so is the lifestyle than in big cities. You can do more with less. And there's a sense a community in Virgin River that is so strong - the kind that you used to find in all neighborhoods and that is slowly fading away in suburbs and big cities. It's nice to revisit such a place in Redwood Bend :) It was warming to see Katie and her two boys be welcomed in Virgin River and how easily they settled in. It was also great to revisit some of the characters such as Jack and Preacher. Jack is definitively the core of the community, not just because of his bar, but his personality... so it's not a surprise to see him again. As for the rest of the cast, I think Ms Carr did a good job at balancing their apparitions so the spotlight was not taken away from Katie and Dylan.

As I mentioned, the other strong aspect of this book for me was the characters, i.e. Katie and Dylan. Katie is a widow raising two 5 years old twin boys. I loved how her maternal side came through in Redwood Bend. She's really what I imagine a mother of two active young boys to be. A Buddha with multiple hands, preventing her sons' action to get out of hand and creating full-blown chaos :) But even SuperMom needs a break from time to time... Katie simply felt real and that was nice. As for Dylan, I admire him for the man he has become... especially since he did not have a great start. As a very popular teen actor, Dylan was spoiled, basically a brat, who got into drugs and alcohol. Luckily for him, his grandmother got him in hands and straighten him out and he made it. I liked how loyal he was to his employees, accepting to do something he didn't love anymore - acting - to keep his business afloat. I think he was a very nice and good man.

My issue with this book is I felt Katie and Dylan had no chemistry together. They're attracted to each other and then, Dylan finds himself hanging around Virgin River longer to be close to Katie and they have a fling. That part was kind of cute, but I needed more. What held them together, what made this romance work besides physical attraction? There wasn't really a connection between them, so I wouldn't be able to answer... Okay, I could, but aside from the surprise result. Sure, they were both nice people... but what else? They simply didn't seem to fit each other. Katie was SuperMom and Dylan was the ex-heartthrob who didn't believe he'll ever have a family, given the example his parents set out and his estranged relationships with all relatives except his grandmother. I mean, technically, in real life, these people would never have started a fling. Also, I was quite disappointed that there was no bonding between Dylan and the twins :( That's one thing I always enjoy in books with small children, their interactions between the H/H. In this case, it was awkward. Yes, the twins got attached to Dylan eventually, but we don't see how this attachment is formed... and I suspect it is more due to proximity and time, than actual feeling ^_^; Also, I felt there was no trust between Katie and Dylan. It seems to me Katie was too quick to believe the worst out of Dylan, all the stories written in the gossip magazines. She didn't even give him the benefit of doubt. I felt that given the amount of time she spent with him and their intimate relationship, she would know him better and have more confidence in herself and more faith in Dylan.

Another issue I had with Redwood Bend was the event that happened at the end of the book with one of the twins. Yes, Ms Carr foreshadowed it... but I felt it was a tad far-fetched. I don't get why the boy would suddenly have an inclination to go into the forest ^_^; I seemed out of character for me and I guess it was there to add some drama, but I think the story could have done without it.

Despite all the issues, I did like how the romance was resolved and the ending of the book :) I thought it was nicely done and I liked how Dylan didn't give up his home. Oh and I have to say, one of my favorite part of the book was when Dylan's grandmother came to visit! I thought it was sweet she was looking out for Dylan... Plus, I liked how she was an acquaintance of Muriel. The world is indeed small LOL.

My Grade: C+. All in all, Ms Carr delivers another nice installment in the series. While it didn't wow me, it was nice and cozy. Fans of the series will most probably enjoy it :)

5 comments:

  1. You were way nicer than I was! I hated Katie, hated her! It wasn’t hate at first sight, she had great qualities but we go back to what we were discussing the other day, why have a short fling when all you want is a husband? And even then I kind of forgave her for that, but then the twist happened and boy was she an idiot. Her behavior was so questionable, especially since everything that happened to her with her husband and the kids, I’m trying not to give spoilers here, but I was so mad! I almost DNF’d the book right there!!!!! What a shame, because Dylan was great, although you’re right, not much chemistry between them to begin with.

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  2. I do wonder if the Virgin River books are now books that are being written for the established fans and not so much for new readers. Yes, there is a new cast of characters with each new trilogy, but really, I keep reading the series because I have a strong sense of nostalgia for the world that Carr has created, as well as for the characters and storyline.

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  3. Brie - LOL. Really? Well you know, I thought as a character, Katie wasn't bad at all. The decisions she took though were questionable.

    Although you know, I don't think Katie really wanted a husband "now." I thought when she entered the relationship with Dylan, she knew it was a fling and she really was okay with it. but yeah, the twist kind of ruined it all. I really wished she had handled it differently and on that count, I agree with you. I guess it's because it's not the first time, so you get used to stupid behaviors and decisions. For me, the biggest issue as a whole was the lack of chemistry. I mean, technically, they weren't meant to be together and so the twist would have been moot.

    Marg - I think new fans can embark in the series at any given point, except for the first two trilogies. Those were really interconnected and some characters were really heavy. Otherwise, Ms Carr is doing a better job. I wondered after I posted up the review if saying "fans of the series" was misleading.

    I agree with you that's definitively the selling point of this series - the world and its characters.

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  4. Totally agree. This was not one of my favorites - just couldn't see the h/h together.

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  5. Leslie - Glad we are of the same mind :)

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