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The Wanderer: A Thunder Point Novel by Robyn Carr

Monday, March 18, 2013
Synopsis: Nestled on the Oregon coast is a small town of rocky beaches and rugged charm. Locals love the land's unspoiled beauty. Developers see it as a potential gold mine. When newcomer Hank Cooper learns he's been left an old friend's entire beachfront property, he finds himself with a community's destiny in his hands.

Cooper has never been a man to settle in one place, and Thunder Point was supposed to be just another quick stop. But Cooper finds himself getting involved with the town. And with Sarah Dupre, a woman as complicated as she is beautiful.

With the whole town watching for his next move, Cooper has to choose between his old life and a place full of new possibilities. A place that just might be home.

Review: Some novelists have a gift for storytelling and memorable lines, or just storytelling, or just memorable lines. Fellow Southern Nevada resident Robyn Carr has a gift only for storytelling, and what a gift it is in her creation of Virgin River, that wonderful small town in rural northern California that some readers surely consider a second home, in her giving life to Jack, Mel, Preacher, Doc, and others, people you want to know more about and want to see what happens to them in future installments. I just finished Whispering Rock, third in the series, and am only up to A Virgin River Christmas, but I feel that pull that has made Carr massively successful. I want to find out what happens next with Preacher, my favorite Virgin River resident, his wife Paige, and everyone else there.

Now Carr has created a new series, as much for herself, I think, as for her readers. Because while it’s always nice to spend time in Virgin River, an author gets restless and wants to explore other places of interest in her imagination. This time, it’s Thunder Point, Oregon, on the coast. And just like her Virgin River series, Carr is not going to rest at any time. The end of June will see The Newcomer, the second in the Thunder Point series, and the end of August will have The Hero, the third installment.

The Wanderer starts off uncomfortably slow, which is surprising, because a leisurely pace kept interesting is usually Carr’s forte. Her descriptions of Thunder Point feel more like an obligation than a novelist interested in the setting of her novel, and what’s so interesting about Hank Cooper if Carr doesn’t seem so interested in him, nor the residents of this Oregon town who are supposed to make us be ok without another Virgin River novel for a while? But it could be Carr getting used to a new small town after spending so much time in Virgin River because finally, finally, The Wanderer comes to life with the playful, funny banter between Cooper and Gina the waitress at the local diner. And when the silent Rawley gives the late Ben Bailey’s will to Cooper, we can finally settle in. We have a story. And we have again the Robyn Carr we know so well.

Carr leans on what has served her well all this time in order to establish Thunder Point, to give us more of the same in a new package, while making it utterly appealing once again. Obviously Thunder Point is a small town, just like Virgin River is. But there are also these:

Hank Cooper drives from Virgin River to Thunder Point, while Mel, at the beginning of Virgin River, got stuck in the mud driving into Virgin River, both new to their respective towns. One going into Virgin River, one leaving it. It makes sense to have a respectful nod to Virgin River while embarking on this new series.

Just like Mel, Hank falls for one of the residents. It takes a while because Sarah Dupre, a lieutenant commander in the Coast Guard, has gone through a lot as it is, what with her parents dead when her brother Landon was so little, her becoming his guardian and having to struggle to establish a new life, which also involved a relative abusive to five-year-old Landon, and then a cheating husband who was also a father figure to Landon. It’s no wonder that when she finally meets Hank, confronts him rather for being in Landon’s cell phone contact list and not knowing about him, she’s unsure. They do meet again in better circumstances, but Hank’s insistent that he’s going to leave soon after he settles his old friend Ben’s business and she’s fine with that because she doesn’t want to get too attached and have her heart broken again and also see Landon too attached like he was with her ex-husband.

In the meantime, while fending off angry high school classmate Jag Morrison, who expected to be the star of the football team when he can’t even play, Landon becomes attracted to Eve, the 16-year-old daughter of Roger “Mac” McCain, deputy sheriff, overseeing the satellite office of the county sheriff’s office in Coquille. Mac’s got his issues, too (it wouldn’t be a novel without them, and especially not a Robyn Carr novel, since it’s easy to be sucked into these lives), being a single father who moved in with his aunt Lou after his wife just upped and left him and his children, including 12-year-old Ryan and 10-year-old Dee Dee, when they were very young. He’s been friends with waitress Gina for years, and Gina has wanted him so badly, but he believes a relationship would not be good for either of them because suppose it goes wrong? They’ve been best friends and then suddenly they’d have nothing. Gina can’t stand it, but she goes along with it because Mac has always been there for her.

Carr brings what she has used to make the Virgin River series irresistible, such as finding another story in every direction you turn. There’s the trouble with the Morrison kid, which grows worse, and there’s also Cooper fixing up Ben’s bar/bait shop/every business he was ever in, including a small deli, ordering the sandwiches from Carrie, Gina’s mother, who runs a deli and catering business, because Ben cared more about Thunder Point than he ever seemed to care about how he ran his business. All that mattered to him was that he was always there for this town, refusing to sell his plot of land, which is catnip to developers because of how much it’s worth financially, and how much it could be worth to them to turn it into a resort. Cooper is shocked at how much it’s actually worth, and it’s no wonder Ray Anne, the local nosy, starved-for-sex realtor, hounds Cooper about selling it. She wants to be the one to sell it because that commission would be hotter to her than getting hot for Cooper, which is such a small moment when it happens, and involves alcohol on her part, but it’s there, and Carr does it again, making one wonder a tiny bit what might happen with Ray Anne further on in the series.

And just to be sure that there are reasons to go on with this series, Carr creates the reasons. Past the halfway mark, a new doctor named Scott Grant arrives, with a little son and daughter and 19-year-old au pair. It’s nothing like that, nothing that could scandalize a small town. Grant’s a widower. But in order to be able to set up a clinic in Thunder Point and then run it, he needs help with his children, much as he seems to take good care of them. In fact, Grant becomes part of a continued disappointment after a realization by one of the women of the town, one of those potential couples to want the best for so badly. You’ll know it when you feel it like I did. It causes a fist clench and a lot of sighing as if you were the one rejected.

There’s so much set up here for those forthcoming novels, such as Aunt Lou, who reminds me of Hope McCrea in the Virgin River series, and Joe Metcalf, a retired Air Force colonel, and also her lover who she’s kept secret from Mac and others because of how old she is and how young he is. Plus, Rawley, “a vet with PTSD issues,” as Mac explains to Cooper. But Rawley is more than that, having helped Ben for years. Just like Preacher in Virgin River, he appears sporadically, but I expect more of Rawley in the next Thunder Point novel and the one after that. I want to know more about him, beyond his outfit that includes a bandana wrapped around his head, and an American flag shirt, beyond learning that he takes care of his elderly stroke-disabled father. Once again, Robyn Carr’s doing it to me again. She’s also great at slipping in a sudden mystery. Cooper finds Ben’s death suspicious because he didn’t seem like the type who could die from a fall down the stairs. Cooper’s suspicions are confirmed much later, and it all ties into the value of Ben’s land.

Thunder Point feels a bit bigger than Virgin River, especially when it’s noted that at one of the high school football games, it looks like the entire town is there, with the bleachers jammed with people. It looks like Carr wanted to create a town with a little more room, and she certainly has that, what with being right on the water. By the Thunder Point residents alone, she has another bestselling series in the making. I’m not as comfortable in Thunder Point as I am in Virgin River, but I think that’s because I’ve always preferred being inland than out on the water. For Cooper, Sarah, Gina, Mac, and especially Rawley, however, I’ll spend more time there. Maybe I’ll get used to it. That’s a big maybe.

Reviewed by: Rory

Rating: 4/5 DIAMONDS
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