Twenty years ago, Dylan Childress was a child actor and teen heartthrob, but when his best friend died of an overdose, Dylan's grandmother whisked him away to a ranch in Montana where he learned a simpler way of life. Now a pilot and owner of a small charter aviation business, he loves his work, but with business slowing down, he has to find a new venture to keep his company financially solvent. For years, an old friend and Hollywood producer has been pestering him to come back, so he can't help wondering if it might be time to make another movie. A ride to Virgin River with his motorcycle buddies is just the ticket to clear his mind, so that he can make a decision about the future. When he meets a woman stranded by the side of the road into town, though, he can't help feeling like he's finally found a home for his wayward heart. But coming from a deeply dysfunctional family, none of whom can ever make a romantic commitment, Dylan fears that his bad DNA makes him a poor risk for a good woman like Katie.
Widowed Katie Malone comes to Virgin River to visit with her brother for the summer. After their parents' deaths, he was always her rock to lean on, but things have been rough lately, and they need time to reconnect while Katie figures out her next move. When a flat tire strands her by the side of the road with her rambunctious, five-year-old twin boys, she can really use a hand and that comes in the form of a group of bikers. When she spots sexy, leather-clad Dylan Childress, she almost immediately recognizes him as the guy who starred in her girlhood fantasies, but being a sensible single mother, she's reluctant to get involved with a man who has a Hollywood bad boy reputation. But the more she lets him into her life, the more she knows she'd regret it if she didn't give him a chance. Dylan never promised to stay forever, but when he leaves to find work, her heart is still broken. Circumstances soon make it imperative that she get in touch with him, but when he returns, can she genuinely trust him with her bruised heart again?
Redwood Bend is book #16 in Robyn Carr's long-running Virgin River series. I've been happy to get back to Virgin River this year and work on catching up. It's always like revisiting old friends. In this book, we have Katie, the sister of Connor from the previous book, Hidden Summit, paired with Dylan, an ex-movie star, who's just passing through town until Katie catches his eye. They meet up on the road outside Virgin River when Katie's SUV has a flat tire and Dylan and his motorcycle-riding buddies stop to help. During their sojourn in the little mountain town, Dylan can't resist getting to know Katie better. This commitment-phobe initially thinks it's just going to be another in a long string of flings he's had, but she turns out to be far more than he expected, making him reluctant to leave. But his air charter business in Montana is suffering from a downturn in the economy, and he needs to make some money fast, or it's going to go under. So he decides to get in touch with an old Hollywood producer friend and see if he can return to the movies, but once in LA, he can't stop thinking about the woman he left behind.
Dylan was born into a dysfunctional Hollywood family. He grew up as a super-star child actor adored by millions and turned into a teen heartthrob loved by young girls everywhere including Katie. Spoiled and catered to by nearly everyone around him, by the time he was fifteen, he was already headed down a dangerous path toward addiction. After his best friend overdosed, Dylan's equally famous grandmother whisked him away to a ranch in Montana where she set about reforming him by teaching him the value of hard work and showing him the simple life most of his fans lived. He's been there for the last twenty years and no longer misses the Hollywood lifestyle. Instead, he's reinvented himself as the owner of a small airport and air charter business and loves his new life as a pilot. But after a downturn in business, he knows he needs to make some quick money or his dream job is going to go down the tubes fast, so he has plans to meet up with a movie producer and try to get back into the business. Dylan takes to the road on his motorcycle along with a few friends and ends up in the California mountain town of Virgin River, where he meets Katie. He's instantly attracted to her, although he's never dated a woman with kids before, and although things start out casual, he quickly realizes she's gotten under his skin in a way no other woman has before. He lingers around town for far longer than he expected to in order to spend time with her, and when he finally heads for LA, he can't stop thinking about her the entire time he's there. However, his messed up family has left him believing that he'd never make good husband or father material. Dylan is a great guy. He may be an ex-movie star, but twenty years in Montana have tamed him into an ordinary man with a pretty ordinary life. He's very good to Katie and her boys, and although he believes that he wouldn't be any good as a family man, he more than proves that he's better at it than he thinks.
Katie is a widow who had a whirlwind romance with her first husband, an Army Ranger who was killed in Afghanistan before her twin boys were even born. They didn't have much time together, but she cherishes every memory she has. Her older brother, Connor, stepped up to the plate to be a father-figure to the boys right from the start, but after he became the sole witness in a murder investigation, which led to the hardware store they co-owned and inherited from their parents being burned down (events that occurred in Hidden Summit), she suddenly had to be whisked away to Vermont for her own protection. Now that the trial is over and it's once again safe, Katie decides to spend the summer renting a cabin near Connor and his fiancée in Virgin River. On the way there, she meets Dylan on the road, and having been a huge fan, she almost immediately recognizes him but manages to play it cool for quite a while. At first, she resists getting any more involved with him than just friends, but the attraction is too strong to resist for long. She's never really had a fling before and doesn't think she'll be very good at it, but at the same time, she knows she'd regret it if she didn't. Even though Dylan made no promises to stay and Katie tried to steel herself for his eventual departure, it still hurts when he leaves and her heart breaks even further when she sees his picture splashed on the covers of the tabloids with a woman from his past. Circumstances arise that she knows will necessitate getting in touch with him again, but when he returns of his own accord, she isn't quite sure if she can trust him not to break her heart all over again. Katie is a strong woman with a positive outlook on life, who's managed to raise rambunctious twin boys all on her own for the last five years while weathering through the grief of losing her husband. She never complains about her lot in life, though, and is open to taking a chance on Dylan. She's just the solid rock he needs in his life to steer him in the right direction.
With Redwood Bend being part of a very long-running series, there are supporting characters aplenty who've had books of their own in the series. Most prominent would be Connor and Leslie (Hidden Summit) who are Katie's main support system. Connor plays the alpha protector, big brother, while Leslie tries to reign him in. Of course, Jack and Mel (Virgin River) who are the backbone of this series make several appearances, along with Preacher (Shelter Mountain). Mike (Whispering Rock) shows up in one scene, trying to keep the peace when Connor and Dylan get into a fight. Dan (Paradise Valley) happens to be at the bar, too, when the fight breaks out. We see Paul (Second Chance Pass) a couple of times as Connor's boss. Dylan and his friends stay at Luke's (Temptation Ridge) cabins for a while and have a couple of conversations with him. Walt and Muriel show up, because Muriel is an old Hollywood friend of Dylan's grandmother. One of Dylan's motorcycle buddies is also named Walt and I have to say that it was a bit confusing having two characters in the same story with the same name. I think that's the first time it's ever happened. There are also several other series characters who receive mentions. As a friend and neighbor of Leslie's, Nora appears in a scene. Then young Tom Cavanaugh who left Virgin River way back in Temptation Ridge to join the military, returns to help his grandmother run the apple orchard. I remember him being a good kid, though not a kid anymore. I'm a little sad that he's apparently no longer with Brenda, his girlfriend back then, but I'm curious about the new Tom/Nora pairing that will be coming up in the next book, Sunrise Point. Dylan's grandmother and Katie's twins are also standouts.
Overall, I enjoyed Redwood Bend along with its main characters, Dylan and Katie. I thought they were a well-matched couple, while Katie's twins are cute and precocious. As always, it was fun visiting with the townspeople who make Virgin River what it is. As with the last book of the series, this one has a rather languid pace. During the first half or so of the book, I'd say that Dylan and Katie spend almost as much time apart as they do together, so their romance is kind of a slow-burn. I didn't have any major issues with the story, but I also can't say that it hit any emotional highs or lows for me. It didn't quite garner keeper status from me, mainly because the story, like several of these latter Virgin River books was a little on the mundane side. It was just one of those pleasant, rainy-day type comfort reads. Going into a Robyn Carr book, especially a Virgin River book, I usually know what I'm in for, and in that respect, it didn't disappoint. It's a nice addition to the series that's sure to please long-time fans.
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