Nora Crane was raised by an emotionally abusive mother who always told her that her father walked out on them and that they were better off without him. During her freshman year of college, Nora became involved with a guy who ended up being a drug addict. He dragged her and their two tiny daughters to Virgin River where he abandoned them, leaving them penniless and alone. When the townspeople found out about Nora's plight, they all banded together to help. But Nora desperately wants to make it on her own and the couple of small part-time jobs she has just aren't cutting it. When she hears that Cavanaugh's Apple Orchard is hiring seasonal workers to pick apples, she's determined to apply even though it means walking three miles one way to get there. However, orchard owner Tom Cavanaugh isn't convinced that Nora is up to the job. When Tom's feisty grandmother overrides his decision and gives Nora a chance, she's so grateful for the opportunity that she pulls out all the stops to impress her new employers. Soon she's earned Tom's respect, but although she's very attracted to him, she doesn't think that he'd ever be interested in a woman like her.
After spending several years in the Marines, Tom has finally returned home to take up his place, running the family orchard. When Nora comes to apply for the job, he's concerned that the work might be too strenuous for such a small slip of a woman, but it doesn't take long for her to earn his admiration. Soon Tom finds himself admiring far more than her fortitude, but he's convinced that he wants a sweet, uncomplicated woman, not one that comes with the emotional baggage and ready-made family that Nora has. When the widow of an old military buddy gets in contact with him, he invites her to come visit. Tom is deeply attracted to her sophistication and classic physical beauty, making him think that she could be the one he's been looking for. The more time he spends with her, though, the more he realizes that she's all wrong for him and that it's really Nora he can't stop thinking about. But can Tom move beyond his hangups about Nora's past in time to let her know how he feels before circumstances take her away from Virgin River and out of his life for good?
Sunrise Point is the seventeenth full-length book in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series. It features Tom Cavanaugh who was introduced much earlier in the series as a teenager if I'm remembering correctly, but he's been away serving in the Marines for a number of years. He only recently returned to Virgin River to help his grandmother run the family apple orchard. He's paired with Nora, a more recent addition to the series, who is a single mother with a troubled past. Nora is desperate to earn some cash to take care of her two daughters, so when she sees a job posting for seasonal apple pickers, she goes to the orchard to apply. Tom is reluctant to hire her, thinking she isn't strong enough for the job, but his grandmother overrules him and hires her anyway. While working hard to prove herself, Nora becomes friends with Tom and an attraction forms between them. But Nora is busy trying to keep her little family afloat financially and she's certain that a hottie like Tom wouldn't want a single mom with baggage. Although he likes Nora, Tom thinks that he wants a more stable woman with less responsibilities, so he takes up a casual relationship with the widow of a marine he served with in Afghanistan, only to find out that looks can be deceiving and that sometimes what we think we want and what we genuinely need are two very different things.
Nora barely remembers her father. She grew up with a single mom who was emotionally abusive and who told her that her father abandoned them and was a horrible, abusive person himself. By the time she was in her first year of college, Nora got into a relationship with a minor league baseball player who she found out too late was involved in drugs. After living in a series of slums, her boyfriend brought her to Virgin River where he abandoned her and their two tiny daughters. Alone with no money, Nora had no idea what to do, but her neighbors in the small mountain town pulled together to help her get back on her feet. However, there's not a lot of work to be found in such a small community, so when she sees the ad for apple pickers, she knows she has to apply even though the orchard is over three miles away and she has no car. After Tom's grandmother, Maxie, hires her, she pulls out all the stops to prove that she's an incredibly hard worker and worthy of the trust placed in her. Because of there being a mother bear and her three cubs on the loose near town, Tom insists on giving her a ride, and during this time, they slowly become friends. Nora finds herself longing for more between them, but she's a practical woman who knows she's no catch compared to Tom's new lady friend and that she comes with extra responsibilities. But when Tom finally shows an interest in being more than just friends, she can't resist. Nora is a very sympathetic character who's down on her luck. She's a wonderful mother to her two daughters and would literally do anything to keep them safe and fed. I liked that she was able to reconnect with her father and learn that he wasn't the bad guy she'd been led to believe all her life and that he ended up being a huge support in her time of need. I also liked that she fell in love not only with Tom but with Maxie and the orchard too, showing that she was a perfect match for him.
Tom's father died when he was a kid and his mother abandoned him, so he was raised by Maxie in Virgin River. After his stint in the Marines, he returned to take up the apple farming business, and it's his first harvest since being home. When Nora comes through his door, looking for work, he's instantly attracted to her, but he's sure that this tiny woman would never be able to keep up with the other pickers. Then Maxie insists on giving her a chance, and as Nora shows what a good worker she really is, Tom gradually warms up to her. But even though he likes her, he's convinced that he wants a woman with less baggage. That's why when Darla, the widow of an old Marine buddy, comes to visit, he starts casually dating her. He thinks she's everything he wants in a woman, beautiful, sleek, and sophisticated with no kids or other encumbrances, but every weekend she comes to the orchard to visit, he begins to see more and more of her flaws. As Darla becomes less attractive, Nora becomes more so, but he's still a little resistant to the idea of instant fatherhood and all of the other baggage Nora carries. When unexpected events lead to Nora's imminent move away from Virgin River, Tom finally realizes exactly what he'd be missing. I liked Tom way back when he was first introduced to the series as a young man and I still liked him now. He's maybe a bit clueless when it comes to what he really needs in a woman and he takes his good sweet time going after Nora, but he eventually figures it out and gets there. He's a good guy who finally found the perfect woman for him.
Like many of these latter Virgin River books, Sunrise Point didn't really reach many emotional highs or lows. It's kind of what I like to call a pleasant, easy, rainy-day type read that stays on an even keel throughout. The final couple of chapters where Tom finally gets his act together were a little more emotionally charged. Early on, I was a bit disappointed because Tom and Nora seem to just be in the friend zone, while he's romancing another woman. I tend to be a rather jealous reader who doesn't like my heroes and heroines to be involved with other people once they meet each other. However, this was really the primary conflict for a large part of the story. I grudgingly admit that it kept me reading, wondering when and how Tom was finally going to figure out that Darla was all wrong for him, and at least the one saving grace is that they never slept together. But still, I couldn't help feeling like it took valuable time away from him getting to know Nora better. Luckily the author does make up for that somewhat during the final third of the book, so it ended up being a pretty good read in spite of my early misgivings. As is typical for this series, many of the Virgin River townspeople put in appearances, and Hank Cooper, one of the cornerstone characters in Robyn Carr's Thunder Point series was introduced here. He's friends with Luke Riordan and has a surprising connection to Jack that led to some uncharacteristic tension between the two men. Sunrise Point didn't quite make it to the pinnacle of perfection for me, but I did enjoy it and can recommend it to fans of the series or of small town romances in general.
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