Ever since losing Jake, his best friend and wingman, in a recent combat mission, navy pilot Patrick Riordan has been floundering. Feeling responsible, he's having trouble moving on and isn't sure if he wants to stay in the Navy anymore. Then there's the matter of Jake's widow and young son, who Patrick promised Jake he'd take care of if anything happened to him. Trying to find some peace away from the rest of the Riordan clan to get his head on straight, Paddy heads to Virgin River to stay at his brother's vacant cabin, while the rest of the family have plans to spend the holiday in San Diego. All he intends to do is get some time alone with his thoughts, but then a sexy, young woman shows up at Jack's bar, leaving him intrigued. The two bond over shared losses and fall into an easy friendship that quickly leads to a whole lot more. But for Paddy this is only a temporary stop and he doesn't think it can be anything more than a short-term fling. Whether he stays in the Navy or not may be up in the air, but he plans to offer marriage to Jake's widow once the holiday is over even though he isn't in love with her. Will he change his mind when Angie proves to be everything he's been looking for in a woman?
Jack Sheridan's niece, Angie LeCroix, has only recently recovered from a devastating car accident that nearly took her life. Before that she was a medical student, but now she's not sure if that's a path she wants to continue down. Needing to get away from her well-meaning but hovering mother, she goes to Virgin River to visit her Uncle Jack and Aunt Brie for the holidays. She no sooner arrives in town than she spots a hot guy at the bar. Angie immediately approaches him and soon they're swapping stories about the things they've lost and relationships gone wrong. Next thing they know, they can't seem to keep their hands off each other and want nothing more than some alone time together, even though they both know that the relationship is only temporary. But when both of their families show up, time seems to be at a premium. Not to be daunted, they manage to keep the spark burning between them, but when Christmas comes will it spell an end for these newfound lovebirds, or will they figure out a way to have a future together?
My Kind of Christmas is the eighteenth novel in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series. At the time it was first released in 2012, readers thought this was to be the final book of the series, but last year (2020), following the success of the Virgin River television series, Ms. Carr published another holiday-themed book, taking readers back to our favorite little town in Northern California. That now makes My Kind of Christmas the penultimate book-unless, of course, that changes at some point in the future-and this one features Patrick, the youngest and final, unmarried Riordan brother paired with Jack's niece, Angie, who I don't think we've met before. Both have decided to take a weeks-long sojourn in Virgin River leading up to the holidays to do a bit of soul searching and make major decisions about the rest of their lives. They hook up almost as soon as they both hit town and are inseparable throughout the weeks to come. But both believe it's just a temporary, holiday fling that will end as soon as Christmas arrives, because each of them have plans that don't involve a permanent relationship. So, it's a matter of figuring out if they can both get on the same page in time to share, not only the perfect Christmas together, but maybe a lifetime.
I honestly can't remember if we've seen Patrick in any of the previous books or not. He likely was in one or more of his four brothers' books, but even if he was, we probably didn't get a good sense of who he was as a character. Like all his brothers, he's in the military, a Navy flyer who just recently lost his best friend and wingman, Jake, who was shot down during a combat mission. Still struggling with his grief and feeling responsible, he was given six weeks leave to get his head on straight. He chose to hang out in Virgin River, knowing that his entire family was planning on going to San Diego for the holiday, so he'd be alone to think about whether he wants to take the reassignment that he knows is coming or get out of the military altogether. Patrick also promised Jake that if anything ever happened to him, he'd look out for his wife and son, and he's planning to ask Marie to marry him, thinking that's the best way to honor his promise. But then a beautiful, vivacious, young woman, ten years his junior, shows up in town, catching his eye. Patrick thinks she's too young for him. He also knows he can't offer anything more than a holiday fling and that he shouldn't get involved, but he just can't seem to help himself whenever she's around. They bond over their shared pain and struggles and Angie proves to be far more mature than her years, making Patrick want more, but he can't break his word of honor to the friend who meant everything to him. Patrick is described in the cover blurb as the gentle, sweet-natured Riordan brother, and I think on some level that's true. However, I usually associate those words with beta heroes, while Patrick is kind of a mix of alpha and beta. He has a stubborn, clueless alpha streak going where Marie is concerned, making plans to marry her and create a future together without really asking her what she thinks about it. But when it comes to Angie, his beta side comes through most of the time. I like how he wants to help out with her project and with the Christmas preparations around town. It's also easy to tell that he's rapidly developing feelings for her even though he says he's sticking to his stubborn path. Eventually he figures it all out, though, and makes a grand, romantic gesture to solidify it, which was sweet.
Angie has just recovered from a near-fatal car accident. Prior to that, she'd been a med student at USC, but her near-death experience has left her uncertain if this is the path she still wants to take. Add in a pushy mother who's insisting that there must be something medically wrong for her to want to make such a drastic change, and Angie desperately needs a break from life. She decides to visit her Uncle Jack and Aunt Brie in Virgin River to get a little space and think about what to do next with her life. Minutes after arriving in town, she spots the scrumptious Patrick at Jack's bar and boldly starts talking to him. They hit it off and can't seem to get enough of each other. Patrick is up front with Angie from the start that it can't be anything other than a temporary relationship, but she's crazy enough about him to want to keep going in spite of knowing it will hurt to say goodbye. While sharing her nights with Patrick, Angie spends her days helping Mel in the clinic where she meets a little girl with a disfiguring facial scar that inspires her to step out of her comfort zone, moving heaven and earth to make sure the girl gets the plastic surgery she needs but that her parent's can't afford. The only small issue I had with Angie is Robyn Carr's tendency to tell her readers that a characters is shy or introverted, but then little or nothing about them shows that they are. In fact, it's quite the opposite. From the beginning, Angie exhibits a bubbly, energetic personality that I connected with. I like that when she saw Patrick, she went after what she wanted, and that when she saw little Megan's need, she likewise tackled the problem with gusto. I also like that she wants to make a difference in the world and explores different ways in which she might be able to do that. I additionally appreciated her maturity when it came to her relationship with Patrick and not having unrealistic expectations, even though it was obvious that she'd seriously fallen for him.
My Kind of Christmas is a great addition to the Virgin River series. Some of the more recent books of the series have been good but not spectacular for me, but this one broke out of that mold a little bit, reminding me of the heartwarming nature of the town and it's inhabitants that we saw more of early on. It once again showcases the town pulling together, not only to welcome visitors coming from far and wide to visit their beautiful Christmas tree, but also to provide much-needed assistance to families in need within the community. Angie's mission to make sure Megan received the needed surgery added a more personal touch to the community outreach that gave me warm fuzzies. Patrick and Angie as a couple are great together. Their relationship exhibits a warmth and familiarity that one might expect with a couple who've known each other longer that really made it romantic even though they insist it isn't a long-term thing. Their stark honesty with one another was refreshing, allowing trust to build, and the way they support each other was sweet and heartfelt, leaving me with no doubt that they would make it work in spite of the potential obstacles. The Riordan and Sheridan clans, along with several other townspeople, some of whom we haven't seen much of lately, made for a great supporting cast and a real treat for long-time fans. Aside from my already cited minor critiques, the only reasons I didn't give the book the full five stars is that the conflict wasn't my favorite type and also there's a certain sameness in Robyn Carr's characters and stories with many being about that soul-searching journey. Admittedly it can sometimes be a winning formula, but other times, I'd like to mix it up a little more. Otherwise, though, My Kind of Christmas was a cheerful, uplifting story that was a charming entry into my holiday-themed reading and one from this series that will go on my keeper shelf.
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