Return to Virgin River

By: Robyn Carr

Series: Virgin River

Book Number: 19

Star Rating:

Sensuality Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Since losing her mother, who was her best friend, Kaylee Sloane has been feeling adrift. Although she loves the house she shared with her mom, it holds too many memories that are making it difficult for her to process her grief and move on. As a successful writer, Kaylee finds herself with a looming deadline and a terrible case of writer's block. Thinking that a change of scenery might help refill the creative well, she borrows a cabin near the small town of Virgin River but arrives to find the place has just gone up in flames. With her own home in Southern California being rented out for the next six months, she can't return home, so she heads for Jack's Bar to figure out what to do. There she chances to meet Landry Moore, a local artist and dog trainer, who just happens to have a guest house available nextdoor to his own home. After checking it out, Kaylee is charmed, not only by the property but also by its handsome owner. After settling in, she gradually starts getting her mojo back and making steady progress on her new manuscript, as well as an unexpected side-project. When she finds a stray kitten and later a mother dog and her puppies, Kaylee feels her heart opening up as well. Landry proves to be a great shoulder to lean on, too, and having lost his own father, he seems to understand exactly what she's going through and needs. Slowly their relationship progresses to something more than just friendship, but Landry's estranged wife who he never quite got around to divorcing, puts a wrinkle in their burgeoning love. Kaylee also isn't sure she wants to live in Virgin River full-time, while Landry seems pretty attached to the little town. But there's no place like Virgin River to be for Christmas, and as the magical holiday season approaches, they just might find all the answers they need to create a future together.


I'm sure most Robyn Carr fans, myself included, thought that her Virgin River series ended in 2012 with the eighteenth full-length novel, My Kind of Christmas, but a couple of years ago, not long after the debut of the Virgin River television series, we got the pleasant surprise of the release of Return to Virgin River. Once again, we're transported back to this little town in the heart of California's Redwood country. Kaylee has been mired in grief ever since losing her mother over the holidays less than a year earlier. She's an author on a deadline who has been finding it all but impossible to write her next book in the home that she shared with her mother. Some friends offer up their cabin near Virgin River as a writing retreat, but she arrives to discover the house has caught fire and is now unlivable. While checking around the area for a new place to stay, she runs into Landry who just happens to have an extra guest house on his property that isn't being used. Kaylee gratefully takes up residence there and finally things start moving on her book. Over the next few months, she and Landry also start getting to know one another and gradually begin falling in love. However, Landry has a complicated relationship with the wife he's been separated from for the past ten years, and who now doesn't want to let him go. Not to mention, as much as Kaylee has enjoyed Virgin River for a few months, she doesn't want to give up her mother's home to live there permanently. The two of them will have some bumps in the road to navigate in order to make their relationship work for the long haul, but when Kaylee's heart begins to open up to the joy and magic of the holiday season, she just might find all the answers she needs.

Kaylee's mom and dad divorced when she was little, and her dad was never much a part of her life growing up. Her mom was her best friend, though, so ever since the other woman passed away the previous Christmas, Kaylee has felt adrift. She's a modestly successful author who has a deadline for her next book, but she can't seem to concentrate to write. Then some friends offer her their cabin for a writing retreat. Kaylee had spend a little time there when she was younger and remembers loving it, so she jumps at the chance. But she arrives to fire crews putting out a blaze that destroyed a large part of the house, leaving her with nowhere to go, since she's rented out her own home in Southern California for the next several months. Jack and Mel offer her temporary accommodations in their tiny guest house, while Kaylee searches for something more comfortable and long-term. Then she meets Landry who has just the right place for her. The only possible downside is that Landry both owns and trains dogs and ever since being bitten as a child, Kaylee has had an irrational fear of the animals. She finds a tiny stray kitten she decides to keep and figures she can just avoid the dogs, but Landry is determined to help her overcome her fear. The two start spending a lot of time together, first as friends, but their relationship slowly grows into something more. As the holidays approach, Kaylee doesn't really want to celebrate, but all of her friends, both old and new, won't allow her to simply grieve alone. The magic of Virgin River at the holidays works on Kaylee until she finally finds all that she needs to move on, while giving back to the community and beyond. Kaylee is a nice young woman who's weathering through a difficult time in her life. As an author, I could relate to her writing woes, and I like how she got the creative juices flowing again by writing something a little different than what she normally does. I also like how she opens her heart to stray animals and how she fits right in with the rest of the residents of Virgin River.

Landry has lived in Virgin River most of his life. He grew up there in the house that he now lives in. His life was somewhat the reverse of Kaylee's in that his mom was never around, so he was raised by his dad who somewhat recently passed away. In fact, one of the ways in which he and Kaylee initially connect is in their shared grief over the loss of a beloved parent. Landry is an artist who works with mostly clay and glass, but he uses his love of animals to supplement his income by also being a part-time dog trainer. When Kaylee first comes to live in his guest house, she's afraid of both his dog, Otis, and the other dogs who are temporarily residing in his kennel. He sets about helping her overcome her fear, so that when she finds an abandoned mama dog and her puppies on one of her daily walks, she doesn't hesitate to jump into action to rescue them. As Landry and Kaylee draw closer, the one wrinkle in his life that could derail a romantic relationship is that he's still technically married to a woman he's only rarely seen in the past ten years. In his mind, she's basically his ex-wife, but he never bothered to legally dissolve their union because he had no other woman in his life to give him a compelling reason to. Now with things getting more serious with Kaylee, he knows he wants to finally get a divorce, but just as he's ready to put an end to the marriage, his wife shows up again, begging for a second chance and won't let him go so easily. Landry is a really nice, stand-up guy who has remained friends with his ex and always treated her kindly even though she essentially abandoned him and their marriage to pursue her acting career. He's even nicer to Kaylee, being a great friend and always lending a shoulder to cry on. He's great with animals and a valuable member of the community, just the kind of guy you'd expect to find in Virgin River.

Overall, Return to Virgin River was another respectable entry into the Virgin River series that fit the mold well. It maybe wasn't quite as good as some of the earlier books in the series, but it was a nice, heartwarming, and generally feel-good story that I enjoyed. It had parts that were perhaps a little more morose than we usually find in the series, because of how Kaylee is pretty caught up in her grief and slowly working through it. I couldn't help wondering if Robyn Carr was going through something similar in her own life and writing this book was a form of therapy. I have no idea if that was the case, but it certainly seems plausible. I liked both Kaylee and Landry as characters and although I thought that their relationship went from friends to something more without enough transition in between, I also liked them as a couple and thought they fit together well. Of course, I loved getting reacquainted with the residents of Virgin River again, and Ms. Carr even managed to pull in a few characters like Colin and Jillian who hadn't been seen in a while. I thought the cover blurb was maybe just a tad misleading, though, as it made me think this was yet another Christmas story. However, it is and it isn't. Kaylee actually arrives in Virgin River in August and stays through the holidays, so we actually get to see the town through the rapidly changing seasons from late summer, into autumn, and on to early winter as they celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I liked how the magic of Christmas played a role, but that part of the story only encompasses approximately the final fifty pages or so of the book. I did, once again, take issue with some of Ms. Carr's writing quirks such as her lack of blocking and her penchant for having her characters converse in block paragraphs. Because a lot of the backstory is told in dialogue, there isn't much in the way of the deep introspection that I prefer either. I also picked up on quite a bit of repetition and a few inconsistencies that the editor should have caught. All in all, however, Return to Virgin River was pretty much what I expect from this series. I don't know if Ms. Carr will ever revisit Virgin River again, but as this book proves, you can never say never.


Robyn Carr


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