Paul Haggerty has been in love with Vanessa Rutledge since he first laid eyes on her years ago. Paul has always been lacking in confidence around women, and when he failed to make his move quickly enough, Vanessa ended up married to his best friend, Matt. Through thick and thin, Paul was a faithful friend to both of them and didn't begrudge them their happiness, but he couldn't help feeling jealous of what Matt had with Vanni. When Matt was suddenly killed in Iraq, Paul was there for Vanni every step of the way, helping her through her grief and the birth of their baby. Out of a sense of guilt over loving his best friend's wife and because he believes Vanni needs time to get past her husband's death, Paul keeps himself at arms length. Little does he know that Vanni was attracted to him from the start and has already been seeing him in a romantic light. Just as Paul is finally about to make his move though, another woman with whom he had a one-night stand comes to him, claiming to be pregnant with his child. Paul takes his responsibilities seriously, but this complication could derail any possibility of a relationship for him and Vanessa.
There is a lot happening in Second Chance Pass, both good and bad, for the residents of Virgin River, both old and new. The population of this little town is beginning to grow not only because more people are finding this little slice of paradise, but also because more babies are either on the way or being born. I'm constantly astounded by how real Virgin River and its residents seem to me. Every time I read one of these book, I wish that it were indeed a real place, so that I could go and visit. It is such a warm and wonderful town that is like a modern frontier community where everyone pitches in to help everyone else when there is a need, and they all come together to celebrate weddings, graduations, births and other joyous occasions. In this installment, the "main" hero and heroine are Paul and Vanni whose relationship was introduced in Whispering Rock.
As this story opens, Paul is still pretty messed up over the death of Matt, Vanni's husband and his best friend. He is obviously still madly in love with Vanni, but feeling guilty about being attracted to his best friend's wife. In the midst of his grief and turmoil and in a moment of weakness and vulnerability, he succumbs to a one-night stand with Terri, a woman he had previously dated a couple of times. Next thing he knows, Terri is claiming to be pregnant by him which only makes his desire to make a move on Vanni all the more complicated and seemingly impossible. Paul was an incredibly sweet guy who was shy and lacking confidence with women which is why his best friend ended up with Vanni in the first place even though Paul had seen her first and instantly fell in love with her. Early on in the story, I had to agree with Jack that if Paul was ever going to get the woman he loved, he was going to have to show more assertiveness. Luckily, Paul did finally tap his inner alpha to lay claim to Vanni. Once he had her in his arms, I thought it was quite sweet that he wasn't very experienced and somewhat uncertain of his sexual prowess, but he poured everything he had into making love to Vanni and ended up being an amazing lover. Paul was also wonderful to Terri even when he found out the truth about her situation and even felt sorry for her. He was just an all-around nice guy.
I was very impressed to find out that Vanni was already thinking of Paul in a romantic way when the story began. It seems that since her husband was away at war for nearly a year before he was killed that she didn't need as much time to grieve as some widows might, because it already felt like he'd been gone a long time. She had also been attracted to Paul from the moment she first saw him, but had been swept off her feet by Matt. After Matt's death, Paul had been such a source of strength and support for her that she couldn't help falling in love with him and was just waiting for him to make a move and show that he thought of her as a woman and not just his best friend's wife. Because Paul holds back for a long time, Vanni begins to get discouraged. In a moment of vulnerability, she accepts a couple of dates with another man, but luckily, nothing beyond a chaste kiss happened between them. Vanni has a bit of a temper and at first, I was worried that she was going to be one of those hotheaded heroines who doesn't listen. She seemed to keep jumping to conclusions and not letting Paul explain himself, but when Paul got his alpha on, she finally sat up and took notice. After that, she simmered down, and although she still had a pretty feisty personality, I was convinced that she wasn't going to run roughshod over Paul all the time. She was also a really good woman to stand by Paul though all of his complications and issues, willing to accept him and love him no matter what.
I have to admit that throughout the first quarter or so of the book, I was feeling rather jealous for both Paul and Vanni. Paul had the baby issue with Terri and her hanging on him, hoping he would change his mind about marrying her even though he made it clear that he was in love with another woman. Then Vanni had Cameron, a pediatrician her in-laws had set her up with, traveling a long distance just in hopes of seeing her. Although he seemed like a nice enough guy, I thought he was being just a little pushy. I was glad to see Vanni putting her foot down and not allowing him to take things too fast between them. Ultimately, in spite of this love quadrangle, Paul and Vanni actually got together much quicker than I expected them to. However, them getting together so early in the book, left very little for them to do for the rest of the story. I guess since they had been friends for a long time and their romance started building in Whispering Rock, this was somewhat to be expected. Luckily, the slack was picked up by a whole bunch of sweet secondary romances and other events that kept me pretty well engaged.
First, there was Vanni's best friend, Nikki, who had just broken off a terrible relationship with a man who had been less than honest with her. She comes to visit Vanni several times in Virgin River where she catches the eye of Joe Benson, the last of the group of Marine buddies to still be unattached. Things heated up between these two surprisingly quickly as they share an intense and romantic night together, but Nikki is afraid to trust that what they're experiencing is real. For Joe it's very real and far more than a one-night stand, so he just can't let Nikki go. I loved the way things turned out for these two and hope to see more of them in future books, although sadly they don't appear to be a main hero/heroine combination.
Then we had Vanni's little brother, Tommy and his girlfriend, Brenda. These two teenagers are madly in love much like Ricky and Liz. Tommy was so sweet to Brenda as they experience their "first time" together. I like that they both acted very responsibly in their decision to make love and communicated extremely well throughout, better than many adults in romance-land. In my opinion, it made for a very romantic encounter. It's really cute how head over heels in love Tommy is with Brenda, but with Tommy heading off to West Point, they're going to have to deal with a long separation. I can't help but hope they make it for the long haul, but as of right now, they don't appear to have a starring role as the hero and heroine of a future book either. And last but not least was a romance for the young at heart as Vanni's dad, Walt finds himself attracted to retired movie star, Muriel, when she moves back to the area where she grew up to get away from the Hollywood rat race and find some peace and quiet.
A few other secondary characters pop in for a visit. Vanni's cousin, Shelby, who we also briefly met in Whispering Rock is a really nice woman who has spent years caring for an ailing mother. When her mother passes away, she feels it's time for her to start a new life. It looks like she'll be spending a lot more time in Virgin River as the main heroine of the next book, Temptation Ridge. Also Jack and Company receive word that Ricky is being sent to Iraq. Before he leaves, Rick stops in to visit. He's obviously still crazy about Liz and they get to be the hero and heroine of book #7, Paradise Valley. Also, the "illegal grower," Dan aka Shady Brady shows up yet again, and I have a strong feeling that there's much more to him than meets the eye. Mike learns some new info on this mysterious character, while Dan strangely continues to play the reluctant good Samaritan.
All the previous heroes and heroines, Jack and Mel, Preacher and Paige, and Mike and Brie play roles too. Jack and Mel are pretty front and center as they welcome their new baby and deal with various happenings around town. I've always adored Jack but Mel is probably my least favorite heroine in the series, because even this far along she doesn't always seem to appreciate Jack in the way I think he deserves. She just seems more likely to give him a hard time about one thing or another than she is to express her love and gratitude for all the wonderful things he does for her. There are times though, like during the pivotal event at the end of the book, that I think she may understand just how special Jack is, but at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised to find her ragging on him again in the next book. Preacher and Paige also welcome a new little one while preparing to expand their living quarters. Preacher was just so utterly charming and adorable during the birth scene, definitely a proud, protective, doting father and husband, which just reminds me why he's my favorite hero of the series. Mike and Brie were mostly in the background this time, but they too are looking to build a home and had a big announcement to make.
All in all, Second Chance Pass was a wonderful book, brimming with likable characters that were easy to become invested in. My only minor complaint is that Robyn Carr can sometimes get a little long-winded on the dialog which she often writes in large blocks, almost like the character is telling a story rather than engaging in conversation. It tends to make characters like Paul or Preacher who are supposed to be shy and introverted seem more extroverted than they supposedly are. However, it didn't bother me as much this time as it has in some of the previous books, and was a relatively small thing in an otherwise lovely story. Second Chance Pass has definitely solidified the Virgin River series as a favorite of mine and I'm eagerly looking forward to reading the next book soon.
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