Shelby MacIntyre has spent the last five years of her youth caring for her ailing mother. It was what she wanted to do, so she has no regrets. Now that her mother has passed though, Shelby wants to finally start living her own life. She plans to travel a little and enroll in nursing school, but first she wants to spend some time with her Uncle Walt and cousin, Vanni in Virgin River. Caring for her mother left Shelby with very little time for dating, much less a real relationship, so finding a man is also on her agenda. Shelby always thought she wanted a nice, clean-cut, well-dressed sort of guy, so when she develops an almost immediate attraction Luke Riordan, a rough-around-the-edges, former Black Hawk pilot, who is thirteen years her senior, she couldn't be more surprised.
Years ago during a visit to Virgin River, Luke and his brother bought a parcel of land on the river, complete with a house and six hunting cabins, intending to fix up the property and resell it for a profit. Now that he's retired from the army, he decides it's time to head back and get to work, but Shelby turns out to be a major distraction. Thinking that she's too young for him, Luke tries to keep his distance, but the lady seems intent on flirting with him. Soon he finds himself unable to resist her sweet innocence, but before he gets involved, he lets her know that he's not a commitment kind of guy. She seems content with keeping their relationship casual, but the passionate intimacy they share rocks Luke to the core. Before long, Luke isn't certain if he can let Shelby go when she's ready to leave for college, but believing that she needs to live her life and not be tied down to someone like him, he hides his true feelings. He may have underestimated Shelby though. She's a strong, determined woman who knows what she wants, and what she wants is a life with Luke.
Robyn Carr has really been on a roll lately with the Virgin River series. When I first started the series, I enjoyed the stories, but wasn't quite as impressed as other readers seemed to be. However, with each book I've read, they seem to keep getting better and better. In Temptation Ridge, Ms. Carr builds on the character of Shelby MacIntyre who was first introduced in Whispering Rock and pairs her with a brand new hero who has just come to town, tough guy and former Black Hawk pilot, Luke Riordan. There are also a couple of secondary romances brewing, we get to visit with all the residents of Virgin River, including all the past heroes and heroines, and say goodbye to another beloved character who has been there since the beginning. I was very saddened by this character's passing, and have to say that I know the author is doing her job very well when she creates a character who seems so real, I can actually cry over their death. As always, coming back to Virgin River is like coming home to visit family.
Luke is the owner of a group of broken down hunting cabins just outside Virgin River. After retiring from the military, he comes to town to fix them up, intending to resell them for a profit, but ends up finding a place where he feels at home. Luke has a reputation as a playboy, but he's a total goner for Shelby from the moment he first sees her on the road into town. Thinking she's too young for him, he tries to keep his distance, but it only takes one look at her for him to prefer her demure innocence over a slutty willing woman he meets in a bar. Almost instantly he begins to loose his taste for casual sex and barely even realizes it. When Luke started getting jealous of his brother, Sean's ability to charm Shelby, it was rather funny, although I think he was only half kidding about murdering Sean for it.:-) Luke may be a little rough around the edges, but he's incredibly gentle with Shelby. He's such a considerate and tender lover, and their love scenes were absolutely perfect. What Luke does for Art, an abused, homeless man with Down's Syndrome is nothing short of wonderful. It all goes to show what a big heart Luke has even though he tries to hide it. I thought it was rather funny that Shelby seemed to be the one who was OK with the casual nature of their relationship, while Luke was the one who was experiencing deeper feelings and beginning to be bothered by her easy-going attitude. In spite of knowing he's falling in love with Shelby, he fights it tooth and nail, in part because of his ex-wife's cruel betrayal. He also thinks Shelby is too young to be tied down to a man who's considerably older than her and that she should experience more of life before making a commitment to any relationship. On the surface this seems like selfless reasoning and I did understand his issues, but Luke was such an incredibly stubborn man, I almost wanted to jump into the story and smack some sense into him. He was ready to give up the only woman who truly loved him for himself and made him happy. Normally, I'm not a fan of a secondary character giving away important information about a main character because it usually takes away valuable relationship development from the couple. However, in this case, without his brother, Aiden's intervention, I'm not sure Luke ever would have come to his senses.
I realized when I was quite a ways into the story that the author was writing most of the scenes from Luke's perspective. We don't get a whole lot of input from Shelby's point of view, so a lot of what we learn about her comes from the way that Luke and the other characters view her and her own actions. Shelby is a very sweet girl who spent several years of her youth caring for an ailing mother. She didn't have to do this. It was her choice, and I think this alone shows what a strong, determined young woman she is. Now that her mother has passed away, Shelby is ready to start a new life and wants to go to nursing school, but first she comes to Virgin River to spend some time with her Uncle Walt and cousin, Vanni. Even though Luke is nothing like the man she'd envisioned for herself, Shelby finds that she is very attracted to him almost immediately. For being shy and sheltered in her youth, Shelby certainly comes out of her shell and blossoms very quickly. She seems to really enjoy flirting and teasing with Luke and then watching him squirm. Shelby is very kind and caring, but she's also very headstrong and independent. She definitely goes after what she wants and what she wants is an experienced, attractive man like Luke to be her first lover. She didn't expect to fall in love with him so easily, but when she believes that Luke doesn't return her affection, she decides that maybe it's time to leave town. I really appreciated that Shelby was so mature about their relationship. Right from the start, Luke was honest with Shelby about not being a commitment sort of guy, so after giving him ample time to express his feelings, Shelby doesn't whine or cry or beg for things to be different. She merely tells him how she feels and leaves the ball in his court. I loved the way Shelby went toe-to-toe with Luke in the last few pages. I was beginning to doubt this couple having an HEA, but Ms. Carr really pulled it off through Shelby's determination and assertiveness.
As I mentioned earlier, there are a couple of secondary romances in Temptation Ridge. First we have Cameron who briefly dated Vanni in Second Chance Pass. I always liked him and thought he would make a good hero. Although I certainly didn't want him paired with Vanni, I was rather disappointed that such a nice guy got left out in the cold. Still, I thought we'd probably seen the last of him when that all ended, so I was very glad when he turned up again in this book. It looks like he has finally found a good match with Abby, one of Vanni's friends. Cameron is a real sweetheart. He's hot, he's a doctor, he loves kids, and he's kind and caring. I can't believe no one has snapped him up yet. I know I'd do it in a heartbeat. I just love how tender and gentle he is with Abby, trying to reassure her and allay her fears. Hopefully, he'll finally get the HEA he's been craving. It definitely looks like we'll be seeing a lot more of Cameron in Virgin River, and I certainly can't say I'm complaining. I think he's going to make a great addition to the community. The other secondary romance is for Walt and Muriel. Muriel is very down to earth for a famous movie star, and Walt is just head over heels for her. They take things to the next level and experience a deepening of their relationship that began in Second Chance Pass. These two show that love isn't just for the young, but also the young at heart.
You can't have a Virgin River book without lots of secondary characters. All the previous heroes and heroines return. Jack and Mel are still the backbone of the town. I just love how Jack reassures Mel that her body is still beautiful to him, although I still think she was being a bit too self-conscious given the circumstances. I was very pleased however, to see that for once Mel was not giving Jack a hard time in this book. She did get a little bossy at one point, except this time it's directed at poor Preacher and his fabulous cooking. She was also a little meddlesome, but this time it was for a good reason and greatly helped a long-time resident of the town. I loved Mel's banter with Doc too. Mike and Brie welcome their first child, and I'm really starting to enjoy the birthing parties the town holds every time a new baby arrives. Preacher and Paige, Paul and Vanni, and Mike and Brie all move into their new homes. I was thrilled to see Joe and Nikki marrying, although I dearly would have loved to see more of this couple. They had really captured my attention with their brief but passionate secondary romance in Second Chance Pass. Tom stopped in for a quick visit before heading to West Point, and I'm really glad to see that he and Brenda are still a couple despite their youth and the long-distance nature of their relationship. We also get a pretty good introduction to Luke's two brothers, Sean and Aiden. Sean is more the carefree jokester, while Aiden is a little more serious and looking to settle down. These two become the heroes of Angel's Peak (#10) and Moonlight Road (#11) respectively.
Virgin River is a very symbiotic community. When Mel said it's almost more like a commune than a town, she couldn't have been more right. I just love the way everyone works together to help everyone else out. It's like a modern frontier settlement where people, in some ways, depend on each other for survival. If only this town were real, I'd love to go there for a visit or maybe even to live, but alas, it only exists in the mind of Robyn Carr. I'm so glad that she has chosen to share it with her readers and will be greatly looking forward to my next visit. I've been very excited for Ricky's story for a long time, and he's next up in Paradise Valley.
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