Due to a contentious relationship with his televangelist father, Noah Kindcaid had no intention of going into the ministry, but apparently God had other plans for him. After discovering his talent and desire for helping people, a dear, old minister friend, encouraged Noah to attend seminary. Recently graduated, the widowed Noah is looking for a church to pastor, when he, by chance, runs across an eBay listing of a church for sale in the little town of Virgin River. After visiting and falling in love with the place, Noah buys the church and gets started on the arduous task of refurbishing the old building and getting it in shape to welcome congregants. It quickly becomes apparent that there's far more work to do than one man can handle on his own, so he places an ad for a pastor's assistant, never expecting a beautiful, ex-stripper to apply for the job. At first, Noah has no intention of hiring her, but when he hears the heart-breaking tale of her life, he can't help himself. The lovely lady stirs something inside Noah he hasn't felt since his wife died, but what would the townspeople think of their pastor getting involved with someone like her?
Ellie Baldwin is the single mother of two young children, both of whom were born out of wedlock. Now her sleazy ex-husband, who is only the children's step-father, has managed to legally take custody of them and will barely allow her to see them. Ellie is a devoted mother who only worked as a stripper to pay the bills. Now to get her children back, she needs a respectable job to show the judge she's a responsible parent. Ellie applies for the pastor's assistant position and is relieved when Noah hires her and doesn't seem to judge her for her past. She puts her positive energy to good use, making the church shine like a new penny and makes lots of friends in Virgin River in the process. Once she has her kids back, she doesn't intend to stay, but she also didn't expect to fall in love with the handsome minister. Perhaps being a pastor's wife instead of his assistant is really the perfect job for her.
As always, it was a pleasure to be back in Virgin River, visiting with all my favorite characters in my favorite little town. Since Robyn Carr wrapped up most of the loose ends in the last book, Forbidden Falls was almost like starting over. All the main characters from past books were here in the background, but she brought some new characters to town and beefed up the roles of a couple of existing characters, while leaving more focus on the main hero and heroine than she usually does. The story was a tad less compelling than some of the previous books of the series, but no less enjoyable.
Noah is a Presbyterian minister who decided to buy the old Virgin River church when Hope McCrea put it up for sale on eBay. He definitely has his work cut out for him and immediately gets busy refurbishing it. Noah is the first main hero of this series who hasn't been a current or former member of the military, but he's still a lot like the other guys in Virgin River and fits right in. In my opinion, he leans toward being a beta hero, sweet, kind-hearted and gentle with just a dash of alpha protectiveness when it comes to Ellie and her kids. He totally had me the instant he picked up Lucy, an injured, half-dead dog from the side of the road and paid the outrageous vet bills to help her recover. Noah is a man who truly knows what it means to be a minister and not just a preacher. He may carry his Bible around, but he never beats anyone over the head with it. He's not afraid to go into the trenches and get dirty, so to speak. I love the way he truly wants to help people and show them God's love through his actions, not just giving them a sermon and saying good luck. The work he did with the transients in the area, visiting a lonely man in the nursing home and other people in the hospital, and generally helping out all around was wonderful, just the kind of guy I'd love to have as a minister. Noah is a really laid back kind of guy who isn't prone to being judgmental. He may have briefly hesitated in hiring Ellie as his assistant, but once he made the decision he never looked back. He wasn't overly worried what the townspeople would think if they found out she was a former stripper, and he never admonished Ellie for anything she did, past or present, even when she says bad words in church. I also love how he's always looking out for Ellie and her kids in a sweetly protective way, and the man definitely has a way with words when it comes to expressing his love and passion for her.
Ellie has been through a lot in her short twenty-five years, but somehow, she's still managed to keep a positive attitude and always look on the bright side of things. Initially, she comes off as something of a bimbo, especially when we learn that she used to work as an exotic dancer, but it quickly becomes apparent that there's more to her than meets the eye. She's a devoted mother, who only lost her kids due to the machinations and ill-will of others, and is prepared to do anything to get them back. Even though her own life is something of a mess, Ellie is great at counseling others, because her grandmother gave her a solid upbringing along with imparting all her words of wisdom. Ellie is a huge bundle of energy, and isn't afraid of hard work. I can only wish that I were as fast at housework as she is.:-) She breezed through cleaning and painting the church, and was always ready to lend a helping hand anywhere it was needed. I love how she helped Vanni in her hour of need and made a huge difference in her and Paul's lives. In my opinion, she had all the qualities a good pastor's wife should have.
I love how Noah and Ellie built a deep friendship before anything else happened between them, but I didn't feel like the transition from their friends relationship to becoming lovers was quite as smooth and seamless as it could have been. I think that some of the moments that were intended to build romance felt more like friendship, so when they suddenly became lovers, expressing all these strong feelings for one another, it seemed like things sped up a tad too quickly. Still, by the end, I was definitely sensing the romantic connection between them and was convinced that they were perfect for each other.
As I mentioned before, pretty much all the previous main characters put in an appearance. Paul and Vanni were the ones who had the meatiest secondary roles, as they deal with having a bombshell dropped on them when Paul's ex-girlfriend, Terri, unexpectedly passes away. I like how they were able to weather through this crisis and come out on top, keeping their marriage intact, even though it was primarily Vanni who had the most adjusting to do. Ms. Carr also brings back long-time, Virgin River residents, Jo and Nick Fitch, who I don't believe we've seen since the first book of the series when Nick made a pass at Mel and got his butt kicked. We get to learn why Nick behaves the way he does, and what happened to cause the rift in their marriage. They end up becoming surrogate parents/grandparents for Ellie and her kids, while Ellie helps them rebuild their marriage and reconnect in their love for one another. We also get to meet Noah's friend, George, an older, retired minister who I really liked. I hope he'll be visiting Virgin River often. Last, but certainly not least, we finally get to witness the wedding of Luke and Shelby, attended by the entire Riordan and McIntyre clans.
Overall, Forbidden Falls was an enjoyable read. It would be darn near impossible not to like one of these books. However, for some reason, I didn't find it to be un-put-down-able. I simply didn't have that, "Aww, do I really have to stop" feeling when it was time to put it down, nor that burning need to pick it back up again. I also felt like it was a bit less polished than some of the other books in the series. I detected some mild repetition that could have been tightened up. These two things almost made me give the book four stars, although it would have been a very solid four stars. There wasn't anything wrong with it per se. I loved the characters, and the story was good. It just didn't quite move me as much as some of the other books in the series have, but then Robyn Carr managed to make me teary-eyed, not once, but twice, during the final pages, which I thought warranted the extra half-star after all. Bravo, Ms. Carr for grabbing me in the end, and for writing another lovely story in the Virgin River series.
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