Hank Cooper, known to nearly everyone as just Cooper, is something of a nomad. After a stint in the Army as a helicopter pilot, he got a job flying oil company employees back and forth between the off-shore oil rigs and the mainland. After the big oil spill in the Gulf, he became disillusioned and quit his job. Loading up his fifth-wheel, he heads for the mountains of California, intending to meet a couple of old Army buddies and get in some hunting, but he receives a call that one of those buddies, Ben, has mysteriously died and left something for him. Cooper arrives in Ben's hometown of Thunder Point, Oregon, to find that what his friend left him was a broken down old bait shop and bar on a huge piece of extremely valuable beach-front property. Cooper settles in for a while trying to figure out why Ben unexpectedly gave him this gift and how he died, while making friends with the locals. One of those new friends is a teenage boy who's being bullied. The boy's older sister definitely catches Cooper's eye, and after spending a little more time with her, he thinks he may have found the woman who can cure his wandering ways.
Sarah Dupre is a Search and Rescue helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard. After her parents' deaths, she took on the responsibility of raising her little brother. Being a single parent hasn't been easy, and she thought she'd finally found a partner in her now-ex-husband, only to discover he'd been cheating on her the entire year they were married. After having her heart broken, Sarah has no intention of letting another man into hers and her brother's lives, but she can't deny her attraction to Cooper. He's so charming, she can't resist striking up a friendship that quickly leads to a lot more, but she stubbornly refuses to become emotionally involved with him. Cooper is everything she's always wanted in a man, but in many ways, is like her ex. Can she learn to trust Cooper with her heart or will she let the best thing that's ever happened to her get away?
Thunder Point is the new Virgin River. I have to admit that I was a little sad at the prospect of Robyn Carr leaving Virgin River behind to start fresh in a new small town. Even though I haven't finished the Virgin River series yet, I have a feeling that when I do get to the end, I'll have a hard time saying good-bye to the characters who have become like family to me. But I can now console myself with a new "family" in the residents of Thunder Point, and The Wanderer even had a small tie to Virgin River with the hero being a good friend of Luke Riordan. So far, this new series from Ms. Carr is shaping up to be every bit as good as Virgin River, and I'm greatly looking forward to getting to know everyone and seeing what's in store for them next. I'm also hoping Thunder Point might have a few more ties to Virgin River too, and if there are, I'm sure I'll have fun spotting them.
Hank Cooper, know to everyone as just Cooper, is a bit of a nomad. He was a helicopter pilot in the Army which is where he met Luke, and after getting out, he flew oil company employees back and forth between the oil rigs and the mainland. After the big oil spill in the gulf, he became disillusioned and quit his job. He lives out of a fifth-wheel trailer and was just about to go visit Luke in Virgin River when he received a call about the death of another good army buddy, Ben Bailey, which takes him to the small community of Thunder Point on the Oregon coast. When Cooper arrives he discovers that Ben has left him a run-down bait shop/bar and acres of extremely valuable beach-front property. Cooper is a really nice guy who's very laid back. It seems the only thing that upsets him is innocent people being bullied, because he spent a lot of time in his youth moving around with his family and being the new kid at school which often led to him being bullied. I loved the way he stood up for Landon and helped him with the kids who were bullying him. Even then, Cooper was always calm and cool in a crisis, never angry or out of control. Even when Sarah was paranoid of this new guy in town showing an interest in her brother and kind of laid into him about his motives, Cooper took it all in stride. He wasn't the least bit offended by Sarah's initial prickliness, but to the contrary, found it rather amusing and sexy. I also like that Cooper wasn't quick to sell Ben's property even though it was worth a fortune and took his time trying to find out why Ben would leave him something so valuable and trying to honor his memory by doing the right thing. Overall, Cooper is just a really chill guy who can be quite the charmer with the ladies and nice to everyone all the way around.
In contrast, Sarah has had a rather rough life. Her parents died in a tragic accident when she was barely an adult herself, leaving her with a brother who was only a little boy at the time. Now he's a teenager, and although Landon has always been a good kid who wasn't a lot of trouble, being a single parent has been hard on her, plus she had to deal with the fall-out of an abusive aunt who was Landon's first guardian. Somehow, in between all the responsibility of raising a child, she was able to complete her training and become a top-notch Search and Rescue helicopter pilot for the Coast Guard. I thought this was a unique occupation for a romance heroine, and I also admired her for looking after her brother the way she has. Along the way, she fell in love and married one of her co-workers, but he turned out to be a huge jerk who cheated on her with the maid of honor on their wedding day and numerous other times during the year they were married. The whole experience has soured her on men, and she has sworn never to fall in love again. Then Cooper comes along with his easy-going ways, offering her a no-strings relationship on her terms, and she can't resist. I'm glad that Sarah's paranoia over Cooper's intentions didn't last beyond their first meeting, but it was pretty understandable given the circumstances. After that she warmed up to him quickly, even though she did hold herself at arms length emotionally.
The only weakness I found in this book and the only reason I marked off a half-star was Cooper and Sarah's relationship. They are supposed to be the core romantic couple in this book, but oddly enough, they don't even meet until nearly the halfway point of the story. Granted, things escalated from there rather quickly with them going out on a couple of dates right away, before falling into bed with one another, but ultimately, they felt like merely two players in an ensemble cast, rather than the main couple. This isn't unlike many of the Virgin River books, but even still, Cooper and Sarah's interactions felt more like two friends getting to know each other or merely a "friends with benefits" arrangement. Although they do share a few romantic moments, it wasn't the kind of heart-stopping, intense romance that I favor. Cooper asserts all along that he doesn't know what he's doing and will probably leave Thunder Point at some unspecified time in the future, and with Sarah having commitment issues, she insists that what they share is nothing more than a physical relationship with no emotional attachment. I simply felt like this left some distance between them which isn't bridged until the final pages of the novel. However, I'm hoping that their romance will develop more fully in the coming books of the series.
As I mentioned earlier, The Wanderer has an ensemble cast with lots of great characters who will be a part of upcoming books in the series. Mac is the local deputy sheriff, and Gina is a waitress at the diner. Both of them had babies as teenagers, who are now teens themselves. Their daughters are best friends and so are Mac and Gina. They already do almost everything together. Gina is in love with Mac and would like to take their relationship to the next level, but Mac has been hesitant. His wife left him with three kids to raise, and he's a little reluctant to get more involved with Gina even though he cares for her too. By the end, things start to heat up for this couple in preparation for them becoming the main hero and heroine of the next book in the series, The Newcomer (release date set for July 2013). Mac's aunt, Lou, is quite a character. She raised him after his parents died and has been helping him with the kids ever since his wife left. She has a little romance of her own on the side with one of Mac's fellow officers who is ten years her junior. Scott, a doctor, has newly moved to town and taken up the office space next door to Mac's office. He's a widower with two little children, obviously looking for companionship, and ripe for a story of his own in the future. Sarah's little brother, Landon, struggles with the local bullies, while romancing Mac's oldest daughter, Eve. These two make a cute couple. Even though he's dead, the spirit of Cooper's friend, Ben, still lives on in the legacy he left behind. It's too bad he had to die as the set-up for the story, because it seemed like he was a really great and interesting guy. There's a light mystery sub-plot surrounding the circumstances of his death.
The Wanderer was a great start to the Thunder Point series. I love the set-up of the town and all the wonderful characters in it. It kind of reminds me of the TV series, Everwood, where the town is just big enough to have some variety, but still small enough that everybody knows everybody else and is always happy to lend a helping hand. I may have wished for the romance between Cooper and Sarah to be stronger, but I cannot deny that the overall story was very appealing. Robyn Carr has created yet another place I'd love to visit if only it were real. The town and the people who populate it have definitely sparked my imagination, and I can't wait to see what's in store for them next.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review.
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