After the death of the woman who raised her, Devon McAllister was left alone and vulnerable. As such, she became easy pickings for a charming and manipulative cult leader who persuaded her to come live in his compound. Devon thought she was special to him, but after getting pregnant with his baby, she discovered she was only one of the many women in the compound he slept with regularly and with whom he had children. Disillusioned, she was ready to leave, but once the baby was born, he wouldn't allow her to take the child with her. Instead, Devon stuck it out for four years, until a newcomer to the compound finally offered her a way out. Devon jumped at the chance, escaping with her little girl in tow. As they hike down the road to safety, an offer of help from an unexpected source takes her to Thunder Point where she finally begins to believe she can start a new life.
Spencer Lawson came to Thunder Point for exactly the same reason. After the death of his wife and parents, he needed to start over somewhere fresh, and since his son's biological father lives there, it seemed as good a place as any. Being offered a job coaching the local high school football team was the icing on the cake. When Devon comes to town, Spencer isn't quite sure whether he's looking for a relationship. All he knows is that she's a sweet and lovely young woman he'd like to get to know better. As their paths continue to cross, Spencer becomes more and more enamored of her, but her past is something of a mystery. Will he ever get her to open up and trust him, and even if he does, is he truly ready to love another woman and make a lifetime commitment to her?
The Hero is the latest installment in Robyn Carr's new Thunder Point series. Although it was an enjoyable read, I didn't feel that it was quite up to the caliber of some of Ms. Carr's other work. I found the story and the characters rather bland, particularly when taking into account the serious subject matter of a young woman who escaped a cult and was essentially hiding out from them while trying to start a new life. This should have lent itself to some really gripping storytelling, but nothing of this nature even comes into play until the final pages of the book. Instead, the story embodied a lighter tone with an almost soap-opera-ish feel as the residents of Thunder Point merely go on with their every day lives. I also thought the technical aspects of the writing were lacking Ms. Carr's usual polish. As a writer who has been guilty of this at times, I couldn't help but notice the author's overuse of the word 'just.' There were some other more minor repetitions and some places where the narrative didn't flow as well as it could have. However, since I was reading an ARC of the book, I'll allow that perhaps some of these problems were corrected before the final printing, or at least, I hope so.
Devon is a sweet young woman who was duped by a cult leader at a particularly vulnerable point in her life. She went to live in his compound and gave birth to his child, only to discover that she wasn't as special to him as she had originally thought. Instead, she was only one of many women with whom he slept and impregnated. By the time she found this out, it was too late. He would have allowed her to leave, but not to take her little girl with her. So Devon stayed for four years, biding her time, until a woman who was relatively new to the compound offered her a way out. She eagerly took it and escaped unharmed with her child, but essentially had to go on the run. An unexpected offer of help brings her to Thunder Point, where she finds a job, a home, friendship, and love. Devon was a strong person to do the things she did. She was also a wonderful mother who would have done anything for her child, and little Mercy is as cute as a button.
Spencer very recently moved to Thunder Point to take a job as the new football coach at the high school. This part of the story has a bit of a Friday Night Lights vibe, as football is extremely important to the residents of this small town. Spencer chose to make the move after the discovery in the previous book that his son is actually the biological son of Cooper. Spencer's wife also died following a long bout with cancer, and not long after, both his parents passed away as well. In essence, he came to Thunder Point looking for a fresh start for himself and his young son away from the pain and grief of the past.
Devon and Spencer were very nice, likable characters, but as I already mentioned, they didn't really capture my imagination. I felt like their characterizations were somewhat underdeveloped. Both of them have a lot of baggage and yet it doesn't seem to affect them in the way one might expect. Devon appears to suffer few, if any, ill effects from her time in the cult compound. She essentially picks up her life and continues on, barely giving it another thought until the familiar black SUVs come to town one day, but they aren't even looking for her. It's not until after this event, which occurs late in the story, that she even has to deal with her past. For his part, Spencer doesn't fully realize the depth of his grief until Devon makes an unexpected request of him which freaks him out, but even still, he comes back around fairly quickly. Their romance was a little lacking as well. Devon and Spencer have virtually no interaction until well over a hundred pages into the novel, but then things seem to take off fairly quickly in spite of there being little indication that either of them was even attracted to the other prior to that point. They share some nice moments, but none of the deep romantic interludes that I know Robyn Carr is capable of writing. I realize Ms. Carr isn't known for steamy love scenes, but usually you can count on at least a few in her books. Devon and Spencer have only one moderately descriptive love scene. Unlike the previous two books of the series, there are no scenes of this sort for any other characters either, even though there were opportunities where throwing one in would have made perfect sense. Although I don't require love scenes to enjoy a romance, having one or two more could have really helped to increase the intimacy and romantic feelings.
The Hero, as with all of Robyn Carr's stories have many common characters with other books of the series. Cooper and Sarah finally come to a decision about her Coast Guard career, tie the knot, and move forward with their lives together. This is the culmination of their relationship that has been hanging in the balance since book one. Mac and Gina are there but mostly in the background. Mac's aunt Lou also takes the next step in her romance with Joe. All the key townspeople put in appearances at one point or another too. It was clear that Ms. Carr is setting up some newer characters as potential heroes and heroines for future books in the series. Scott, the new, widowed town doctor and Devon's boss, is clearly ready to find love again, while Gina's ex and Ashley's biological father, Eric, is looking at a possible move to Thunder Point. There are also a couple of female FBI agents and another escapee from the cult compound who I could see as potential new heroines. (Breaking news: Eric and one of the female agents will become the hero and heroine of the next book of the series, The Chance.)
The one secondary character who really stood out this time around is quirky, Vietnam vet, Rawley, who is the only logical choice as the object of the title. Once again, I found this packaging choice a bit odd given that he is merely a supporting player, albeit a fairly important one in this particular book. I also had mixed feelings about the author's characterization of Rawley in this book. I've noticed that Ms. Carr has a penchant for creating characters who are purportedly very shy and reserved but make a rapid turn-around to become more outgoing. In the first two books of the series, Rawley is extremely quiet, barely stringing two words together when talking to anyone, even Cooper, who is essentially his only friend. What he does for Devon is certainly in his nature as a generous, kind-hearted person, but him being so talkative while doing it seemed at odds with his characterization up to this point. I think it's great that Rawley was finally able to connect with someone like Devon who he now views as family, but the dramatic changes to his personality seemed a little off to me. I was also a bit bothered by a brief moment in the story when Rawley reveals that he has a decent nest-egg stashed away, when in the last book he supposedly didn't have enough money to pay for his own father's funeral, which led to Cooper stepping in to do that. This inconsistency is brought up, but then kind of brushed off in a way that left me unsatisfied.
The Hero admittedly had some weaknesses that I don't often see in Robyn Carr's novels, but overall, it was still a story that managed to give me some warm fuzzies. I've fallen in love with the town of Thunder Point and its residents, and can't help but look forward to seeing what new things might be in store for them and who might be moving to town next. I'm not sure if there are going to be any Christmas novellas in this series like there were in Virgin River, but I'd love to read one if there is. If not, and if Ms. Carr continues on her typical publication schedule, the next Thunder Point novel should be released sometime in early 2014, and I'll definitely be there to buy and read it.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author's publicist via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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