Clay Tahoma is a first-rate vet tech, farrier, and horse trainer who has earned a reputation for himself in breeding circles. Several years earlier he had married an heiress to a horse breeding fortune, but he never felt like much more than a novelty in her world of wealth a privilege. Because of his Native American heritage, her bigoted father always looked down on him. Despite eventually divorcing, Clay had a hard time ending things between them for good. Needing a fresh start away from the complicated relationship with his tempting ex, Clay accepts a position working for an old friend, Virgin River's resident veterinarian, Nathaniel Jensen. There he meets the lovely, young, Hopi woman who delivers their feed every week. He's instantly smitten by her beauty and her uncanny ability to communicate with the horses which rivals his own. Unfortunately, she's a bit stand-offish, so convincing her to go out with him proves a major challenge for Clay.
After a teenage romance gone bad, Lilly Yazhi has avoided Navajo men like the plague. In fact, she's had her fill of Native men in general and has been trying to distance herself from her culture, but she can't deny that Clay is extremely attractive. Whenever she's around him, he stirs long-dormant feelings in her. The man quietly and confidently insinuates himself into her life, leaving Lilly helpless to resist his charms. Just when she thinks she might have finally found the one Native man she can respect, Clay's ex comes to town. Misunderstanding things she sees and exchanges she overhears between the couple, Lilly thinks Clay was dishonest with her and chooses to retreat into the familiar anger of the past. It will take all the openness and honesty Clay can muster to convince Lilly that he's nothing like her old boyfriend and wants more than anything to be a part of her life forever.
I didn't find Promise Canyon to be one of the stronger books in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series, but it was still a pretty good read that had several positive points. Probably the first and foremost of those would be that both main characters were Native American. I think this is the first romance I've read in which that was the case. The hero is a bit more traditional with strong roots in the Native American community, while the heroine hasn't even visited the reservation in years, and in many ways, has tried to distance herself from her background. It all gave the story a slightly different flavor than the other books in the series thus far.
Clay is one seriously hot and sexy hero. He has classic Native American good looks: bronze skin, a sculpted body from working with horses all day, and long, raven black hair that falls past his waist. Yum!;-) He's kind of a jack of all trades when it comes to horses. He's a vet tech, a farrier, and he trains them. Clay has a very special connection with the horses in which he can sort of communicate with them psychically. I loved his relationship with the problem horse, Streak, and how he gently coaxed the nervous stallion into a trusting bond. He definitely has a way with the animals. One of the things I liked most about Clay is how he stepped up to the plate and didn't shirk his responsibilities as a father. Even though he was only seventeen when his son was born, he actually wanted to be a father to the baby. He fought for and won that right from the mother and her family who were ready to give the child up for adoption. He was a very involved dad for the first eleven years of his son's life. Even after that, when he went out on the rodeo circuit and later to live in California, he always kept in touch with his son and went back to the reservation to visit him often or brought the boy to visit him. Now, he wants nothing more than to finally live with his son in the same place. I think this side of him went a long way in convincing Lilly that he was a good guy in spite of her past experience with another Navajo man. Clay ends up coaxing Lilly into a relationship much the same way he does with the horses, slowly and gently, while refusing to take no for an answer. He's just an all-around scrumptious guy.
Lilly cares very much about animals, so much so that she's a vegan. I love how she took time out of her busy day to save a horse's life, then build a bond with the abandoned animal. Much like Clay she has a way with horses and a special connection that draws them to her. After getting pregnant in her early teens by a young Navajo man who was several years older, Lilly is pretty gun-shy around Native men. She is also a stubbornly independent woman who has been trying to distance herself from her Native roots, and the traditional paternalistic culture. Despite her distrust of, and other issues with, Native men, she can't deny that she finds Clay attractive from the moment they meet. While I could appreciate that Lilly was afraid to get involved with Clay because of what happened with the Navajo boy from her past and because of her independent streak, I wish her reasons had been brought out a little more prominently. I just felt that her reluctance didn't have quite the depth of feeling that it should have. She essentially comes off as a bit immature, simply stubborn and holding on to the pain of the past, which ended up being the main reason that was revealed anyway. I'm so glad that her gay best friend, Dane, finally gave her a metaphorical slap in the face and some tough love (I was totally cheering him on:-)), otherwise, I'm not sure she ever would have given Clay a chance to explain what happened with his ex. Overall, Lilly was a nice heroine, but maybe not as much of a standout as other heroines in the series.
I was somewhat disappointed in the relationship development between Clay and Lilly which is the main reason I knocked off a star. There just wasn't much in the way of getting-to-know-you or romantic moments between them before they fell into bed together. Prior to that they shared an obvious physical attraction for one another, but their interactions seemed mostly superficial. This made their instant trip to the bedroom the first time they were truly alone together feel a little too rushed. That first love scene, the only moderately detailed one in the book, was nice, but it would have been even nicer if I had felt more of a connection between them. Even after that, they don't do a whole lot together to really build the romance before things started falling apart when Clay's ex-wife showed up unexpectedly. The setup for the conflict was another weak link. IMHO, Clay didn't really have much of a reason for not telling Lilly that his ex-wife was visiting. Since he knew that Lilly was going to be delivering feed the next day and might run into the ex, you'd think he would want to warn her and maybe do a little preventative damage control, but of course, he doesn't which leads to a major misunderstanding. If he'd simply been more truthful and forthcoming, things probably never would have escalated to the point that they did, but for her part, Lilly should have allowed him to explain instead of locking herself away and refusing to even speak to him. It made her seem like the immature young girl she'd been all those years ago when her heart was broken. Not to mention, she seemed to be unfairly painting Clay with the same brush as the love who cheated on her and abandoned her when she needed him most.
As with all the Virgin River books, Promise Canyon has plenty of secondary characters, some of whom get their own POV scenes and sub-plots. First, the town says a sad good-bye to a character who's been there since the beginning. This leaves Jack with a big responsibility he didn't ask for and half the town mad at him for not doing what they want. As always, Jack is the backbone of Virgin River and has the town's best interests at heart. Also, most of the main characters from past books rally around to get matters in order and hold an estate sale. A group of four women show up in Virgin River for a brief sojourn at Luke's cabins. Two of the women, Jillian and Kelly, are sisters who seem to be taking a liking to the area, but both currently have high powered jobs in San Francisco. Each of them will return as the main heroines in their own book, Kelly in Harvest Moon, and Jillian in the next book Wild Man Creek, paired with Colin, one of only two remaining Riordan boys still standing. The Riordan brothers band together to help Colin in this book after he's involved in a serious helicopter crash that leaves him pretty banged up. He's very surly about it and also gets himself hooked on pain killers. I have a feeling he'll be coming to Virgin River to rest and recuperate from all the drama. Nathaniel and Annie ("Under the Christmas Tree" from That Holiday Feeling) appear too. Nathaniel hires Clay to work for him in his vet clinic and horse boarding/training business, while Annie pairs up with Lilly to start a trail riding program for young girls in the area. Last but not least, a new young man named Denny shows up in town after being discharged from the Marines, following a stint in Afghanistan. He's looking for his long, lost father, but so far, he's just feeling out the waters and not saying who it is. I have a sneaking suspicion I know who and will be looking forward to that reveal. In the meantime, he's befriended Jack and will be staying on long enough to get his own book, Bring Me Home for Christmas.
There are times when I wish Robyn Carr would dig into her characters a little deeper, and Promise Canyon was one of those books. It had some great characters, but I didn't feel like I got to know them as well as I would have liked. She engages in quite a bit of omniscient narration which results in more telling than showing. Instead of this, I'd really like to see her get into the meat of her characters and allow the reader to be an active part of their lives. I've felt this more with some of her other books, but not as much with this one. It was still a pretty good read, but IMO it could have been better. I've been trying to finish the Virgin River series while staying up to date on her new Thunder Point series at the same time. Maybe I've just been reading a few too many of Ms. Carr's books too close together and need to put more space in between them, so I can appreciate them better when I do pick one up. Or maybe, it's just that she's come to a point in both series, where the ideas aren't flowing quite as freely, and therefore, the books aren't quite as polished. I suppose only time will tell as I continue to read both.
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