When Ginger Dysart came to Thunder Point, she struggled with depression and just continuing on with life after the dissolution of her marriage, which was closely followed by the death of her infant son. It was supposed to be a temporary move to stay with her father's cousin who was like a second mom to her and one that hopefully would restore her spirits. Ginger found all that and more, and her new job at the flower shop has given her a new lease on life. But when she attends the wedding of two of the locals in her capacity as floral assistant, she didn't expect to practically get mauled by the bride's drunken brother.
Matt Lacoumette recently went through a painful divorce. Being back in the place where he and his ex-wife got married, attending his sister's wedding, threw him for an emotional loop. He didn't intend to get drunk or to be inappropriate with his sister's friend, but to his chagrin, it happened. Sobered up and sufficiently contrite, he goes to Thunder Point to apologize to Ginger for his atrocious behavior. Much to his surprise, she's very forgiving. They strike up a close friendship, discovering that they have many things in common. After several months of long phone conversations and seeing each other whenever Matt can get away from his demanding farm work, a romance begins to bloom between them. But sharing one passionate kiss with Ginger rocks Matt to the core. He still harbors a great deal of animosity toward his ex and fears thing might be moving too fast for him and Ginger and that history might repeat itself. Matt will need to find peace and healing for his past hurts before he and Ginger can have a successful relationship future.
A New Hope, the latest installment in Robyn Carr's Thunder Point series, isn't one of my favorites, but it was a nice visit to this tranquil seaside town. In general, of late, Ms. Carr's writing hasn't enthralled me in quite the same way that many of her Virgin River books did. There are few of the Thunder Point books that have made it to keeper status for me so far, so I asked myself why I still keep coming back. I think it's because I'm far enough into the series that I'm invested in a lot of the characters' lives and I do love this little town, maybe not quite the same way that I love Virgin River, but it's still a lovely place that would be fun to visit if it were real. While there are sometimes things that annoy me or make me roll my eyes, it's like a soap opera that I keep returning to, because I just have to know what's going on in the lives of the characters I've met so far and because I want to know who else might come to town next. Also, Ms. Carr's books are easy comfort reads that seem familiar, so even if they're not perfect, I'm in it for the long haul, at least for now.
We were introduced to Ginger in the previous book of the series, One Wish. At her parents urging, she came to town to visit her father's cousin Ray Anne, who is like an aunt to her. Ginger was recently divorced and had also lost her baby to SIDS and was having trouble coping with her grief. Ray Anne's upbeat take on life and a new job in Grace's flower shop gave Ginger a new lease on life. When A New Hope opens, she's mostly recovered, but she isn't sure what, if anything, she still feels for her ex. She attends Scott and Peyton's (The Promise) wedding reception, where she has an inauspicious first meeting with Peyton's brother, Matt, when he gets drunk as a skunk and tries to grope her. She gives him a shove, which causes him to topple over, hitting his head on the table and knocking him out cold. When he comes to Thunder Point a few days later to apologize for his behavior, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Overall, I liked Ginger and thought she was a sweet woman, who unlike Matt's ex-wife, seemed perfectly suited to his temperament and lifestyle. The main thing she did that gave me pause though, was when she changed her cell phone number after Matt gave her a brief text reply and nothing more, following their first romantic interlude. It seemed like a juvenile move to me that only served to stir up a little conflict. I understood her being over waiting on a guy after what her ex put her through, but given that she shared several weeks of friendship and deep conversations with Matt, I think she owed it to him to at least give the guy a chance to explain. There could have been dozens of reasons why he might have given her such a reply, and knowing that he'd gone through a lot of pain with his own divorce, I don't think she was being fair at all. She tries to explain it away, saying that she wasn't really trying to punish Matt, but it came off as more of a weak excuse and game playing to me. Once that incident was over, Ginger evened out more. The only other small quibble I had with her behavior was that she didn't tell Matt when it was the anniversary of the death of her baby and just left him wondering why she was acting sullen. Otherwise, I think she was a pretty strong woman, who I admired for being willing to go live with Matt on the family farm and share his life there.
Matt has been through some painful losses of his own. He thought that he'd found the perfect woman for him in his ex-wife, but she turned out to be a prissy snob who didn't like his family's farm and couldn't deal with him spending so many hours there, when she wanted to party. They fought a lot after marrying, but it wasn't until she did something that Matt felt was a complete betrayal of trust and unforgivable (unfortunately I figured out what it was very easily) that he walked away from their marriage and didn't look back. Now he harbors a lot of anger toward her that he has to work through before he can have a successful relationship with Ginger. Overall, Matt was a good guy, who just picked the wrong person to marry the first time. In general, he made sense to me, and even when he kind of blew Ginger off for a week after they got closer (the phone number changing incident), I understood that he just needed a little time to come to terms with his feelings for her and that he was scared of how fast things were progressing and of possibly getting hurt again. Once he realized he needed to stop comparing Ginger to Natalie, he was instantly contrite and willing to jump through hoops to get in touch with Ginger since she'd made it difficult for him. I liked that he didn't let her go or let her actions get in the way of what they shared. I also liked his protectiveness toward her with regards to her ex. I think the thing I liked most was when he figured out that Ginger was sullen because of the anniversary of her baby's death and again jumped through hoops to find the grave site and go visit it, which led to a sweet moment where he was able to comfort her.
As a couple, it took a while for things to get moving between Matt and Ginger. I'm all for building a friendship before jumping into something more, especially after the painful divorces both of them went through, but sometimes it felt like they were a little too far into the friend zone. They talked on the phone a lot and went out together sometimes, but in those early chapters, I didn't feel much of a spark of romantic connection between them. It's not until Matt comes to Thunder Point unexpectedly to see Ginger and takes her to the look-out over the ocean that things started to come together for me. Then Ginger did the lame-brained thing with the phone numbers. When Matt finally gets his butt in gear and comes after her, I was a little disappointed that their first love scene took place before any discussion of Ginger's reasons for changing her number or of Matt's issues that led to him not communicating for a week. After that, their relationship got much better for me, but I have to admit that sometimes it seemed a little mundane. All they really have to do is work through the issues with their exes, so that they aren't bringing that baggage into their future as a couple. I certainly wouldn't have minded a little more excitement for them and a few more scenes for them in general, as occasionally, it felt like they were getting lost in the shuffle of other characters' lives.
Whereas the last few Thunder Point books didn't seem to have as many other characters' POVs, A New Hope stepped away from Matt and Ginger pretty often. We get lots of Grace and Troy (One Wish), as well as Grace's mother, Winnie. Grace and Troy finish their new house and get Winnie moved in, after which they get married. Since Ginger works for Grace and is good friends with her, lots of scenes take place in the flower shop or at Grace's house. Grace's old Russian coach, Mikhail, who harbors some enigmatic affection for Winnie, comes for a long visit and doesn't seem inclined to leave anytime soon, so I bet he'll probably be seen in the background a lot in future books. Since Peyton is Matt's sister, she's seen occasionally as well. Unfortunately, Peyton kind of annoyed me with how hard she was on her brother. I know she was trying to be protective of Ginger after all the other woman had been through, but I just didn't really see a truly good reason for her poor treatment of Matt. Luckily, it's only a few scenes and they make up after she finally realizes that Matt is serious about Ginger. We're also introduced to Lin Su (the heroine of the next book, Wildest Dreams), who becomes Winnie's private nurse, and her geeky teenage son, Charlie. They've been through some rough times, but Lin Su is a proud woman who doesn't like to take handouts. She's also incredibly protective of her son, who's suffered from health problems all his life. The lonely Charlie is at least temporarily befriended by Frank, who's on summer break from MIT. It was nice to see a little of him and the college kids from Thunder Point again.
There are a few pet peeves I have with Robyn Carr's writing style, some that I see over and over in her work and some that are particular to a specific book. This time around there were times that her dialogue and narrative felt uneven. There are often large swaths of one or the other, instead of intermingling them more smoothly and evenly. Unfortunately, she's never been great at blocking, and those issues cropped up again in this book. When you have long passages of dialogue, blocking helps immensely in being able to visualize a scene, as well as what the characters are doing or thinking while they're talking. Many of the dialogue passages in this book are lacking this all-important element, so it's just lots of talking. The last thing that annoyed me a bit was her frequent lists of things or actions, especially in dialogue. In my experience, most people don't just start listing off things in casual conversation, particularly as frequently as these characters do. Since I was reading an ARC, hopefully some of these things were corrected before the book went to its final printing. As a small aside, (and this admittedly has nothing to do with the author), whoever designed the cover should have thought twice about putting a dog on it. It's a nice cover in general, but since there is no dog in the story, having one on the cover is rather disingenuous IMHO.
Other than my few complaints, I did enjoy my visit to Thunder Point. As I said before, I feel like I've become sufficiently invested in the lives of the characters to keep coming back. Even though Matt and Ginger weren't necessarily a stand-out hero and heroine for me, I did like them as both individual characters and as a couple. With them living on the Lacoumette farm, four hours away from Thunder Point, we probably won't see as much of them as some of the other characters, but hopefully they won't be complete strangers in future books. Now I look forward to seeing what's in store for Lin Su and Charlie when the new book is released next month.
Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review.
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