Maggie Sullivan is a talented neurosurgeon at a crossroads in her life. Her former partners have been indicted for fraud and malpractice, breaking up their medical practice and leaving her on her own. She also finds herself the object of litigation when the parents of a teenager who died under her care sue her for malpractice. Even though she knows there's nothing she could have done to save the boy, she still can't help feeling somewhat responsible. Then her long-time boyfriend tells her he can't handle her moods anymore when she miscarries their child. Needing a break from the hectic pace of her life, Maggie returns to Sullivan's Crossing, her father's small camping outpost and general store in rural Colorado and the one place that always brought her solace as a child. She only intends for it to be a short visit, but when her father suffers a heart attack soon after her arrival, she ends up staying much longer than anticipated to help him run his business while he recovers.
Cal Jones has been a long-term camper at Sullivan's Crossing when Maggie comes to visit. Until two years earlier, he had a stable life with a lucrative job, but painful events sent him back to the nomadic life of his childhood. While Maggie's father is laid up, Cal offers to help out around the house and store for the price of a free campsite or cabin, which leads to a burgeoning relationship with the intriguing Maggie. But Cal doesn't intend to stay forever. He has plans to take a long hike along the Continental Divide Trail to lay some of his burdens to rest and isn't sure when he'll be back. Even after he returns, he's not quite sure what the future holds for him, and seemingly neither does Maggie. It may take the entire summer for them to figure things out, and once they do, will their respective lives take them down separate paths far from one another or will they be able to forge a new life together in a place that brings peace to both their souls?
What We Find is the first book in Robyn Carr's new Sullivan's Crossing series. It was an easy, pleasant, low-key read that is fairly typical of Ms. Carr's writing style, but I think I really expected more from her debut hardcover release and the inaugural book of a brand new series. It was nice, but neither the characters nor the plot really sparked off the pages for me. Reading it wasn't a chore, but neither was I stoked to get back to it each time I had to put it down. After reading the author's books for as long as I have, it just didn't offer anything new, unique, or exciting, not only in comparison to her other titles but also in general. I did like the atmosphere of Sullivan's Crossing, but it didn't really live up to Virgin River for me or maybe even Thunder Point. What We Find is the first of Ms. Carr's books I've read (beginning with Virgin River) in which the hero's and heroine's are the only POVs presented. On the one hand, it's nice to have the focus more fully on the main couple rather than secondary characters, but at the same time, it sometimes felt like the author didn't know what to do with them. To me, their story felt very ordinary and pedestrian. I like to read romance (or any book for that matter) for the escapism factor, and this one just didn't give me that. Our hero's and heroine's lives felt a little too much like real life to me to be entirely appealing. They're both doing some soul-searching, which along with their decision-making, takes place at a snail's pace. It's realistic, but not very compelling reading, IMHO. There just wasn't enough drama or conflict to keep me riveted to the pages and really excited about the book or this new series.
Maggie is a talented neurosurgeon who has just experienced several stressful situations one right after the other. Her practice disbanded after her partners were accused of fraud and malpractice. While she knew nothing of what they did, it still reflected somewhat badly on her. Then she was sued by the family of a teenager who died while under her care. Add in an unexpected pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage and a boyfriend who was less than sympathetic about any of these things, and Maggie was more than ready for a break from her hectic life. She went back to her childhood home of Sullivan's Crossing, a little campsite and general store run by her father in the rural Colorado mountains. Even though her mother hated it there, the Crossing has always been a source of solace to Maggie. She only intended to stay for a couple of weeks, but she no sooner arrived than her father had a heart attack. This leads her to stay a lot longer than planned not only to look after her father and help him run things while he's recovering, but also to figure out what to do with the rest of her life. She enjoys the slow, relaxed pace of life at the Crossing and thinks she would like to stay there long-term, but at the same time, she misses being in the operating room. I'd like to say that there's more to Maggie, but if there was it eluded me. She's basically just a doctor who's gotten burned out by both her professional and personal trials and needs a break. She also needs time to think and decide what she wants out of life, and she spends basically the entire book figuring that out with a couple of mildly dramatic moments to punctuate her soul-searching, but they're few and far between.
Cal is pretty much doing the same thing. He lost his wife two years earlier and much like Maggie he's left behind a lucrative profession while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life and to once and for all say goodbye to his first love so he can move on. We don't really start learning these things about Cal until probably about a quarter of the way into the book. Until then, he's just some oddball vagabond who's camping at the Crossing long-term and planning a long hike when the spring thaw comes. He's a real sweetheart and a stand-up guy who helps out for free while Maggie's dad is recovering from his heart attack. I really sympathized with Cal in what he went through losing his wife. I could also relate to his love for books and his idolizing of Atticus Finch. He has a rather colorful backstory too, with a wacky, dysfunctional family life growing up. Even now, he's still dealing with that to some extent. It's a wonder he's as normal as he is, considering how he was raised and who his parents were. I suppose that's a testament to Cal having his head on straight and learning where to draw healthy boundaries in his relationships as an adult. I liked Cal and felt like he had a slight bit more depth to his character than Maggie, but ultimately he wasn't really a stand-out character for me either. He takes equally as much time to figure things out as Maggie does, which was a little frustrating, but I did enjoy his sweet, charming, easy-going personality.
Maggie's and Cal's relationship was pretty much as simple and ordinary as their individual life challenges. I really would have liked to see more buildup in their romance. Cal and Maggie seem like they're nothing more than friends, hanging out in the evenings around a campfire or on the front porch of the store. Then next thing you know, they're suddenly thinking about kissing each other. Supposedly they've been attracted to one other from their first meeting, but nothing of that nature comes out in their introspections until that very moment. Then mere hours later, they have their first love scene. It all felt like it came from out of nowhere. Until Cal goes on his hike to say goodbye to his wife, it's a no-strings, no-commitments, easy-going, sex-only relationship. I could understand that he wasn't ready to get more involved until he found closure, but this just isn't a very romantic way to start a relationship IMHO. I would rather have seen him perhaps fighting his attraction to Maggie, maybe feeling a little conflicted about it or even like he was betraying his first love or something, then coming to terms with it after his hike. Even once he returns and makes it clear that he's interested in Maggie as more than just a fling, they still make no promises or commitments to one another, and much like their individual journeys, it takes the entire book for them to get to the point of saying the three little words that are integral to any romance and to realize they want something more permanent. During this time, they don't really experience any relationship conflict. It's merely a matter of will they or won't they get to that point of a stronger commitment. It just doesn't work well for me when there's not something greater at stake in the relationship. It was nice and of course, there's the requisite happy ending, but there were few of what I would call truly romantic moments between Maggie and Cal.
I do enjoy Robyn Carr's books for their feel-good quality and their small-town atmospheres, but there are certain quirks to her writing style that really tend to bug me. Sometimes I can overlook them when the story is really strong, but other times, like with this book, they tend to stand out a little more. I think I've mentioned before that I sometimes wish she would dig a little deeper with her characters and plots. Oftentimes, it feels like she's just skimming the surface, almost telling things from an omniscient narrator perspective rather than delving into the really deep POV that I prefer. She also has a tendency to tell her stories more in dialogue rather than introspection, which can make the conversations a little long-winded at times. That much dialogue wouldn't be so bad if she were more attentive to blocking, but more often than not, she goes on for paragraphs or even pages with nothing more than the verbal back and forth going on and little action taking place in between. There are many times when I can see places where a little touch or a facial expression would really go a long way toward creating a stronger connection with the reader (or at least with this reader, anyway :-)). Also her penchant for list-making, long lists of items or actions, can become a bit tedious.
I know that I've expressed a fair bit of criticism of this book, and IMHO, it does have its weaknesses. However, I did mostly enjoy it for what it was. Since my husband is from Colorado, I have a soft spot for the state, and although Sullivan's Crossing doesn't yet exhibit all the charm and life of Virgin River or Thunder Point, I could see it eventually growing on me. Although I've become a pretty big fan of her Virgin River books in particular, I didn't necessarily feel like Ms. Carr hit the first one of that series out of the ballpark either. It took a couple of books for me to warm up to her characters and her writing style, so maybe it will be the same with this new series. I probably wouldn't recommend shelling out the dough for the hardcover on this one unless you're a hard-core fan of Ms. Carr's, but those who are will probably enjoy it. Most of the time, a new book series will leave me with an impression as to who one or more of the future heroes and/or heroines will be, but I'm hard-pressed to name anyone right now who might be. Whoever it is, I'm sure I'll give it a try. I just hope that the author ups the stakes in the relationship department with the next couple of the series.
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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