Welcome back to Virgin River with the books that started it all…
Last Christmas Marcie Sullivan said a final goodbye to her husband, Bobby. This Christmas she wants to find the man who saved his life and gave her three more years to love him.
Fellow marine Ian Buchanan dragged Bobby's shattered body onto a medical transport four years ago, then disappeared once their unit arrived stateside. Since then, Marcie's letters to Ian have gone unanswered.
Marcie tracks Ian to the tiny mountain town of Virgin River and finds a man as wounded emotionally as Bobby was physically. As Marcie pushes her way into his reclusive life, she discovers a sweet soul beneath a rough exterior.
Ian doesn't know what to make of the determined young widow who forces him to look into his painful past and the uncertain future. But it is a season of miracles and maybe, just maybe, it's time to banish the ghosts and open his heart.
Why I Read this Book: I was in the mood for a holiday romance, one that featured a bearded hero, preferably a lumberjack. How’s that for specific? Well, Penny Watson came through with an awesome recommendation: A Virgin River Christmas. She highly recommended this emotional love story and I can now see why. I have to admit that the whole ‘widow’ aspect almost turned me away from this book. I’m not big on widow/widower tropes but having read one other Virgin River novel before, I loved the setting and decided to give it a shot.
What I Liked: I really liked both main characters. Marcie was on a mission and boy, was she was persistent. Nothing was going to stand in her way of finding the man who had saved Bobby, her now deceased husband, in the battlefield. Marcie will be forever grateful to Ian, who risked his own life to save Bobby and in turn gave Marcie more time with her husband. Marcie wants to let Ian know how much she appreciates what he did and is trying to track him down, which proves a bit difficult. That’s another thing I liked – it wasn’t easy for Marcie to find Ian. He purposely fell off the grid and it took her a long while to find him. And as steadfast as Marcie was, she was also sensible. She knew her limits.
Then there’s Ian. He doesn’t want to be found by anyone. He questions his decision of saving Bobby and has a sense of guilt that lays on his shoulders. His outlook on life and his self worth are pretty bleak at this point. And when Marcie shows up on his doorstep, he’s forced to deal with his distraught emotions whether he wants to or not.
This was sort of an insta-love romance but there was enough backstory and history between Marcie and Ian to validate their relationship. (I say “sort of” because even though they had a thread of connection through Booby, they didn’t get to really know each other until this point.) There was this amazing and deep connection between these two characters that it didn’t matter how little time had past.
Another realistic element was Ian’s living conditions. He’s in a secluded area on the outskirts of town. There’s no telephone, indoor plumbing, or electricity. The author illustrated the rustic lifestyle and lack of amenities almost too well – the outhouse, the lack of a shower or tub and the procedure of bathing one’s self. I really hope Marcie and Ian get some amenities in their future.
And lastly, I thought the widow aspect was done well. Bobby was an honorable man who died a hero and Marcie had been grieving for three years so it didn’t feel like she was rushing into a new relationship. It also helped that Marcie’s intentions to find Ian were not to fall in love nor was the possibility of an intimate relationship even on her mind. She had just wanted to show her gratitude to the man who had saved her husband’s life. She wanted to reconnect with Ian to share the common fondness for the man that was an important part of both of their lives.
What I Didn’t Like: There was no epilogue, which I had wanted really, really bad. I wanted more closure, to see how they would make their relationship work. But I have a feeling I’ll get more in the next book in this series (at least that’s what I’m hoping).
Overall Impression: A Virgin River Christmas was a great emotional holiday read, and it was exactly what I was looking for. This can definitely be read as a stand alone novel but I fully intend to go back to the start of this series to get the scoop on everyone in Virgin River.