This ended up being one of my favorite reads for the Virgin River series. We have a nice long burn of a romance novel and though some of the secondary plots were too much (and there were a lot of them it felt like in this one) if you look at just the main couple (Preacher and Paige) then the book gets high marks. Unfortunately we get everyone, and I do mean everyone in this book and I think 3 or maybe 4 B plots so the whole book just kind of feels scattered in parts. And this also started my long slow dislike for Jack Sheridan (Virgin River #1). This was the beginning of his whole I am just going to tell people like it is and everyone else telling him to shut up (or really just his wife though Preacher does with fits).
Paige Lassiter is on the run with her 3 year old son Christopher. After suffering another beating at the hands of her husband she's finally willing to run, hide, and change their names to get away from him. Getting lost she ends up stopping in Virgin River and meets the cook at the local bar, John "Preacher" Middleton. Of course Preacher looks scary, but inside he's a shy guy who can tell that something has Paige scared and decides he will do what he can to keep her and her son safe.
The majority of the book is Paige and Christopher slowly opening up to Preacher. Though I do say that Christopher warms up to the gentle giant faster than Paige. And Paige rightfully has a ton of issues to work through in this book. I do applaud Carr for not rushing this romance. I would have been so upset if she had. Being in an abusive marriage for years has Paige rightfully leery of men, especially big ones like Preacher. However, these two quickly understand each other and she realizes that Preacher is going to do whatever he can to keep her and Christopher safe if she stays in Virgin River. I am surprised that Carr took on a topic like this one in a contemporary romance. I think most authors would steer clear of it since I don't know if they could right a romance featuring that as one of the plots. Heck, I still remember to this day the romance book I read where the heroine after running from her abusive husband, gets stranded, gets picked up by the hero, and they are both off and having sex with each other an hour after meeting each other. I DNFed that book so hard I left marks on it.
I liked Paige a lot. We see her slowly grow and change once she realizes that she can start a new life in Virgin River. And we get to see Preacher becoming more vocal and not just Jack Sheridan's shadow. Did I already say that Jack stuck his nose in and Preacher gave him a black eye for the trouble? Yeah he did. I was happy about that.
We have secondary characters from the first book still brought up in this one. We get more about Rick Sudder and Liz Anderson and boy oh boy that whole storyline is just. Ugh. Reading about how she was a 14 year old girl on the make for a guy was off-putting as anything in the last book. In this one we have Liz pregnant and the two of them thinking they can raise the kid (on what mind you) together and Rick being angry that everyone was talking abortion and adoption. Once again I applaud Carr for actually having that brought up by the adults in this book because I think a lot of people would have steered clear of it.
We also get updates with Jack and Mel and they have their first child together. I did forget to mention in the last book that I hated the whole thing with Mel being infertile, but Jack and his super sperm somehow got past her infertility and she got pregnant. Once again, Jack was better than Mel's dead husband. Poor dead husband.
We also get re-looks at Mike Valenzuela and Brie Sheridan.
There really felt like a cast of thousands in this book. And some parts of it read a bit too Lifetime for me, but all in all I did love it a lot. Probably because at one point I was hoping a tornado would touch down on Virgin River so I could see if Jack would somehow lasso the thing and tame it. Okay I am being a total jerk right now but I can't help it.
The writing was once again very detailed. Virgin River comes alive though it feels like the only places anyone goes are the medical clinic, Jack and Mel's cabin, the bar, and shopping for supplies.
The flow was a struggle in this one. I kept wanting to get back to Paige's story. However, it was very realistic to show how long it takes most domestic violence cases to settle. If everything had been wrapped up in a week I would have been really irritated.
The ending was done better in this one with things wrapped up quite nicely I thought.