A Summer in Sonoma
Waaay back in 1980 I picked up a book titled Chelynne. It sucked me in right away, and I was thrilled that I had found this author just as she began her publishing career. I have passed many an hour with her over the years and been delighted to watch the success she has achieved with her Virgin River books. Hidden treasure authors are nice, but I love seeing others share the same reading pleasure I have found over the years with this great teller of tales.
This latest book, like the recently re-released House on Olive Street, is all about the power of girl friends. Cassie, Julie, Marty and Beth have all been best of buds since their high school cheerleading days. They have been there to share each other’s best and brightest times and now find themselves facing hard times all around. Cassie, who is an ER Nurse, should be at the top of the world. She’s got a great job, nice house, decent car, a wonderful pet – but where’s that family that life seems to keep denying her? And why is it that a man who looks like a poster boy for the Sons of Anarchy is the hero in her parking lot drama while the paramedic Malibu Ken she had been with turns out to be a devil in disguise? As she gets to know Walt, who is more guardian angel than Hell’s Angel, she begins to wonder if maybe her image of the perfect man needs more than a little tweaking.
Julie wishes she could convince Cassie that having a former high school hero in your bed doesn’t mean your problems are solved for life. She adores Bobby, her paramedic husband, but she hates the fact that he has only to look at her to get her pregnant. Aren’t three “accidents” two oopses too many? And how can he be so cheerful while she wonders how they are going to get food on the table everyday? She wishes her life were more like Marty’s, which seems so financially stable and romantically perfect it’s disgusting.
Hairdresser Marty feels like she has the house, the boat and the yard but she could sure use a change in husband. Once upon a time firefighter Joe could get her heart racing like no other. Now his unshaven face, unkempt clothes and body odor make her want to run for the hills. Don’t even get her started on the mess he makes of her home. Suddenly, all she longs for is the ex she had left long ago. Sure, he’s a faithless jerk, but he sure made her feel like a princes.
Quiet Beth is hiding some deep secrets. While the others struggle with what the future holds she wonders if she will even have one. Has she worked so long to be a doctor only to have it pulled away from her before she can even enjoy the fruits of her labor? Then she finds an unexpected ally and realizes that sometimes you have to open yourself to risks because really, life is never as secure as you think it is.
These four women represented the dark side of the cheerleading stereotype to me. All were obsessed with appearances in their own way. Cassie couldn’t see beyond the surface looks of the men she went out with, then was quick to blame them when they turned out not to be her ideal after all. Julie so desperately wanted to appear like everything was under control that she told Billy of their problem almost too late for him to save them. Marty was so caught up in having everything besides the romance that she never realized just how much that “everything” mattered. And Beth was so determined not to appear as an object of pity that she was disappearing all together. I had a hard time empathizing with them because a large part of me just kept wanting to scream “Grow up already!” While Julie’s sweetness, Cassie’s competence and Beth’s neediness-without-whininess eventually won me over, Marty stayed on my dirt list the whole way through. I kept wishing Chelsea, the evil other woman of the book, would make a play for her husband – and win! What really iced the cake was that Marty’s problems were all about communication; once she stopped nagging Joe and simply talked to him, his side of the mess cleared pretty quickly.
On the flip side, the heroes are to die for. Gentle giant Walt, with his love of nature, kindness, and intelligence made my heart go pitter-patter a lot faster than it should for a fictional character. Billy’s sterling good looks are surpassed only by his awesome devotion to his wife, his family and his sense of service to his community. Joe may have some problems with his hygiene but the man has a heart of gold. Not only is he a hard worker and hero in his day job, he is a great dad and understanding husband. Beth’s beau, who makes an appearance later in the book, is the kind of man we all dream of running into when our strength is running out. Lucky in love doesn’t even begin to describe just how fortunate these ladies are in their fellas.
Cassie’s romance is the one most highlighted in the book and I loved it. Not only was Walt, a biker, an unusual hero, but the two of them just meshed so well it was wonderful. And the courtship was slow and sweet and a little old fashioned. They had the kind of story that everyone wants to be able to tell the grandkids.
The writing is expert and the book packs an emotional punch. At the beginning, you feel overwhelmed with the heroines’ problems. As the book unfolds, you slowly begin to experience the hope and joy they themselves are experiencing. I felt engaged the whole way through the tale, anxious to get to the next page. Maybe nothing much is going on in the big scheme of things, but these ladies are living life and you want to see just what happens the next day and then the next day and the next.
I love all of Robyn Carr’s books but some are definitely better than others. While this fell a bit too much towards “others” territory to be a DIK it is still a really good read. For any reader of contemporary romance, this will make a nice addition to your summer beach bag of books.