Clay Tahoma is a skilled horse trainer and farrier, and a Navajo. He’s gifted with an ability to connect with the animals, almost hear their thoughts and convey his own. He’s worked with the best, but when an opportunity arises to become the vet assistant for a friend in Virgin River, he takes it — partly to make a clean break from his ex-wife, with whom he has a complicated relationship that didn’t end when the divorce papers were signed. While there, he meets Lilly Yahzi, a Hopi woman that shares his love of horses.
Lilly, though, has been burned by handsome, charming Navajo men before– well, burned by one handsome charming Navajo man – and burned badly, when she was very young and she hasn’t been able to get past it. She can’t deny Clay’s attraction, though, and they certainly have chemistry, but she doesn’t know if she’s strong enough to risk getting hurt again.
As readers of the series expect, there are a number of familiar characters, and they have their own stories in this book. There’s some foreshadowing for future books, including a painkiller-addicted Riordan brother, a young man (a Marine, of course) who has come searching for his real dad after learning the man who raised him wasn’t his biological father, and a couple of sisters feeling the pressure of their jobs in San Francisco. I’d be shocked if these characters didn’t get their own books somewhere along the line.
One of my favorite things about this book was Clay’s and Lilly’s Native American heritage. It’s not overdone, but there’s a strong presence. I thought it was fascinating and unusual, and while I can’t know for sure how accurate it was, it felt authentic and relevant. Clay and Lilly were both interesting people, she especially. Neither is perfect, and they do some stupid things, but always understandably and in a way that the reader still sympathizes with them.
One of the things that bothered me, though, was the writing. It has a ton of long paragraphs of exposition– the “telling” of the oft-repeated writing creed of show-don’t-tell — and the dialogue is clunky sometimes. Robyn Carr may not be the best writer, but she’s a really great storyteller. I wish Virgin River were a real place, because it’s pretty damn idyllic. The appeal of the books lies very much in this town’s sense of community and simplicity. There’s a lot of that in this book, and it makes a great comfort read.