Reviews: Robyn Carr’s ‘Thunder Point’ series is on a roll

Posted Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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After 30 years of writing, Robyn Carr hit the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list in 2008 with A Virgin River Christmas, the fourth installment of her “Virgin River” series. Since then, readers have faithfully snapped up Carr’s offerings. The series, set in the mountains of Northern California, ended last year with the 20th book.

Now, Carr is taking readers to Thunder Point on the rugged coast of Oregon, and her first three books are well worth the trip.

This is a series that holds lots of promise.

Here’s what readers can expect from the newest installment, as well as the other two fantastic recent releases:

The Hero

MIRA, $7.99; out Tuesday

The Hero is due out Tuesday, and Carr’s readers should expect a compelling romance centered on Spencer Lawson, a character introduced in The Newcomer. A widower, Lawson discovered that his 10-year-old son wasn’t his biological child during a bone marrow drive.

He has relocated to Thunder Point so he and his son, Austin, can be closer to the bio-dad, Hank Cooper ( The Wanderer). When a young woman arrives in Thunder Point with the town curmudgeon, Spencer is intrigued, but wary when he realizes that the woman, Devon McAllister, is a full serving of problems. Devon has left a religious compound after balking at the leader’s polygamous lifestyle — she did not catch on until after she was pregnant.

With each guarding a bruised heart, the romance between Spencer and Devon builds slowly. In addition, while stoking that fire, Carr is building on the storylines of the earlier books. These additional characters are what make Carr’s book special. She doesn’t just write a romance; she creates a community.

In Thunder Point, there are no gazillionaires in flashy cars. Instead, Friday-night football rules as Landon Dupre is having a great senior season. His older sister and guardian, Sarah, is at a crossroads with her Coast Guard career and romance with Hank. And newlyweds Deputy Roger “Mac” McCain and Gina James are blending their families.

The romance between Spencer and Devon is complicated. She knows she fell into a rotten relationship at a low point in her life, and Spencer has been rolling with tragedy for quite a while. It doesn’t help that Devon, who is reluctant to discuss her past, is fearful that Jacob Glover, her child’s father and the leader of the Fellowship, will track her down. Still, Spencer and Devon hold a tenuous trust until Spencer’s grief overtakes it.

Carr’s description of Devon and the other guileless women Glover pulled into his lair resonates and calls to mind stories about polygamous sects such as the one formerly led by fundamentalist Warren Jeffs. Carr also plumbs the grief that weighs on Spencer without getting maudlin.

Carr is a great storyteller, and the stories she tells about the folks of Thunder Point are well worth reading.

The Wanderer

MIRA, $7.99 (March 2013)

The first book in the “Thunder Point” series has a few threads that “Virgin River” fans will recall — a veteran runs a colorful eatery that’s a town hub — but Carr crafts a working man’s hometown filled with fresh characters and stories.

Veteran Hank Cooper arrives after learning that Ben Bailey, a friend with whom he served, is dead. Initially, Coop pulls into Thunder Point intent on paying his respects and finding out what happened. He meets Rawley, a Vietnam vet who’s cantankerous and taciturn in every encounter. Ben’s death has been ruled an accident, but Rawley’s not so sure. Coop also is curious.

Coop stays on after he realizes that Ben has left him the trust that owns the bait shop/bar and the pristine beachfront acreage surrounding it. Coop is the wanderer to which the title refers, but he is drawn to the people of Thunder Point. He makes friends with Landon Dupre, the new kid in town and a budding high school football star, and slips easily into town routines like going to Friday-night games. He’s a mentor of sorts to Landon, an orphan who lives with his older sister.

Ben is attracted to Sarah from the minute he sees her. But having recently divorced a faithless husband, Sarah is anything but interested. She and Coop are pulled together when Landon has trouble with bullies at school. Carr builds a strong storyline around the bully — the town’s rich kid — and there’s quite a bit of depth to this part of the story.

The Wanderer has an ensemble cast that includes Roger “Mac” McCain and Gina James, the featured players of The Newcomer.

The Newcomer

MIRA, $7.99 (released in June)

When Roger “Mac” McCain was 19, he got his 16-year-old girlfriend pregnant. They married and she walked out without a backward glance nine months after the birth of their third child. Gina James was 15 when her boyfriend left town after she told him she was pregnant.

Mac and Gina build a friendship once their daughters become besties. However, Mac’s not inclined toward romance until the town doctor asks Gina out. The romance between Mac and Gina is sweet and authentic as these two single parents agonize over everyday money struggles like saving for college while paying for braces. The friendship between them is strong and their relationship moves forward naturally once Mac realizes that there could be competition.

But what really makes The Newcomer is the strong young-adult storyline that Carr weaves through it. Gina’s 16-year-old daughter gets her heart shattered after her boyfriend, a college freshman and star athlete, dumps her. Ashley spirals out of control until she’s forced into counseling. Both mother and daughter are frightened at how quickly Ashley plummets when she’s the victim of a Facebook attack by a college girl.

If that weren’t enough, Carr manages to scrounge up Mac’s ex-wife, who breezes into town in a Lexus looking for a reconciliation — maybe. And like The Wanderer, The Newcomer is filled with quirky and interesting characters. There’s the side romance between Mac’s Aunt Lou and a state trooper who’s 12 years younger; the rivalry between Lou and Ray Anne, resident cougar and real estate agent; and that romance between Landon Dupre and Mac’s daughter Eve. There are also the intertwined friendships of Mac and Gina, and Hank Cooper and Sarah Dupre.

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