When her husband returns home from
Iraq battered and broken, with no chance of a full recovery, Marcie Sullivan remains strong. She doesn’t mourn prematurely or ask herself “What if?” Instead, Marcy treasures the time that she and Bobby had together, and tries to make the rest of his life comfortable. At the same time, she writes to his best friend from the Marine Corps, Ian Buchanan—a soldier from the same small
California town who was so strong and noble he made Bobby want to be a career soldier. Though she doesn’t know Ian that well, Marcie feels a connection to him. He’s the one who saved Bobby’s life by carrying him to safety after a bomb exploded. And Bobby had written to her of Ian, telling her how much he admired the older soldier. It seems only natural to Marcie to form a connection with the man who had such an influence over her husband, and when Ian disappears with no notice or warning, Marcie decides to go after him. Since he was last seen in rural
California, she leaves home—against the wishes of her family—to find this man and bring some closure to that part of her life.
Ian Buchanan doesn’t want to remember what happened in Fallujah, and the repercussions of his decision to save his best friend’s life, when the result was leaving Bobby with no life at all. Ian’s guilt is insurmountable. He earned medals for something that he deems unforgivable. So he retreats into the woods of
California, and takes up with an old man who has plenty of land and no help to mind it. When the old man dies, leaving Ian his rustic cabin, which lacks indoor plumbing and other basic necessities, Ian’s fine with it. It’s what he deserves after the life that he’s led, and he’s fine with the solitary life that it brings. When Marcie shows up at his front door, stirring up the past and uncovering memories he’d rather keep buried, he’s furious. He roars at her and leaves her in the snow. But gradually, with a persistence and stubbornness that rivals his own, Marcie begins to break down the walls that Ian has built around himself. And to help him learn that the past can’t hurt you in the present.
The first thing I noticed about A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS is that Marcie and Ian are new characters who didn’t appear in the previous stories. But this book had the same heart, warmth, and richness that I’ve come to expect from this series, and Marcie and Ian definitely fit the prototypes of the quintessential
heroine and hero. The female protagonists in these stories are strong, level headed, and determined. If they want something, there’s no getting in their way, two-hundred-pound marine or no. In order to put the past behind her, Marcie knew that she needed to make sense of why her husband’s best friend would just fall off the face of the earth. It was important to her to have closure, and to be sure that Ian was okay, since he was the one who made sure that Bobby was. Forget the fact that a man who moves to the woods and lives on six hundred acres of land by himself might not want to be found. Marcie has a goal, and she won’t rest until she attains it. And Ian, like the other heroes, is a proud, protective hero whose whole life is thrown into question by what happened to him at war. He retreats so that he can find himself, and even knowing that isolation isn’t a long-term solution doesn’t stop him from living in the moment. It takes Marcie’s determination to pull him back into the land of the living, and I enjoyed every minute of these two battling it out.
RIVER CHRISTMAS builds on the strong community foundation that Robyn Carr has perfected in this series. I’ve been a fan of the
Virgin River series since the eponymous first book, and I’ve always described it as Gilmore Girls with a more dark and twisty edge. If you love stories written with depth, heart, and an established sense of community, A VIRGIN RIVER CHRISTMAS will be an excellent choice.