Reviewed by Helyce
Tom Cavanaugh has come home to Virgin River to help his elderly grandmother with the apple orchard that has been in their family for generations. As a kid growing up and doing all the hard work surrounding life on a farm, he couldn’t wait to get away from it. He went away to college, joined the Marines and got to see some of the world he’d dreamed about. But after a tour in Afghanistan, he was more than ready to come home and settle down. He was ready for a wife, a family and everything that would come with it. And he had a picture in his head of the perfect woman to settle down with.
When Nora Crane landed in Virgin River, it was the dead of winter. Her boyfriend claimed to have work lined up. However, after he’d moved her and their two very small children into an abandoned house, he simply up and left her. All alone with no family to call for help, Nora had no choice than to accept the generosity and charity of the town. With literally nothing to her name, she’s made a home for herself and her two little girls and survived that first winter with the help of her neighbors, but now she’s ready to pull her own weight and provide for her children. When she sees an ad looking for apple pickers at the Cavanaugh Orchard she decides to apply. She’s not quite sure how she’ll manage it, but they need the money, badly, and she’s got nothing to lose.
When Nora arrives at Cavanaugh’s to apply for the job, Tom takes one look at her tiny stature and slight build and knows that she’d never be able to haul around a 50 lb. bag of apples. He immediately turns her down, telling her that he’s hired on all that he can and she’s out of luck. But when Tom’s grandmother Maxie sees Nora, she’s got other ideas and she presses Tom to hire her. He does, against his better judgment, but his reasons are not entirely work related. Though Nora doesn’t fit into that little picture he has in his head of the perfect wife and family, he can’t explain why he’s so drawn to her. Can he keep this strictly business?
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Ms. Carr and this series and once again this author has given us a story that pressed every one of the buttons in my romance addicted heart and provided a story I simply could not put down. We met Nora Crane a few books back when her deadbeat, drug addict, boyfriend leaves her stranded in Virgin River in an abandoned house with a two week old infant and two-year-old. She’s had a few cameo appearances since then and we’ve watched her grow from a timid girl to a fiercely strong, proud capable young woman who while in incredible need herself was always there to help others. While she had no choice but to accept the generosity of the town for her daughters’ sake, she gave back in spades helping and volunteering whenever she could. I was thrilled to get some in depth background to exactly who Nora Crane was before she came to Virgin River. Learning about Nora’s childhood and how she barely survived her mother explained so much about how a young intelligent woman could have been taken in by the first boy who said pretty words to her. It certainly rounded out the picture I had of Nora, while helping to make her determination and character growth so much more believable. I loved that her character, who truly started out a victim, came out so strong in the end.
Tom Cavanaugh, too, had small parts in previous books, but I don’t think I saw his relationship with Nora coming; so that was a nice surprise. In fact, the author does a fabulous job of throwing a huge wrench into the story with the introduction of Darla-the classic character that we love to hate! Darla’s husband Bob was on Tom’s team and they served in Afghanistan together. Sadly, Bob was killed there and when Tom came home he’d made a point of visiting Darla to pay his respects. When she contacts him months later, he encourages her to visit him in Virgin River. He even entertains the thought that perhaps they’d date and see where it went. Darla had “ulterior motives” written all over her; but she came in a really pretty package and Tom saw only what was on the surface. Thank goodness Nora was around to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground!
I really enjoyed that there was so much focus on Nora and Tom getting to know each other and becoming really good friends before anything ever happens between them. Watching Tom’s feelings grow as he gets to know Nora and spends time with her and her daughters was done beautifully. Tom’s grandmother, Maxie, is a spitfire and I adored her. She brings much humor to this story especially when she finally shares her true feelings about Darla to Tom.
“I’m getting tired of Miss Picky Pants. If you marry her I’m going to kill myself.”
His smile fought hard to get out, but he held it in. “What if I’m completely in love with her?”
She rolled her eyes and clasped her hands together as if praying for strength. “I’ve had a good life…”
I also have to share my favorite passage from the book when Tom finally gives Darla the big heave ho…
“What the hell kind of woman do you want?”
Big mistake, Darla, he thought. Big.
“I want a woman who pitches in,” he said. “A woman who doesn’t sit and expect to be waited on while a seventy-four-year-old grandmother cooks and cleans and serves her. I want a woman who can pet the dog even if she gets a little hair on her expensive clothes. Someone who can feel special wearing boots that cost far less than a grand and I want a woman who eats, for God’s sake! How about a woman who isn’t trying to sell my family orchard out from under me and put my grandmother in a home? That would work.”
Ms. Carr spends nearly the entire book on Tom and Nora’s “courtship” and I fell in love with them as well. There are just the right amount of visits from previous characters like Jack and Preacher who are definitely staples to this series and I can’t imagine them not popping up at some point in any Virgin River novel. We even get a new character in Hank Cooper who comes to visit Luke Riordan and even though he leaves Virgin River near the end, I’m almost positive he’ll be back. In the past, Ms. Carr has released her Virgin River books in trilogy form within the first few months each year. Sunrise Point was the perfect book to tide me over as we wait the long year until Ms. Carr releases her next Virgin River book. As usual I cannot wait!