Reviewed by Helyce
When Hank Cooper receives a call that his good friend Ben Bailey has suddenly died and has left something for him, he packs up his truck and trailer and heads to the Oregon Coast. Though he and Ben hadn’t seen each other often after their time together in the Army, they’d kept in touch with phone calls and email and had been planning a hunting trip when Cooper learned about his death. He arrived to find that Ben has left him his uninhabitable, mold infested bait shop and several acres of beautiful, prime beach front property.
Sarah Dupre and her brother Logan moved to Thunder Point to help Sarah heal from her recent divorce. As she and her ex-husband both work for the Coast Guard, a move to a different town became all but a necessity. Sarah is now focused on her job, and her 16 year old brother who she’s had custody of since her parents died when she was 18.
Cooper and Sarah meet after her brother Logan gets beat up by a school bully and he mentions that Cooper has been helping him out and talking with him about this ongoing bullying issue. After their initial meeting, they form an easy friendship that then turns romantic; each with the understanding that Cooper’s stay in Thunder Point is short term. This works for both of them, until their hearts get too involved.
As a long time fan of Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, I jumped at the chance to read this book. Ms. Carr’s contemporary style romances set in a small town where the people who live there are truly invested in their community is a trope that I adore. In The Wanderer, she sets up this new series very nicely, introducing the characters, without overwhelming us with a lot of details, smoothly delivering a sense of the town and the people who live there.
I enjoyed the various story lines as we get to know the players in this town. Cooper arrives and finds that Ben has left him the most gorgeous beach front property with a Bait Shop/Deli/home that is literally uninhabitable. But something about Ben’s death doesn’t sit right with him. Almost immediately, through the people of the town, he leans things about his friend that he didn’t know. It seemed Ben has been the unofficial guardian angel of the town. If there was a need of something, he tried to fill it. He was a friend to all, and people counted on him. He was greatly loved and greatly missed.
As Cooper digs deeper and learns more about his friend, he unconsciously begins forming friendships and attachments with the people in the town. He never intended to stay more than a few days, but little by little, he finds himself with valid excuses to prolong his stay. Excuses like Sarah Dupre. After their initial meeting turns into them dating, Cooper finds it more and more difficult to leave Thunder Point. Though he and Sarah have a clear understanding that their time together is limited, it’s clear to the reader that their connection is strong.
As the story continues the various storylines fall into a sort of suspense driven plot where the answers Cooper was looking for are revealed. This is done in a very satisfying way as the various players show their true selves and we get closure on the issue of Ben’s death.
I did have issues with a few things, however. This book is 377 pages, but our “main” characters, Cooper and Sarah do not even meet face to face until about page 170. The beginning focuses on Cooper, his relationship with Ben, his learning about his inheritance and his developing friendships with Mac and Logan (Sarah’s brother). I understand that as a first book in a new series, some ground work needs to be laid out, but their first meeting seemed a bit anticlimactic-even though the sparks were flying. Further, their relationship lacked in some ways. Perhaps it was their agreement to be “friends with benefits”, I don’t really know. Both hold back too much in my book and even with the big romantic push at the end, theirs was not the romance that made the book for me.
It was secondary characters Mac and Gina who gave me the romance I needed. Both are single parents who have forged a strong friendship over the years. Mac and Gina met when their daughters form a fast friendship when Mac moved to Thunder Point after his wife leaves him with 3 young children. They definitely had an attraction to each other, but put it aside because of their daughter’s friendship. But Gina has been in love with Mac forever. While there is not a lot of focus on their budding romance, the friends to lovers trope shines strong and I was totally invested in their romance. For me, even though not the focus, it was stronger and hotter and more satisfying then the lead couple.
I’m a bit worried about this series being a little too much of a mirror to the Virgin River series. If you’ve read the Virgin River series, you know that Jack’s Bar is the “home base” so to speak where a lot of big events happen. It’s the town’s meeting place. In this book, Cooper inherits Ben’s bait shop on the beach, which also had a similar place in the town. It was a stopping point for visitors, a place where people hung out whether they were passing through, or a resident of the town. I will not assume Cooper to be the “Jack” of this series but for me the similarities are there.
I was disappointed when Ms. Carr did not release a Virgin River book this year as she’s done in previous years. I had not been able to find anything about that series ending, and I wonder if the introduction of this new series indicates if that is so. While loosely connected, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what she has in store for us. I am so spoiled though. For years she released three books back to back with her Virgin River series. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait for the next Thunder Point book and who it will be about.