Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr
John "Preacher" Middleton is about to close the bar when a young woman and her three-year-old son come in out of a wet October night. A marine who has seen his share of pain, Preacher knows a crisis when he sees one--the woman is covered in bruises. He wants to protect them, and he wants to punish whoever did this to her, but he knows immediately that this inclination to protect is something much more. Paige Lassiter has stirred up emotions in this gentle giant of a man--emotions he has never allowed himself to feel.
But when Paige's ex-husband turns up in Virgin River, Preacher knows his own future hangs in the balance. And if there's one thing in the marines' motto of Semper Fidelis--always faithful--has taught him, it's that some things are worth fighting for.
This was a very interesting reading experience for me...at one point I was ready to put the book down and abandon the whole series as "not for me." For some reason, I decided to read just a little bit more and ended up tearing through to the end of the book, ready and eager to check out book three. I still can't really put my finger on what was bothering me so much nor can I exactly tell what made me do an about turn into interest and liking. I do know that this book is different from my usual fare in the fact that the story often strays away from the main couple which may be what bugs me so much and almost caused me to put it down...that and the fact that I don't always like the people I am reading about, even when I am supposed to.
I think it was Preacher himself that kept me reading...I loved the idea of a big shy ex-marine without a lot of experience with women who was a giant teddy bear with her three-year-old son who was adorable (and I am not always the biggest fan of kids--fictional or otherwise). Preacher was settled and stable which Paige desperately needed, being on the run from her abusive husband. And I worried that she would turn to him because he was available, handy, and willing to take care of her. However, the way the romance took its time (relatively speaking) allayed my fears and I feel that the pace of their relationship put my fears to rest--she really did see that she had found a one-in-a-million man and knowing what scum was out there, she decided to go all-in. However, I do think she really loves Preacher which is exactly what he deserves--someone who will realize how amazing he is and celebrate that fact every day. I think Paige and Christopher will both do that.
There were several sideline stories in this one, which I figure is just the way that the Virgin River series is going to go. At times it is a bit irritating to have the attention pulled in multiple directions and some of the sidelines didn't interest me much but overall I got over it. The Rick/Liz continuation from book 1 both wasn't and then WAS a surprise...and a heartbreak. The way that Rick decided to ultimately handle it was also a surprise and I hope we hear more from him so that I know he is safe, and hopefully healing. Mel and Jack also took up a lot of page time but I like them so was okay with it. The illegal grower, Dan man, also made a few appearances and I am hoping that he is undercover DEA or something so that he can be a future hero in a book, but I don't know yet for sure what is going on with him. Only suspicions...
Knowing that Brie and Mike have the next book, I was extra interested in the scenes with one (and especially both) of them and I hope that their book is a great one--I like them both and they have gone through some tough stuff...Brie's divorce and Mike's shooting. I am guessing that lots of extras will invade their story as well, but I am getting used to the style and hope that I can continue to enjoy these books...While not my usual cuppa, there is something about them that does ultimately grabs my interest. Just goes to show, good writing will out.