We were delighted when it was announced that Netflix would be adapting Robyn Carr’s fabulous Virgin River books into a television series. To celebrate its release we got Mills & Boon author Helen Lacey to write us a review…
It’s no secret that I love small town stories/romances, so I was delighted when asked to review the new Netflix series Virgin River. I’m a huge Robyn Carr fan and couldn’t wait to see the adaption of her Virgin River books.
***So, spoiler alert ahead… ***
Firstly, I adored the sense of community and kinship amongst the townsfolk – even if they were meddlesome and overstepped boundaries at times – particularly Hope, the mayor and general go-to gal. Of course, the sixty-something (I’m guessing) woman has her own heartache to bear and this comes out over the course of the first season.
The two main leads are Mel and Jack – she’s a city-girl nurse practitioner running away from her grief and loss and he’s a stoic, good-hearted tavern owner and ex-marine who keeps his demons buttoned up tight. A perfect match! Well, except for the fact that Mel is grieving the death of her husband (and something else that is extra heartbreaking) and Jack appears to be suffering PTSD and isn’t ready to admit the fact to anyone (and he has a sort-of girlfriend called Charmaine). But I love how their friendship develops and they begin to confide in one another. And I loved that within a day of meeting, they’re dealing with a baby abandoned on a doorstep! Of course, like any good romance, it’s going to be two steps forward, one step back, for quite some time (think Joel and Maggie in Northern Exposure), but I’m really looking forward to where these two will go in the next season and how they will deal with Charmaine’s bombshell – a perfectly timed way to break Mel’s heart just a little bit more, considering all she’s been through.
Of course, Virgin River isn’t just about Mel and Jack. There’s an ensemble of characters who all add to the story, like Hope and the ornery town doctor Vernon ‘Doc’ Mullins – who it turns out is Hope’s estranged husband. There’s great chemistry between the actors, Annette O’Toole and Tim Matheson, which adds to the earnest portrayal of their relationship. I think they have some of the best dialogue in the show.
There’s also Preacher – Jack’s best friend and former marine. He works for Jack and is played by uber-hot Colin Lawrence. He has a crush on single mother Paige – a woman with a bunch of secrets – and I’m so looking forward to seeing how these two navigate the minefield that is clearly going to be their relationship.
Of course, Virgin River isn’t just about the budding romances, either – there’s a bunch of other people, including some bad guys added to the mix. I enjoyed the subplot about the illegal ‘farmers’ squatting on forest land, and how Doc keeps them under control by tending to their medical needs.
When it comes to Doc and Mel, there were times when I thought, would they really get along that badly? But well, yeah. Doc is old school and Mel is a successful, smart and modern-thinking nurse practitioner – a whole new world of nurse for the caring but often old-fashioned-thinking small town doctor. Their dynamic really worked, and certainly added some snappy dialogue to the show. Towards the latter episodes, it was great to see Doc relying on Mel and acknowledging her abilities – even if begrudgingly.
And of course there are other characters moving in and out: the group of card-playing, quilt-making busybodies who add steam to Hope and Doc’s strained relationship, the tow truck driver with a heart of gold, Paige’s cute son, bad boy Brady, nice boy Ricky, and Charmaine, who gets a lot of screen time and had her own family issues to deal with and a particularly good reason to steer clear of Hope and Doc.
I enjoyed the way the back story of the main characters was told through flashbacks – it kept the pacing strong and the storyline moving forward. Mel’s past was particularly heartbreaking and gave a real insight into her marriage to Mark and all she has lost. As for Jack – well, I’ve always been a fan of New Zealand actor Martin Henderson and thought he brought a quiet vulnerability to the character of a man who is haunted by his past and desperate to continue only living in the now.
Yep, I loved Virgin River – it was all I hoped it would be and I can’t wait for season two.