Redwood Bend (Virgin River, #18) - Robyn Carr
Single parent romance novels:I am exactly like J.D. I get all puppy-dog excited when I find one and run to it with optimism and longing and it deftly cuts me down. I am disappointed far more often reading these than I come out liking the story.So why do I read them time and time again? Because it's my weakness, okay! My name is Alicia and I love single dad/single guy falling in love with a single woman/single mom stories and I can't help it. So, I will continue to read them hoping beyond hope that the next one I pick up will be the cute, non-rage inducing story I always want them to be. I got suckered into Redwood Bend not just for the single mother with five-year-old boys, but because the hero was an actor considering a return to Hollywood. Well, crap. That makes two tropes I love. Maybe I deserved to get hit with every clichéd plot device and predictable element under the romance novel sun.I was extremely disappointed with the quality of writing. It was so juvenile I truly felt like I was reading YA. Especially with the word choices in both dialogue and exposition. It seemed to me it was written in a conversational style that just didn't work with the ages of the characters and for the presumable age of the intended audience. There were exclamation! points! everywhere! Why are they so excited all the time? Too many sentences began with a superfluous "and" that would just drive me crazy.“Do you still miss him sometimes?” Dylan asked. And she decided on honesty."She can’t see the mother, but I guaran-damn-tee you she’s nearby. Real nearby.” And Dylan shot for the door. This appeared a lot and some of them were worse than the examples I gave. It made my teeth grind. There was something very off in the dialogue. It is probably something only I noticed and it is really hard to pinpoint. The best way I can describe it is that the characters started off having a coherent conversation with each other and then suddenly one would say something somewhat random and the conversation split. They'd still be talking to each other but sounded like they were having two different conversations.The two leads, Dylan and Katie, were in their thirties and yet I felt like I was reading about a couple of 16-year-olds. Sometimes their personalities would show this, but a lot of it was also in the things they said."I just Frenched a movie star.""Okay, the bottom line here is— he’s ready Freddy and I am not a one-night stand."“The second I saw him I couldn’t breathe for a minute, like a full minute. Then when I saw him at Jack’s it made me feel all tickly inside, but it was just one of those things. Seeing a cute, sexy guy and thinking, wow.""All he had here was the most awesome woman he’d ever met...""He blamed Katie Malone’s boobs, large, luminous eyes and easy laughter. The boobs weren’t extraordinary. In fact they were kind of small, but they certainly spoke to him." I mean . . . really?The story was bland and predictable. Nothing close to what it could have been. I would have anticipated predictable if this were just a standalone book, but with seventeen books in front of it I was hoping there would be a stronger story backing up this installment. That may be my fault. I should know by now to keep my expectations low. In this story Dylan Childress is a former child star of a TV sitcom (think Jonathan Taylor Thomas of Home Improvement fame – seriously, the description of him in the book totally made me think of JTT, but as a Hollywood "bad boy"). He's a love 'em and leave 'em type of guy. Not in the horrendous-dick sort of way but in the severe-childhood-family-issues way. So he doesn't form lasting relationships and he never dates mothers. Until, of course, he meets Katie Malone and her twins on the side of the road one night. Oh, you think I mean her twin boys in the backseat of her car? No, her wet t-shirt ensconced breasts. Though he did like the kids, too. He was only on a quick vacation in Virgin River as he lives in Montana. But after he meets Katie he prolongs what was to be four days into four weeks.For the most part their getting together was fairly cute. They had several dates before physical action, which is something I love. The audience actually gets to read about them getting to know each other, which is another thing I love. Dylan was upfront with Katie from the beginning. Told her about his usual "no dating single moms" rule and why he had it in the first place – his messed up childhood. Her response to the baring of his soul? “You call this a date?” Nice. (Almost equally annoying to me was later on when she tells him about her late husband and he responds with, “Let’s warm up the omelet.”) Dylan also told her about his aviation business back in Montana and that he would have to leave soon because he had to ensure that his staff would have jobs and he may have to do something he really doesn't want to do to make sure he can keep the business afloat. It's when the inevitable comes that this book takes a nose dive that almost had me flouncing. Spoilers ahead because I can't rage properly and not give the story away. But I'm sure you've already figured out the entire plot. It's not that hard. Dylan leaves and decides they should make a clean break. Katie agrees, had decided in the beginning to have this as a fling, and pushes him away. At first she understands but because she, of course, fell in love with him she gets sad and irrational. She starts off saying that he's never going to be an ordinary guy doing ordinary work. Uh, what? He had been out of show business for twenty years! He's a pilot in Montana! Of course, she sees him in tabloids upon his return to L.A., the worst of which is him hugging a co-star he hadn't seen in 20 years, and surmises he's gone back to his "old ways" within forty-eight hours. Keep in mind there were no promises made before he left. They agreed to split amicably.Then she really gets pissed off and starts hating him. She acts like he used her, and lied to her, and abandoned her all on purpose. Like he promised her forever and then skipped out of town without a word. Even though he made sure to explain everything fully, she agreed with him, and he made sure to say goodbye to her. I wanted to reach into the book and bitchslap the hell out of her. She was an utter freaking moron from almost the moment he left.Guess what? I bet you can't guess. Actually, I'm poor and that's a sucker bet because obviously you can guess what happens. Of course – OF FREAKING COURSE (and if you're wondering why I've said "of course" about twenty times in this review, it's because it was that damn banal) – doh, PREGGERS! Why wouldn't she get pregnant? Why would this not take such a typical turn? Will she tell Dylan? Nope. Why would he have a right to know about his child? And everyone around her only cares about her telling him so he can write her a check, not because he should know about his kid. This news sets off her over-protective brother, Connor, who has already been raging about Dylan being the scum of the earth right along side his idiot sister. So now he's out for blood and acting like Dylan knocked her up, found out, and ran like the wind. Because that makes a lot of fucking sense. I promise you that I'm taking a lot of the absolute stupid out of everything these characters said and did (I should have written this days ago when my rage was still fresh, my status updates give an idea of what I was feeling).I didn't want Dylan to come back. He didn't deserve to be saddled with a moron and her moron family (except the kids, who were cool) who'd treat him like crap when he didn't earn it. But, this is a romance novel, so he must return. But not before having to deal with his scummy, using, chemically dependent extended family who only got in touch with him for what he might be able to do for them. He had to change his phone number and specifically called Katie to give her his new number and tell her that he missed her. Twice. Her response: 'uh huh, that's nice, gotta go.' He reached out to her and she still acted like he's the devil that ran away. He goes back to Virgin River because he can't stand not being with Katie. He's willing to do whatever he needs to do to figure out a way to be with her, even though his life is in Montana and he could be working in L.A. for awhile. What greets him when he gets back? Katie treating him like womanizer scum and her unhinged brother immediately throwing fists at him."And you abandoned her,” Conner ground out between clenched teeth. “Left her pregnant and alone!” Really? I didn't know a man could do that when he didn't know about the pregnancy. Way to forget your ESP on that shit, Dylan! Dylan immediately starts groveling to Katie like he did something wrong and she was, in any way, misled or lied to and didn't make the conscious choice to enter into a fling with him. She acts like a fucking martyr. Like he should have to earn her forgiveness. She dismissed the residual issues he had from his childhood like they were absolutely nothing, using his honesty with her against him. Yes, they were an emotional crutch for him, but the pain of it was real. She acted like he should have said "screw it" to his business and everyone relying on him for their livelihoods to stay with her (both of them without work and raising two kids). It doesn't matter to her that he kept in touch with her and told her he missed her, doesn't matter that he came back, doesn't matter that he didn't leave her for his sake but to save other people's jobs. She continued to push him away and act like a victim while refusing to tell him him about the baby – she was trying to push him out of town first. Why in the hell would he even want to be with such a callous, self-involved bitch? Yet he kept going on about how she was the best woman he'd ever known (next to his grandmother, which is the only blood family member he claimed). In the end Dylan's tenacity and her brother's crazy backed Katie into a corner and she had to tell him. Afterward, she stopped fighting him and her feelings for him and they began a real relationship. Meanwhile, I just wanted her to get eaten by the bear they had talked about the entire book. The book got tolerable again at this point and my rage subsided, but the predictability did not. There is one thing that kind of saved this a little in the end for me. Anyone reading the book had to know it was coming from the moment Katie and the twins moved into their cottage, but it didn't play out perfectly. One of the twins runs off into the woods and gets lost. Then DYLAN GETS MAULED BY A BEAR! That was amazing! Yes, it was only one swipe, but she fucked his back up. Apparently, bear maulings are freaking awesome. Katie agreeing to move to Montana within hours of being there for a visit was really silly, especially after she lamented in the beginning of the book about how the boys needed stability because of the turmoil of the last year and she wanted to keep them rooted in one place. That said, I really appreciated that Dylan didn't have to give up everything for Katie. I was afraid he would considering how entitled she felt about everything regarding him. The story could have stood more Dylan bonding with the boys, but their scenes together were rather cute. I especially liked when he could finally tell them apart. It just wasn't enough to make up for the lackluster writing, predictable story, and rage inducing heroine. This was the first Robyn Carr novel I've read, and I can't say that I'm all too inclined to pick up another one. If this were a debut I would consider giving her a chance down the road, but this is the seventeenth installment of this series. I don't think there's much of a chance of a change in her writing style to something I'd enjoy. I was going to rate this 1.5, but the bear made it a solid 2.