June Hudson grew up in Grace Valley, the daughter of the town doctor. Leaving only to get her medical training, she returned home and followed in her father's footsteps. Some might say she chose the easy, comfortable route... but June knows better. For June, her emergency room is wherever she's needed - or wherever a patient finds her. Always on call, her work is her life, these people her extended family. Which is a good thing, since this is a town where you should have picked your husband in the ninth grade. Grace Valley is not exactly the place to meet eligible men - until an undercover DEA agent suddenly starts appearing at all sorts of strange hours.
My first Reluctant Romantic read was Robyn Carr's Deep in the Valley. After reading Virgin River last year and rather enjoying it, I decided to start safely with an author I've already read. I decided to start with the original trilogy, Grace Valley, because I'm one of those persons who need to read everything in order or go nuts. In this case, it was a bad idea.
Deep in the Valley is really light on romance. In fact, shelving it as romance is probably a mistake. It's more like a mashup of small town and medical novels, if those were genres at all. The undercover DEA agent who is going to be the hero? Doesn't appear until midway through the novel. And he interacts with the heroine a grand total of three times. He has no more than ten sentences on the whole book! It's not a relationship in which one can become invested, definitely. If I hadn't read Virgin River first, I couldn't care less about the budding romance between June Hudson and Jim Post.
The rest of the novel is all over the place and unfocused. The first half drags and it's a bit boring. There are too many characters with similar names and similar voices, and it's difficult to keep track of everyone. Then things finally start happening: an adulterous pastor, a secret pregnancy, two cases of abuse, a DEA raid, a rough birth, the heroine possibly saved by an angel... It was enough to keep me entertained, but it's ultimately a forgettable novel.
Where Carr really shines is in the short romance scenes. She's really good at conveying true emotion - it's easy to believe the characters are really falling for each other. However, as she gives the hero no room for characterization, he comes across as quite stalkerish. I mean, if someone I've just met twice before entered in my house while I'm gone and left flowers on my pillow, I would lock myself inside the house and install alarms asap. And he is 'an impatient lover', which is something June finds very attractive, but that together with his stalkerish stroke and his lack of sentences, makes him look a bit like a psycho.
There was nothing quite so sensual as impatience, nothing so titillating as a man with a weak grasp on self-control, as a lover just dying to posses.
That sentence has the honor of being the first in my newly created collection of awkward romance quotes.
Verdict: I should have kept on reading the Virgin River series.