"Fans of Virgin River rejoice, Carr is moving to wine country."
Reviewed by Sandi Shilhanek
Posted July 1, 2010
SUMMER IN SONOMA is the story of four women
who have been friends since they were in high school,
Cassie, Julie, Beth, and Marty. Marty and Julie are married
and each have children, but there the similarities end.
Cassie and Beth are both in the medical profession. Cassie
an ER nurse, and Beth an OB-GYN. Both are also single,
though Cassie would like to have a husband and family, but
Beth is focused on her career.
Not being a writer I would think it would be hard to have
four strong main characters and to merge them into one story
that flows from point to point and makes your reader care
equally about each person and how their story resolves. I
would also think it's hard to allow enough time for each
character to get the reader's attention, and for them to
have time for their story to resolve to the reader's
satisfaction when the last page is turned.
Ms. Carr does all of the above and does it quite well. At
first I was worried, because Debbie Macomber has been doing
stories of friendship for a long time, and while I have
loved her earlier stories, I've been moving away from them
lately...so when I realized this was the focus I wasn't sure
that I would feel for each character
the emotion that the author wanted to pull from me, and that
when the book was finished I would feel regret that I was
leaving Cassie, Julie, Beth, Marty and their significant
others and families behind.
However, that is just what I felt when I set down SUMMER IN
SONOMA, and while the conflict resolution is there for each
person I would love to see a sequel set a few years in the
future to know that everyone is established and living life
to the fullest.
With this move away from my beloved Virgin River books to
another love of mine...women's fiction Robyn Carr has cemented
her place as my favorite must have author.
They've been best friends since seventh grade. But this
summer, teetering on the threshold of thirty, four women are
going to need each other more than
Cassie has sworn off romance
after yet another bad date. Yet deep down, she's still
looking for Mr. Forever. A long-haired biker doesn't figure
into her plans, so where's the harm in touring the back
roads of Sonoma on a Harley with Walt
Julie married her high
school sweetheart—who can get her pregnant with a mere
glance—too young and now wonders how her life became all
about leaky faucets and checkbook balances. Maybe love isn't
enough to sustain the hottest couple in
Marty's firefighter husband
has forgotten all about romance, and an old flame begins to
look mighty tempting.
Beth, a busy
doctor trapped in a body that's betrayed her yet again, is
becoming a difficult patient and a secretive
Life can change in an instant…or a summer.
And having old friends to lean on can only up the chances of
happily ever after.
ExcerptCassie and Ken walked out of the bar together at
seven-thirty. In the rapidly descending darkness of a
perfect June night, he pulled her into his arms and covered
her mouth in a powerful kiss. Wow, she thought. It was a
good kiss—consuming and deep. His hands were running up and
down her back. Then one slipped around her side, reaching
for a breast, and she withdrew. She pushed him away, laughed
nervously and said, "Hold on, pardner. Getting a little
ahead of yourself, aren't you?"
"Sorry," he said. "I've been looking at you, wondering, you
"Well, wonder no more, big fella—rest assured I am
definitely a girl. Now, don't we have plans? Live music in
"That's right," he said, laughing. Then, again, "Sorry."
As he walked her to his car, she said, "Girls don't get mad
at guys for having romantic ideas. But you do have brakes, I
"Good. You were moving a little fast for me."
The car was parked at the far end of the lot and she
thought, Ahh, he's car proud. He'd rather walk across the
lot than risk a dent or scratch from neighboring cars. He
opened the door to the passenger side and she slipped in.
She immediately pulled on her seat belt while he got in the
He started the car, but didn't put it in gear. Instead, he
reached over to her side and began to gently caress her
upper arm. He leaned toward her across the console, his
eyelids becoming heavy, his mouth slightly open. It was like
kiss-on-demand, but at least he was moving more slowly,
giving her time, waiting for her to respond. She met his
lips for a sweet, short kiss. He moved over her mouth with
precision, but when she pulled away from his mouth, laughing
nervously again, he grabbed her upper arms in his strong
grip. "Cassie," he said in a breath. "What do you say we
rethink the music? Maybe skip it?"
"I don't think so. I was looking forward to it," she said,
her heart rate speeding up a little. She started to smell an
"Come on," he begged. "Think about it. You won't be sorry…."
She did a quick memory check. She'd been out for happy hour
with friends from work when she met him. They'd talked for a
long time. She was an emergency room nurse, he was a
paramedic—they'd never met before but she did a lot of
business with the fire department and had come to think of
them as the good guys. He had been polite, attentive,
interested. He was a nice-looking guy with a sense of humor.
She'd taken his cell phone number and agreed to meet him
again, this time for a cup of coffee. That's how you play
safe dating. He'd been a gentleman, walking her to her car
after coffee and saying goodbye with a brief, platonic hug.
Then she'd given him her cell phone number. So, after a few
getting-to-know-you conversations, she'd accepted a date for
live music in the park. She still hadn't let him pick her
up; they'd agreed to meet at a bar because finding each
other in a park full of people could be difficult.
His behavior now took her by surprise. She'd have to back
him down quick. She'd been attracted to him, but no way was
she ready to take this to the next level.
"I don't have to think about it," she said, her palms
pressed firmly against his chest. "I was looking forward to
some music. It's a beautiful night. And what you apparently
have in mind is not on the agenda in the parking lot of the—"
Her words were cut off as he slipped a big hand around the
back of her head and pulled her, roughly, onto his mouth.
She pushed at him, making unintelligible sounds beneath his
lips, but he was actually climbing across the console while
silencing her with his mouth. For a guy about six feet tall,
this was unimaginable, but he seemed to do it with ease. In
seconds, he was straddling her hips, towering over her so
fast she hardly knew what was happening.
"Hey!" she said when he released her lips. "Hey, what are
She was thinking quickly. There were a few cars around his,
but he had parked away from the crowd and his windows were
darkly tinted. Her next thought was, How is this possible?
This is a nice guy! This is a paramedic! My best friend's
husband is a paramedic; I know a lot of their friends!
They're salt of the earth— angels!
But he was pressing her back against the seat, devouring her
mouth, breathing real hard and fast through his nose. He
popped her seat belt off and although she pushed and her
protests were lost as whimpers beneath his mouth, she was
focused on the logistics of his attack. He couldn't possibly
plan to rape her in the front bucket seat of an SUV? She was
wearing shorts; freeing her from her clothes would not be
Then her seat began to recline—he had his hand on the
button. He was slowly laying her down. She was beginning to
understand his plan. If he got her flat, he could pull down
her shorts. If he raped her and let her loose, if he didn't
leave bruises or marks, he'd claim she wasn't forced. She'd
run her share of rape kits in the E.R., heard her share of
he-said-she-said stories while a skeptical detective took
notes. Well, by God, she was at least going to force him to
leave bruises! She began to kick and push and wiggle,
throwing her head and body wildly back and forth, side to side.
"Stop it," he said. "Stop it now. Come on. We know what we
"Get off me, you son of a bitch!"
"Aw, Cassie," he laughed, as if she'd uttered some kind of
endearment. "Baby, come on—I'm totally into you!"
"You're crazy! Let me go! Get off me! Now!"
"Come on, come on, settle down…."
"No!" she screamed. Just scream, she told herself. Bite,
kick, scream, yell, hit, gouge, anything. She pushed at him
with one hand, searching for the door handle with the other.
Then, failing to find it, she pounded on the window, hoping
to break it, screeching and turning her head away from his
mouth so she could get volume. She tried head butting him,
but he held her shoulders down and lifted his head back, and
he laughed. She was moving around so violently, the car was
actually bouncing. He tried to grab her wrist but she socked
him in the eye. He grunted in pain and growled, but he
didn't hit back. She continued banging on the window and
yelling. She knew one thing—he couldn't get her out of this
parking lot without moving to his side of the car, over that
console, and by God she was going to fling herself out of
the car before he could take her anywhere.
Suddenly there was a sharp rapping on her window. "Hey!"
someone with a deep male voice yelled. "Hey!"
"Oh, God," she cried, suddenly overcome with relief and
hope. "Help!" she screamed. "Hel—!" And then Ken put his
hand over her mouth.
Ken lowered the window an inch. "Hey, go away, pal. We're
busy!" And he powered the window back up.
Cassie bit his hand as hard as she could and he jumped so
abruptly, he hit his head on the ceiling of the car.
Cassie heard the man with the deep voice try to open the
locked door. Then the window's glass suddenly cracked and,
like a spiderweb, spread into a million cracks. But it was
tempered glass and didn't break, merely crystallized,
leaving a dent in the glass where it had been hit. A sharp
object she vaguely recognized as a key popped through the
compromised glass and started boring a hole into it,
releasing diamondlike pebbles of glass that fell into the
car. Ken decided to return to the driver's seat. "What the
hell are you doing, man?" he screamed at the intruder.
A huge hand attached to a huge arm entered through the hole
in the window and reached down to flip the lock. The door
opened instantly and Cassie stumbled out. She was gasping as
she looked into a face far more frightening than Ken's. This
was a giant wearing a tight white T-shirt covered by a black
leather vest adorned with chains. On the arm that had freed
her was a tattoo of a naked lady. He had a lot of facial
hair—long, thick sideburns and a handlebar moustache that
framed his mouth. His hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
With his hands on her elbows to help her stand upright, he
asked, "You hurt?" His voice was very menacing; he frowned
blackly. Cassie was five-three and this guy had a foot on
her, at least.
"No," she said, gasping. "Yes. I mean, no. He…" She couldn't
He pulled her away from the SUV and turned her around so
that he stood between her and the car. "You need the police?
Or the hospital?" he asked as he pulled a cell phone out of
his pants pocket.
"No," she said, shaking her head. "You were in time." Then
she hiccupped and choked; a fat tear ran down her cheek.
"Can I call someone for you?" he asked, his voice
Suddenly the SUV was in gear, and Ken—the polite,
salt-of-the-earth paramedic—took off. The passenger door
slowly drifted closed as the car banked and turned, leaving
some skid marks behind.
"My purse…" she whimpered.
Suddenly the SUV skidded to a stop just before exiting the
parking lot. Through the broken passenger door window flew
an object, crashing to the ground. Then the car sped away.
"Your purse," the big guy said. "Stay here." He walked
across the parking lot, squatted to return scattered items
from her purse back into it, then brought it back to her.
"Here you go," he said, holding it out.
Cassie looked up at the guy who had saved her. A biker dude.
He looked scruffy and scary, like he could be a Hells Angel
or something. But Ken, so clean-cut, turned out to be the
"God," she said. "I never saw that coming. If you hadn't…"
"You okay? Because I can call the police. I got the plate
"I wasn't hurt—just scared to death. I swear, that shouldn't
"It looked pretty bad there for a minute."
"For a minute, it was pretty bad. I think maybe he was going
to—" She stopped. She couldn't say it.
"Hey, now. You sure you're okay?" the guy asked again.
Cassie fished around in her purse for her keys, her hands
shaking. "Yeah," she said with a sniff. "I'll be fine. I think."
"You want me to follow you home or something? Make sure you
don't have any trouble?"
She let a huff of laughter escape through her tears. Imagine
having a guy like this follow her, know where she lived?
Suddenly the world didn't make any sense. "I won't go
straight home. I'll go to my girlfriend's. She has a
protective German shepherd and a six-foot-two-inch husband."
"You sure you don't want to just check in with the police?"
he asked, his brows furrowing. "Talk to them about it?"
"She also has three kids," Cassie said.
The big man laughed, a deep and rumbling sound. "Well, I
guess that oughta hold anyone back."
Another laugh puffed out of Cassie, but then she instantly
plummeted into tears. Loud tears. Her purse dropped from her
hands and she leaned against him, wailing.
"Whoa, kiddo," he said. "I think maybe I should buy you a
cup of coffee, get you a little straightened out before you
"I'm not… I wasn't… I haven't been drinking or anything,"
she finally choked out.
"I didn't mean to sober you up," he said with a laugh. He
bent down and picked up the purse and then, with a big arm
draped around her shoulders, he gently, protectively, led
her back toward the bar.
Looking up at him, she asked, "What if he comes back?"
"He's not coming back," the man said. "You're okay for now.
Come on, let's have a cup of coffee. Calm down a little.
Then you go on to your girlfriend's. Huh?"
By the time he got all that out, they were nearly at the
door to the bar. She wiped at her cheeks, her eyes. "I
really don't know what to do," she said.
"I know," he answered. "Coffee, that's what we do."
In just a few minutes she was sitting in a corner booth,
staring into a cup of black coffee, across from one big,
mean-looking biker. And he had a cup of coffee, too.
Cassie could hardly lift her head; she was exhausted,
frightened, wrung out, relieved. But as she slowly realized
what she really was, she looked up in some surprise, right
into the amazing blue eyes of her rescuer. "God, I'm so
embarrassed," she said in a breath.
"You shouldn't be embarrassed," he said. "You didn't attack
him. He should be embarrassed, but he's probably not. Bet
he's scared, though."
"Not necessarily. You know, it's not too late to call the
police. My little brother's a cop, actually. He's not
working tonight, but we could still call him. He'd be good
for some advice, at least." Then he laughed. "Of all us
boys, he was about the worst one. Figures he'd turn into a
cop. And a real hard-case cop, too. Not a lot of gray area
with him. Listen, how well do you know that guy?"
"Apparently not well enough," she said, shaking her head.
"We met at happy hour, then had a coffee date and talked on
the phone quite a bit. He works with people I know. I guess."
"Well, he said he was a paramedic and my best friend's
husband is a paramedic. I know a lot of their friends. I
thought we had mutual friends. Jeez. What if he was just lying?"
"License plates don't lie."
"How did you know to help me?"
He smiled. "You're kidding, right? I heard you. The car was
rocking. Two people in the front seat? I figured if it was
consensual, you'd both be in the backseat." He shrugged. "It
was worth checking out."
"What did you use to break that window?"
He lifted a hand. He stared at his own knuckles for a
second. They were bruised and swelling.
"Holy cow," she said. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. It'll be fine." Then he grinned. "Maybe he'll try to
sue me or something, huh? I'd love that. So, I'm Walt. Walt
"Cassie," she said. Then she shook her head. "You must think
I'm pretty stupid."
"Doesn't sound like it," he answered.
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