This is a really good start to a series, if only for the location. I've actually visited that area of Northern California and I think Carr does a great job of creating the atmosphere for the reader.
When we begin the story, Melinda Monroe is on her way to Virgin River to take a year assignment as a nurse practitioner/midwife. She's desperately grieving her late husband, murdered in LA just nine months before. She's running away from the chaos of the urban ER and the pitying looks of her friends and colleagues. A quaint little town seems like just the ticket.
But, when she gets to her promised lodging she sees that everything has been misrepresented to her. The cabin she's expected to live in is old, trashed and falling apart. The doctor she's supposed to work with isn't expecting her and doesn't want her. Nothing is quaint or cute. The only bright spot is a bar, owned by Jack Sheridan, across the street from the doctor's office.
Since Mel makes up her mind immediately to make a hasty exit from this situation, she has one foot out the door for at least the first half of the book. Things happen and she decides she'll stay another few days, then another few weeks and then maybe another month and then ... well, it's a romance novel.
Jack is a great hero. He's a veteran who loves fishing, hunting and serving drinks in his bar. He's the town favorite, taking care of people as his talents warrant. He's also darned sexy. An ex-US marine, he's still in buff shape and has a simply, decent outlook on life.
Mel is a bit more complicated. She's very well rendered as a transplanted city girl. Naive in that way that only the sophisticated urbanite can be, she makes up for it by being a fast learner. And having a lot of compassion and competence at her job.
I thought the chemistry between the two leads was exceptional. They hit it off right from the start and never had any manufactured fights. The development of their relationship was very natural and lovely.
The book loses a star because it started meandering right after they hooked up. They became a couple and the story just lost all its focus. I kept wondering 'where is this thing going?' It is, of course, a setup for a whole series, so some things were not fully dealt with. That's fine, but I didn't see, as a reader, what the overall goal of the story was supposed to be. Not that I should be able to see what's going to happen next, more that I should feel there's a 'finish line'. The ending of the book felt almost arbitrary.
Part of the problem (a very small part) was that I bought this as part of a bundle on my Kindle. So, the percentages don't pertain to this book, but to all four books. That can throw you off when you're looking to see how much more of the book you've got. But the story arc should be clear enough that you can basically get an idea for yourself and that didn't happen.
So, this is a very solid four star read. I loved the setting, I loved most of the characters (although the jury's out on Hope), and the romance was strong and lovely. The arc and organization was lacking, but that lack certainly didn't cause disaster. I've already started the second book in the series so I'm obviously not put off. I'm on board for the long hall. :D