I think it’s important to preface this post by saying that I know that this is a little bit of a departure from the cottage lifestyle-focused content you’re used to seeing from us here on Love & Specs. We’re taking a slight detour today from fun DIY home decor tutorials, affordable cottage home decor roundups, cottage-cool styling tips, tricks and ideas, casual, comfy, cottage-approved outfit ideas, charming neighborhood tours and unique, cottage-focused travel stories and snaps for a fresh new topic that I just couldn’t be more excited to talk about! And let me say that if you’re a regular around here and so kindly and graciously decide to read on and indulge this brief departure, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I’m pumped you’re game! If you’re new around here, I hope you’ll love this or find it fun and potentially informative/useful all the same! The reason I’m prefacing this with that little disclaimer and thanks for indulging me is because a) I love you guys and value you, your time and your camaraderie so much and b) because I’m so insanely excited to talk about this, and just couldn’t not dive into this because it’s taken up such a huge space in my life as of late. The new topic du jour? Books! Specifically, the 21-book-strong Virgin River book series by Robyn Carr which, if you’re not familiar, was just brought to life on the small screen by way of a very fun, Hallmark-esque Netflix show at the end of 2019.
Want more where this came from? Dive into my other posts filled with romantic book recommendations that are just like the Virgin River series below!
Celebrating Virgin River Season 3 on Netflix With a HUGE List of the Best Books That are Like the Virgin River Books!
So although I know that this is a little bit of a departure from what you’re used to seeing around here, let it be known that I, in fact, consider my love for books and reading as a favorite recreational activity of mine and a huge part of the foundation of the cottage lifestyle I love so much and kind of feel like it’s high time I acknowledged that here! It’s almost silly to me at this point that I haven’t taken a deep dive into the books I’m reading and loving before, since snuggling up in any cottage home or abode or dock or beach we’re currently residing in or on is one of my very, very favorite pastimes and methods of slowing down, disconnecting and filling my heart and my mind in equal measure. Basically, I think that taking the time to enjoy a good book is kind of a pillar of my experience with and love for the cottage lifestyle. It also happens to take up a huge chunk of my free time, and because of that, much like I love connecting with fellow cottage lifestyle, home decor, DIY and casual, comfy style enthusiasts, I love connecting with friends far and wide who love the same kind of storytelling I love, whether it’s a feel-good Hallmark movie, big blockbuster I catch at the movie theater or a page-turner of a book. So there’s that.
One of the other reasons I thought that this would be a really fun topic to tuck into is because I know that after the Netflix show made its debut and received loads of positive feedback, a lot of people are curious about the books that inspired the TV show they fell in love with. So I thought it might be useful for those people to know what they can expect if they’re interested in diving into the book series and getting more where that came from, so to speak. Are the books as good as the TV show? Are they better? Is there more of Mel and Jack and all of the rest of the Virgin River characters we fall in love with on the TV show inside these books? Are all 21 books worth a read? Do you have to read all of them or read them in order to be able to follow the story without confusion? Are these purely PG books that are reflective of the romantic pace of the TV show or are they steamier romance novels or more complex stories?
All these questions and more are answered below, and if you decide that these books sound like a whole lot of fun, you’re in for a treat if you dive in! Author Robyn Carr has created such an enjoyable, relatable cast of characters in the tiny Northern California mountain town of Virgin River and a host of delightfully heartfelt, exciting romances and storylines that all amounted to me filling up almost every second of my free time (and beach time) over the last two months barreling through these books at lightning speed.
Did I Like the Virgin River Book Series?
The most important question. And it’s a very heartfelt, resounding yes! Yes yes yes. In fact, I didn’t just like reading all 21 of these well-crafted, endlessly fun, delightfully romantic, highly addictive books, I loved reading them. I started reading them at the beginning of January and just finished Book #20 last weekend and loved every second I spent inside the world of Virgin River. I loved the characters, the town, the writing, the romance and everything in between and already miss what, by the end, felt like my old friends in Virgin River. I absolutely loved the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris (the books that inspired the beloved True Blood TV show on HBO) and never thought I’d enjoy a literary world as much as the town of Bon Temps and its inhabitants, but I have to say, Virgin River was even more fun for me than that for a variety of reasons. It was like a warm blanket of joy wrapped around me with every word, every page. I couldn’t recommend these books more highly.
Is Virgin River on Netflix Getting a Second Season?
Ah, the million dollar question on the minds of everyone that binged the first season of the Netflix show. The answer? Yes. Netflix has confirmed that Virgin River will be back on the streaming service for Season 2, though no release date has been announced. I think fans are hoping it arrives some time in 2020, and I’m definitely in that crowd! I have no idea where this second season will take us since the storylines and characters in the first season strayed slightly from what was in the Book 1 in the series, Virgin River, but I’m excited to see what they come up with and if they mainly focus on the storyline from Book 2 in the series, Shelter Mountain!
Are The Virgin River Books as Good as the TV Show?
Yes. Actually, they’re better. A 20 book series, as one would expect, provides so much more depth, so much more color, so much more drama, so many more lovable characters and of course, so much more romance than one season of a TV show ever could. The first season of the Netflix show did such a wonderful job, in my opinion, of doing the first book and the world Robyn Carr created justice, but if you felt yourself longing for more after you finished binging the Netflix show, there’s so much more where that came from in the 21 book series. Inside the books in this series, there’s simply just more to love.
What is The Basic Framework of All of the Virgin River Books? What Can I Expect When Reading?
The basic framework of each book goes like this: Each book centers around a new love story between two central characters in the tiny mountain town of Virgin River in Northern California. In the first book, we get to enjoy the rocky love story between widowed midwife and Virgin River newcomer Mel Monroe and Virgin River’s resident heartthrob, honorary mayor, ex-marine and bar/restaurant owner Jack Sheridan. Those two then continue to be fixtures in every book that follow and kind of become the backbone of the town and the book series. Each book falls somewhere in the 400 to 550 page range or thereabouts. Each book includes one (or sometimes two) sex scenes (sorry mom and dad!). Toward the end of each book, Carr typically introduces the next book’s central characters so we have some setup for what’s to come. A lot of the male characters are outdoorsy, ex-military, lumberjack types and typically in their 30s (though there are some young bucks in their 20s and then a couple of silver foxes in their late 50s/60s), most of the female characters are very strong, independent, complex women in their late 20s or 30s, with a lot of single mothers and a few tough-as-nails matriarchs thrown in. All of the books are set in Virgin River, which is a fictional town in Northern California surrounded by towering Redwood trees, the fictional Virgin River (or just The Virgin, as the residents call it), idyllic mountains, charming cabins, quaint cottages or historic Victorians, family farms and a few problematic pot growing operations that are referenced throughout the series. And, spoiler alert, every book has a happy ending and there are very few truly depressing or terribly sad moments, though there are a few realistically sad “real life” moments sprinkled in for good measure.
Where Can I Buy All of the Virgin River Books?
Tracking down all 21 books, in hard copies, can be a challenge to say the least. Especially if you’re trying to read all of them in order. I’ve always been a little bit hesitant to read books on a screen, i.e. a Kindle, iPad or my phone because I certainly can use a break from the screen after a long day on the computer, but after only being able to find a few of the books at my local Barnes & Noble, I realized that if I wanted to read all of them, in order, the easiest way to do that was via iBooks on my iPad. Luckily, I absolutely love reading on my iPad now and because I have iBooks on my phone, and my iPad and iPhone are synced, I can pick up on my phone while waiting in line at the coffee shop, doctor’s office, etc. right where I left off on my iPad. So I would say that the easiest way to find and consume all 20 of the Virgin River books is on an e-reader of some kind.
Are the Characters The Same in the Virgin River Book Series As They Are in the TV Show?
For the most part, yes. The main characters remain mostly unchanged. There are a few additions to the character lineup in the show that we don’t meet in the book. There are also characters thrown into the first season of the TV show that we meet much later in the book series, or that serve a little bit of a different purpose or have slightly different character profiles. Just one example of that is Hope. Hope is a really central character in the first season of the Netflix show and that’s awesome and super fun. I absolutely love her nosy, tough, town busybody character on the show. In the books her character profile is slightly less robust, though still important. There are other characters whose TV-show-to-book translation mirrors that concept, so that’s what you can expect on that front. This is another example of why I think showrunners and writers did an excellent job of bringing the Virgin River world to life on the TV screen taking some really fun, thoughtful creative liberties while still staying mostly true to the exciting, romance-filled world Robyn Carr created for fans of the book series.
Do I Have To Read All 20 of the Virgin River Series Books to Avoid Confusion While Reading Each Individual Book?
You may not be obsessed with all of the books’ love stories, general storylines, central characters or even fringe characters. Rest assured though, it’s all so much more enjoyable if you read every book in this series, in order, and collect the necessary details for the books that follow. The town of Virgin River and the amount of interesting inhabitants grows with each book and those inhabitants are referenced with frequency and fondness after they’ve been introduced, becoming essential to the character dynamics and the deeper, sometimes subtle storylines within the town. So it all makes more sense and the stories have so much more depth if you understand all of the players, their role in the town and how they’re connected. That said, jump to the next question to hear my thoughts on simply reading individual books in this series without reading all 21.
Can Each of the Virgin River Books Be Enjoyed As Standalone Stories, Out of Order?
If you just can’t see yourself tackling every single book in this series, in order, you can definitely enjoy these as standalone books and stories. There’s a chance you may come across fringe characters in a book that you’re not familiar with or who don’t seem like they have proper context, but I don’t think that will majorly hinder your enjoyment of the book overall. Carr always gives healthy context to the central characters in each book and at least briefly touches on most of the other characters’ backstories so their relationships have meaning. If you dive into book 10 without reading all 9 books before it, I’m positive you’ll still love it and won’t feel totally lost.
Are These Virgin River Series Books Just Vapid “Romance Novels”?
I have limited knowledge of what constitutes a “romance novel” and have no idea what the criteria is for including a book or book series in that genre. When I think romance novels the first thing that comes to mind is Danielle Steel, though I’ve never read a Danielle Steel novel, or any other romance novel for that matter. Or maybe I have and just didn’t know it? That said, I think the Virgin River book series technically falls into the romance novel category, but might be more accurately described as a “modern” romance novel. Though I guess I will say that as a newcomer to the genre, this series isn’t what I expected of the romance genre at all. Maybe other romance novel readers can tell me if the Virgin River series is typical of the genre or something altogether different. A love story is certainly the central theme of every single book in this series and it’s not really a spoiler to tell you that they all end well because you’ll figure that out for yourself very quickly (and happily), but for me they feel like plain, good old fashioned fiction, with a heartbeat. These aren’t, by any means, overly gratuitous, super steamy, completely ridiculous storylines, which is what I think I probably unfairly assumed the romance genre was all about. I stand corrected!
So What Were My Favorite of the 20 Virgin River Series Books?
Naturally, I enjoyed some of the Virgin River books more than others, though they were all great. Seriously – I’m not just saying that. I think that whether I enjoyed one book over another was mostly due to my personal connection to or appreciation for the central characters and the love story in each book, and that’s highly personal and preferential in my opinion and has zero to do with the writing. The writing is always good and all of the storylines were enjoyable in their own way. To that end, if I had to choose my favorite books in the Virgin River book series they would be as follows:
What Did I love Most About the Virgin River Books?
One of the things I love the most about these books and love about Robyn Carr’s writing in general is that she writes women, in all their strength and complexity so well. I can’t remember one truly “damsel in distress” moment that didn’t evolve into that female character finding her own strength, her own power and her own mind about the things she was up against. The women are powerful and self-sufficient, the men are powerful and self-sufficient, and they openly appreciate each other’s strengths, and I loved that dynamic and that balance. I also love the simplicity with which the characters in Virgin River live and the honesty, sincerity and integrity with which they make decisions. The characters all have flawed backstories of some kind, rarely pass judgement, are unflappably accepting of each character that enters their orbit and have hearts of pure gold. Romance aside, these are also stories about neighbors being good neighbors, being good to their fellow man, solving problems together as a community, lifting each other up, and being champions of each other. One of the primary purposes of all of these characters in the town of Virgin River is to make sure that things to work out for their neighbors and they’ll give all they’ve got to make that happen for each other. It genuinely had me examining how I problem solve, how much I fret over trivial things and the kind of neighbor and friend I am. I also loved the setting and the landscape Carr so beautifully constructed. It really makes you want to pick up and move to the mountains of Northern California, spending every day in the fresh air amongst endless natural beauty, charming (and sometimes a little menacing) wildlife in a little cabin on the river. Goals!
The Virgin River Series Books in Chronological Order
Now I’m on to the Thunder Point series, which springboards off of the storyline of an interesting character we meet and learn a little bit about in Book 19 of the Virgin River series. If you’re interested in more fun, small-town romance from Robyn Carr, you can read my breakdown of this series, too!