At twenty-five, after five years as her mother’s caregiver, it’s time for Shelby to experience freedom and adventure. Time for travel, college and romance. But when she visits Virgin River, she runs into Luke Riordan, decidedly “not” whom she has in mind. A handsome Blackhawk pilot, Luke exited the army after twenty years, four wars and having been shot out of the sky three times. At thirty-eight he’s tough and jaded. His major was in one-night stands, with a minor in commitment avoidance.
Technically, these two are all wrong for one another. But sometimes what you want and what you need are two different things…two very “good” things.
This book may contain explicit intimate scenes, so if you are not 18+ then I probably wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers.
Shelby, Walt’s niece, who we met in a previous book, decides to move to Virgin River after her mom passes from an illness to be closer to her only living family – Walt, Vanessa, and Tommy. She is young, vivacious, and has never gotten to experience life like a regular twenty five year old has since she has taken care of her mom since she was nineteen. I wouldn’t say she is naive, just in experienced in certain areas of life, such as men and relationships.
He had known from the moment he saw her that she was dangerous, but he’d had no idea how lethal. She had pulled feelings to the surface that he thought he’d been in control of and now it was here—he felt it all and he was completely lost. Terrified. He adored her. He couldn’t stand the thought of this ending. He had felt something almost this deep and powerful once before, when he was much younger. He had been twenty-four when he found the beautiful, raven-haired Felicia. In her arms, in her body, he had come to life. He’d never fallen so hard before, and certainly not since. He had been surprised by the passion and commitment he felt, but he let it sweep him away. He loved her hard for a year, and then he had to leave on a mission. He went to Somalia. When the conflict was at its worst, it was her face in his mind that helped him get through, gave him purpose, something strong and powerful to fight for. He had pledged his life to her; he was going to love her till the day he died. When he got home he found out it had all been a lie; she had never been his. She’d been unfaithful since before he left; she cut him loose the first day he was back. It had been an ugly, bitter parting that left everyone scarred—mostly him. To say his heart was ripped apart didn’t touch it. For a couple of years at least the pain was so bad he thought it might kill him. When the pain stopped, he was empty inside. He made a firm resolution: that would never happen to him again. His involvement with women was purely recreational from that point on. He wasn’t about to be vulnerable to a woman, open himself to that kind of pain. Yet beside him, all gentle and sweet, was an incredible woman. He wanted to pull her into his arms, tell her how much he loved her, how far he’d go to make her happy, beg her to either change her plans or include him. But he wouldn’t. It was too risky. Another deal like the last one would kill him. He wouldn’t give his heart. The problem was, without meaning to, without wanting to, he had.
Shelby first meets Luke – a new character, a black hawk pilot – as she arrives in Virgin River. Luke is considered somewhat of a bad boy, scruffy, a man’s man, rides a motorcycle, and doesn’t do serious relationships. And he definitely doesn’t have any romantic flings with someone of her age. When he sees her in Jack’s bar, his first thought is that she is eighteen, when she really is twenty five. He thinks she is too young and inexperienced for someone like him, but he can’t resist the pull he feels towards her and she him.
“I think I’m the only woman you’ve loved in forever. And you were going to pitch me out that fast, just because I make you nervous. I thought you didn’t trust me, but now I think you don’t trust yourself.” She shook her head. “I don’t want a man like that. I need a man with guts, who’s sure of himself. Confident enough to stand by me. I need a man who’s not afraid to take a risk or two for something important.” “I’ve taken a risk or two,” he said. “And you don’t scare me. Come up here on the porch.” “No. Not until you say that if we stay solid, there will be a real relationship and a family. I don’t want any of this ‘I don’t get involved’ shit. It’s all crap, Luke. You can have some time to be sure, I’m patient. But I’m not giving you up.” He smiled at her. “I don’t need time to be sure. I know how I feel.” “Still on that? Still that ‘never gonna happen’ bullshit?” “Okay, I guess it could happen,” he said. “If it did happen, it would happen with you. I just always thought you deserved more.” “More than everything I’ve ever wanted in the world? See what an idiot you turned out to be?” He had to laugh. She was something, this woman. “Shelby, come here. I don’t have to think about it—you’re the most solid thing I’ve ever had in my life. Now come here.” “I thought I wasn’t enough for you—but I was too much,” she said. “And you don’t get to decide what I deserve. What I deserve is a man who looks at me grow fat on his baby and feels pride. Love and pride.” “Okay then,” he said. “I love you. Come here.” “Not good enough. You have to say something to convince me this is worth the gamble. I came a long way and I came alone. I was betting on you, on us. I love you and you love me and I’m sick of screwing around. Say the right thing for once. Say something profound.” He stared at her and his smile slowly faded. He put his hands on his hips. He took a deep breath and felt tears gather in his eyes. “You’re all I need to be happy, Shelby,” he said. “You’re everything I need…” He actually surprised her. Her arms dropped from over her chest and she gaped at him for a second. “You’re everything,” he said. “It scares me to death, but I want it all with you. I want you for life. I want what you want, and I want it right now.” “Huh?” “Everything, Shelby. I want you to be the lead in my shoes that keeps me on the ground. The mother of my children. My best friend, my wife, my mistress. It’s a tall order.” He took a breath. “If you won’t quit, I won’t.” “You’re sure about that?” she asked him. “Sure it scares the hell out me you’ll change your mind? Or sure I want it all? Oh, yeah, honey. I’m sure.” “I won’t change my mind,” she said softly. “I can’t hear you!” he yelled. “I can’t hear you because you won’t come out of the frickin’ rain!” She ran up the porch steps and into his arms.
Shelby has dreams of traveling the world and going to college, experience life that she never got to, but what she didn’t plan on when coming to Virgin River was falling in love with Luke. His age – he’s thirteen years older – doesn’t bother her a bit, but while he starts to fall for her, he still doubts things. He still thinks she needs to get out there and experience life, live a little, plus he is afraid to fully commit to her due to him getting burned when he was younger – his wife cheated on him, got pregnant by another man, and left him – so he eventually pushed her away when everything was good for them.
He entered the bathroom just in time to see her lowering herself into the tub. Her long hair was pinned up on her head and there were bubbles. It was in his mind to pass her a beer and sit on the closed toilet lid to talk with her while she was in the bath, but then another thought was inspired. Luke had never in his life even contemplated a bubble bath. He put the beer on the sink, dropped his towel and got in. “You’re going to make a flood!” she said with a laugh. “This tub isn’t quite big enough,” he complained, sitting to face her, the faucet jabbing him in the back. He pushed his long legs past her hips, lifted her legs to drape them over his thighs and pulled her toward him, into his arms. “You’re acting crazy,” she said, laughing. “I’m impatient,” he said, his lips on her neck. “I can hardly get through the day, waiting for you.” “I’m not quite freshened up yet,” she said. “I’ll help with that,” he said, picking up the soap. He ran the soap smoothly over her shoulders, down her back, over her breasts, under her arms, bringing low, delighted hums from her when he lathered her up. Then he took the face cloth and gently rinsed her.
“What was your perfect line?” he asked. “It’s just silly….” “No, tell me. I want to know.” “It’s just a line. A fantasy line. You can’t steal it—it wouldn’t be the same if I fed it to you. And if you use it on some other woman, I’m going to tell my Uncle Walt you did something horrible to me so he kills you.” “Shelby, we’re naked and just had unbelievable sex—death threats right now are rude. Mind your manners. Tell me the perfect line.” She was quiet for a minute. She chewed on her bottom lip a little, thinking it over. Then in a very soft voice she said, “You’re all I need. To be happy.” Then she lifted her eyelids and connected with his eyes. She smiled shyly. “Just a line. Writing screenplays or romantic novels was once on my to-do dream list.” He ran his hand over her honey hair. He kissed her temple. “Shelby,” he said softly, “I think you’re all I need to be happy.” She looked at him for a long time. She smiled into his eyes. “In my fantasy, he doesn’t say ‘I think.”
Shelby decides it’s time to see the world and settle on a school in Sacramento l, Luke is utterly miserable that she is gone and it takes the meddling of his brothers for him to wake up and see the light, that Shelby and him belong together.
“I thought I explained this,” Luke said, sounding annoyed. “She’s a beautiful young girl. She might be a chronological twenty-five, but subtract a few years of her being tied to an invalid. She would be carded in most bars. I was almost her first flirt! She should do things! Experience things! She’s been patient and dedicated a long time—she has to get out there and…” “And not take a chance on you and then realize in a couple years that she was hasty,” Aiden supplied. “Aw, what the hell,” Luke said, standing up and running a hand across the back of his neck. “She’s not ready to make that kind of choice. She might think she is, but she’s not!” “Because you weren’t?” “She’s too young!” “Because you were?” Luke didn’t respond. He turned his back on his brother. Aiden stood up and approached Luke’s back. He put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “You weren’t too young when you married Felicia. You weren’t too naive or inexperienced when you were twenty-five. You had it all—you were sharp and loyal and you knew how you felt. You had enough passion and commitment to never change your mind. You got screwed up by someone who wasn’t your match. I’m sorry, buddy, but it wasn’t your fault. Jesus, will you ever let yourself off the hook for that? You didn’t cheat on her! She went out on you!” “She wasn’t enough,” he said. Then he laughed ruefully and shook his head. “That’s what she said to me….” “Felicia?” Luke turned around. “Shelby. She said she knew she wasn’t enough….” “Oh, Christ,” Aiden said in a breath.
I really enjoyed Shelby and Luke together, when you look past their age differences, they really go well together. I love how she softened his hard exterior up a bit and made him realize he does not ant her in his life permanently – that she made him step out of his comfort zone, to learn to trust another woman with his heart.
“Shelby is a wonderful young woman. You’re good together.” “Mother…” “It isn’t just her. Oh, it’s obvious she loves you. But it’s also you. The second she’s near you, all those tense lines in your face relax and you soften up. That grumpy, self-protective shield drops and you’re warm and affectionate. She’s good for you, she brings out your best, makes you fun. You have something special with her.” “She’s twenty-five.” Maureen shook her head. “I don’t think that’s relevant. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with how you two communicate…” “There are things you don’t understand about Shelby,” he said. “She’s not just young, she hasn’t had many relationships. She’s been taking care of her mother and hasn’t really looked at the world. In a lot of ways, she’s a child.” “I know all about her mother, but she’s no child,” Maureen said. “It takes maturity and courage to do what she did. So she didn’t have a lot of relationships with young men, it doesn’t mean she lacks worldly experience. And your age doesn’t matter to her.” “It will. I’m too old. I’m not going to stand still while she gets older. She’ll be thirty-five and I’ll be almost fifty. She’d find herself with an old man.” “At fifty?” She laughed. “I liked fifty,” she said with a dismissive shrug. “Fifty was good. I was only twenty-three when I married your father and I never thought of him as too old for me. To the contrary, it made me feel better in so many ways, to be with a mature man, a man of experience who didn’t have doubts anymore. He was stable and solid. It brought me comfort. And he was awful good to me.” Luke straightened his shoulders. “I’m not getting married. Shelby will move on, Mom. She wants a career. A young husband. She wants a family.” “You know this?” Maureen asked. “Of course I know that,” he said. “You think we haven’t talked? I didn’t lead her on. And she didn’t lead me on. She knows I don’t want a wife, don’t want children…” Maureen was quiet for a long moment. Finally she said, “You did once.” Luke let go a short laugh that was tinged with his inner rage. “I’m cured of that.” “You have to think about this. The way you’ve managed your life since Felicia hasn’t exactly brought you peace. I suppose it’s normal when a man gets hurt to avoid anything risky for a while, but not for thirteen years, Luke. If the right person comes along, don’t assume it can’t work just because it didn’t work once, a long, long time ago. I know this young woman as well as I ever knew Felicia. Luke, Shelby is nothing like her. Nothing.” Luke pursed his lips, looked away for a second and then took a slow sip of coffee. “Thank you, Mom. I’ll remember that.” She stepped toward him. “It’s going to hurt just as much to let her go as it hurt you to be tossed away by Felicia. Remember that.” “You know, I don’t think I’m the one guilty of assumptions here,” he said impatiently. “What makes you think all people want a tidy little marriage and children? Huh? I’ve been damn happy the past dozen years. I’ve been challenged and successful in my own way, I’ve had a good time, good friends, a few relationships…” “You’ve been treading water,” she said. “You’re marking the years, not living them. There’s more to life, Luke. I hope you let yourself see—you’re in such a good place right now—you can have it all. You put in your army years and it left you with a pension while you’re still young. You’re healthy, smart, accomplished, and you have a good woman. She’s devoted to you. There’s no reason you have to be alone for the rest of your life. It’s not too late.”
Another aspect I like about this book is that Robyn explores an older relationship with Walt (sixty two, Vanni and Tommy’s dad) and Muriel (fifty six, movie star). Even though they are old enough to be my parents, I didn’t mind it at all reading about them and seeing how their budding relationship grows.
“Go after her, Luke. Tell her the truth, that it scares you to death but you want her.”
Another character that was included in this book was Art, a thirty year old man with Down syndrome whom Luke looks after. I’ve never read a book with a character such as he, which I found different and interesting.