on 5 August 2013
Picking up where The Wanderer left off, The Newcomer keeps readers up to date on the happenings in the coastal town of Thunder Point. Sarah and Cooper's relationship is still going strong, but Sarah is unsure about whether she should ask for Cooper's advice on the possibility of a job relocation. After one failed marriage and being forced to raise her younger brother on her own, she's used to being independent--but this change could affect more than just Sarah's life. To make matters worse, Cooper has received a mysterious phone call from his ex-fiancée, and he seems to be hiding something. Is their relationship strong enough to handle these hurdles?
Meanwhile, single parents Gina and Mac are finally ready to take the next step and get hitched--provided that their children are happy with the idea of merging their families. Mac doesn't count on his long-estranged ex-wife turning up to reconnect with the children she abandoned almost a decade ago. Gina's family isn't any less drama-free, with her teenage daughter, Ashley, experiencing heartbreak when her college boyfriend decides they should see other people. Ashley spirals into a deep depression, forcing Gina to hunt down Ashley's father in order to find out if there are any medical issues she should know about. Gina isn't sure if she should tell Ashley about where her father is living, especially after she sees the hurt that Mac's children experience when their mother returns to town. In the midst of all this drama, will they find the time to settle down and form a new family together?
The Newcomer is the fifth Robyn Carr novel that I've read this year, and I've never finished one of her books feeling dissatisfied. Although I tend to class these books as "easy reads", they don't skim over the heavier elements that the characters encounter (divorce, depression, illness, etc) and the characters always face realistic struggles before reaching their inevitable happy ending. Although the Thunder Point series focuses on a larger cast of characters than most contemporary romances, it's easy to slip in and out of these books without getting confused, and there's sure to be a character that every reader can relate to on some level.
I was particularly pleased with Robyn's depictions of the teenagers residing in Thunder Point, especially Ashley's hurtful break-up with her college-aged boyfriend and the depression she sunk into. As someone who suffered from depression as a teenager--at a time when most doctors dismissed such things as "hormones"--it was satisfying to see such a realistic presentation of the situation. There were a few times when Ashley's conversations with her friends and family didn't feel entirely like they'd come out the mouth of a teenage girl, but other than this, Ashley is one of the most believable teenage characters I've come across recently in adult fiction.
One niggling issue I have with the Thunder Point series is that nearly all of the main characters have come out of broken marriages. It would be nice to encounter at least one character--even a minor one!--who had a good first marriage. As pleased as I was to read about Cooper and Sarah, and Gina and Mac, finding a second chance at love, I'm not sure quite how realistic it is for everyone in this small town to be divorced. Still, Robyn doesn't brush the struggles of being a single parent under the rug in this book. Both Gina and Mac are forced to encounter their exes in The Newcomer, with differing experiences. While Gina's encounter with her ex is surprisingly positive, Mac's experience is more hurtful than helpful to him and his children. While I was glad that Robyn showed the different reactions that families can have when a parent returns after many years, I wished the situation between Mac and Cee Jay had been concluded better. The ending left me scratching my head a little and wondering why Cee Jay had even been brought into the story, other than to provide contrast to Gina and her ex.
Sarah and Cooper's romance is continued from the previous book in the series, The Wanderer. Although some romance readers might prefer the conventional method of storytelling, in which the entire romance is concluded in one book, I quite like being able to catch up with characters from previous novels in the series. It provides a much-needed reminder that relationships require continued work, and that there may still be hurdles to overcome even after you've professed your love for each other. Although some readers might get frustrated with Sarah's worries about her career and whether she should ask for Cooper's advice with such matters, I'm sure this is a struggle a lot of women have. In a society where many couples both have jobs, it can be difficult to figure out what to do when one person receives an offer that would force them to relocate--and it's especially difficult to decide what step to make when you haven't made a formal commitment to each other. Sarah and Cooper's story isn't entirely concluded by the end of the book, but the ending is positive enough to show that they will work things out, even if it takes time.
My only real complaint about Sarah and Cooper is one that annoys me in most of Robyn's books, and mainstream romance in general. Perhaps it's a requirement in the author's contract, but every time any of her characters have sex, it's mind-blowing and the best sex they've ever had. Even if the characters are stressed or upset or in the middle of an argument, the sex is still amazing. Now, I know most people read romance novels for escapism, but I still like some realism in my novels. Just once in a while, could one partner not be in the mood, or have a headache? I know that no one wants to read about average sex, but surely a plot about a couple who are having difficulty in the physical side of their relationship would be an interesting topic to explore, and one that some readers could relate to.
The Newcomer has its flaws, but like all of Robyn Carr's novels, they're fairly minor and don't detract from the deftly woven plots and character conflicts. Although it's been a couple of months since I've read The Wanderer, it was easy to drop back into Thunder Point and pick up where all the characters had left off. After all the development the characters made in this book, it was a little sad to turn the last page and say goodbye--but thankfully we'll only have to wait until August before cracking open the next novel in the series!
Review title provided by Harlequin.