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Missing Virgin River? Read These 5 Small-Town Romances

by  | December 23

I grew up in a relatively small community in Florida, so there are times when all I want after a long week in Manhattan is some peace and quiet, not to mention a slower pace. I like to imagine that’s exactly why Netflix decided to drop all 10 episodes of the first season’s TV adaptation of Robyn Carr’s small-town romance Virgin River on a Friday in December. The story of a big-city nurse practitioner and midwife seeking solace and reinvention in a new place, Virgin River was exactly the comfort food I needed in the face of holiday madness; I gobbled that first season up in the space of a weekend. It was a pleasure to watch Melinda “Mel” Monroe adapt to living in a rural area miles from the closest Starbucks and grow ever closer to marine-turned-local-businessman Jack Sheridan. That cliffhanger, though? I could’ve done without that!

While I’m somewhat mollified by unconfirmed reports that Season 2 is currently filming, I have a yen for similar stories in the meantime. If you’re feeling the same way, I hope you enjoy my suggestions for 5 small-town romances to read after watching Virgin River Season 1.

Virgin River

Virgin River

by Robyn Carr

The book that launched a 20-book series and the Netflix show by the same name, Robyn Carr’s Virgin River is the first read I turned to when Season 1 of the series left me wanting more. It contains the original blueprint to Jack and Mel’s relationship, and thus offers readers tantalizing clues about where the show may go in Season 2. First and foremost, though, you get to see the two meet for the first time all over again when Melinda, a recently widowed nurse practitioner looking to start anew in a new town, drives into Virgin River for the job and rent-free cabin she accepted sight unseen. As we all know by now, neither the job nor the accommodations are quite what she’d pictured, but Mel does immediately make a friend in Jack Sheridan, a local bar owner and veteran with his own painful memories. From there, the town slowly but surely becomes Mel’s home, and its quirky residents her family....

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That Chesapeake Summer

That Chesapeake Summer

by Mariah Stewart

Mel is far from the only one in need of a fresh start after the shattering loss of a loved one. When self-help author Jamie Valentine’s mother passes away, her grief is complicated by the unearthing of a long-buried family secret that makes her question her whole life. In search of answers, she heads to a small town on the Chesapeake Bay and reserves a room at the Inn at Sinclair’s Point. Little does she know that this fateful choice will set her on a romantic collision course with the family inn’s new owner, single father Daniel Sinclair, who’s still mourning the death of his wife and focused on raising his two kids. Can the two wounded souls find solace in each other? And will Jamie learn to make peace with her origins? You won’t be disappointed by the outcome in Mariah Stewart’s That Chesapeake Summer.

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The Way Home

The Way Home

by Cindy Gerard

If you were moved by Jack’s struggles to manage his PTSD and regular flashbacks to his time in Iraq, I recommend Cindy Gerard’s The Way Home, where the impact of war on families is front and center. Four years after learning her husband and high school sweetheart had been killed in action in Afghanistan, small-town general store owner Jess Albert is going through the daily motions of life, but not much more. It’s only when retired special-ops soldier Tyler Brown shows up in her Minnesota North Woods town that she emerges from the protective bubble she’s built around herself. Despite her understandable reluctance to grow close to another military man, Jess can’t help but be drawn to him and the second chance at love he offers. Of course, their story isn’t that simple, as it intersects with that of another woman, thousands of miles away, who’s battling her own conscience while nursing an injured American soldier....

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Homeplace

Homeplace

by JoAnn Ross

Small-town romances don’t always involve moving somewhere new—in fact, they’re often about returning home, as in in JoAnn Ross’s Homeplace. Between 80-hour work weeks and a nonexistent personal life, attorney Raine Cantrell is running on empty when she’s called back to her hometown in Washington state to de-escalate a messy situation. Working to end a standoff between sheriff’s deputies and three teenagers barricaded in a house, which isn’t being helped by frenzied press coverage, Raine gets to know Sheriff Jack O’Halloran. While they’re brought together by unusual circumstances, it doesn’t take long for the two to give into the sparks between them. Naturally, they decide that the only thing to do is get it out of their systems with a casual affair. Because THAT plan never falls apart in a romance novel....

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One Unforgettable Kiss

One Unforgettable Kiss

by A.C. Arthur

One of my favorite aspects of any small-town romance are the charming town events. In Virgin River, there’s the annual Moonlight Mingle, a dinner and dance where attendees play musical partners. And in Temptation, Virginia, the setting of A. C. Arthur’s One Unforgettable Kiss, there’s the bachelorette auction. It’s there that navy pilot Garrek Taylor places the winning bid for a date with home renovator Harper Presley, a night that could just change the course of their lives. Already famous in town for being one of the Taylor sextuplets, Garrek’s home to ride out a scandal that could end his career, while Harper has her own reasons for wanting to lie low. Neither is looking for anything serious, but their hearts and their heads aren’t exactly aligned on that. Together, could this be the chance for each of them to start over?

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Photo Credit // Netflix

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Heather Waters is the senior manager of content verticals at Simon & Schuster, where she runs the Tips on Life & Love blog. She enjoys reading everything from romance to true crime to political memoirs, and in her free time you can often find her binge-watching Netflix, refreshing Twitter every 10 seconds, and listening to the latest episode of the podcast My Favorite Murder.