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Title: Holidays in Virgin River
Author: Robyn Carr
Publication Date: October 4, 2022
Page Count: 368
About the book:
A special gift Christmas hardcover anthology of 2 Virgin River novellas by #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr plus an introduction from the author and select recipes and explanations of the holiday traditions celebrated in Virgin River.
Contains two Virgin River novellas: Under the Christmas Tree and Midnight Confessions along with at least 10 recipes and anecdotes written by Robyn Carr about why the recipes are special to specific characters from VR. We’ll also have an introduction written by Robyn explaining why she wrote Virgin River in the first place and why it resonates so strongly with audiences today. Examples of recipes are: The VR cookie exchange (Gingerbread cookies, Traditional Scottish Shortbread, Lemon Bars, Chocolate Chip Cookies) Hot drinks to enjoy as they decorate the town Christmas tree (mulled wine, homemade hot chocolate) Preacher’s famous meatloaf and garlic mash, to name a few.
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Because of a box full of cold, hungry, barely moving puppies, Annie had all but forgotten the reason she’d ended up in Virgin River. It was three weeks till Christmas and her three older brothers, their wives and their kids would descend on her parents’ farm for the holiday. Today was one of her two days off a week from the beauty shop. Yesterday, Sunday, she’d baked with her mom all day and today she’d gotten up early to make a couple of big casseroles her mom could freeze for the holiday company. Today, she’d planned to cook with her mom, maybe take one of her two horses out for a ride and say hello to Erasmus, her blue-ribbon bull. Erasmus was very old now and every hello could be the last. Then she’d planned to stay for dinner with her folks, something she did at least once a week. Being the youngest and only unmarried one of the McKenzie kids and also the only one who lived nearby, the task of looking in on Mom and Dad fell to her.
But here she was, hearthside, managing a box of newborn puppies. Jack rustled up the formula and cereal and a couple of warm towels from the dryer. Preacher provided the shallow bowls and mixed up the formula. She and Chris fed a couple of puppies at a time, coaxing them to lap up the food. She requisitioned an eyedropper from the medical clinic across the street for the pups who didn’t catch on to lapping up dinner.
Jack put in a call to a fellow he knew who was a veterinarian, and it turned out Annie knew him, too. Old Doc Jensen had put in regular appearances out at the farm since before she was born. Back in her dad’s younger days, he’d kept a thriving but small dairy farm. Lots of cows, a few horses, dogs and cats, goats and one ornery old bull. Jensen was a large-animal vet, but he’d be able to at least check out these puppies.
Annie asked Jack to also give her mom a call and explain what was holding her up. Her mom would laugh, knowing her daughter so well. Nothing would pry Annie away from a box of needy newborn puppies.
As the dinner hour approached, she couldn’t help but notice that the puppies were drawing a crowd. People stopped by where she sat at the hearth, asked for the story, reached into the box to ruffle the soft fur or even pick up a puppy. Annie wasn’t sure so much handling was a good idea, but as long as she could keep the little kids, particularly David, from mishandling them, she felt she’d at least won the battle if not the war.
“This bar has needed mascots for a long time,” someone said.
“Eight of ’em. Donner, Prancer, Comet, Vixen, and…
“Which one is Comet?” Chris asked. “Dad? Can I have Comet?”
“No. We operate an eating-and-drinking establishment,” Preacher said.
“Awww, Dad! Dad, come on. Please, Dad. I’ll do everything. I’ll sleep with him. I’ll make sure he’s nice. Please.”
“Please. Please? I never asked for anything before.”
“You ask for everything, as a matter of fact,” Preacher corrected him. “And get most of it.”
“Boy shouldn’t grow up without a dog,” someone said.
“Teaches responsibility and discipline,” was another comment.
“It’s not like he’d be in the kitchen all the time.”
“I run a ranch. Little hair in the potatoes never put me off.” Laughter sounded all around.
Four of the eight pups were doing real well; they were wriggling around with renewed strength and had lapped up some of the formula thickened with cereal. Two were trying to recover from what was certainly hunger and hypothermia; Annie managed to get a little food into them with an eyedropper. Two others were breathing, their hearts beating, but not only were they small, they were weak and listless. She dripped a little food into their tiny mouths and then tucked them under her shirt to keep them warm, hoping they might mistake her for their mother for now, all the time wondering if old Doc Jensen would ever show.
When yet another gust of wind blew in the opened front door, Annie momentarily forgot all about the puppies. Some of the best male eye candy she’d chanced upon in a long while had just walked into Jack’s Bar. He looked vaguely familiar, too. She wondered if maybe she’d seen him in a movie or on TV or something. He walked right up to the bar, and Jack greeted him enthusiastically.
“Hey, Nate! How’s it going? You get those plane tickets yet?”
“I took care of that a long time ago.” He laughed. “I’ve been looking forward to this forever. Before too long I’m going to be lying on a Nassau beach in the middle of a hundred string bikinis. I dream about it.”
“One of those Club Med things?” Jack asked.
“Nah.” He laughed again. “A few people from school. I haven’t seen most of them in years. We hardly keep in touch, but one of them put this holiday together and, since I was available, it sounded like an excellent idea. The guy who made the arrangements got one of those all-inclusive hotel deals—food, drinks, everything included except activities like deep-sea fishing or scuba diving—for when I’m not just lying on the sand, looking around at beautiful women in tiny bathing suits.”
“Good for you,” Jack said. “Beer?”
“Don’t mind if I do,” Nate replied. And then, like the answer to a prayer she didn’t even know she’d uttered, he carried his beer right over to where she sat with the box of puppies. “Hello,” he said.
She swallowed, looking up. It was hard to tell how tall he was from her sitting position, but certainly over six feet. Annie noticed things like that because she was tall. His hair was dark brown; his eyes were an even darker brown and surrounded with loads of thick black lashes. Her mother called eyes like that “bedroom eyes.” He lifted his brows as he looked down at her. Then he smiled and revealed a dimple in one cheek.
“I said hello,” he repeated.
She coughed herself out of her stupor. “Hi.”
He frowned slightly. “Hey, I think you cut my hair once.”
“Possible. That’s what I do for a living.”
“Yeah, you did,” he said. “I remember now.”
“What was the problem with the haircut?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Don’t know that there was a problem,” he replied.
“Then why didn’t you come back?”
He chuckled. “Okay, we argued about the stuff you wanted to put in it. I didn’t want it, you told me I did. You won and I went out of there looking all spiky. When I touched my head, it was like I had meringue in my hair.”
“Product,” she explained. “We call it product. It’s in style.”
“Yeah? I’m not, I guess,” he said, sitting down on the raised hearth on the other side of the box. He reached in and picked up a puppy. “I don’t like product in my hair.”
“Your hands clean?” she asked him.
He gave her a startled look. Then his eyes slowly wandered from her face to her chest and he smiled slightly. “Um, I think you’re moving,” he said. “Or maybe you’re just very excited to meet me.” And then he grinned playfully.
“Oh, you’re funny,” Annie replied, reaching under her sweater to pull out a tiny squirming animal. “You make up that line all by your little self?”
He tilted his head and took the puppy out of her hands. “I’d say at least part border collie. Looks like mostly border collie, but they can take on other characteristics as they get older. Cute,” he observed. “Plenty of pastoral breeds around here.”
“Those two are the weakest of the bunch, so please be careful. I’m waiting for the vet.”
He balanced two little puppies in one big hand and pulled a pair of glasses out of the pocket of his suede jacket. “I’m the vet.” He slipped on his glasses and, holding both pups upside down, looked at their eyes, mouth, ears and pushed on their bellies with a finger.
She was speechless for a minute. “You’re not old Doc Jensen.”
“Nathaniel Junior,” he said. “Nate. You know my father?” he asked, still concentrating on the puppies. He put them in the box and picked up two more, repeating the process.
“He…ah… My folks have a farm down by Alder Point. Hey! I grew up there! Not all that far from Doc’s clinic and stable. Shouldn’t I know you?”
He looked over the tops of his glasses. “I don’t know. How old are you?”
“Well, there you go. I’m thirty-two. Got a few years on you. Where’d you go to school?”
“Valley.” He laughed. “I guess you can call me old Doc Jensen now.” And there was that grin again. No way he could have grown up within fifty miles of her farm without her knowing him. He was too delicious-looking.
“I have older brothers,” she said. “Beau, Brad and Jim McKenzie. All older than you.”
At first he was startled at this news, then he broke into a wide smile. Then he laughed. “Are you that skinny, fuzzy-haired, freckle-faced, tin-mouthed pain in the neck who always followed Beau and Brad around?”
Her eyes narrowed and she glared at him.
“No,” he said, laughing. “That must have been someone else. Your hair isn’t pumpkin orange. And you’re not all that…” He paused for a second, then said, “Got your braces off, I see.” By her frown, he realized he hadn’t scored with that comment.
“Where is your father? I want a second opinion!”
“Okay, you’re not so skinny anymore, either.” He smiled, proud of himself.
“Very, very old joke, sparky,” she said.
“Well, you’re out of luck, cupcake. My mom and dad finally realized a dream come true and moved to Arizona where they could have horses and be warm and pay lower taxes. One of my older sisters lives there with her family. I’ve got another sister in Southern California and another one in Nevada. I’m the new old Doc Jensen.”
Now it was coming back to her—Doc Jensen had kids, all older than she was. Too much older for her to have known them in school. But she did vaguely remember the son who came with him to the farm on rare occasions. One corner of her mouth quirked up in a half grin. “Are you that little, pimply, tin-mouthed runt with the squeaky voice who came out to the farm with your dad sometimes?”
He frowned and made a sound. “I was a late bloomer,” he said.
“I’ll say.” She laughed.
Excerpted from Holidays in Virgin River by Robyn Carr. Copyright © 2022 by Robyn Carr. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
About the author:
Robyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women’s fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at http://www.RobynCarr.com.