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‘Virgin River’ Netflix Review – A New Romance Series Based on the Best-Selling Books

Fans of Hart of Dixie or Gilmore Girls won’t want to miss Virgin River, a new Netflix series full of romance and idyllic small-town magic.


Based on the best-selling novels by Robyn Carr, the new Netflix series, Virgin River, premiered on December 6th. I’m three episodes in, and it’s already my new favorite show. Small-town charm, an egotistic Doctor, a modern-day chivalrous romance, and loveable characters…what’s not to love?

THE STORY

Melinda Monroe (Alexandra Breckenridge), a nurse practitioner, moves to the small California town of Virgin River under mysterious (and likely tragic) circumstances. But her new nursing job with a grumpy Doctor and her less than acceptable housing isn’t what she expected.

However, she soon befriends the local bar owner, Jack Sheridan (Martin Henderson), who’s interested in her romantically. Meanwhile, when a mother abandons her baby on the Doctor’s doorstep, Mel must decide to go or stay and help.

VIRGIN RIVER ON NETFLIX IS THE FUTURE OF ROMANCE

Virgin River book cover

Strangely enough, Virgin River hasn’t received much promotion despite the spot-on casting and popularity of the books (20 in the series so far selling more than 13 million copies). No reviews have dropped on Rotten Tomatoes yet, and marketing has been minimal.

But then again, this is a romance series, focused on characterization and little action, not to mention a lack of profanity and cynicism. So, it’s no surprise critics aren’t giving it much acknowledgment.

Still, I think it’s high time romance is given the respect its due in the entertainment industry. You’d think filmmakers would notice how well romance (a misunderstood genre) sells in the publishing industry and find a way to translate that into entertainment beyond Hallmark and Lifetime. But alas, romance and the entertainment equivalent to women’s fiction continues to be ignored far too often.

In an interview with EW in 2019, Robyn Carr discussed this lack of romance in entertainment and how she and other romance authors feel about it. 

She said:

“It’s long overdue. And I think we’re heartily sick of reality TV. We really want a good, solid story that we can relate to. Thank you, Reese Witherspoon, for saying women can do this. She’s doing it. We have been waiting. And we’ve been trying to encourage them to see the light.”

Well said! I couldn’t agree more. Many of us have been waiting for a long time for this change. And it looks like it’s finally coming. Virgin River is a step in the right direction. And Carr is right. Series like this are long overdue.

That said, based on the recent revival of rom-coms and Netflix’s success with romantic originals, not to mention the new Shonda Rhimes deal, I see a promising future. Virgin River is the picture-perfect example of how to translate the romance genre and women’s fiction successfully to the small screen.

A CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE TO LOVE

Now, unlike Gilmore Girls, it’s important to note that while Virgin River is in a similar category, it’s more of a straight-up romance series.  And it’s a fantastic one at that with potential for numerous seasons.

Virgin River on Netflix is just the right balance between heartfelt emotion and sentimentality with swoony romantic moments. Who wouldn’t want the modern-day equivalent of a Medieval knight (in the show, he’s a former marine) who listens to what you have to say and bends over backward to make you feel welcome? It’s like Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls meets Lancelot.

Sigh!

THE CHARACTERS AND CASTING

Virgin River on Netflix Poster

Which brings me to the excellent casting. Alexandra Breckenridge from This is Us stars as the protagonist, bringing a likeability to the role. She’s a woman we can all relate to. Her life hasn’t turned out the way she expected and now she’s looking to heal. In fact, the theme of healing and recognizing you need help is a prevalent theme in the series. So, it’s a welcome series to watch if you need healing or self-care yourself.

And then there’s Martin Henderson (Bride and Prejudice, Grey’s Anatomy) as Jack Sheridan, the local bar owner and romantic interest for Melinda. He brings his movie-star appeal and excellent acting chops to the production, making him a believable leading man.

To complete the casting is the always fabulous Tim Matheson (Hart of Dixie) as the older town Doctor who doesn’t want Melinda there. Then there’s Annette O’Toole (Smallville) as the outspoken and lovable town mayor fighting for Melinda to stay. And Colin Lawrence as John ‘Preacher’ Middleton, the quiet but gentle cook at Jack’s bar.

Daniel Gillies (The Originals) also recurs as Melinda’s husband in flashbacks.

So, on top of the first-rate story and writing, everyone plays their roles expertly, quickly warming new fans to the series and characters.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Overall, Virgin River has more edge than a Hallmark movie but leaves you with that same uplifting feeling. Plus, Netflix’s adaptation of the popular book series is the future of romance in entertainment, and that’s something to be excited about as a romance fan.

So, if you love series like Hart of Dixie, Gilmore Girls, Cedar Cove, or Everwood, it’s the series for you. Virgin River is well-done with high production quality, good writing, relatable characters, and top-notch talent. It’s also the perfect peaceful escape from the hectic chaos of our lives, and I can’t recommend it enough. You can now stream the entire first season on Netflix.

Content Note: TV-14 but mild. 

Have you started watching Virgin River on Netflix yet? What are your thoughts on this new romantic drama series? Drop a comment below.


(Featured image: Virgin River – Credit: Netflix)

OVERALL RATING
“The stuff that dreams are made of.”
ROMANCE RATING
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. I have loved none but you.”
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By on December 9th, 2019

About Amber Topping

Amber works as a blogger/writer full-time and fell in love with stories and imagination at an early age. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, contributed as a writer to various magazines, and has an MS in Publishing from Pace University, where she received the Publishing Award of Excellence and wrote her thesis on transmedia, Jane Austen, and the romance genre. Her ultimate dreams are publishing books, writing and producing movies, traveling around the world, and forming a creative village of talented storytellers trying to change the world through art.

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26 thoughts on “‘Virgin River’ Netflix Review – A New Romance Series Based on the Best-Selling Books”

  1. When I saw this show on Netflix, I couldn’t believe it. An entire show that’s simply about romance?! *swoons* It was actually quite good. I binge-watched it as soon as it came out and finished it in a weekend! *yikes* It does end on a cliffhanger so I’m expecting there’s going to be a season 2! Keep watching it as there are so many more incredibly romantic scenes between the protagonists.

    Reply
    • Watching this romantic show has stirred interest in the actor Martin Henderson (not well
      Known before this show) who is so suave n good looking. Usually I don’t find actors interesting but Martin is otherwise. I will be anxiously waiting for season 2. Thank you

      Reply
  2. The thing I love about this show is how unexpectedly clean and wholesome it is. We don’t have to see intimate scenes or overdramatic confessions, it’s just a sweet romance with an intriguing plot. I can’t believe it was rated PG-14. My mom and I finished it tonight, and are so excited for the second season!

    Reply
    • I adore this series. Even the hubby paid attention. Great acting. Spot on human issues. I love thats hart of dixie and men in trees ( remember that abc gem???!) but less campy. I’ve be spreading the word and i hope it helps push this beyond hallmark channel’s perfect endings (and endless perfect winter coats) into mainstream cable/network etc. i think we all want more humanity on tv. Parenthood, this is us, etc. i discover the main actress in her lifetime xmas movie christmas around the corner. More parts showing women with emotion, spunk and gumption please!!!

      Reply
  3. I thought this series was really well done; the acting was high quality and the casting was so good! I read online that season 2 will come out in June; I hope it’s true!

    Reply
  4. I started to watch this series because I had already watched everything else that I normally do and not only on netflix. I usually go British mysteries and Nordic noir heavy going crime mysteries or apocalyptic, mind boggling dystopian stuff which I am also drawn to so I started this thinking, oh my what have I come to BUT, I must say, I was glued to the screen, from the start it is soft and cool enough to grab your attention and it is such a cosy place to be for a while I was truly sad and not ready for the last episode! I can’t wait for next series, acting is great, it is surprisingly refreshing at times and I totally recommend it!

    Reply
  5. Done with first season and sad I must wait for the second one… Casting very good (except Charmaine). Could I live in that cabin maybe…?!

    Reply
  6. Being a huge fan of the book series, I was a little nervous for this show. I absolutely love it so far! There are definitely not enough shows like this available. I can’t wait for season 2 already.

    Reply
  7. I am really enjoying the Virgin River series. The casting for both Jack and Mel is wonderful. Only two more episodes left. I Hope their is a sequel.

    Reply
  8. My 18 year old daughter and I enjoyed watching the first season together. After reading the Virgin River series and finding the characters and plot so believably captivating, I hoped the Netflix original series and season 1 didn’t disappoint. It didn’t! Excellent character casting and attention to details all the way from the sets to the story line. We’re expectantly looking forward to season 2! Cheers to Robyn Carr and Netflix for joining forces to create this uplifting series!

    Reply
  9. All the actors in this series are excellent. I have been a Matheson fan since Animal House. Everyone has moxie here, and the story line was not predictable. I very much enjoyed how Melinda’s past was slowly revealed. And I had not seen Martin before- he bring back memories of Gable and Cooper-rock hard and dependable, always demanding more of himself. Great cast, great show. As to “Romance” not being respected- blood, gore, death and destruction was what the “boys” like, so the sponsors and the producers are happy to produce that crap. It takes thought and nuance to bring a romance to life. We need to be supportive of Netflex for providing this wonderful series. I am delighted to hear there will be another season.

    Reply
  10. The series is continuing the spirit of the novels, but the books are contain more action and sharper dialogue than the Netflix version. They should stick closer to the original plotlines and characters. That being said, I will contort watch the series.

    Reply
  11. This is the best thing I have seen in a long time!!! Love the story line, love the characters, love the location!!! Can hardly wait until season 2 comes out. Keep them coming!!!!!

    Reply
  12. Ecstatic to find the Virgin River Series. Set in the woods of Northern California, the views of river and mountains are so refreshing during this never ending corona virus quarantine.
    My sister, who was an intensive care nurse for 40 years, insists that the main character, Mel, is spot on as a nurse. OK, but I was a little bothered by Mel diving into medical disasters outdoors with no help and very little equipment and then sleeping on a bench in the snow all night and still coming out with eye makeup perfectly in place. Really?
    As for the “Jack”, what is it about these male actors from New Zealand and Australia? I can’t get enough of them. Are they the REAL Male characters we American women crave? I hang on to his every word and gesture. The Doctor, the Mayor, and the Cook at Jack’s establishment are also excellent and just the sort of characters that you would expect to find in the small remote village of Virgin River. I can’t wait to see Series #2.

    Reply

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