I'm a huge fan of contemporary romance series that feature a town or extended family and after seeing multiple reviews of the books in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series (of which there are 20 titles! Click here for a full list of the titles in the series), I decided to give it a try.
The first book in the series is the aptly named, Virgin River. Midwife Mel Malone is starting over in tiny Virgin River after the death of her husband. After the initial shock of small town life, she settles in quickly and finds herself falling for ex-Marine and local bar owner Jack Sheridan. This one includes an abandoned baby, a drug farmer, infertility and pregnancy, and teenage sex. Despite all these external things, the love story itself is fairly smooth and easy, which I like. Both Jack and Mel are perfect, which is a bit of a bore, but it seems that everyone in Virgin River is perfect so it makes sense. There is one scene about halfway through involving some secondary characters that almost completely turned me off the book and the series, but in the end I got over it and gave it a three star rating on Goodreads.
The second book in the series is called Shelter Mountain , and it features another ex-Marine and an abused woman. Paige has run away from her husband before he beats her to death and Preacher (not an actual member of the clergy) steps in and saves her. Paige's situation is horrible but almost seems glossed over when it is finally resolved. Meanwhile, this one has teen pregnancy, non-teen pregnancy, a good guy drug dealer, a random drunk woman, and gang warfare. There's a lot going on for such a small town. This one focused much less on the actual romance, with much of the book being the ongoing, but still perfect, story of Jack and Mel. This got two stars on Goodreads.
After reading the first two Virgin River books, I feel pretty confident that I won't be continuing with the series. Despite my appreciation of and love for nice easy romances, these just didn't work. The obstacles, which are major on paper, were way too easily overcome, like they were just on the surface. ("Ok, what can I throw in for THIS person to define her personality? How about an abusive husband!") My love of continuing series didn't even save them, because as much as I love a good set, I also need for each book to focus on someone. The books focus very much on big town issues, by having them be part of the characters past, but if she wanted to write about gangs and drugs and shootings, perhaps making your setting an isolated town of 600 happy people is not the way to do it. And last, both books read like billboards for safe sex and STD screening. Wear a condom! Get screened! Teen sex will mess you up! Your life will be ruined! or worse! Etc etc on and on. Carr picked the wrong audience, because I doubt there are any teenagers reading these books.
For a much more satisfying series of romances, I recommend Nora Robert's Chesapeake Bay or Bride Quartet series, or Susan Mallery's Fool's Gold series, among others.