They say don't judge a book by its cover. What they don't say – but should – is you also shouldn't judge a sappy Netflix series by its trailer.
When the streaming giant's drama series Virgin River launched late last year, all signs pointed to giving it a wide berth. I had planned to do exactly that, despite the curiosity factor of former Shortland Street alumnus Martin Henderson being one of its lead actors.
The trailer was the first deterrent, given it spent most of its two minutes focusing on how good-looking the female protagonist was.
The source material for the show was also a red flag. Based on a Harlequin series of romance novels by Robyn Carr, the Virgin River stable includes titles like Temptation Ridge, Forbidden Falls and Promise Canyon. Nope, nope and nope.
But then the holidays came and international audiences started shouting from the Twitter rooftops about their love for the show. Most of those comments related to how quickly they had binged the series and how waiting for a second season was going to be an absolute agony.
Even Danielle Steel herself tweeted about how much "fun" Virgin River was. Figuring that an author who's sold more than 650 million books worldwide probably knows a thing or two about storylines, I finally – finally – decided to give the show a chance.
And nobody was more surprised than me when I decided I wanted to see a second episode, too.
Alexandra Breckenridge (of This Is Us fame) stars in the show as heartbroken nurse Mel, who's sold up everything she has in Los Angeles to take up a new job in the small town of Virgin River. Via a series of soft-focus flashbacks, we learn Mel had a husband once upon a time (played by another Kiwi actor, Daniel Gillies), but something terrible has happened that she's keen to run away from.
As is always the case in these "moving away the big smoke" stories, the transition to small town life is far from easy.
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First, Mel discovers the "farmhouse chic cabin" accommodation she's been promised as part of her job is – surprise, surprise – a complete dump. Then she learns the town's gruff doctor doesn't want to know about the new nurse his wife has hired behind his back. He even threatens to shoot her on sight. (This is America, after all.)
But it might not be all bad in her new home. Virgin River is a textbook cute-as-a-button small town, full of crisp rivers, mountains, forests and soaring eagles. Then there's Henderson's handsome, troubled former-marine-turned-bar-owner Jack, who's keen to help heal Mel's heart.
In case it's not already obvious, Virgin River is near drowning in a sea of clichés. I'd suggest all those people raving about it on social media over the holidays may have hit the booze-infused eggnog a little too hard while they were watching it.
Yet, there's something still likeable about Henderson's latest stateside project.
It certainly brings an element of intrigue, helped in large part by a surprise discovery at the end of the first episode, one that evidently ties in with the tragedy that befell Mel prior to her big move.
Meanwhile, the setting alone is enough to make every city slicker want to pack up their lives and move to their own little piece of the countryside.
And the core cast does a good job with what the writers have given them. Henderson, for example, manages to utter the line, "We don't tend to get a lot of visitors in here, not as beautiful as you," without puking into a bucket or dissolving into laughter.
Breckenridge and Henderson are also quite adorable together, although don't be looking for too much sizzle in this clean-cut romance.
It all adds up to TV that can only be described as "cosy", so don't expect Virgin River to be winning any awards any time soon. But for those nights when you just want to pretend everything isn't going to hell in a handcart out in the real world, you could do much worse than this charming slice of small town drama.
Season one of Virgin River is available now on Netflix.