The Moonlight Serenade – REVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Moonlight Serenade is the 11th book in the Dare Valley series by Ava Miles. It’s a short novella designed to tell the rest of Rhett & Abbie’s story which was partially told in book 3, The Grand Opening and book 4, The Holiday Serenade. It was a delightful short read.

Book Cover: The Moonlight Serenade by Ava Miles - The Dare Valley series - Background has a field under the moonlight so it's all in dark blues and teals. The lettering is on top in white.

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Brief Synopsis

Abbie Maven is every bit a lady.

Rhett Butler Blaylock doesn’t mingle much with ladies.

Being a professional poker player, the only lady he spends time with is Lady Luck. Yet, despite their differences, he can’t fight the temptation of getting closer to Abbie. He imagines she smells as fresh as a hot July peach and tastes even more tantalizing.

She makes him want to be a better man.

Abbie can’t ignore her brother’s best friend—the man who makes her son laugh. They are as different as ocean and desert, and yet she can’t stop her heart from opening to him… Or her body. Someone had destroyed both a long time ago. Rhett makes her come alive again.

They strike a bargain: a secret relationship on her terms. Behind closed doors, everything is perfect. But his poker persona as a bad boy undermines everything she’s raising her son to believe in. Abbie has to decide: are moonlight serenades enough?

Review

As I started above, this is a delightful, short read. It’s a very character-driven story line which means that there’s not that many setting descriptions, which is fine. The story moves along very quickly, which you expect because it’s just a novella and a short one at that.

We get to learn a little more about Rhett and Abbie in this story and see the beginnings of their courtship/relationship. It was great to read”the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey always said. It was lovely to read how they first came together, how they handled their fledgling relationship, and knowing how the first half of their courtship/relationship ended. It answers some questions that are answered in those first few Dare Valley books.

The novella is so short, there’s not much I can say about it without giving away spoilers! If you’ve read other books in the Dare Valley series, you’ll enjoy this first half of Rhett & Abbie’s story. If you haven’t read any of the others, I suggest starting at the beginning.

Home Sweet Love

4 out of 5 stars

Small lantern and burlap sack full of flowers w/ pine cones - book cover

Home Sweet Love by Ava Miles is the 10th book in the Dare Valley series. While it is not my favorite in the series, it was very good and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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The Fountain of Infinite Wishes

4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Fountain of Infinite Wishes is the latest installment in the Dare River series by Ava Miles. Once again, Ms. Miles has brought us a phenomenal story.

Brief Synopsis: Shelby McGuinness, along with her sister, Sadie, wants to find her father who left their family when she was 2 and Sadie was just an infant. She hires Vander Montgomery, a private investigator in Nashville, to find him. Sparks fly between the two and a romance is born.

Review:  I absolutely loved this book. While I’m personally more like Sadie in temperament, I thoroughly enjoyed Shelby. She’s vivacious and daring without being too impulsive. Her personality just sparkles off the page. She and Vander are attracted to each other from the start, but Vander is resolute in his ethics and will not date her as long as she is a client.  It makes for interesting meetings between the two of them at times.  Both characters are well-developed, complex characters. We learn a lot about their beliefs and hopes and past lives. They rely on each other for support and comfort even when they don’t realize they’re doing so; even before they started dating.

The only thing that disappointed me was how shocked and appalled the characters were upon meeting someone who is morbidly obese. I realize that’s not how these characters choose to live their lives, but their reactions to me seemed too harsh. I would have thought that their mama, being a reverend, would have had them do service work in poor areas similar to the one this person lived in; that they would have been more used to dealing with those situations and feelings than they seemingly were. They did show compassion to the person, but their reactions almost seemed more harsh with that than they were towards the horrible reason why their father left (which was far worse, but I won’t spoil it).

However, that was just a short piece of the story. While it disappointed me, the story and the characters generally were just wonderful. That piece is the only reason why this story didn’t receive 5 full stars because I simply loved the rest of the story.

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I enjoy the Dare River setting and characters. In fact, I think it’s my favorite out of the three series Ms. Miles writes, so I always enjoy “coming home” to these stories and characters. I enjoy the fact that even this particular story is about Shelby and Vander, we see the rest of the family from time to time. Some more than other of course, but we get a glimpse at all the extended family which made me happy.

The descriptions of the various settings in this book balance well with the descriptions of the characters. Ms. Miles is very talented in that way. She gives us enough detail that we can imagine the scene, but doesn’t over saturate the scene in our own imaginations.

The story line moved along at a decent pace.  I was pleased that Vander didn’t ask Shelby out until after he’d finished with finding her father. It was one of his many fine qualities. I also appreciated the way the family gathered around each other upon learning the horrible reason their father left. I was very happy to see that they didn’t take their negative feelings out on one another, but rather found comfort from each other.

If you enjoy stories about family, people finding each other, friendship, and a bit of romance, I’d highly suggest picking up this title. Enjoy!

[I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.]

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The Gate To Everything

5 out of 5 stars

“The Gate to Everything” is the first book in a new series by Ava Miles. The “Once Upon a Dare” series is a spin-off from the “Dare Valley” series dealing with Blake Cunningham’s football brothers. This first installment in the new series was fantastic!

This book focuses on quarterback Jordan Dean and his childhood sweetheart, Grace Kincaid. Jordan and Grace have always been the “golden couple”. They’ve been together through thick and thin with Jordan’s career in football and Grace’s career as a chef. As Jordan’s gotten more and more famous, Grace is having a harder time dealing with the by-product of that fame, the paparazzi and tabloid journalism. Eventually, it becomes too much for Grace, she breaks it off with Jordan, and flees to Italy. Months go by and when Grace returns from Italy, she meets with Jordan to tell him that she’s pregnant. This is when the story really takes off as it has both of them dealing with still being in love with each other, but her still having a hard time with his popularity. Him wanting to keep her and their baby safe but stymied on how to do it.  It’s a fabulous story line that moves along at a decent pace, neither too slow or too fast.

While both characters are richly complex and well-rounded, I definitely connected more with Grace at the beginning, probably because I’m introverted and not comfortable in the spotlight either. I wasn’t so sure about Jordan at first, but as the book went on, I grew to love him even more than Grace. He cares so deeply and yet, like many men, he’s so afraid of being vulnerable in front of Grace. Yet, it’s only by being vulnerable that he and Grace connect at a deeper level.

It’s a great romance on top of being a wonderful insider’s look at what fame and the spotlight must feel like to some spouses of sports stars, male or female. I loved the ending and I’m looking forward to the next one in this series! Pick it up and read it. It’s a great feel-good story!

[I received a free copy of this book from the author/publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review. My review was not influenced by this, nor was I compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions are my own.]

Favorite Book Quotes

Before I get started with my favorite quotes, I want to point out that today is the release day for the paperback (mass market) version of Ripped From the Pages!! I’ve linked to my previous review of the book. Get out and purchase it and love it!

Back to today’s program at hand…

Do you ever come across quotes in books that you love so much that you have to write them down or save them somehow? I often do. Sometimes, if it’s a library book and I really need to get it back because of other holds, I’ll even snap a picture of the page/quote with the camera on my phone.

Here are some of my favorites (not in any particular order) and why they struck a chord in me:

“She looked at him gravely. ‘You cannot call back the river that has already flowed past you, Ruith. All you can do is be grateful for where you are in it.'” – Lynn Kurland, Spellweaver
This quote really stuck with me because it helps me remember that what’s done is done. There’s nothing I can do to change the past, but rather I can work through those memories and start each day fresh.

“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer’s always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” – Nora Roberts, Tears of the Moon
This quote has helped me to remember to have the courage to stand up and go for what I want. When you have general anxiety all the time, which I do, it’s easy just to stay with the status quo because change really makes your anxiety kick in. But, if I never try to attain something, I never will. It’s certainly not easy and it takes me longer to do sometimes, but eventually I get it and step out of the box.

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
This has somewhat become a mantra of mine and a reminder that we’re all a part of this human race and should treat each other with kindness and respect, no matter what our station or what we perceive their station in life to be.

“I’d spent my entire life overdosing on uncut escapism, willingly allowing fantasy to become my reality.” – Ernest Cline, Armada
This one struck a chord in me because for a long, long time I let myself do the same. The character in this book did it with video games, I did it with books. And sometimes when life isn’t going well, I still have a tendency to do this.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone
This quote goes right along with the one above it. When I do get that tendency to dwell in the fantasy world of my favorite books, I try to remember this quote and get myself back on track. There’s nothing wrong with reading and escaping the world, as long as you’re not basically living in that fictional world.

“It’s here, inside me, and it’ll bite off pieces when it can. But I can take it because you’re there. Because you know how it feels. You’re the only one who really knows. And because you love me enough to feel it. When you look at me, and I see that, I can take anything.” – J.D. Robb, Reunion In Death
This quote strikes a chord in me because while I don’t have a significant other, I have a best friend who does this for me. It never fails to take my breath away to read this quote and know that I have someone like that in my corner. We all need someone like this to help us battle our demons.

Those are some of my favorite quotes from books I’ve read throughout the years. What are some of your favorites?

The Calendar of New Beginnings

4 out of 5 stars

The Calendar of New Beginnings by Ava Miles is the ninth in the Dare Valley series. This book finds us spending time with Andy Hale and Lucy O’Brien, who have been best friends since kindergarten. How many people in this world can say they’re lucky enough to have remained friends with someone from kindergarten, much less a best friend? I’m thankful that I can say I still have a friend from kindergarten. We’ve lost contact a couple of times but we always find each other again. It’s so wonderful!

I really enjoyed Andy & Lucy’s story about that scary transition between friendship and love. I thought Ms. Miles handled all the worries and fears that one faces in that situation quite well. It was shown and talked about, but it didn’t over-power the scenes or the book. I also thought how the characters took the needs and feelings of Danny, Andy’s son, was authentic.

I found all the things that Lucy is going through with being a photographer but having her vision damaged to be very fascinating as well. I’m a photographer, albeit an amateur one, and learning about the way Lucy has honed her skills and how she’s dealing with the adversity of having her vision damaged felt real, raw, and honest to me. My main job is in a library. I can only imagine how I’d feel if through some freak accident, I wasn’t able to work in a library anymore. It’s daunting to think about and that anguish shines through in Lucy without over-taking the story.

I’m thrilled that Ms. Miles has started including a map of the town in her Dare Valley series as well. I love maps in general. The use of them for fictitious places helps me get into the story better as I’m able to visualize where people are moving to and from around the town.

Yet, despite how well-written it is and how wonderful the story line is, there’s something about the book that just feels “off” to me. I’m not even sure what it is. There is more family conflict in this one which may be setting off my inner anxiety about such things. Also, Moira, Andy’s sister, who is also the main heroine in the next Dare Valley novel, was more active in this one, but she has a pretty substantial role in the story so it’s not like she’s showing up with no purpose. I don’t know what it is that I’m feeling; it’s just “off” somehow.  That’s why I only gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

I certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in a good romance novel. It is well-written, it is highly enjoyable, and it’s entirely probable that you won’t feel like it’s “off” at all.  All in all it’s another great addition to the Dare Valley series.

[** I received a free ebook copy of this book from the author in exchange for my fair and honest review. My review was not influenced by this, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions and conclusions are my own. **]

Tapestry: An Anthology

4 out of 5 stars

Tapestry is anthology with four different authors: Lynn Kurland, Madeline Hunter, Sherrilyn Kenyon, & Karen Marie Moning. Each of the stories has a tapestry that plays a prominent role in the story line, hence the title of Tapestry.

I originally bought the book for the Lynn Kurland’s story, To Kiss in the Shadows, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really liked three out of four of the stories in the anthology. The only one I didn’t really like was Into the Dreaming, but even that was well-written, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

To Kiss in the Shadows is my favorite out of the four. Jason is one of my favorite de Piaget characters and I enjoyed reading his story. He’s a wonderful, humble, well-rounded character. He’s as fierce with a sword as any of his brothers, but he doesn’t hide from his compassionate side like many of his brothers.

I also really enjoyed Dragonswan by Sherrilyn Kenyon. I was a bit surprised because I don’t usually like her style of writing, but I found this one intriguing and fascinating. It’s well-written, has wonderful characters and is just a joy to read.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes historical romance or paranormal romance.