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 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. **]

Daring Brides

4 out of 5 stars.

Daring Brides by Ava Miles falls in between books eight and nine in the Dare Valley series based on publication date. It actually falls in between the fourth and fifth books as far as the characters it deals with.

A wonderful visit back to Dare Valley. This set of novellas describing the weddings of Meredith & Tanner; Jill & Brian; Mac & Peggy; and Rhett & Abbie, felt like a wonderful visit with old friends. I laughed and I cried, but overall I enjoyed it all.

Other than the fact that I would’ve loved to have seen these stories as epilogues to the books involving these couples, there’s not much I would’ve changed. There was enough detail to keep your attention without being too overwhelming for those who don’t care to focus on all the details that go into wedding planning.

If you’re picking this book up expecting there to be lots of controversy and conflict (since the title is “Daring Brides”), you’ll be disappointed. While it isn’t filled with those types of “Daring Brides”, it is filled with brides who do things their own way, who are their own woman and who are unapologetic about it. These stories are sweet, brilliant, lovely descriptions of the weddings of the first four couples in the Dare Valley series and are a great way to revisit those old friends. If you haven’t read the first four books in the Dare Valley series (Nora Roberts Land; French Roast; The Grand Opening; and The Holiday Serenade), go out and get them today so you can enjoy this book even more! 🙂

(I received an eBook copy from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own.)

The Park of Sunset Dreams

5 out of 5 stars

The Park of Sunset Dreams by Ava Miles is the sixth book in her Dare Valley series. When the book first came out, it was my favorite out of the whole Dare Valley series. Since then, it’s been eclipsed by The Bridge to a Better Life.

Jane & Matt are both down to earth characters and very likable. I think fear that Jane had about her past coming to light is a fear that many of us have and it was portrayed accurately and sensitively.

The writing is crisp, clean, and well done as I’ve come to expect from Ms. Miles’ books. The whole series is excellent and I’m excitedly awaiting the ninth book which is due out in about a week!

The Bridge to a Better Life

5 out of 5 stars.

The Bridge to a Better Life by Ava Miles is the eighth in her Dare Valley series and is currently my favorite in the series.

Wow. You know a book is powerful when it brings up enough of your own similar issues that you have to stop reading for a day or two until you can get your reaction under control.  This book did that for me. Natalie reminds me so much of myself. Her struggles with grief and loss have been my struggles with grief and loss. It was so inspiring to watch her grow and change throughout the book; to come to terms with at least some of her grief and to allow herself to open herself up to Blake’s love once again.

Dear Blake. How can you not love a hero who gives up as much as he gave up in order to win Natalie back again? How can you not love a man who is that patient and loving and tender. That’s not to say that Blake doesn’t have his own issues or is perfect. He’s not, but wow, what a wonderful testament to the power of love.  Blake does his own growing and changing throughout the book too, tho’ his is not quite as dramatic as Natalie’s.

As with all of Ms. Miles’s “Dare Valley” novels, the surrounding community and the families and friends of the hero and heroine provide the much-needed support that anyone needs when dealing with grief and loss.  The characters are well-rounded, the story line believable and the writing is crisp, clean and well done.

I highly recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a contemporary romance with a great set of characters.

(I received a free ARC from Ava Miles in exchange for my honest review. My review was not influenced by this and all conclusions and opinions are my own)