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?

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Review

As I stated 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 – REVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars.

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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Synopsis

Hardened billionaire Chase Parker lost his home tragically at a young age. Will sweet and sassy businesswoman Moira Hale be able to convince him he can make a home with her and trust in something as sweet as love?

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Review

Moira and Chase are both strong, independent personalities. Watching them learn how to balance trust and love with still remaining independent was fascinating. I loved the fact that when Chase was opening up his heart and soul to Moira, she didn’t try to use platitudes or pat answers to make things better. Instead, she sat with him, held him when he cried, and was just there. As a survivor of trauma, I can testify that there is no better feeling than to have someone you love, whether relative, friend, or significant other, just be there. There’s no need for words or reassurance. There’s just a need to have someone to listen. That’s exactly what Moira does for Chase and it’s one of the greatest gifts she could give him.

Being back in the familiar setting of Dare Valley was lovely. When you read a book in a favorite series, it’s like “coming home” in a sense. This book was no exception to that. Similarly, it was great to see the majority of the extended Dare Valley family.

The only thing I didn’t like in this one is that I didn’t like how Evan was “handling” Chase. Forcing someone to face their past is not always a good thing; it’s easy for such “good intentions” to backfire and for the intended person to become even more embittered and hardened. Luckily, it worked out this time around and Chase was able to heal, not only from this newer trauma, but from the trauma in his earlier life.

As is usually the case, we got a “sneak peek” at the next book in the series by seeing interactions between the next couple to be featured. After seeing how J.T. & Caroline interacted together, I’m very excited for their book!

All-in-all, it was a great book and I highly recommend it!

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

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The Calendar of New Beginnings – REVIEW

4 out of 5 stars.

Calendar

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Synopsis

International photojournalist Lucy O’Brien returns to her hometown of Dare Valley after a devastating trauma that threatens her livelihood. When her mother asks her to do a photo shoot for a Calendar Girls-like calendar to raise money for breast cancer, she can’t take their…ahem…ribald photos fast enough. Too bad her involvement stirs up her childhood best friend, Boy-Next-Door and widower Andy Hale, in all the wrong ways.

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Review

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. **]

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Daring Brides – REVIEW

4 out of 5 stars.

Daring Brides by Ava Miles book cover - photo of women's torso dressed in wedding gown and holding a bouquet of pink peonies

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Synopsis

Your favorite Dare Valley characters have survived betrayal, secrets, and tragedy to find true love. Now, watch each of these daring brides walk down the aisle to their happily ever after with the man of their dreams. You know, the hero who fires up all their engines. And, of course, the town of Dare Valley comes out to throw these fabulous couples quite a party.

From NORA ROBERTS LAND, Meredith Hale and her own hero, Tanner McBride, embark upon the journey into their new life, Marriage Land. See what makes Meredith’s wedding day so daring, and meet Tanner’s best man, international news correspondent Asher Harrington. Then, there’s Grandpa Hale’s priceless advice about what makes a long-lasting marriage.

Jill Hale from FRENCH ROAST has wanted to marry Brian McConnell since she wore pig tails in grade school. Brian has come around—finally. Sure, she got pregnant before they tied the knot, but it doesn’t matter because they’re going to live happily ever after. Find out what makes Jill a daring bride besides her wish to rent a pink circus tent for the wedding reception.

Peggy McBride from THE GRAND OPENING never imagined getting married again, especially to hotel magnate and poker champion, Mac Maven. See what Mac gives her to make their wedding day daring, and watch as her cute-as-a-button son binds their new family together in the most adorable way ever.

Abbie Maven from THE HOLIDAY SERENADE resisted her love for bad-boy Rhett Butler Blaylock, not only because he’s a poker player, but also because that Southerner knows how to start a ruckus wherever he goes. Now, it’s their wedding day, and Rhett’s friends from Dare River show up as well as his mama, Eugenia Lynn, and his cousin, Charleston. Of course, a ruckus breaks out, making Abbie feel more than a little daring, but it’s all in good fun and makes this couple’s wedding the most memorable one in Dare Valley for some time. (love story, contemporary romance, alpha males, heroes, billionaire, romance, family, falling in love, sweet romance)

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Review

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 – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars

The Park of Sunset Dreams by Ava Miles - Picture of a park from the vantage point of standing under a tree - park bench under tree and two dogs on grassy area

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Synopsis

Jane Wilcox has a secret. She’s been the incognito poker scout to a rock star poker player dressed as a smoking hot poker babe. Now that role is over, and she’s living in small town Dare Valley, working as a dog walker—or so everyone thinks. Without her Jimmy Choo heels and Prada gowns, she’s trying to find her new sexy Inner Swan and a fairytale romance, but she’s afraid she might have turned back into “Plain Jane” until she meets Matt Hale in the dog park.

The sexy lawyer has a rambunctious dog that needs her Dog Whisperer skills and slowly they move from friends to lovers. Matt is one of the good guys, a hero, totally boy-next-door material. He’s returned to his hometown after experiencing a tragedy. He was unable to find justice for the woman in his last legal case, and now she’s passed away and given him her dog. He’s vowed to give Henry a good home and right the wrongs in the system, so he’s running for mayor of Dare Valley.

Jane and Matt fall in love during sunset walks in the dog park, but soon Jane’s secret past comes back to haunt her and harms Matt’s bid for mayor. Can Jane and Matt’s love survive the controversy?

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Review

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! Check them out and see!

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The Bridge to a Better Life – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

The Bridge to a Better Life Book Cover, background of trees and a bright red shrub, wooden bridge in foreground

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Synopsis

Sports hero and newly retired NFL quarterback Blake Cunningham wants a second chance at love…with his ex-wife. He’s bought the house next door to her in Dare Valley and has built a bridge connecting their properties. It’s his bridge to a better life, the one he lost when Natalie Hale left him after a family tragedy destroyed their marriage.

Natalie has just started a new job as the head caterer at the small town’s historic hotel. When she discovers Blake has become the boy next door-literally-she secretly has to admit he still fires up all her engines and tugs at her heart. But the ghosts from their past seem too monumental to conquer.

Blake vows to help Natalie remember the power of their love and friendship. With the intense sparks of attraction flying between them, Natalie begins to put her heart out there again. How can she resist Blake when he makes her laugh and swoon by even acting out her secret Outlander fantasy? As they both give love a second chance, they are forced to face their most disturbing memories, not only the tragedy that ripped their lives apart, but also the secret parts they were afraid to share…

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Review

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)