4 out of 5 stars.
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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.
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. **]