Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book Review: Moonlight, by Amanda Ashley

Amanda Ashley
(aka Madeline Baker)
Kindle Edition, 183 pages
Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
April 17, 2014
(first published, 1997)
Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Source: Amazon Kindle Store

Book Synopsis:

Blush Sensuality Level: This is a suggestive romance (love scenes are not graphic).

Navarre is struggling with his lifetime of solitude. Turned into a vampire long ago, he longs to meet a woman who will love him. Little does he know, she waits for him in a local bookstore. And when he finds her, he’ll never let her go.
A Blush® contemporary paranormal romance from Ellora’s Cave.

This novella was originally one of the books in a combined edition of two, and was first published in 1997. The other novella, titled Sunlight, is also by the same author.

Ashley was the very first paranormal romance author I ever read, and specifically, the first vampire romance author. Thus, I feel a certain fondness for her novels. Besides that, I also like them because her love scenes are not very graphic, even though she writes for adults. 

Ashley's books, especially the earlier ones,  reference some Christian themes, which is another reason I really like them. It's unfortunate that her books are not given more recognition by PNR/UF readers and bloggers, as her characters are usually compelling, and the romance very satisfying.

This particular novella was totally fascinating, and I had to keep reading until the very end, finishing it in just a few hours the other night. The plot was very original; at least, I've never read anything similar. 

At the beginning of the story, Navarre is a young boy, growing up in a prison cell located on Mikos, a fictional island country very similar to the Greek islands. His only companion is his mother, Isobele, who reads to him from scrolls brought to them by guards. Navarre has never met his father, and what he finally learns of his future destiny is truly frightening....

The story of how Navarre (he has no last name) eventually becomes a vampire is unique indeed. After centuries of existence, he ends up in the fictional town of Moreno Bay, which, although the author does not mention it, is most likely located in California. He has set himself up as an antiques dealer. There he meets Adrianna Grant, a 19-year-old bookstore owner in the town who has been searching for an antique oak armoire.

From the beginning, there's an undeniable attraction between the human girl and the ancient vampire, who doesn't look a day over 25, since he became a member of the undead at that age.

Navarre has been alone for a very long time, as he is a sensitive soul, and it's too painful for him to become emotionally involved with mortals. As for vampires, they tend to be more solitary, so a relationship with a vampire woman is not really all that possible. There was one such woman in his past -- Shaylyn, his creator. However, she is totally predatory, with no compassion for humans, while Navarre, like Edward Cullen in the Twilight series, lives on the blood of animals. This novella was originally published before that series, though.

What I love about reading short romance works like this one is the intensity of the romance -- everything proceeds very fast, very urgently. Navarre and Adrianna share a very strong passion, yet Navarre is conflicted about becoming involved with her. He is not only afraid of hurting her, but also of how she will react once she knows his true nature. He lost someone he loved in the distant past, and never thought he would come to be in love again. His situation, while a bit melodramatic, is a poignant one. It was so sweet to read about his inner turmoil; it meant that he was at heart a good man.

Adrianna and Navarre are just so perfect together! Although not every reader likes the idea of 'love at first sight', there's no denying that this does indeed happen in real life, even if it's not that often. In the case of these two, the chemistry is instantaneous, and I was totally delighted by this!
The two lovers have more going on than just physical passion, however. They are both quiet, thoughtful people, and not in the habit of jumping from one relationship to another. When they do recognize that they are soul mates, they are unable to stay away from each other. More often than not, though, they enjoy quiet walks and pleasant conversation, getting to know each other on the emotional and spiritual levels, as well. 

Much as I enjoyed reading this novella, though, there were a couple of things I didn't like, which is why I've given it four instead of five stars. 

For one thing, Shaylyn was a cardboard character; there was absolutely no depth to her. She was nothing but a ruthless predator, as well as the typical femme fatale. Her presence in the novella was for the purpose of presenting an obstacle to the two lovers, and basically, nothing more. True, it was thanks to her that Navarre became an immortal and was able to meet Adrianna, but I still would have preferred more depth to the character. Besides, I have encountered Shaylyn clones in other Ashley novels.

Another problem -- a minor one, perhaps, but one I found to be a bit annoying -- involved the editing. Adrianna's name was only once shortened to "Addie" -- by Nancy, a good friend of hers. Navarre, however, consistently called her "Annie". This was obviously an editorial error. So, every time I saw the name "Annie", I would mentally correct it to "Addie". Other than than, though, there were no editing issues.

This novella makes perfect light reading. There are no sub-plots involved, and very few secondary characters. It focuses almost totally on the vampire/human couple, thus making it very easy for me to become totally involved with the story. To me, it reflected the intensity of falling in love -- those heady, heart-pounding moments when a man and a woman realize that the overwhelming attraction they feel for each other has shifted into something deeper and totally exhilarating.

It's been a while since I've read an Ashley novel. I think it's about time I checked out her more recent ones, fully plunging into her vampire world again!


Madeline Baker, whose pen name is Amanda Ashley, is one of those rare birds - a California native. She's lived in Southern California her whole life, and loves it. She married her high school sweetheart, and they have three sons, all handsome enough to be cover models!

Madeline never intended to be a published author. It just happened. She has always loved to read though -- The Black Stallion books, Lad, a Dog, Nancy Drew, Mary Stewart. And then she discovered romance novels. One night, when her husband was at work and her kids were in bed and there was nothing on TV, she sat down and started writing a book of her own. She's been at it ever since. Writing as Madeline Baker and Amanda Ashley, she has published 36 books and 7 short stories. 

Madeline belongs to Romance Writers of America and Novelists, Inc.

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