Believing in Nora Roberts Land – take novelist Ava Miles’ advice


Is there any greater pleasure than reading a much-vaunted book?

Yes, as it turns out: it’s reading a book that you really don’t want to read and finding out it’s a gem – in this case, Ava Miles‘ novel, Nora Roberts Land.nora roberts landindex

When Miles’ book came out, I did everything possible to avoid reading it, partly because Nora Roberts‘ books hold such a special place in my heart and partly because the premise of NRL, as I shall refer to it from now on, was, and is, far too close to home. However, the Book Gods had other plans. It seemed like any time I opened an email or went on any book-related site, Miles’ book popped up, all but shouting, ‘READ ME! READ ME!’

There are two reasons why I finally surrendered to the inevitable: first, I read an interview with Ava Miles, which pricked my curiosity and, second, I have been suffering from wretched insomnia and when I looked for something to read at 2 am, there was Nora Roberts Land on iTunes, all but screaming at me, ‘YOU MUST READ ME … NOW!’

And Ms Miles, I owe you an apology – after downloading it to my iPad, I read your novel in less than two hours and it’s rather lovely.

There are certain books, films, songs that immediately strike a chord. NRL is one of those books for me. Rather oddly, I read it on the same day that I saw the film Wild, which was the choice of the two girlfriends with whom I went to the cinema and again a film I probably wouldn’t have chosen to see myself, mainly because usually I find Reese Witherspoon incredibly irritating – apart from as June Cash, of course, and as Jennifer in the excellent Pleasantville. Yet again, I was proved wrong – Wild was inspiring, so much so I read the book after I finished NRL. And the book is even better than the film.

In both cases, I’ve been that person. I’ve been – and to a certain degree still am – the heroine of my own story, battling the issues that come with the end of a marriage, with the insecurities of losing yourself and having to find a way forward when sometimes even taking one step seems impossible. I’ve been in protagonist Meredith Hale’s shoes, the woman accused of reading too many Nora Roberts’ novels (of reading too much, in general) by my ‘Rick-the-dick’ husband and of, thus, having such unrealistic expectations of love that no mere man could live up to them. As I type that I realise, just as I did when I was reading NRL, how ridiculous that is – what a cop out it is – but sometimes, as the old adage goes, you can’t see the wood for the trees. But back to NRL as this is turning into a confessional…

Miles’ book is well-written, fast-paced, funny and entertaining. Both Meredith and Tanner McBride, the protagonists, are journalists, somewhat battered by life. Both, for different reasons, find themselves in Dare Valley, Colorado, trying to work out their fit in the world, Meredith ably helped by her alter-ego Divorcée Woman and her very funny sister, Jill, and brilliant, acerbic grandfather, Arthur. Subplots involving drugs, blackmail and the death of a great friend all add up to a very entertaining plot, but it’s really Miles’ tone, the subtle nuances of her writing and the often poignantly quirky observations on life which the characters make, particularly Meredith and Jill, that make this book stand out from the crowd. The references to Nora Roberts’ books and heroes, in particular, are many and varied and bring that something extra if you’re a Roberts’ fan. That said, NRL would have worked even without those references, although it is, admittedly, a very clever hook.

So, in sum, I hold up my hand and state very clearly that I’m a fan and politely request that if you haven’t read NRL, please do – and join me in the much-anticipated pleasure of catching up on Ava Miles’ other books.

Finally, I leave you with some useful advice from Meredith:

After the ups and downs I’ve been through, there’s a lot I learned. First, divorce isn’t the end of your life. It feels like it. It’s a horrible thing to go through, but it’s not the end. It’s only another beginning. Second, some men let you down. Some don’t. Look at the man in front of you and discern the difference. Third, forgive yourself. You were simply learning some important lessons, and that’s okay. Growing is messy. Fourth, when you don’t know what to do, plow ahead. You’ll run into something.… Fifth, opening up yourself to another person after your heart was torched, the ashes scattered to the four winds, is one of the bravest acts you can do. Yet without love, our lives aren’t as radiant as they could be. … Lastly, with a little help from fate – scratch that, sometimes a big help – we make our own happy endings. But it’s a day-by-day process. Never forget that.’

Wise words, indeed.


Ava Miles’ Nora Roberts Land is available through iBooks and Amazon. It is the first novel in the ‘Dare Valley‘ series.

Reviews of interest:Family matters – JD Robb’s Obsession in Death, a review’; ‘Nora Roberts’ The Collector – Falling into a pair of same arms’ (review); ‘F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – Francis Cougat (1925)’;From London to Paris and back again – Kate Perry’s How Sweet It Is, a review


Social media for authors:Pinterest, “inspiration snacking” or something more? A few thoughts for authors


Photographs/images in article: Nora Roberts Land (cover); text quote, pages 640–1, Ava Miles’ Nora Roberts Land.


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