forever wilde in aster valley coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Miller Hobbs recently lost his mother, the woman who was his only family for most of his life. Just before she passed away, Miller and his mother were reunited with his mom’s birth family. The Marians and the Wildes have welcomed Miller into their large and rambunctious family and included him on their trip to Aster Valley for a family reunion over Christmas. Miller is both happy to be included and get to spend time with this extended family he never knew, but also overwhelmed by so many new people. The fact that this is the first Christmas without his mom is making it even harder.

To get a bit of an escape from the general craziness of his family, Miller volunteers to run into town and pick up the bakery order for their large group. There he encounters Darius Grant, the gorgeous and appealing owner of the bakery. Something about Darius just grabs Miller right away and he finds himself incredibly drawn to the man. Darius is a quiet calm in the crazy storm of Miller’s trip and even that short interaction is enough to convince Miller he wants to get to know Darius better.

Darius gave up a lucrative business that wasn’t making him happy for a chance to open a bakery in a small town in Colorado. It was the right decision and he has found contentment in Aster Valley. When Darius meets Miller, something in him just knows that Miller is meant to be his. As the men spend more time together over Miller’s vacation, the bond between them continues to grow. Miller comes to rely on Darius for comfort and as a haven for when things get too overwhelming, and Darius finds Miller sweet and adorable and loves being able to be there for him. However, Miller still has some open emotional wounds and the family craziness is bringing them to the forefront. But with Darius’ support, Miller may find the confidence to work through some of his demons. And once he does, Darius is ready to be there at his side for good.

Forever Wilde in Aster Valley is an ultimate Lucy Lennox crossover event. The book combines three of Lennox’s series that all exist in the same world — Forever Wilde, Made Marian, and Aster Valley. For those needing a bit of a refresher, Miller is the son of the child Tilly Marian gave away for adoption many years ago. Miller appears briefly in His Saint to try to enlist Grandpa Wilde’s help convincing Tilly to meet his mother before she passes away. When this story starts, Miller has already been brought into this extended Wilde/Marian family and basically all the characters who are the MCs of those two series books are his cousins (with Tilly being his grandmother).

So first off, this story is obviously going to be much richer if you have at least some familiarity with these three series, as pretty much everyone who ever appeared in any of these books gets some page time. I have read all of the Forever Wilde and Aster Valley books, but only have a passing familiarity with Made Marian from reading reviews. I was able to follow along pretty much by not trying to actually understand who any of the Marian cousins were and how they connected, as that doesn’t really impact this book. I was curious to see how Lennox would manage to craft a story featuring all three series, as the tone of Aster Valley feels very different than the other two, but Lennox does a nice job giving balance to both styles and working pretty much everyone and everything into this one story. I will say that while this is titled Forever Wilde in Aster Valley, the Wildes definitely play the smallest role of the three groups. This is very much Miller’s story, and his relationship with Tilly is a big part of it. So while the Wildes are a part of the family craziness, they are mostly background characters here.

There are three main plots happening in this story. The main focus is on Darius and Miller’s growing relationship. This is pretty much a love at first sight, all in immediately kind of love story. I mean, these guys meet while Miller is on a short vacation in town and neither man even considers that starting a relationship with that foundation might be an issue. They fall for each other fast and hard and within a few days are declaring love and planning their future. Usually this incredible instalove doesn’t work for me, but for whatever reason, it didn’t bother me too much here. That said, I do feel like the relationship development is definitely cut short and the men pretty much go from meeting to in love without a lot of stops in between. But I did really like them together, as they are both sweet men and there is a nice sexy, coziness to their relationship that is a good fit for a holiday in the mountains story.

The book also puts some focus on Miller’s relationship with his grandmother, Tilly. As the story develops and Miller spends more time with his family, some of the resentment he had pushed aside comes bubbling up. His mother reached out to Tilly as she was dying, and Tilly’s initial refusal to meet her really hurt Miller. He also finds Tilly high handed and meddling and his anger starts to come out until the two finally talk it through. I appreciated seeing a more serious side to all the family dynamics, not just the fun, over-the-top Wilde/Marian hijinks. Miller loves being included and everyone is welcoming, but he is also overwhelmed, missing his mom, and not fully comfortable yet. So I think this more serious side gives some nice balance to the story and allows a chance to see Miller be able to move forward somewhat from his grief and anger. It is also nice to see Tilly in a more mature, nurturing place as she works through it all with Miller, as she is often a comic relief character in this story.

While the relationship story arcs represent the more serious side, we also spend time with the extended Wilde and Marian clans and all the craziness they bring. The group is staying at the Rockley Lodge in Aster Valley for a holiday vacation/reunion and the story sort of jumps back and forth between Miller and Darius’ developing relationship and what the extended families are doing in the lodge and around town. For fans of either the Marian or Wilde series, the fun here is getting to see all the characters appear here, and from what I can tell, pretty much everyone shows up (even Felix and Lior make the trek across the ocean). With so many people, no one gets a lot of page time, so it is mostly a lot of wild and sexually inappropriate conversations and behavior with characters jumping in and out. As I said, I have never read the Marian stories, so beyond Tilly, I had no idea who any of them were and mostly I just went with Lennox’s suggestion in the Author notes to “simply insert ‘nosy family member here’ when you see a name you don’t recognize.” And I think mostly that worked fine, though if I hadn’t at least read the Wilde’s books, I probably would have found these family interludes distracting from the main storyline. Also, some of these folks are a lot, particularly the older women who are constantly making comments about everyone’s sex lives. I am all for a crazy old lady now and then, but I found their humor just didn’t land for me all the time.

Since the book takes place in Aster Valley, we also get at least brief appearances by pretty much everyone from that series (other than Gentry and Winter). Like the other Aster Valley books, the end of this story also sets up the next book in the series. I enjoyed spending so much time with Mikey and Tiller again (though a Miller, a Tiller, and a Tilly all together on one page gave me a bit of naming confusion), and I continue to really like the small town vibe of the Aster Valley books.

So this is a fun holiday mashup of three of Lennox’s series and I think overall she pulls it together well. Despite the sort of different tones to the series, this story comes together in a pretty smooth way. I really enjoyed Miller and Darius as main characters and I loved revisiting Aster Valley (as well as spending some more time with the Wildes).

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