Overall Grade: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Willow Aster has released her published version of her newsletter story, Miles Ahead. This is a novella inspired by Miles Stark, the spurned character from Aster’s 5,331 Miles. In this tale, Miles finally finds his happy ending in a way that is inspiring and sweet. Miles Ahead is an endearing little nugget of a story about resilience.
Miles is a real estate agent, still mourning his unrealized relationship with Mirabelle. This story begins with his attendance at her and Jaxson’s wedding, and his belief that he will never find anyone to fulfill her place. Fast-forward in time and Miles is preparing to show a home as a means to sell it. He meets Cortlyn “Cort” Sellers as a potential buyer. From their first meeting, Miles feels pulled to her. After a quick look, Cort decides to buy the big home, and Miles believes it will be the last time he sees her, even though it saddens him. However, while running one day, he encounters her again. They begin to meet each other for running until there is a misunderstanding, and Miles’s past hurt feelings over Mira threaten to derail his burgeoning connection with Cort. Additionally, Cort, a retired film actress, is enduring a difficult, painful situation, potentially interfering with any future with Miles. Will Miles and Cort move beyond their pasts and find a happy ending together?
I am a personal fan of newsletter stories. The delayed gratification of them reminds me of old-fashioned serials. Having to wait for the newsletter to earn a little bit of story is exciting to me. However, as a novel or novella, I struggle with them especially if the author fails to “add” to the story. For its basic premise, Miles Ahead is an interesting story. It’s good to see Miles get more story after Mira chooses Jaxson over him in 5,331 Miles. However, Cort’s story in this romance is an important one. She represents the #metoo women and their stories, and it felt glossed over in this novella. Since this is a novella, Miles and Cort’s characterizations seemed underdeveloped, and I simply wanted more. Their development is missing dimension. I don’t know Aster’s intention for this series, the La Jolla series, but I think more space could have been given to make us care more for Miles and Cort. This story attempts to develop an emotional connection with the reader, but that connection never develops beyond a surface feeling.
Even more, Aster presents her lesson of enduring trauma and empowering women to tell their stories in the face of their painful plights. However, it occurs late in the story. The lesson is there, but it’s momentary. There is a resolution to Cort’s tribulation, but, again, like the characterization, I thought it could have used more development. I know this is the danger with novellas, but I think novellas work best when they are smaller ideas or tighter stories. Since the message of this romance is necessary, Aster should have developed this into a full length novel, in my opinion.
I am a fan of Willow Aster’s storytelling. Her ideas and insight seem necessary for romancelandia. I am also thankful that Miles Stark had his “day in the sun” and finds his happy ending. Miles Ahead is a sweet story. You will fall in love with Miles’s consideration and “nice guy” persona, and he acts heroically in this book. Cort too is the representative strong heroine enduring the travesties of her life and fighting for women everywhere. You will appreciate her struggle throughout the story. However, I personally would have liked more story here. Again, that’s the danger of a novella. If you like a short read with a sweet hero, a resilient, empowered heroine, and a journey back to La Jolla, then you’ll definitely want to read Willow Aster’s Miles Ahead.
In love and romance,