Review: Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer

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What it’s about:

There’s just one semester left at the Briar School for Girls in Sonoma, CA. But it will take more than straight As for Lana Goodwin to survive . . .

Senior year is not going well for 17-year-old Lana Goodwin. Her father’s vintage car business is about to crash and burn, the nicest (and cutest) teacher at school was fired under a cloud of scandal, and her hot sort-of boyfriend may or may not have something big to hide.

She’s also totally over being the class pauper. It’s bad enough her dad was briefly married to the head of the board—the rich, cruel, impeccably groomed Ramona Crawford. What’s worse is going to school with her vindictive ex-stepsister, who never misses an opportunity to make her life hell. Not ever.

It also happens to be the tenth anniversary of her mother’s suicide. No one knows why Annie Goodwin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge the day after Christmas. She didn’t leave a note. She wasn’t sick. Even Lana’s father can’t explain it. Ten years later, someone—or something—starts sending her clues about her mother’s past.

Before Lana can escape to college, she finds herself in a life-or-death race to uncover her mother’s long-buried secrets.

Can she claim her birthright before her future and her life are snatched away?

Valley of the Moon is a modern-day fairy tale with some intense themes.

A contemporary YA romantic mystery for ages 16 and up.

Goodreads | Amazon



Being a Jack London fan, I couldn’t help but be attracted to the title of Bronwyn Archer’s latest book, Valley of the Moon. This YA mystery is set in Sonoma, and the main characters childhood home is virtually next door to the state park that was once the famed author’s home.

Lana Goodwin lost her mother, but has a loving hard-working father. She works hard to maintain her scholarship at a private girl’s school, and she works harder to save a little money for college. She doesn’t really need a distraction like Caleb Weaver, and I’m not sure the book did either.

Caleb Weaver is a good-looking, smooth operating college boy who strikes up a conversation with Lana at a party. He doesn’t come off as a player, just more mature than the rest of the high school boys at the party. He and Lana develop a relationship that is filled with the usual angst of a high school romance.

Valley of the Moon is a mystery with a bit of a fairytale premise. The prologue is intriguing, and I looked forward to a mystery based on that scene. I enjoyed the sense of foreboding that builds throughout this novel; however, the story tension could have been thoroughly gripping if the story had been a little tighter. For much of the first half of the book, the story focuses more on Lana’s romance, her life as a scholarship kid at a private school, and her relationship with her wicked ex-stepmother and ex-stepsisters. There are just enough mysterious clues to keep the mystery lovers following the story. To be fair, Valley of the Moon is a truly YA novel, and it probably packs enough punch for its intended younger reader.

Ms. Archer’s turn of phrase is delightful. I loved the evil descriptions of Ramona and her daughters. The inclusion of how the Sonoma Valley came to be referred to as the Valley of the Moon was a nice touch.

“Some night the moon hangs so low above the valley it nestles right between the Sonoma and Mayacama Mountains which is why the Native Americans called it the Valley of the Moon.”

Lana’s discussion with her father about her recently deceased mother and the moon made me a little teary-eyed.

Valley of the Moon was an okay read for me. The characters are interesting and developed.   The setting and descriptive writing style caught my attention. The story premise is rich and enticing. However, the plot pace was a bit slow for me and the story layout felt a little unfocused. As stated earlier, a younger reader will probably find this book more enthralling. I will say that there is good potential to Ms. Archer’s series being an A+ once it reaches it’s culmination, so if you are okay with cliffhangers and first books that are mostly set-up for a series, dig in and be prepared to be a little spooked.


Thanks to the author and  Xpresso Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review Valley of the Moon by Bronwyn Archer.

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