Date of Publication: February 2nd, 2023
Series: Oak Plains
After the Music—Book 1
Purchase Links: Kindle
Perfect for music-loving fans of Nicholas Sparks’ Dreamland and Lucy Score’s Things We Never Got Over, author Elena Goudelias delivers a small-town contemporary romance that is vibrant, addictive, and heartwarming. Vividly set and full of lovable characters, After the Music is the perfect feel-good hometown romance for anyone seeking hope and inspiration.
At twenty-two, Bailey Flynn learned a hard lesson: no good thing is meant to last. If it were, she would be releasing new country music and enjoying her life in the peaceful Pennsylvania countryside. Instead, she is still reeling from a family tragedy that nearly destroyed everything, and she hasn’t been able to pick up her beloved guitar since.
Six years later, twenty-eight-year-old Bailey returns to her rural hometown of Oak Plains. When Bailey sees a familiar face from high school during a visit to the local hardware store, she finds herself revisiting the past in a new light. Dustin Cooper is one of the few people who truly understand what she’s been through, and his unflagging patience and compassion toward her are almost overwhelming. Their instant chemistry and shared history are addictively comforting, and suddenly Bailey finds herself falling for him faster than she ever has before.
When Bailey’s family begs her to return to the stage and sing at the town’s annual summer concert, Bailey realizes her old wounds are far from healed. Facing another major disappointment is almost too much to bear.
Can she find the courage to let hope return to her heart, heal from her tragic past, and fall back in love with country music along the way?
My last happy memory of Oak Plains was also one of my saddest.
After the Music by Elena Goudelias
There are times when I like to read light books that don’t require me to concentrate a lot on the plotline, and there are other times when I like to read books that need 100% of my attention, and I take a ton of notes (if I am reviewing). Then there are the in-between books. You know, the books where you need to concentrate on the plotline, but if you don’t (or can’t), you don’t get lost, and you can easily be caught up. After the Music is one of those books. I kept getting interrupted while reading (and once lost my place, lol). But I could always find my way back to where I was and immerse myself in the book. That is what I liked the most about After the Music (besides the romance and the storyline).
The plotline for After the Music was well written. Bailey had suffered a significant trauma when she was twenty-two, one that she blamed on herself and her music. For six years, she refused to return, unless necessary, to her hometown of Oak Plains. But that changes when Bailey returns and realizes to heal, Bailey needs to face those memories. As she grapples with her pain, Bailey reconnects with a man from her past – Dustin Cooper. While falling for Dustin, Bailey starts to heal. But is it enough? Will Bailey be able to recover from what happened to her?
After the Music is the first book in the Oak Plains series; since it is the first book, I don’t need to put any of the usual stuff here. It can be read as a standalone book, and you don’t have to worry about missing storylines with any of the characters.
I liked the characters in After the Music. They were all well-written (even the kids). What I liked the most is that the adult stopped coddling Bailey at some point during the book. Instead, several characters started telling her some hard truths about herself. I liked that because I pictured people in real life doing it.
- Bailey—I was on the fence with her. While I liked and sympathized with her, I thought she was very immature and probably needed therapy to deal with what happened. She treated Dustin awful from maybe the middle of the book to almost the end. She was a big jerk to him and her friends and family. All because he wouldn’t tell her what was going on with his family (and guess what, he had an excellent reason not to). I knew there would be a HEA with them, but honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he told her to pound sand.
- Dustin—I liked him but found him almost too easygoing during parts of the book. He did surprise me with how firm he got with Bailey and how he dealt with her immaturity. I disagreed with how long he kept his secret, but once it was revealed, I understood. He had been shamed about it once and wasn’t about to go through it again.
After the Music fit perfectly into the romance genre. There was heat (Bailey and Dustin had instant chemistry). The sex scenes weren’t grossly explicit (and I do like them explicit). The author instead let me use my imagination about what happened when they hooked up.
The storyline with Bailey, her music, her trauma, and everything else was sad to read. I liked that the author built up Bailey’s trauma storyline and kept it as a running theme with everything else. There wasn’t a magic wand that instantly cured Bailey of her trauma. The author had Bailey react truthfully to events and showed how they affected her years later. She even regressed after Dustin disappeared. Even the friend and family members’ reactions were truthful. I could feel the tiredness coming off her sister (dealing with someone who has had trauma isn’t easy).
The storyline with Bailey, Dustin, and their romance was interesting. Bailey and Dustin had a fast-moving affair. But it wasn’t Instalove. They had known each other for years before Bailey returned to Oak Plains. The author did have their relationship mirror real life, and I liked it. But I found Bailey to be immature and unbending regarding Dustin. Yes, he should have been upfront with Bailey about what was happening. But it still didn’t justify how she treated him. I was so glad when her sister took her to task over that. Bailey deserved all of that verbal beatdown.
The storyline with Bailey and her music was interesting. I figured that the music industry was cutthroat, but to the extent that Bailey’s boss went was over the top. Talk about a bitter woman. I was glad that Bailey got the last laugh in the end.
The end of After the Music was what I thought it would be. I loved how the author brought about Dustin and Bailey’s HEA. I cannot wait to see whose romance is featured in book two (I do have an idea but nothing cemented).
I would recommend After the Music to anyone over 21. There is mild language, mild violence, and sexual situations.
Many thanks to Elena Goudelias and Novel Cause for allowing me to read and review After the Music. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
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