I'm back! After way too long, I'm finally back to the blog. I'm surviving the crazy Oklahoma weather so far and even this storm and rain loving girl is hoping we are about done with it all. Our poor state can't handle much more. I'm hoping to have an update for you all on publishing soon (it's been a crazy ride, ya'll) but for now, I'm here with a book review!
Those of you who know me, or have been following me for awhile, have undoubtedly heard me talk about Melissa Tagg, one of my all time favorite authors. I wrote a blog post about finding her and her books at a time when I really needed them a couple of years ago. (You can read that here if you want a-fake-snow-day.html). Her previous Walker Family series was one of my favorites and I fell in love with the fictional town they took place in, Maple Valley. So I was delighted to learn this brand new series was also going to take place there and even more excited to receive an early copy of the first book Now and Then and Always for review before it releases tomorrow. Here's the back cover description:
“It was just a house. Just a weathered old house in a hidden grove, shuttered and still . . . ”
Last year, after traumatic circumstances forced her from her job as a nanny, Mara Bristol finally found a place to belong—the winsome Everwood Bed & Breakfast at the edge of Maple Valley, Iowa. For months, she’s helped its owner, Lenora, maintain the ramshackle property despite their shortage of guests. But when Lenora fails to return from a month-long trip and the bank threatens foreclosure, Mara worries she’s once again alone . . . abandoned . . . about to lose the only true home she’s ever known.
Detective Marshall Hawkins is no closer to whole today than he was two years ago . . . the day his daughter died. Between his divorce, debilitating migraines, and a dependence on medication, his life is falling apart. And when a reckless decision on the job propels him into administrative leave, he has no other plan but to get in his truck and drive. A one-night stay at the Everwood was supposed to be just that. But there’s something about the old house—or maybe its intriguing caretaker—that pulls him in.
Together, Mara and Marshall set out to save the Everwood. But its secrets run deeper than they could’ve imagined. As they renovate the house and search for its missing owner, they’ll each confront the pain that brought them to the Everwood in the first place . . . and just maybe discover a faith and love to help them carry on.
This description drew me in immediately and once I started reading, I was even more enthralled. Both Mara and Marshall's stories were tragic and heartbreaking but were so true to life and made me want to root for them all the more. What I also loved was a small group of friends who were included as secondary characters. All of them were characters that had appeared previously in other books, but their roles were more predominant in this one and the depiction of a close-knit group of friends, a chosen family of sorts, was amazing to see. The group folded Mara and Marshall into their group and it reflected what true friendship and community is supposed to look like.
Another element that was a little different than Melissa's previous books was the inclusion of a mystery (which turned into multiple mysteries!). The mystery was intriguing and added the perfect amount of suspense that had me at the edge of my seat. I kept wondering how it was all going to play out, and just when I thought I'd had it figured out, she would add a twist or turn that had me perplexed all over again.
The friendship and eventual romance between Mara and Marshall was satisfying without being formulaic or predictable. Two people who have problems trusting anyone are forced to admit that they need each other and it left me wondering if they would ever get past their many obstacles and find their way to each other.
Overall, while this book was a little more serious than some of her previous novels, it is definitely among my favorite books not only written by Melissa Tagg, but in general. The seriousness of some of the storyline felt true not only to the characters but to life. So often life is messy and full of tragedy. We don't always get neat and tidy solutions to problems and things happen that leave scars we can't ignore. But God is right there in the midst of our sufferings and trials, if we allow him in. He also provides people to help shoulder our burdens. This book was such a sweet reminder of that.
Now and Then and Always releases tomorrow! You can pre-order it here: http://bit.ly/nowthenalways.
Christ-Follower. Writer. Caffeine-addict.