Book Review: Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Like Never BeforeLike Never Before (Walker Family #2) 

Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley’s haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher…if only she new who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime–a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he’s inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She’s scrappy, but wounded. He’s dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley’s quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

REVIEW:

There are certain things I know will bring me smiles: purring kittens, Broadway musicals, Disney movies, Jane Austen adaptations, trips to Barnes and Nobles. The underlying theme of this list–the belief that love conquers all. (Well, maybe that Barnes and Nobles trip doesn’t quite fit that statement, but hey, this *is* my list…and I can find many “love conquers all” stories in B&N.)

And if I want one of those “love conquers all” stories that will make me smile, I know without any doubt that all I need to do is pull a Melissa Tagg novel off the shelf. That’s right, reader friends. Some stories make your heart flutter with the sweet delight of first love; others make your heart pound with the spice; and some make you swoon with the romance. Melissa’s novels have a little bit of all of that, ensuring that no matter what kind of love a reader longs for, they will find it amongst her witty dialog, punchy plots, and quirky characters.

Witty dialog, punchy plots, and quirky characters are enough to make a novel successful, but I fully believe that readers keep coming back for more of Melissa’s books because of the heart of the stories. Melissa crafts characters and storylines that speak to the  heartaches, joys, loves, and dramas that we all experience. Like Never Before demonstrates her natural ability to reach people on a heart-level through seemingly ordinary circumstances (in the book) but truly beautiful life lessons (woven into the story through her unique author voice).

I’ve long loved Melissa’s novels for all those reasons mentioned above, but in Like Never Before I noticed what first caught my attention last winter with her stand-alone novella: this author’s craft is strong, unique, and improved upon in each book she writes. Like Never Before stands out from Melissa’s preceding novels because of her use of wit in her dialog and prose, deep plot lines, and comedic timing. While Melissa’s novels are always funny, the wit and comedic timing in Like Never Before actually had me laughing out loud. She also deepened her story with a historical subplot that strengthened her character’s motivations and added a layer of complexity to her writing. These two elements alone tell me that Melissa is more than capable–and likely will–make a name for herself in a niche market of authors who can write complex contemporary romance novels.

Like Never Before is now one of my favorite novels ever. I am so excited to read Melissa’s future novels, including the next novel in the Walker Family Series (starring Beckett)!

Rating: 5 stars


About the Author: 

Melissa TaggMelissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. She’s also a multi-published novelist, writing romantic comedies in the banter-filled style of her favorite 1930s and 40s classic films. Her latest book, Like Never Before, was named by Publishers Weekly to their spring 2016 “Religion and Spirituality” Top 10 list. When she’s not writing she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. Melissa loves connecting with readers at http://www.melissatagg.com and on Facebook and Instagram.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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Book Review: From the Start by Melissa Tagg

From the StartABOUT THE BOOK

Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn’t kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays…until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.

Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend’s hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he’s lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he’s never really done normal before.

While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it’s like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn’t part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that’s ever happened to them?

Pre-order From the Start on Amazon!


REVIEW

When I first met Melissa Tagg at last year’s ACFW conference, I knew of very few contemporary Christian fiction authors, including our own writer of From the Start. It didn’t take me long to become interested in Tagg’s novels—I picked up both of her novels from the ACFW bookstore before the conference finished—so naturally I had to read her 2015 novel as soon as possible. If the one week it took me to read From the Start isn’t enough of an indicator of how much I liked this book, perhaps the following phrase will: I loved this book! Tagg’s From the Start is a charming story of faith, friendship, romance, and self-discovery that delivers heartfelt lessons sure to bring a smile to all readers. We are only a few months into 2015, but I am confident in putting From the Start onto my list of favorites for the year.

Tagg’s newest release is a novel reminiscent of the author herself. For all her quirky charm—including a curly-haired lopsided ponytail, love of puffy vests, and dangly bangle jewelry that pops with color—From the Start reads as if Tagg could star in the story alongside Kate Walker and Colton Greene. I don’t know if I have ever read a novel that put out a story so endearingly close to an author’s heart, and I loved From the Start for sharing so much of Tagg with me without compromising the integrity of the story. The Walkers hometown of Maple Valley, Iowa, for example, is hewn from the author’s love of her home state. I could easily visualize the quaint small town of Maple Valley and am looking forward to returning to this fictionalized but oh-so-real town for the rest of the Walker series.

The cast of characters in From the Start brings the story to life. Kate and Colton, alongside the rest of the Walker family, their circle of acquaintances, and Maple Valley’s community are so endearing that I did not want to put this novel down. With all of her down-to-earth charm, Kate could be any girl’s best friend; her relationships with Megan and Ava demonstrate that Tagg knows exactly the type of friendship most women yearn for. Colton is about handsome, wounded, driven, loyal, tender-hearted, and hard-working as any female would want her hero to be. On more than one occasion I found myself wishing for a real-life Colton Greene to show up on my doorstep. Tagg knows her heroes and heroines and contemporary Christian fiction is all the better for it.

Romance shines brightly Tagg’s third novel, from Colton and Kate, to the Walker parents, to the supporting characters whose own romances I cannot wait to read about in the following novels in the series. From the moment Kate and Colton enter the same room chemistry bounds off the page. With her trademark wit and humor, Tagg puts her leading characters through situations that show romantic comedy for all it should be in Christian fiction: appropriate for its demographic (i.e. in From the Start, clean but applicable to adults), sarcastic without any meanness, and quirky without being strange. I laughed aloud many times while reading this novel, which makes me want to pick up Tagg’s other novels to see what else she can possibly think of for her characters to get into. While laughter made Kate and Colton’s thrive, the passion between them is no laughing matter. Tagg created two characters whose chemistry thrives because they genuinely appreciate and care about one another. With another nod to appropriate text for both content and audience, Tagg put in scenes that respectfully balance passion with Christian principles.

Tagg’s lessons in From the Start, both faith-based and otherwise, are as approachable and poignant as all the other aspects of this story. Both Kate and Colton struggle with their careers throughout the book, and as they learn to let God take control of their lives instead of direct it themselves, readers will see that trusting in His plan always brings the best results. Tagg also takes readers on a wild ride of blind faith as a Kate’s demeanor changes throughout From the Start. Once passive and protective of her heart because of past hurts, Kate shows readers how to chase dreams as she gains confidence in herself and others. Those only a few of the heartfelt lessons of the novel, From the Start brims with takeaways and lines that are bound to fill Picmonkey messages and social media messages.

Female readers of all ages will love this contemporary Christian fiction novel. I heartily recommend From the Start for readers in the “new adult” age range because the situations and characters so perfectly resonate with those of us experiencing similar situations and emotions to those in the Walker clan.

RATING: 4/5 stars


ABOUT THE AUTHOR   

Melissa TaggMelissa Tagg, author of Made to Last and Here to Stay, is a former reporter and total Iowa girl. In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy, a craft and coaching community for writers. When she’s not writing, she can be found hanging out with the coolest family ever, watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next book. She’s passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at http://www.melissatagg.com.

Website: melissatagg.com

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Twitter: @Melissa_Tagg