Now and Then and Always

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A rambling run-down bed and breakfast, some deeply broken people, a decades old mystery…when put together with God in the center, it makes for a powerfully moving story.

I’ve missed Maple Valley…the charming, quirky town and its amazingly loving and welcoming residents. Reading Now and Then and Always, set on the outskirts of Maple Valley, just felt like coming home – oh I wish this was a real place! As always when we visit Maple Valley, we get to meet some new characters, but we also get to “run into” some old favorites. It’s such an added joy to catch up with these “friends.”

The newest Maple Valley residents, Marshall, Mara and Lenora are flawed and broken people. In this story, we witness God meeting each of these characters right where they are. And although this is a fictional story, it mimics how God uses us, flawed and broken people, to do His work…to care for, to offer acceptance, to love one another. The deeply broken characters in this book serve as examples to us of people in our own lives who need to be offered that care, acceptance and love. God uses Melissa Tagg’s writing to teach us how to be His hands and feet. Her writing has a unique blend of humor and depth that grabs hold of our hearts and ministers to us as we read.

This story deals with addiction, grief, hurtful family relationships, abandonment, abuse and scars. It deals with choices, perspectives hope and healing. It deals with all of this while sharing a beautiful story that draws you in and causes you to feel as if you are a part of it. Therefore, even though I have finished this story, I do not want to leave Maple Valley and these people yet. My real life is full of people who are dealing with these same things…the good and the bad. This story encourages me to be present in their lives and be the kind of friend and relative that I loved meeting and visiting with in this book.

If I’ve not made it clear enough in my review thus far, I love this book. It touched my heart and I am already anticipating another visit to Maple Valley.

Although set in a beloved fictional town full of stories already told, Now and Then and Always can be read as a stand-alone novel. If however you enjoy the added depth of reading stories in order, to enhance the overall enjoyment of the book, like I do, then I would recommend going back to the beginning of Maple Valley and starting with the prequel novella to the Walker Family Series, Three Little Words.

*Thanks to the publisher and the author for the complimentary copy to review. A good review was neither encouraged nor requested. All thoughts expressed are my own.

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Sweet On You

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Becky Wade has outdone herself with the final installment of the Bradford Sisters Romance series.  After reading and adoring the first two books (and the novellas) in this series, I could not wait to get my copy of Sweet On You and read Britt and Zander’s story.  I absolutely adored the previous books, and already loved Britt and Zander from those stories, so I knew this one would be amazing.  It was better than I could even have hoped for.

Sweet On You is a friends to more story and it’s the first time Becky Wade has used this premise.  I hope she uses it much, much more because she wrote this one masterfully!  Although, obviously, not all male/female friendships are destined for more, Britt and Zander’s definitely is – the only two who can’t see it are Britt and Zander.  Truly, Zander is an absolute dream.  How Britt can be so oblivious, I’ll never know.  Zander, on the other hand, just can’t see a relationship with Britt going from wish to reality.  I am so thankful that Becky Wade is not blind to their plight and sets her pen to helping them realize (and bring to fruition) their love for one another.

Becky Wade’s characters are consistently well developed, real and relatable.  Britt and Zander are already beloved to those of us who’ve read the rest of this series and the feeling only grows as we read Sweet On You.  I love that we are treated to glimpses of them when they were younger through notes and journal entries shared at the end of each chapter.

The Bradford Sisters Romance series is set in the fictional town of Merryweather, Washington.  Merryweather is a place that you look forward to revisiting in each book and a place you really wish you could visit in person.  Both Britt and Zander grew up in this wonderful town.  Britt has realized her dream of becoming a chocolatier in her very own “Sweet Art” Chocolate shop and Zander has been traveling the world with the advance from his highly successful, best-selling novel.  Sweet On You begins with Zander having just returned to Merryweather and I so enjoyed his appreciation of this special place – as well as one special someone – in the opening scene.

In this story, just like the others in this series, Becky Wade has added a thread of mystery.  The purpose for Zander’s return to Merryweather is that his uncle, who raised him has died.  Upon arrival he learns that the circumstances surrounding his uncle’s death are suspicious.  He vows to get to the bottom of this mystery, and this leads him and Britt on a journey to find answers.  Although not a “suspense” book…there were a few times that I was almost on the edge of my seat waiting to learn what happens next.  I’m very much enjoying the mystery aspect Becky Wade is adding into her stories.

One of my favorite things about Becky Wade’s writing is that she shares the faith walk of her characters.  Just like in real life, we are all in different places in our relationship with God.  Her characters reflect that.  Britt is very independent and in Sweet On You she learns that it’s okay to need God and those He has put in her life.  Zander learns to truly trust God with what is most important to him.  I love seeing characters grow in their faith, because it causes me to grow in my faith too.

Sweet On You is the perfect conclusion to the Bradford Sisters Romance series.  Becky Wade did a fantastic job of weaving everything together and leaving her readers feeling on top of the world, while at the same time, feeling a bit sad that we’re at the end of this series and saying goodbye to the people of Merryweather.  Thankfully, we can visit anytime we want by just picking up one of the books in this series to re-read.

If you’ve read my previous reviews, you know that I am a stickler for reading my books in order…because I feel it’s a richer experience.  This is true of the Bradford Sisters Romance series too, but Sweet On You can be read as a stand-alone novel.  So, whether you choose to read in order or jump right in…head on down to your local bookstore (or online to your favorite bookseller) and get your copy now!!  You’ll be glad you did!

Smokejumpers…Alaska…Susan May Warren – Fantastic Combination!

Light My Fire

So, if you’ve read my “Favorite Authors” section of my blog, you will know that Susan May Warren is one of my top favorite authors.  I realized I went to post this review that I this is the first review of one of her books on my blog!  Yikes!!  As I thought about it, I realized that I started this blog during a time when I had read most of her books.  And then I got behind.  And if you read my blog much at all, you know I’m a stickler for reading my books in order.  Well…I made an exception for this new novella.  I really enjoy smokejumper stories and an opportunity presented itself to be an early reader on this one…so I took it.  I’ll be honest and tell you, I really, really, really wish that I had read the others first.  I can tell, from the story and the comments of other readers, that I there is more background to some of these characters in other stories.  With that said, I’m very glad I read this one.

Light My Fire, is the first of Susan May Warren’s new novella collection, Summer of the Burning Sky. It is quick paced and keeps you on the edge of your seat as the suspense zigzags through the story – and the Alaska wilderness.  The descriptions in this book had me feeling as if I were right there on that mountain in Alaska with them.  Weaved amidst the suspense is a blossoming romance and some very real conversations that reveal the struggles of the characters with trusting God completely.  Through a series of events the characters find themselves in unexpected places, facing unexpected danger.  The characters, and readers, are reminded that we are never alone.

The Summer of the Burning Sky Trilogy is loosely connected to the Montana Fire Series.  If you’re a stickler for reading your books in order – as I am – I recommend starting with Where There’s Smoke, the first Montana Fire book. If you’ve read any of Susan May Warren’s books, you already know you’re going to love this one.  If you haven’t read any of hers yet, this is a great example of her consistently fantastic work.  I’m very much looking forward to the next installment already…hurry up July!!

 

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I cannot ever recall having a favorite Becky Wade book.  Of course, if you’ve read my previous reviews on her books you’ll know that I just adore them all!  Falling for You, however, the second full-length Bradford Sisters Romance, changed that.  I absolutely fell in love with Willow and Corbin and their story.

This book tells the story of two exceedingly successful people who share a hurtful past together and who also have very painful pasts apart from one another.  The combined pain has caused trust issues and placed them both in a very vulnerable place where they learn to truly trust God with everything.

Becky Wade’s characters walk right off the page and into your heart.  They are genuine, believable, flawed and scarred…as we all are.  Although I cannot relate to their wealthy lifestyles or their glamorous jobs, I can relate to some of the struggles and concerns that Willow and Corbin have.  Their struggles are real and don’t come with easy answers.

I very much enjoyed the new mystery element in Falling for You.  It was a fantastic addition to Becky Wade’s writing.  The mystery itself and the way it worked into the story were well done and left me wanting more.

The love of Christ is consistently and eloquently shared in each of Becky Wade’s books.  In this book I especially love the raw conversations between Corbin, a new believer, and his unbelieving dad.  Whether a new believer or a mature believer, we can feel ill equipped and scared to share our faith.  These conversations are approached in this book in a way that encourage believers to share and trust God with the outcome.

It’s always such a joy to see how God works in and through Becky Wade’s books.  I always come away having learned something about God and what He wants of me.  The end of this book drew me right into conversation with my Savior.  When that is your response after reading a fictional book, you know you’ve found a new favorite.

I highly recommend Falling for You.  And if you haven’t read the previous books in this series, I recommend that you begin with the prequel novella, Then Came You.

Fantastic story by Courtney Walsh!

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I absolutely love Courtney Walsh’s new book, Hometown Girl.  I did not want the story to end.  The author has a distinctive way of dealing with very difficult topics in loving ways.  She does not sugar coat the issue, try to hide it or gloss over it.  Her characters deal with the situations head on and learn about themselves and their Creator in the process.

The characters in Hometown Girl are easy to relate to and you quickly come to care about them and what happens to them in the story.  There is a depth to them that makes them feel real.  When they are happy, you are happy too; when they are sad, you are sad.  These are the kinds of characters that you find yourself praying for and then laughing when you realize what you’re doing.

Ms. Walsh tackles some really difficult topics in this story…topics that not only cause you to feel for the characters, but also cause you to stop and evaluate your life and where God is calling you to have courage and make some changes.  She does an amazing job of weaving in some lighthearted, funny scenes that have you laughing out loud and enjoying the characters.

If you enjoy contemporary romance stories that are authentic and real, this story is for you.  I’m already looking forward to her next book.  And I’m really hoping that this heroine’s sister and brother get stories of their own in the future!

Enjoy!

All This Time

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Wow…honestly, I’m not even sure where to start.  All This Time is the final book in Melissa Tagg’s Walker Series.  I both eagerly anticipated and horribly dreaded receiving this book.  It was eagerly anticipated because every one of Melissa Tagg’s previous books, set in the idyllic Maple Valley, have been incredible.  There was no doubt in my mind that this book would transport me back to one of my favorite places, it would welcome me back among this remarkable family and I would be told a story that would touch my heart, encourage me to walk closer with my Lord and teach me some amazing truths.  That was all a given.  Every one of Tagg’s Walker Series has been all that I’ve described above, beginning with the prequel, Three Little Words, which is still one of my favorites!  (Who am I kidding…they’re all my favorite!)  The arrival of All This Time was horribly dreaded for only one reason – it was the last one and once I finished reading it, there would be no more.  Of course, the eagerly anticipated won out over the horrible dreading and I devoured the book.

If you’ve read any of Melissa Tagg’s Walker Series, you know of Bear McKinley and Reagan Walker.  They appear in all of the previous stories and have been waiting patiently (most of the time) for their story to be told.  If you have not read any of Melissa Tagg’s Walker Series, I promise not to give any spoilers…but I highly recommend that you begin as soon as possible.  All of her books can be read as stand-alone books, but, in my opinion, you receive a much richer experience by reading them in order.

Both Bear and Reagan have some very difficult situations that they must come to terms with and figure out how to live with.  I’m thankful the author doesn’t sugar coat these issues.  Instead, her characters must learn to trust God, and each other as they walk through situations and make sometimes very difficult decisions.  I really enjoyed witnessing their long-time friendship blossomed into God’s perfect plan.  As much as I don’t want this series to end, Bear and Reagan’s story is the perfect conclusion.

Melissa Tagg writes in a way that causes you to feel as if you are right there in the middle of the book with the characters.  Her characters come to life and take you along on the journey of their story.  I hope that your heart is touched and that you enjoy the journey of this story as much as I did.

Right Where We Belong

Right Where We Belong

Right Where We Belong is a collection of three delightful novellas written by Courtney Walsh, Melissa Tagg and Deborah Raney.

First up we have A Sweethaven Romance by Courtney Walsh. I always enjoy her books. She has a unique storytelling voice that draws you into her characters’ lives. The story lines are interesting. She goes just deep enough to tug at your heartstrings and yet remain lighthearted and fun.  This is a classic tale of romance brewing between two people from the “opposite side of the tracks,” with a twist. I very much enjoyed getting to know the characters in Sweethaven. I didn’t realize there were others in this series. I very much look forward to reading the rest of this series.

Next is A Maple Valley Romance by Melissa Tagg. You can’t go wrong with a Melissa Tagg book.  Maple Valley, the town in her Walker series, is the town you want to live in. Whether you’ve read any of her Walker series books yet or not, you will love this one. Megan has been patiently awaiting her happily-ever-after and at last Tagg indulged her (and us)!  Melissa Tagg’s characters grab your heart from the get-go and make you forget that they are fictional characters. Their struggles are real, their dependence on God, essential and their love for one another, magical. This is a sweet story of healing, forgiveness and redemption.

And, last but not least is A Langhorne Romance by Deborah Raney.  Raney is a popular author, that I’m a little embarrassed to say that I had not read until now. The setting was welcoming, the characters a joy to get to know and the story line, unique and fun. This was a story of God’s perfect timing and dependence on Him. I look forward to reading more books by this author.

Walsh, Tagg and Raney bring three wonderful stories together in Right Where We Belong. Three great authors encouraging one another and, through their characters and stories, encouraging their readers. You don’t want to miss this collection.

True to You by Becky Wade

Becky Wade pens contemporary Christian romance books that touch the hearts of her readers.  I have loved every single one of her stories.  I learn along with her characters to trust God more in a variety of areas of life … Continue reading

To Have and to Hold

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To Have and to Hold

By Betsy St. Amant, Katie Ganshert and Becky Wade

To Have and to Hold was a joy to read.  Three sweet stories of finding love while planning (or spying on) a wedding.  The heroines were easy to identify with.  The men were swoon worthy (even the “other” guys in each story).  And I enjoyed the anticipation of how each author would bring about the happily-ever-after.  Speaking of authors, I read this book because I absolutely LOVE everything Becky Wade writes!  Besty St. Amant and Katie Ganshert were new to me though.  I love finding new authors and I think novellas are a great way to “meet” them.

Betsy St. Amant’s story, Love Takes the Cake was first up.  With a bakery and a friend’s wedding as a backdrop, how could you not be enchanted?  Charlotte tugged at my heart with her sweet countenance and great love for her daughter.  I love Will’s loyalty to his friend and how God uses a scary situation to help him realize the truth.  This story was a pleasure to read.   I’m looking forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Next up was The Perfect Arrangement by Katie Ganshert.  I must admit, I was a bit disappointed, after reading the first paragraph, to realize this story was written in first person narrative.  I generally struggle to engage in first person stories, so I tend to avoid them.  This is a short story, written by a writer friend of Becky Wade AND it has a flower shop in a small town as the setting, I decided I NEEDED to read it.  I am SO glad that I did.  It was a delightful story that gripped me from the get-go.  I was expecting to have to push my way through, but surprisingly found myself pulled along instead.  I couldn’t read it fast enough.  Amelia’s fun and quirky personality was so much fun to read and the email exchanges that launched the events of the story were perfect.  I was pleasantly surprised to get to the end and realize through most of the story I’d forgotten that I was reading first person narrative AND I didn’t want it to end!  Well done Katie Ganshert!  I loved it!!

Finally, the last story in this collection, Love in the Details by Becky Wade.  I knew I would love this story before I ever started reading it because, as I said above, I LOVE everything Becky Wade writes.  Josh and Holly’s story grips you by the heart from the very opening lines.  I love the way this story shows that God is in control always, in the good times and in the hard times.  I love that this story is real-to-life, following God isn’t easy.  He is there to walk with us through the difficult things, and we can have a peace that we are following His guidance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t still be heartbreaking and painful, even in years to come.  I loved to see how this story was brought full circle.  I loved Josh’s devoition and Holly’s generous spirit.  Spring can’t get here soon enough for me!  I’m ready to read the new Becky Wade novel now!!

To sum it up, this is a great collection to purchase.  Whether you know and love all three authors or are going to be meeting them for the first time, you won’t be disappointed.  The stories are beautifully written and leave you wanting more.  Although I read this book via e-reader, it will definitely be one I’ll purchase in hard copy for my bookshelf!

Like Never Before by Melissa Tagg

Like Never Before

Like Never Before – Walker Family Series by Melissa Tagg

Have you been to Maple Valley, Iowa??  It’s one of my favorite towns to visit. You too can visit this amazing town and get to know the wonderful people who live there by reading Melissa Tagg’s Walker Family Series.

Okay, okay…so it’s a fictional town and we can’t really go there for a visit.  But I sure wish we could.  I fell in love with this little town and its heartwarming and relatable characters in the prequel novella, Three Little Words (which you can get FREE on Amazon).  My heart was touched by the first book in the series, From the Start.  I loved the story and did not want to leave Maple Valley.  Thankfully, Melissa seemed to know that we were going to miss Maple Valley and would have to wait for book two in the Walker Family Series, so she surprised us with a fabulous novella, One Enchanted Christmas to tie us over.  Although not a Walker Family book, it was set in Maple Valley and it was such a joy to read.

I have liked Melissa’s author page on Facebook and I LOVE how she shares about her writing and her characters and what God is teaching her through them.  Logan’s book, Like Never Before – the second in the Walker Family Series – has been highly anticipated both by her and by all of us who love the Walkers and Maple Valley!  I was so excited to get my influencer copy in the mail.  I wanted to devour it and yet, I didn’t.  I really wanted to read it nonstop until I finished, but I also wanted to savor it.  It almost sounds silly to me, but I wanted to be able to focus solely on the book, not having anything else around to distract me when I was reading.  So, I forced myself to read it slowly and I’m so glad I did.

There was a lot of hype about Logan Walker before the book even came out.  Melissa just couldn’t say enough good stuff about him…she practically fell in love with him (ask her…she’ll tell you).  And I must say, after reading the book I can see why…Logan makes falling for him easy and from what I’ve seen in other reviews, she’s not the only one!   Logan has some tough issues to deal with in this book.  I love his heart, his true desire to do what is right, his devotion to his family and his romantic nature.

Amelia Bentley is a fun quirky character that we met in From the Start and she is the perfect match for Logan.  I love her passion and determination.  Her heart for seemingly unlovable people challenges me to love people where they are, knowing there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

This book allowed us to walk through a lot of hard memories and difficult decisions, determination and life altering situations, gentle reminders and soul-searching moments as Logan and Amelia face life together as their paths cross in Maple Valley.

We are also privileged to witness the great love between father and daughter, estranged sisters, caring siblings, father to grown son, two souls finding each other and most importantly God and His children.  This book speaks to the importance of the relationships in our lives and reminds us not to take them for granted.

This book is one for the re-read shelf.  It is heartwarming and challenging at the same time.  And there’s a fun mystery woven in too!

Are you ready to visit Maple Valley and meet these wonderful people?  Don’t delay.  I’m certain they will make you feel right at home.