Melissa's book, Here to Stay, is her second novel and it tells the story of Blake Hunziker, who we first met in Made to Last. I was really looking forward to reading Blake's story, because I fell in love with his character in Made to Last--and this story did not disappoint!
If you haven't picked up one of Melissa's books, I urge you to get one soon. Melissa has such a fun, spunky voice and her characters are so realistic and charming. The heroine in Here to Stay runs a historic inn, but her dream is to see the world. The hero has just come home from globe-trotting, and he wants to finally settle down and stay in one place. As their lives are brought together by a community event, we watch this unlikely pair fall in love. But how can either one give up their dream?
I especially loved the setting for Here to Stay. It's a small, lakeside town called Whisper Shores. Melissa did a wonderful job bringing the community, and it's citizens, to life. By the end of the book, I felt like I was a member of the Whisper Shores community. Melissa's story is funny, yet poignant, and you will experience all the joys and sorrows along the way. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy a romantic comedy.
This novel is light Christian romance all the way.
Autumn is the owner of an old inn along the shore of Lake Michigan, having acquired it after her father died and her mother wanted nothing to do with it. But tourism is down and continual repairs has left Autumn in financial difficulty.
Blake has just returned to his home town after being gone for years. He is still trying to deal with his past and his part in the death of his brother. His reception is mixed as some still hold him responsible for the tragedy.
Autumn and Blake are unlikely friends as Blake's father owns a hotel, direct competition to Autumn's inn. The town is in need of promotional help, however, and Blake agrees to organize the last festival of the season if Autumn will help. It will be a struggle as the hostility between the families goes back a long time.
The two work together and romance blossoms. Just when it looks like the two might get together, Autumn looses the inn and decided to take a job in Europe.
This is a fun romance. It is the second in a series. I read it without having read the first one, Made to Last, and enjoyed it but felt I had missed much of the earlier character development. To obtain full enjoyment of this novel you should read the earlier one.
The characters are well crafted. The plot is good. I did feel like the reconciliation of Blake with the people in the town was a bit fast and unrealistic, as was Autumn's change of heart near the end of the novel. This is romance, however, and romance often breaks the borders of sensible reality.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
In her second novel, Melissa Tagg delves in the story of Blake Hunziker, the man who pretended to be reality show star Miranda Woodruff's husband in Made to Last. Returning home after half a dozen years' absence, Blake is ready to make things right with his family, however hard it may be, and put down roots in his old home town. Autumn Kingsley, owner of her family's floundering inn, has been ready to fly for years, and she finally has an opportunity to work her dream job in Paris. Somehow the two end up partnering to put on the town's Christmas festival, for all that their families are like the Montagues and the Capulets, and they start breaching the rift that has been between their families for years. But all Autumn has ever wanted to do was leave, and all Blake wants now is to stay. Can they pursue their dreams without losing each other?
Although the story involves the old scandals, world travelers, and the rich and famous, it is down-to-earth, with real problems that frequently affect real people. Autumn is desperately trying to keep the bank from taking the Inn, scrambling to make enough money to keep the inn open and her beloved employees employed. At the same time, she is dealing with a family that was fractured rather than drawn close together by tragedy, and to top it off, her dreams have been simmering on the back burner so long she is afraid they will run dry and she will never be able to pursue them. She dreams of adventure, but without someone to prompt her to do it, she stays safe - and bored - in her usual routine (and that I can relate to; routine is so hard to break).
Blake has blamed himself for his brother's death for years, to the point where he left home and tried to run from the guilt. Whether or not that blame was justified, running proved ineffective, and so he is finally home to try to reconcile with his parents and friends. However, what still proves most difficult is reconciling with himself and moving forward.
While there is a fair amount of humor in the book, this is by no means a shallow story. It has a plausible plot, real-feeling characters, and several good messages to impart. What spoke to me most was the theme about dreams - both the dreams we've had from childhood and the dreams God gives us later. A solid, heart-warming, contemporary romance - 5 out of 5 stars!
Here to Stay is Melissa Tagg's sophomore novel, after Made to Last. It follows Blake "Blaze" Hunziker, who we met in the previous book. I was very interested in reading this book when I first heard about it, even though I still hadn't read Made to Last - after finally reading it, I was so excited! I loved Blake in the first book and couldn't wait for him to get his "Happily-Ever After."
Melissa instantly drew me into the story and brought the town of Whisper Shore to life! I loved the old-time feel to it, kind of like it belonged to another era, and all the quirky characters she created breathed life into a town I can only see in my imagination. The descriptions were wonderful and she has almost poetic and definitely quote-worthy dialogue, which was undoubtedly my favorite part. She had me laughing out loud and on the edge of tears in turn. The characters are amazing, too! They leapt off the page and right into my heart. They are wonderfully down-to-Earth and when the book ended it felt as though I was saying "goodbye" to new friends. I will definitely be "visiting" them again!
Autumn Kingsley is the heroine in Here to Stay and Blake's leading lady. I thought she was perfect for him, family rivalry aside. She brought out the best in him, as any good relationship should. I connected with her at once and fell more in love with her with every page I read. She's the kind of lady you'd love to have for a best-friend. Autumn longs for a life of adventure, the kind her father always told her stories about, and a chance to experience life outside the small town she's always lived in. But first she feels compelled to take care of her family's legacy and her employees/friends. In her desire for freedom she faces many "what-ifs," and questions about what the right move is. I love this quote from her sister, Ava: "Maybe the real freedom in in letting go of the "what-ifs." Choosing hopeful expectation over worry that life is going to shortchange you." - Ava Kingsley, page 374
Blake Hunziker is the hero and I must confess that I've loved him since Made to Last - I might even like him just a teensy-tiny bit more than Matthew Knox, who was the hero in that book (sorry Melissa, I know he's your favorite). He is funny, sweet, strong, and crazy. He is the kind of fictional character that makes you wish he was real, but if he was, he'd be taken anyway. We knew from meeting him in Made to Last that he is haunted by something in his past and is still hurting from it. He goes back home to Whisper Shore, searching for forgiveness and a place to belong. While he is still the funny, joke cracking guy, there is a new depth to him. We see a new side of him, a deeper insight and understanding of who he is, and why. I loved getting to know this new Blake, who's a little more serious, but still takes life as it comes, grinning most of the way.
I really enjoyed Blake and Autumn's relationship. It was very sweet and easy. It started out as a friendship and slowly changed to something more. Nothing felt stilted or forced and I loved their banter as they joked and just enjoyed the moments.
The spiritual side of the book was as well done as everything else. Melissa doesn't overwhelm the story, or take away from anything, but rather carefully weaves it in. It flows smoothly throughout the novel, sometimes in the background, sometimes the forefront, but always there. The story wouldn't have been the same without it.
Autumn feels forgotten by God and wonders if He still notices her. I don't know anyone who hasn't felt that way at some point. I loved the moment when she finally realizes that He'd be there for her all along. Blake, on the other hand, carries an enormous burden of guilt and feels unworthy, like he has disappointed everyone, including God. He is also struggling with a grief that he hasn't faced, hasn't allow to heal. I really appreciated how she handles his grief, shining a light on his battle with it, but not in any way glorifying it. Instead when he ultimately has it out with God, we are left with a wonderful conversation with his dad and a reminder that God will heal any wounds, if we only ask. One of my favorite quotes from this interaction is, "In my most broken state, God saw me. I believe He even grieved with me. And then He started putting me back together, slowly, piece by piece. His heartbeat pulsing inside me when my own was broken." - Linus Hunziker, page 325
This is where I typically have my complaints about a book, but I honestly don't have any. I can't think of anything I didn't like about it, which is a bit of a rarity for me. I actually loved everything about this book, from the characters, to the dialogue, to the descriptions that brought everything to life. From the sweet romance, to the even sweeter sigh-worthy ending, it is a wonderful book.
I highly recommend Here to Stay if you enjoy fun books with quirky characters, sweet romance, and happy endings.
I received a copy of this book through The Book Club Network for my honest opinion, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
*All quotes were used with permission from the author and publisher.
Autumn Kingsley has a dream and has had it for years, but life keeps getting in her way. She should have gone to see the world years ago. Instead she's stuck in Whisper Shore, Michigan, running a family owned inn that is falling down around her in a dying town.
Blake Hunziker has spent the last few years of his life running. Running from the guilt. Running from the pain. But now he's decided to return home and his parents wrath. But his parents don't respond the way Blake expected - in fact he feels almost like the prodigal son. He's sure to mess something up again - after all that's what he does and someone usually gets hurt in the process.
With less than a month until the traditional Christmas Festival is suppose to start (giving Whisper Shore a much needed tourist boost) the long-time events coordinator quits. Soon Blake and Autumn find themselves planning a Christmas Festival that will be unlike any that Whisper Shore has ever seen. But there are a few bumps along the way - such as the feud between the Kingsley and Hunziker families.
Here to Stay is a delightful book that I'm glad I was convinced to read. I was convinced during the monthly online chat between readers and authors that TBCN organizes one Monday evening a month. And I'm not sorry that I agreed to read and review this book. There are several stories threading throughout the book. The tragic loss of a loved one. The pressure of family expectation. The desire to achieve one's dream. And the bonds of family and friends. These are seamlessly woven together in a story you won't soon forget. My only regret is I picked it up at 1 am to glance at it and instead spent the night reading instead of sleeping, but it was that good and I really wanted to know what happened. (Now I have to get a copy of Melissa's previous book Made to Last so I can read more about Blake!)
I received a copy of this book from Bethany House/Melissa Tagg through TBCN in exchange for my honest review.