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.
After playing nomad for five years, Blake Hunziker has finally had enough of adventure. Not sure what reception he'll get from everyone back in Whisper Shore, he's stunned at not only a warm welcome from his hometown but also a job offer. The job is his if he can successfully pull off the annual Christmas Festival. If only he knew the first thing about coordinating events...
If there's one thing Autumn Kingsley knows, it's Whisper Shore. For years, she's been stuck running her family's inn when all she wants is to see the world. Now she has a visit scheduled from a potential investor who could take over the inn, as well as a dream job offer in Paris. But with just two weeks to whip the inn into shape, her chance at escape is a long shot.
The Hunzikers and the Kingsleys may not get along, but Blake knows Autumn's the only one who can help him. She agrees to a trade--she'll help with the Festival and he'll help with inn repairs. But what was meant to be a simple deal quickly becomes much more than that when the guy who's done running away joins forces with the girl who can't wait to leave.
After reading several contemporary Christian reads, I had decided they probably weren't for me. For some reason, I decided to give this one a try. I'm terrifically glad I did! This read didn't have the partying, going to bars, drinking, gambling...it was a good clean read which is what I expect from a book in the Christian genre. This book never drags, yet the story isn't forced. It seems the perfect length with the perfect ending. The story has a natural flow to it that was wonderful.
The characters in this book are so well written...such depth. By the time I was done, I really felt as if I knew them. Autumn feels the need to impress and please others, but she feels restrained and held back. Blake feels as if his past is always going to weigh him down, and he is totally unsure of his future. The secondary characters are wonderful as well.
One of my favorite things about the book is that the romance isn't forced, love is shown in action, and it isn't overly sappy and all physical attraction. The story is simply a wonderful read. I laughed when she is stranded on the roof due to a prank, and I teared up when Blake tries to put some things in the past and move on in his life. I love that the relationship was allowed to slowly build in the book. My favorite part is the ending...and without giving a spoiler just say that giving room and letting go gave this book a much better ending than many romance stories.
Blake and Autumn both learn that they need God to open the doors, that they can't live just to fulfill others expectations, and that they need to follow the path God has for each of them. Great read.Highly recommend!
This book is about dreams, expectations, beginnings, hopes and being young with your entire life before you. Of course, this is balanced with loss, grief, reality, family and heritage, adjustment and God. When the author throws in generous helpings of humor, lovable characters, feuding families and lives poised on the precipice of either disaster or adventure, you have a story that draws you in and won't let you go until you've finished it.
Blake Hunziker, also known as Blaze around in his home town of Whisper Shore, Michigan, was like the prodigal son. He was returning home after nomadic adventuring around the world. Well, it wasn't so much grasping life and living it to the fullest as much as it was running from life and the guilt he carried in his conscience about his brother Ryan's death. So returning home was his way of squaring his shoulders and facing head on the responsibility he'd been running from for half a decade. If only he knew what he was supposed to do with his life.
Autumn Kingsley, on the other hand, had always taken on the challenges of life, putting others' needs before her own. For example, when her mother deeded her Kingsley Inn, the business Autumn's grandparents poured their lives into and passed on on to her mother, Autumn accepted ownership--at least temporarily, because it didn't keep her from dreams of traveling to far off places as her father had done. But at this point, she didn't think her life merited even a page in a scrapbook. Some day, she hoped to fill an entire book with the adventures of her life.
Blake and Autumn had a history. First, as family rivalry since Blake's parents owned the Hunziker Hotel, an upscale competitor to the sprawling down-home charm of the Kingsley Inn. The tiny coastal town on Lake Michigan could barely contain the two businesses. Second, since Autumn's sister had dated Blake's brother, who, she discovered, had a pain pill drug addiction stemming from a sports injury. It had become serious. When she had warned Ryan's parents, they didn't believe her, spurned her efforts to help, and even publicly denounced her after Ryan's death in an accident. Since then, the Hunzikers and the Kingsleys carried on a private war that trickled down the family line and even into business. It was definitely a shock, then, when Blake and Autumn began to work together on a winter festival committee for their town. Sparks were sure to fly--both kinds.
One of the things I appreciate about this author is her quirky sense of humor. She infuses her characters with sparkle and wit that makes reading this book so fun. What I will remember most about this particular story is the incident of the claw foot bathtub. It still tickles my funny-bone now, after the book has been finished. It's the kind of story you will share with your family and friends.
I also loved the author's use of metaphors that paint emotional pictures for the reader and heighten our feelings of empathy. Autumn's family Inn is a symbol of her perspective on life. The scrapbook references are closely related to the hotel motif and the journey she chooses to live. These writing aids are aptly applied to provide us insights to the two main characters, fleshing them out so that they come alive. They could be you and me.
If you enjoy stories of romance and the journey of life, I'm sure you will enjoy this book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Here to Stay is a great contemporary Christion fiction. Autumn Kingsley sets aside her dreams to run the family inn when all she has ever wanted was to see the world. The prodigal son, Blake Hunziker returns home after traveling the world over. Tired of running he comes home to put down roots. Autumn and Blake's families remind me of the Hatfields and McCoys but they put aside their families differences and team up to save the town by co coordinating the Christmas festival. You are sure to fall in love with the homey town of Whisper Shore and the characters too. This novel is well thought out, the characters are well developed, full of wit and heartwarming romance that will keep you turning the pages. Here to Stay is the second book by Melissa Tagg, but her first, Made to Last will find it's way into my to be read pile. I give Here to Stay five stars.
I want to thank the author Melissa Tagg and publisher Bethany House for bringing good clean Christian books like this one to readers like me. I would also like to thank The Book Club Network Inc. for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest review.