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My review: Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg

Description:

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.

About the Author:

Melissa 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's 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 (not that she's biased), watching old movies, and daydreaming about her next story. She's passionate about humor, grace, and happy endings. Melissa blogs regularly and loves connecting with readers at www.melissatagg.com.

(Book description and author bio from Amazon.  Cover photo from Deeper Shopping. All rights reserved.)

My Review: 5 stars

Outstanding new book from Melissa Tagg!

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.

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Created by Phred St Laurent May 27, 2010 at 11:35pm. Last updated by Phred St Laurent May 31, 2010.

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