Thursday, June 6, 2019

Review: "Now and Then and Always" by Melissa Tagg

I love every literary trip to Maple Valley, Iowa. I wish it was a real place—it's like the midwestern version of Stars Hollow! Now and Then and Always marks the first book in Melissa Tagg's new Maple Valley series, and it's a delightful return to the adorable small town she created.

“It was just a house. Just a weathered old house in a hidden grove, shuttered and still . . . ” 

Last year, after traumatic circumstances forced her from her job as a nanny, Mara Bristol finally found a place to belong—the winsome Everwood Bed & Breakfast at the edge of Maple Valley, Iowa. For months, she’s helped its owner, Lenora, maintain the ramshackle property despite their shortage of guests. But when Lenora fails to return from a month-long trip and the bank threatens foreclosure, Mara worries she’s once again alone . . . abandoned . . . about to lose the only true home she’s ever known. 

Detective Marshall Hawkins is no closer to whole today than he was two years ago . . . the day his daughter died. Between his divorce, debilitating migraines, and a dependence on medication, his life is falling apart. And when a reckless decision on the job propels him into administrative leave, he has no other plan but to get in his truck and drive. A one-night stay at the Everwood was supposed to be just that. But there’s something about the old house—or maybe its intriguing caretaker—that pulls him in. 

Together, Mara and Marshall set out to save the Everwood. But its secrets run deeper than they could’ve imagined. As they renovate the house and search for its missing owner, they’ll each confront the pain that brought them to the Everwood in the first place . . . and just maybe discover a faith and love to help them carry on.

Ah, Marshall and Mara! It's been a while since Melissa Tagg's last release, but Now and Then and Always was definitely worth the wait!

At the beginning of the book, both Marshall and Mara are at varying stages of brokenness (though aren't we all?), and their time at the Everwood leads to healing and restoration. I enjoyed their romance (the "meet cute" was especially fun), but, more than that, I loved their friend group. Mara lived at the Everwood for months before getting to know anyone from Maple Valley—but after the B&B's owner Lenora disappears, she has to venture into town to see what she can do to save the Everwood ... and that's when she gets to know Jenessa, Lucas, and Sam. Eventually, Marshall gets swept into their group, too, and I just loved these friends who became family.

There's also a mystery in the pages of this story: what happened to Lenora, and why did her parents flee the Everwood when she was a child? I figured out none of the answers, but I sure had fun guessing (and I'm glad things weren't quite as sinister as I'd feared).

I loved reading Marshall & Mara's story ... now I hope that Jenessa & Lucas's story comes next! 5 stars.

Buy the book.
Read my reviews of Tagg's One Enchanted Christmas (5 stars), One Enchanted Eve (5 stars) and One Enchanted Noel (4 stars) and the Walker Family books Three Little Words (5 stars), From the Start (5 stars), Like Never Before (5 stars), All This Time (5 stars), and Keep Holding On (4-1/2 stars).

Melissa Tagg is a former reporter, current nonprofit grant writer and total Iowa girl. She writes romantic comedies in the banter-filled style of her favorite 1930s and 40s classic films. The second book in her popular Walker Family series, 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 and on Facebook and Instagram.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. 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.”

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