A Charming Romantic Comedy
From the Start
by Melissa Tagg
Series: Walker Family (Book 1)
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
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Kate Walker used to believe in true love and happily ever after. While her own love life may have left her brokenhearted, it hasn’t kept her from churning out made-for-TV romance movie screenplays…until a major career slump and a longing to do something meaningful send her running back to her hometown of Maple Valley.
Permanently sidelined by an injury, former NFL quarterback Colton Greene is temporarily hiding out in a friend’s hometown to avoid the media and the reminders of all he’s lost. Maple Valley seems like the perfect place to learn how to adjust to normal life. The only trouble is he’s never really done normal before.
While Kate plays things safe and Colton is all about big risks and grand gestures, they both get what it’s like to desperately need direction in life. An unexpected project gives them both a chance to jumpstart their new lives, but old wounds and new dreams are hard to ignore. Starting over wasn’t part of the plan, but could it be the best thing that’s ever happened to them?
I spent four days in April reading From The Start, and, of course, planned to review it before the end of that month. As it turned out, life had plans that were different from mine. Still, despite the detour and delay, the timing now feels right. As I’m sitting here at home on a chilly autumn day, a scented candle is burning, football season is in full swing (all of my favorite teams won this weekend!), and I’m visited by memories of the people and happenings in Maple Valley, Melissa Tagg’s delightful little fictional Iowa town.
The Walker family is first introduced in the free novella Three Little Words. If you’re like me and insist on reading a series in order, don’t worry. The novella is a prequel that focuses on two completely different characters so you won’t be missing any key knowledge if you begin with From The Start. Here you’ll meet Kate Walker and Colton Greene. Kate’s a screenwriter for TV romance films and Colton’s an ex-professional football player. Each is at a crossroads in his/her life and career, and en route to figuring things out they both end up in Kate’s hometown of Maple Valley.
Melissa Tagg loves classic romantic comedy films, and it’s not a stretch to imagine this novel being brought to the small screen as, say, a Hallmark Channel movie. In fact, it has all the elements of a good film story: a charming small town, likable main characters who are flawed enough to feel real, humor, romance, and a plot that, should you remove the romantic thread, would still have meaning.
There are moments in the book that are laugh-out-loud funny, and the scene where Colton and Kate meet is definitely one of them. The humorous, easy tone of the prose is one of the novel’s biggest strengths. Another thing I enjoyed is that although both Kate and Colton come to Maple Valley carrying emotional baggage from their respective pasts, as their relationship develops, each takes the time to work through things independently rather than finding instant healing through his/her romantic counterpart. That’s important, because a thematic focus of the novel is trusting that, in the midst of your fear, struggles, and pain, God is working on His own designs for you. Even when your plans seems to be going up in flames, He is right there in the ashes bringing healing and renewal. Now, I’m not going to dwell on the faith aspect here, lest you get the idea that this is an intrusive, heavy-handed, didactic tale. That it is definitely not. But, should you read with an open mind and heart, I promise you’ll ask yourself a question or two that may bring clarity about your own path.
The only downside I found is that From The Start relies on the occurrence of two natural disasters within the same community for dramatic tension. (I’ve noticed weather events popping up with regularity in Christian fiction.) Still, this quibble aside, Tagg has created an engaging cast of characters, a close-knit family you’ll enjoy getting to know, and a lovable small-town setting you’ll want to revisit. Luckily, this is the first in a series focusing on the Walker family, so you’ll have that opportunity!
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 Hearts. A Charming Romantic Comedy.
From the Start is pleasant, funny, and inspirational. Even if you’re sports-challenged and know little to nothing about football, you’ll enjoy your visit to Maple Valley, and, you might just learn a thing or two — about football and yourself!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers for providing me a copy of this title. 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.”