From the Start

From the StartFrom the Start by Melissa Tagg
Series: Walker Family
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Bethany House on April 7, 2015
Pages: 347
Also in this series: Keep Holding On
Also by this author: Keep Holding On, One Enchanted Eve

 

When I first met Melissa Tagg at last year’s ACFW conference, I knew of very few contemporary Christian fiction authors, including our own writer of From the Start. It didn’t take me long to become interested in Tagg’s novels—I picked up both of her novels from the ACFW bookstore before the conference finished—so naturally I had to read her 2015 novel as soon as possible. If the one week it took me to read From the Start isn’t enough of an indicator of how much I liked this book, perhaps the following phrase will: I loved this book! Tagg’s From the Start is a charming story of faith, friendship, romance, and self-discovery that delivers heartfelt lessons sure to bring a smile to all readers. We are only a few months into 2015, but I am confident in putting From the Start onto my list of favorites for the year.

Tagg’s newest release is a novel reminiscent of the author herself. For all her quirky charm—including a curly-haired lopsided ponytail, love of puffy vests, and dangly bangle jewelry that pops with color—From the Start reads as if Tagg could star in the story alongside Kate Walker and Colton Greene. I don’t know if I have ever read a novel so endearingly close to an author’s heart, and I loved From the Start for sharing so much of Tagg with me without compromising the integrity of the story. The Walkers hometown of Maple Valley, Iowa, for example, is hewn from the author’s love of her home state. I could easily visualize the quaint small town of Maple Valley and am looking forward to returning to this fictionalized but oh-so-real town for the rest of the Walker Family series.

The cast of characters in From the Start brings the story to life. Kate and Colton, alongside the rest of the Walker family, their circle of acquaintances, and Maple Valley’s community are so endearing that I did not want to put this novel down.

The cast of characters in From the Start brings the story to life. Kate and Colton, alongside the rest of the Walker family, their circle of acquaintances, and Maple Valley’s community are so endearing that I did not want to put this novel down. With all of her down-to-earth charm, Kate could be any girl’s best friend; her relationships with Megan and Ava demonstrate that Tagg knows exactly the type of friendship most women yearn for. Colton is about handsome, wounded, driven, loyal, tender-hearted, and hard-working as any female would want her hero to be. On more than one occasion I found myself wishing for a real-life Colton Greene to show up on my doorstep. Tagg knows her heroes and heroines and contemporary Christian fiction is all the better for it.

Characterization could have gone a bit deeper in From the Start, and at times I found myself frustrated with what felt like a lack of depth in both main and minor characters. Kate struggles with a past relationship for over six years, and despite the heartbreak I’m sure people experience over a broken relationship, it was almost hard to believe that she held onto that pain for so long. Her lack of direction over her career and her reasoning for pursuing her next option also felt a bit flat because Tagg does not explore the relationship that coincides with Kate’s possible option. I wanted to know a bit more about Kate’s past in order to fully empathize with her struggles. Perhaps more background on the secondary characters in the rest of the Walker novels will provide support for the starring leads in Tagg’s next books.

Romance shines brightly From the Start, from Colton and Kate, to the Walker parents, to the supporting characters whose own romances I cannot wait to read about in the following novels in the series.

Romance shines brightly in Tagg’s third novel, from Colton and Kate, to the Walker parents, to the supporting characters whose own romances I cannot wait to read about in the following novels in the series. From the moment Kate and Colton enter the same room chemistry bounds off the page. With her trademark wit and humor, Tagg puts her leading characters through situations that show romantic comedy for all it should be in Christian fiction: appropriate for its demographic (i.e. in From the Start, clean but applicable to adults), sarcastic without any meanness, and quirky without being strange. I laughed aloud many times while reading this novel, which makes me want to pick up Tagg’s other novels to see what else she can possibly think of for her characters to get into. While laughter made Kate and Colton’s thrive, the passion between them is no laughing matter. Tagg created two characters whose chemistry thrives because they genuinely appreciate and care about one another. With another nod to appropriate text for both content and audience, Tagg put in scenes that respectfully balance passion with Christian principles.

The structure of this style is one I am beginning to associate as trademark Tagg because, again, it seems uniquely her and helps define her authorial presence in the genre. Each chapter ends with a cliffhanger that will keep readers holding From the Start until the last possible second. Tagg’s talent at continually surprising readers with unexpected twists in her novels is positively unique and much appreciated, especially within the contemporary Christian romance genre where romances tend to fall flat. I have been reading romances for about twelve years and feel fairly confident in calling out what I expect to find in those novels; however, multiple times in From the Start I did not call those moments and was genuinely surprised by Tagg’s plot twists. The pacing through the novel, because of those twists, was steady; however, Tagg does jump around in time more, which I did not like because I felt like I missed out on the drama and emotions of situations that could have enhanced characterization and story.

Tagg’s lessons in From the Start, both faith-based and otherwise, are as approachable and poignant as all the other aspects of this story.

Tagg’s lessons in From the Start, both faith-based and otherwise, are as approachable and poignant as all the other aspects of this story. Both Kate and Colton struggle with their careers throughout the book, and as they learn to let God take control of their lives instead of direct it themselves, readers will see that trusting in His plan always brings the best results. Tagg also takes readers on a wild ride of blind faith as Kate’s demeanor changes throughout From the Start. Once passive and protective of her heart because of past hurts, Kate shows readers how to chase dreams as she gains confidence in herself and others. Those are only a few of the heartfelt lessons of the novel. From the Start brims with takeaways and lines that are bound to fill Picmonkey messages and social media messages.

Female readers of all ages will love this contemporary Christian fiction novel. I heartily recommend From the Start for readers in the “new adult” age range because the situations and characters so perfectly resonate with those of us experiencing similar situations and emotions to those in the Walker clan.

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