Melissa Tagg’s Summer Reading List

Okay, my summer reading list is kinda crazy long. Like, I am going soooo bookwormy this summer and I can’t wait! I can’t list all of them (because, hello, that would take forever and you would get bored and the wonderful ladies of Straight Off the Pages wouldn’t know what to do with me) but here are five…


Change of HeartChange of Heart by Courtney Walsh
Publisher:  Tyndale
Publication Date: March 1, 2016

What it’s about:
A Colorado senator’s wife, Evelyn Brandt seems to have it all. But her carefully constructed life comes toppling down when the FBI crashes her society brunch with news that her husband has been arrested for embezzlement, and he’s far from repentant. It turns out this was only the start of his indiscretions―for which he has little regret.

As the weeks following the scandal turn into months, Evelyn withdraws, even shirking her duties with the philanthropic Valentine Volunteers. The inquisitive women of the group are determined not to let Evelyn’s divorce destroy her. They have big plans for her to use her long-forgotten artistic talent to reimagine the city’s iconic lamppost hearts. But doing so will force Evelyn to work closely with Trevor Whitney, her ex-husband’s former best friend. Though she and Trevor used to be close―and he’s been letting her hide in his guesthouse―his gruffness conveys his unease with the situation.

Amid the beauty of Trevor’s farm and the comfort of a paintbrush, Evelyn starts to reclaim the dreams she sacrificed to become the perfect politician’s wife. And as creativity inspires them both, Whit begins to see the girl he fell in love with before his friend―and his own mistakes―stole his chance. Possibilities for a new beginning emerge, but long-kept secrets threaten to ruin everything. After so much time, is a change of heart too much to hope for?

Melissa’s Thoughts:  Can I just say, I love Courtney Walsh? I had a chance to hang out with her in May and realized we are kindred spirits. BUT that’s not the reason I can’t wait to read her latest release. Confession: I actually don’t read that much contemporary romance these days. Not because I don’t like it, but because I happen to write it myself, so I’ve needed a little break from it. But I’m making an exception for Courtney’s because the storyline sounds so different from what’s usually out there! I want to see how she handles the breakdown of a marriage and its after-effects. And man, I adore that cover!


The GiftingThe Gifting by Katie Ganshert
Publisher:  CreateSpace
Publication Date: May 1, 2015 

What it’s about:  If science is right, then I am crazy. And crazy is dangerous.
In a world where nothing supernatural exists, Tess Eckhart is positive she’s going crazy. After her complete freakout at a high school party, her family is too. So much that they pack their bags and move across the country, next to a nationally-renowned facility for the mentally ill.

Tess is determined to fit in at her new school, despite the whispers and stares. But when it comes to Luka Williams, a reluctantly popular boy in her class, she’s unused to a stare that intense. Then the headaches start, and the seemingly prophetic dreams that haunt her at night. As Tess tries harder to hide them, she becomes increasingly convinced that Luka knows something–that he might somehow be responsible.

But what if she’s wrong? What if Luka Williams is the only thing separating her from a madness too terrifying to fathom?

Melissa’s Thoughts:  What I said about hanging out with Courtney and realizing we are kindred spirits? Same goes for Katie! I’ve read Katie’s women’s fiction, but I haven’t yet tried out her YA books. This isn’t a genre I generally read, but I have heard amazing things about this series. In fact, I visited a bookstore in Kansas recently (shout out to Faith & Life Bookstore in Newton, Kansas!) and the manager mentioned that this series is flying off the shelves. I can’t wait to get started.


The Crown and the CrucibleThe Russians series (The Crown and the Crucible, A House Divided, & Travail and Triumph) by Michael Phillips
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: October 13, 2015 (re-release) 

What The Crown and the Crucible about:  Amid the turbulence of prerevolutionary Russia, the lives of two families become inextricably entwined. When Anna Burenin leaves her tiny village to work in St. Petersburg, she is thrust into the life of the spoiled Princess Katrina Fedorcenko. Soon both peasant and princess will face the prospect of their beloved Russia being torn apart.

Melissa’s Thoughts:  The Russians, a Bethany House series from the 90s, is one of my favorite series of all time. The history, guys! The history! It’s so intense and detailed and riveting. I’ve revisited the series so many times. I just recently finished reread the first in the series and plan to savor the rest all summer long. Also, word to the wise: Bethany House just re-released the whole series in e-book form, so if you haven’t had a chance to read them, now’s the time!


From The MomentFrom this Moment by Elizabeth Camden
Publisher:  Bethany House
Publication Date: June 7, 2016 

What it’s about:  Romulus White has tried for years to hire illustrator Stella West for his renowned scientific magazine. She is the missing piece he needs to propel his magazine to the forefront of the industry.

But Stella abruptly quit the art world and moved to Boston with a single purpose: to solve the mysterious death of her beloved sister. Romulus, a man with connections to high society and every important power circle in the city, could be her most valuable ally.

Sparks fly the instant Stella and Romulus join forces, and Romulus soon realizes the strong-willed and charismatic Stella could disrupt his hard-won independence. Can they continue to help each other when their efforts draw the wrong kind of attention from the powers-that-be and put all they’ve worked for at risk?

Melissa’s Thoughts:  Elizabeth Camden is one of my go-to authors for a variety of reasons, but my two top reasons for adoring her books: her strong heroines and the way she writes romance. Camden always gives her heroines sweet jobs and you can tell she puts in a ton of research. She weaves the details of her research and history in so seamlessly…it amazes me every time. And I think she writes some of the best romance out there…believable, relatable, well-paced and the absolute perfect mix of banter and tension.


Stars Over Sunset BoulevardStars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner
Publisher: NAL
Publication Date: January 5, 2016

What it’s about:  Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind  ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938.  Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her  dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone With the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide.  What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

Melissa’s Thoughts:  I’ll admit, I’ve heard some conflicting opinions on this one from friends who’ve read it, but it’s on my reading list for these reasons: Susan Meissner could probably write a vacuum manual and I would think it was lyrical and beautifully written…but this particular book has even more than usual heightened appeal for me in that it takes place in Golden Era Hollywood. Melissa-bait! Plus, its backdrop is the filming of Gone with the Wind. As I own not one, not two, but three books on the making of Gone with the Wind, its setup couldn’t be more suited to me.

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