From the Start
About This Book
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 Green 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 have read and enjoyed all of Tagg’s previous books, so there was no way I was going to pass up From the Start! And once again, this story delivered all the heart, charm, and witty comedy that I’ve come to expect from Tagg. Her works are frequently compared to Gilmore Girls, and for good reason! The writing is lively, and the banter between characters infused with quick comebacks, one-liners, and enough pop-culture references to make Amy Sherman-Palladino proud. Tagg’s voice is strong and leans toward the sarcastic side, which I absolutely love in this genre.
Kate and Colton are two flawed-but-likable characters from two very different worlds, and Tagg plays this up brilliantly in their opening chapters, with one literally behind the scenes and the other front and center in the spotlight. Their journey toward each other helps each character grow into a middle ground where fame can be put to good use and attention isn’t as fearful as it seems. In short, they complement each other perfectly, and it’s great fun to watch them make that discovery for themselves. A whole bevy of supporting characters bring this fictional Iowa town to life and not only round out this story, but provide plenty of fodder for future books in this series.
Maple Valley is exactly the kind of charming small town I dream of calling home one day (albeit without the tornadoes and flooding rivers, please!). It’s clear Tagg is writing from her own Iowa roots, and her love for her home state shines through. The story is firmly rooted in this fictional Midwestern town, and I’m looking forward to revisiting it often as the series continues!
In terms of the romance, I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say, Kate and Colton get off to a very “intimate” and hilariously awkward start, which builds to friendship and beyond in touching, playful, and downright zany ways. They definitely have their issues as well as their swoon-worthy moments, and in the end I felt like they truly earned their happily-ever-after.
The spiritual elements of this story were appropriately subdued and never felt preachy. I especially loved how Tagg used a famous football anecdote about Raymond Berry to give her hero—and me as the reader—a spiritual wake-up call about daring to live beyond our self-imposed boundaries. There was no overtly questionable content in the story, although Colton’s traumatic past (revealed in a series of flashbacks) may be disturbing for younger readers.
The only aspect of this book that wasn’t a home run for me was the structure and pace. It was . . . the only word that comes to mind is “loopy.” Almost every chapter ended with a great, cliff-hanging hook, only to have the next chapter start with a huge jump forward to a completely different scene, forcing the characters to loop back in time (via dialogue or internal thoughts) to fill in the gaps. As a result, I often felt cheated because I didn’t get to experience the drama in real-time with the characters, and it made the overall pace feel a bit stilted: like a new driver trying to learn a manual transmission, the story had great moments of acceleration interrupted by long stalls while changing gears. Even though this story structure left me feeling like I was missing out on a lot of dramatic moments, overall I’d say there was a good mix of external obstacles and internal struggles to build tension throughout the book.
Tagg is one of the freshest new voices in Christian contemporary romance, and brings a level of spunk and originality to a genre in which so many stories can start to sound the same. Female readers of all ages who love contemporary romance—or who maybe have a secret crush on Tim Tebow—will enjoy this sassy, corn-fed romance served with a hearty helping of pigskin. I would absolutely recommend this one to both my Christian and non-Christian family and friends, and it’s already found a permanent home on my Keeper Shelf. Write faster, Melissa—I need another fix soon!
Available April 7, 2015 from Bethany House Publishers