Like Never Before (Melissa Tagg) – Review

5 stars

 

Publisher’s Description
Maple Valley became Amelia Bentley’s haven after her heart and her dreams of a family were shattered. But her new life as a newspaper editor is shaken when the small-town paper is in danger of closing. Her one hope: A lead on an intriguing story that just might impress the new publisher…if only she knew who he was.

After his biggest campaign success yet, widowed speechwriter Logan Walker now has the chance of a lifetime–a spot on a presidential campaign. But his plans are interrupted when he finds out he’s inherited his hometown newspaper. He travels home intent on selling the paper and spending some much-needed time with his young daughter before making the leap into national politics.

But instead of a quick sale and peaceful break from his hectic career, Logan finds himself helping Amelia chase her story. She’s scrappy, but wounded. He’s dependable, but lost. They may butt heads more than expected, but a series of leads on Maple Valley’s quirky unsolved mystery is just the start of the sparks that fly in the office and in their hearts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, Logan, how would you do it? Save a dying newspaper, I mean.”
Tell her. “Amelia-”
“Just hypothetically. If a newspaper you loved was about to go under, how would you turn the tide? Impress a new owner?”
He sighed. “Hypothetically? I’d work my tail off enticing advertisers. Shave off a couple spreads to lower print costs and make sure the space I have is filled with good material.” He shrugged. “And I’d go hunt for a riveting front-page story. Something I’m passionate about. Because passion shows, and a good story can’t hurt.”
He could practically hear her latching on to hope at his advice. He could kick himself. “Amelia,” he began, fully intent on finally being honest as he opened her car door. But the second the door opened, a sheaf of papers came fluttering out. They slapped against each other, and he rushed to catch them before the wind stole them away.
Amelia managed to catch one of the rustling pages. He snagged the other two and started to hand them to her but stopped when his gaze landed on familiar words. Wait a sec.
“My education speech?” His gaze whipped to Amelia. “What are you doing with this?”
“I . . . Rae . . .”
Either her winter coat and scarf weren’t nearly warm enough or that was a blush, plain as day, painting her cheeks. “Amelia?”
“I read your speeches sometimes, okay? I think they’re great. Raegan gets you to send them, and she passes them on to me, and I just like reading them, all right?” Her words released in bullets. “I bribed her with cookies for this one. Go ahead and laugh.”
“I’m not laughing.” Though he couldn’t have stopped the tease from infusing his voice if he’d tried. “I am, however, entirely flattered.”
She snatched away the papers he held. “Don’t get smug. It’ll ruin my image of you.”
“You have an image of me? And tell me, how do my speeches match up to your cookies? Am I as at the top of my game with my skillset as you are at ours? Allegedly, anyway.”
She thrust the papers inside the car and turned back to not-entirely-convincingly glower at him. “There’s no allegedly about it. Go inside and eat a cookie, Logan Walker.” She dropped into her car.
One hand on her door handle, he leaned over. “Happy speech-reading.” He closed her door, and her engine sputtered. He turned back to the house to see Dad waiting on the porch.
But before Logan made it up the stairs, he heard a car door closing again and pivoted to see Amelia outside once more.
His Girl Friday.
Even from across the driveway, in the dark, he could see her eyes light, realization dancing through them.
“Hildy. From the classic movie His Girl Friday. Cary Grant. Rosalind Russell. Cary’s the editor who keeps trying to Rosalind’s character, Hildy, to come back to the paper.”
Oh right, from that email exchange. He’d called her Hildy and told her to figure it out. “Well done,” he called back at her.
Behind him, Dad whistled. “Flora would be proud.”
Mom had loved old movies. So much so that he’d wound up with an impressive storehouse of trivia.
Except Amelia looked more impish than impressed. She shrugged as she leaned against her car. “I got the movie right even if you got the characters wrong.”
“Say again?”
“In our scenario, I’m Cary Grant’s Walter Burns, trying to lure you back to the paper. You’re Hildy.” She straightened, one eyebrow lifted. “If you’re going to whip out a classic, Walker, don’t botch the reference.”
And then she dropped back into her car and backed out of the driveway.
Dad’s chuckles, then his footsteps, sounded in the snow beside Logan. Gawking stars blinked overhead.
“She doesn’t have any idea you’re her new boss, does she?” Dad said.
Logan folded his arms, the heaviness he’d felt ever since receiving that certified letter finally whisked away, at least for now, by a yawning wind. He grinned.
“Nope.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My review
Book crush alert! I keep going back to re-read my favourite parts and end up getting sucked into the story again. There is something so . . . I don’t know . . . soul satisfying about this book. I wish I could put my finger on exactly what it is because it would make writing this review so much easier! But it’s like trying to describe what’s so satisfying about your favourite roast dinner with all the trimmings. You could say the meat was tender, the vegies roasted to perfection, the gravy smooth and rich, but it doesn’t come close to the experience of eating it. It’s all about the flavours, the textures; and the fact that it just tastes soooooo gooood!

On the face of it, this is a story about a small-town newspaper that’s struggling to remain viable. But beneath that, it is a story about how the surprises and obstacles in our path can be an opportunity to let go of our own dreams and discover that God is doing a new thing, replacing them with an even sweeter reality.

Career-wise, Logan Walker is about to hit the big time, which doesn’t leave any time for reviving or running the small-town newspaper he’s just inherited. He has been a single dad since his wife, Emma, was killed in a car accident two years ago, and he’s already struggling to balance his work life with his role as a father. The fact that four-year-old Charlotte (Charlie) is still non-verbal only magnifies his guilt.

The previous owner of the paper was on the verge of selling to a tri-state media company, so the solution seems pretty simple: go ahead with the sale. Except that Amelia Bentley is passionate about keeping it running AND keeping it locally owned, despite receiving a job offer from one of the state’s leading weekly papers.  Maple Valley became her haven after a failed adoption and a marriage breakdown and she has no desire to be anywhere else.

Logan agrees to hold off on the sale and help get the paper back on its feet, if for no other reason than he will be able to get a better price when he sells, and they begin planning a centennial edition with a feature article about a deceased Maple Valley resident who bequeathed an empty safety-despite box to the town. Everyone thinks it was a practical joke, but Amelia believes something was supposed to be in that box. She also hopes that investigating the story will reawaken the reporter in Logan and convince him not to sell the newspaper.

As they work together, Logan and Amelia’s friendship quickly deepens into something more (and I so love it when the reader gets to watch this happening as the story progresses), but is there any sense in exploring what might be if he’s destined for a presidential campaign and she’s firmly rooted in Maple Valley?  Then again, Logan’s relationship with his in-laws is becoming increasingly strained over Charlie, and the full cost of his D.C. dream begins to weigh heavily. Which of the open doors before him is the one God wants him to choose?  And how will Amelia take it if he goes ahead with the sale of the paper?

As rich as the plot is, it’s the characters and the writing that give Melissa’s books the flavour I have come to savour. The characters are endearingly human; a complex mixture of strengths and weaknesses, humour and sincerity, confidence and insecurity. Her stories are also driven by human interaction – the main characters interact with family, friends, work colleagues, and the general community, rather than dwelling on their own thoughts or simply interacting with each other. I can’t tell you how much more dynamic a novel is when the characters interact with a wide range of people!

And then there’s the dialogue. I can honestly say Melissa writes some of the most natural and enjoyable dialogue you’ll come across in contemporary fiction. She captures the informality of spoken language perfectly, not to mention the personalities of her characters.

I could go on, but like I said, I’ll never come close describing the flavour.  You simply have to taste it for yourself. If you’re after a well-written contemporary romance with heart, soul, and characters that will draw you back again and again, this is the book for you.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Buy from:          Amazon.com                          Amazon.com.au

Release date:  5 April 2016
Pages:  353
Publisher:  Bethany House
Author’s website:  http://www.melissatagg.com/

Previous books in the series:

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About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
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One Response to Like Never Before (Melissa Tagg) – Review

  1. Pingback: Keep Holding On (Melissa Tagg) – Review | Fiction Aficionado

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