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"Keep Holding On" by Melissa Tagg




I really like Melissa Tagg, both as an author and a person. We've yet to meet face to face, but she just seems like one of my people. Her newest release, the third book in the Walker Family series, has been on my radar since the second one came out April. It was great to revisit the fictional Iowa town of Maple Valley, and the storyline did not disappoint.

Beckett Walker has stayed away from home for six years, and his first trip back is unceremoniously interrupted when he is almost immediately arrested for a warrant issued long ago over a youthful indiscretion. That is hardly the way he wanted to face his family and friends after such a lengthy absence! He's returned home to try to clear up this mess and get things lined up for joining the JAG Corps, but now everything is more complicated than ever. Sentenced to a significant amount of community service, Beckett has no recourse but to make Maple Valley home for the next couple months.

Also on her first trip back home is horticulturalist Kit Danby, who made a life for herself in England after she left her Maple Valley groom at the altar six years ago. But there's a longing in Kit's heart that prompts her to make her flight to Iowa a one-way trip, and when she sees her grandparents' orchard, the place where she was raised, so abandoned and neglected, she wonders if this is where her heart is supposed to be. The orchard is still in her family, and her absentee and nearly estranged father agrees to let Kit try to revive it, on the condition that she turn a profit her very first season.

Once childhood best friends, Beckett and Kit get to know each other again when he is able to arrange to serve his community service at her orchard. The pull of her heart to make this orchard work is just as strong as the pull of Beckett's heart to find adventure and fulfillment in his new career with the military. Even as they feel the draw of attraction which they never explored as kids, they brace themselves for the parting they know is coming.

While Melissa has explored plenty of deep emotions in her previous books, this one felt a little different for me. There was a maturity in the writing which set this story apart. Beckett's pain of always feeling on the outskirts made him a truly compelling protagonist, his emotions written in such a way that you truly understood the choices he made. He seems to be cursed with constantly missing big moments, and not knowing how to handle that grief keeps driving him away from the people he loves. Watching the beginning of Beckett's healing left me full of wonder and hope. There were some ways that I really related to Kit as well, nearly choking up with the ways God spoke to her heart because they were so familiar to me, echoing ways that God has spoken to mine.

The orchard setting makes this perfect autumn reading. As Beckett and Kit fight for the orchard and fight for a home for each of their hearts, you'll be drawn in to the wonderful place that is Maple Valley and its colorful cast of characters - and also to the love of God that keeps Him always holding on to us.



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