"Now and Then and Always" is the first book in Melissa Tagg's Maple Valley series and hopefully it is the first of many more to come! Although this novel is the first in the series, it is a return to Maple Valley as her Walker family series is set in this town. Maple Valley has a similar vibe to Stars Hallow (Gilmore Girls) as it is filled with quirky, and loving characters, festivals and it is a place that quickly feels like home.
Mara arrived at the Everwood Bed & Breakfast trying to escape from her former life and hoping to not be found. Lenora takes her under her wing and Mara begins to feel safe and if she has a home; however Lenora has left and has not returned, leaving Mara in charge. In the midst of a storm and an impeding foreclosure notice, Marshall shows up at the Everwood as he has been placed on leave and is lost and been dealing with grief in a not so great way. As Mara and Marshall, along with the help of the town, team up to fix up and save the Everwood, they find themselves in a bit of a mystery regarding Lenora and her whereabouts as well as the history of the place and the former owners and also healing taking place in their own lives.
Mara and Marshall are both great main characters, strong individuals, yet so broken and in need of healing and trusting God in their own lives. Maple Valley becomes a home and place of healing through the feelings of home and the friendship found in so many in the town. Jenessa and Lucas and Sam all were known to me as they were characters in Melissa's books and I am really hoping that these other members of the "friends family" all get their own stories in future books as I cannot wait for more time spent with these characters and in this town. The history of the Everwood, the significance of this place for Marshall and the love and teamwork that is put into restoring it really makes it come alive and it made me feel hopeful for this being a place of rest and healing for so many years to come.
Melissa's style of writing always draws me right in and I just want to keep on reading because the books are just so good, so real life and so easy to get lost in. However, when I get to the end of the book, I am left wanting more and wishing it was not over so soon. While reading this book it is easy to fall in love with Maple Valley, the characters, and a renewed personal relationship with God.