Saturday, March 11, 2017

Love Story - Karen Kingsbury

Love StoryLove Story by Karen Kingsbury

Genre:  Christian fiction; Christian romance

Pages:  368 pages

Publishing Date:  June 6, 2017

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads – liked it

Synopsis from Goodreads:
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury comes a new book featuring fan favorite family the Baxters.
Decades ago, John and Elizabeth Baxter lived a love story that is still playing out in the lives of their adult children and grandchildren. But few of them know the exact details of that love story or the heartbreak that brought the two together.
Now in high school, Ashley Baxter Blake’s oldest son, Cole, must write a family history paper for a freshman English class. He decides to interview his grandfather about that long ago distant love story.
At the same time, Baxter family friend Cody Coleman has asked his girlfriend Andi Ellison to marry him. The planning and upcoming wedding touches the heart of Bailey Flanigan, who once was Cody’s best friend. Bailey has news of her own, but is it right for her and her husband, Brandon, to attend Cody’s wedding?
As school ends, Cole presents his report on the love story between his grandparents John and Elizabeth Baxter. It is a tale that touches the hearts of the entire family, and one that causes Cole to better understand his own beginning.
Whether you’re meeting the Baxter family for the first time or finding them all over again, Love Story will stir your heart and remind you of the power of love and family.

My Thoughts:

I heard about this book and thought, “Finally!  I finally get to learn about John and Elizabeth Baxter’s back story.  How they met, fell in love, and raised this incredible family.”  So I immediately jumped on Net Galley (since the book doesn’t come out until summer) and requested an advanced reader copy.  As soon as my kids were in bed that night, I started reading.

And was somewhat disappointed.

The first quarter of the book didn’t address John & Elizabeth’s story at all.  It focused on the relationship issues between Cody and Andi.  Which I expected to be a part of the overall story based on the synopsis copy.  But it was literally the first 25% - all of it - and then more throughout.  In fact, I would probably say this story was more about them than the Baxters.  Also, while I’m on the subject of the synopsis copy, it’s not accurate.  At the start of the book, Cody and Andi are no longer engaged.  So there is no planning or upcoming wedding for Bailey to have her heart touched by. 

And now that we’re on Bailey, let’s transition there.  First, I love all the Baxter and Flannigan series characters.  I’m invested in them and like to see where they are in their “lives.”  However, Bailey’s character and pregnancy and story line again took away from the story I really wanted:  the love story that began the Baxter family in the first place. 

I love the characters.  I love the stories that Karen Kingsbury tells about her characters.  I love the messages of hope and redemption that infuse her stories.  I guess I just wish her books would return to being more focused.  In the original Baxter series, I became attached to the characters because each book focused mainly on introducing and exploring one character at a time.  The other characters were there but not the focus.  That feel has been missing from her last several Baxter/Flannigan books.  And I miss it.

Like the book, this review hasn’t focused much on John & Elizabeth’s love story.  That’s because I don’t feel like that was really a big part of the story this time.  It was embedded, yes.  It was told, yes.  But it wasn’t explored.  Expounded.  I think I would have preferred a novella just of their story, even if it was still told through the device of their grandson’s school project.

That being said, I still believe it’s worth the read for anyone who has read the Baxter tales in the past.  Just don’t expect too much from John & Elizabeth; the focus is definitely elsewhere.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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