THE STORIES: Over the course of four novels, we meet Bailey Flanigan and read as her story is unfolds. Aspiring to be a dancer who dreams of being under the bright lights of Broadway, Bailey’s dreams seem possible when she’s cast in a new play. The only thing to stop her is the thought of leavingthose who mean the most to her…
Through trials and hard work, Bailey proves to everyone in the city that she has what it takes to shine on the stage but is learninghow to be a light for her faith more important than being a star? And what of her her ex-flame Cody Coleman, the young Iraq veteran who once broke her heart? Is she longingto see him again – or finally opening her heart to new love with her one-time co-star Brandon Paul?
Bailey’s journey takes her down more than one path but her heart keeps coming back to one thing: true love. She must fiercely pursue loving her Savior and those who mean the most to her.
BAILEY FLANNIGAN SERIES REVIEW, BY KAREN KINGSBURY
THOUGHTS AND REVIEW: It took me forever (and a day!) to get through this series and I do not have a reasonable explanation as to why. As a result, I have decided to “review” the novels as a series instead of individually. I did mange post my thoughts on Leaving last year, so I won’t explore book one in depth. Be aware, I’ll try to avoid them, but there will be some spoilers.
Up first, my generalization of the series separated into pros vs. cons.
- Through Bailey’s story, it’s refreshing to read about a character that isn’t ten years older than me. Bailey’s pursuit to always speak the truth no matter the cost is inspiring. She carries a kind of burden for the people she works with (Broadway) because all of them are lost. As the reader we empathize with Bailey’s plight and her genuine desire to be a light amidst such darkness. (Among Bailey’s challenges is reaching dancers who are anorexic and homosexual.) Leading a bible study to examine what it means to be “different” and recognition of what that says in relation to being a sinner is just one of her strengths.
- In Learning the series is better. It seems like Karen starts to write something more fictionalized than so realistic (more on this later on).
- Book three (Longing) starts off quite differently because Bailey realizes that she’s in love with Brandon: finally! It sees her move to California and we finally (even in the last recesses of Learning) getinto Brandon’s thoughts which I love. What I appreciate most about Longing is finally getting the sense that Bailey is “moving on” from Cody; she realizes wasting more time is pointless.
- Being “Team Brandon” from the get-go, I thoroughly enjoy Kingsbury exploring him as a character; I love that we see his tenderness and love for Bailey.
- As a reader, I do like and in fact, relish realism in my novel-reading but not to the extent Karen takes it. She seems far too caught up in writing an autobiographical series of books that may be set as “fiction” but I can almost bet are largely what a day at the Kingsbury household might look like not to mention some of the personal hardships daughter Kelsey goes through (Karen says this series is inspired by her). I deal with “life” everyday – when I read, right or wrong, I want a bit of fantasy to get lost in.
- Ashley Baxter also plays a role in this series, and as much as I want to like her story, it harms this series more than helps. There are thousands of Baxter Family fans, and I “get” wanting to know more about them, but when this author has already put such heartbreak in the lives of one family and this series is Bailey’s, I don’t think these characters appearing in a Kingsbury series (again!) furthers these four books – at all.
- Cody’s need to be “needed” is annoying. His reliance on someone else’s dependence is not something I want the hero to crave; it makes me question him. Cody almost seems to “need” Bailey or he might not be able to function normally and that’s disturbing.
IN CONCLUSION: I love a lot about not just the story but Bailey’s journey. She’s a sweet character and her faith in God is central to the story. Unfortunately, I do think the writing lacks something. Too much time and thoughts (of characters) remains stuck in the pain of the past. It’s almost as if, Kingsbury is “afraid” to let us have joy through these characters. (Plus, although minor, the repetitive use of last names grows old.)
Most of the time I’m not a fan of stories that feature a love triangle “choice.” There’s Cody, her high school love, and Brandon, the man she helped to lead to Christ. I won’t hide the fact that I’m “team Brandon” from the start. It’s not that I didn’t like Cody, I just like Brandon better; I respect him more than Cody. Despite this, I was sure I “knew” (signs were always there) how the series would end.
Karen does have beautiful story-telling in the last third of Loving – or the “wedding part.” It’s fabulous to see the writing take it past just the romance of the story. The ending is not just a happy one but a fairy-tale ending that probably left me with a goofy grin. In this case, Karen saves the best for last. Loving (which I nearly read in one Saturday afternoon) is the jewel, the pinnacle of the entire Bailey Flannigan series.
About the book(s):
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Publication Date(s): 2010-2012
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Number of Books: Four
Series: Bailey Flannigan Series
Book Titles: Leaving; Learning; Longing; Loving
Shop the Book(s): Leaving; Learning; Longing; Loving; Series Bundle | On Goodreads
Genre: Christian Fiction, Young Adult/New Adult