I'll address the Karen Kingsbury angle first.
Where on earth did the Life-Changing Fiction (TM) go and what is this in its place? I remember sitting down and reading Where Yesterday Lives, Waiting Until Morning, and others and just devouring the books, suggesting them to anyone I know. They were real people, with real problems, and issues, and struggling with their faith in God, their family and so on. Now, I read (or listen) to some of these books, and I wonder what's wrong? I'd rather have a book that are years apart. (Liz Curtis Higgs, Lynn Austin, Julie Lessman, Francine Rivers, Deeanne Gist), and have it be well thought out, than have a book that is rushed and re-treading on a lot of the same issues within the books as a whole. Even authors who can get out a trilogy within a year (Tracie Peterson, Beverly Lewis), have a tendency to touch on a theme but make each book (and series) different). I know it is a different book, and if I read book three, I feel like I have to read book one first.
the Firstborn Series, Bailey Flanningan Series and this book: all. retreads.
I hope that your newest series is better than this, well thought out and you take the time to write, not just "poof!" out a manuscript. Because it is starting to show and it is impacting a lot of people (in a negative sense).
With the Baxters?
Well - the Redemption series was the best series (life changing ;) one might say), I've read about a family. It made sense and dealt with every-day issues with every-day people. As someone who grew up in Christ and has a large extended family, it kind of mystified me that everyone had the same value system, and was super close, and so forth, but it's fiction and it worked for me. It was a great family and series and Karen left you wanting more. Which is a mark of any good writer.
And then it happened.
Sequels. Not EVERY thing needs a sequel. (Batman and Robin, Return of Jafar anyone?) But in my mind the story was done. But we were introduced to more things. Dane (oi. and also - should have had those threads introduced waaaaaaaaaaaaay back in Redemption). And while you could imagine you knew a family like the Baxters, - the arrival of Dane and HOLLYWOOD just... it made it past fiction for me. And with every book, the family that you could imagine being with, became a little too perfect. Too forgiving. A lot of things that these people went through, (a lot of these issues I know in my real life had gone through) would have, and should have been longer than a chapter of "Oh, well, I'm being tested. Oh God spoke to me, all is good, "Great is thy Faithfulness!" there were SEVENTEEN books after Reunion that touched on the Baxter family. In all seriousness, you couldn't have had more than Luke's rebellion in Return and glimpses of Ashley's in Remember to go through a season (and SEASONS)of not fully trusting in God, questioning him?
Which ties in with this Story:
And in those seventeen books: you barely. ever. rarely. hear about Erin Baxter Hogan. And her husband Sam. and her newly adopted daughters. Bailey FLANNINGAN gets her own series. (which, wasn't needed), focusing on Brandon and Cody (which wasn't needed), while the ONLY thing you know about Erin was what you knew about Erin seventeen books ago. She/Sam were infertile, they adopted four daughters, she was close to Elizabeth, she moved to Texas.
So imagine my surprise that the "great tragedy" focuses on someone you don't even know. The minute the set up happened which was clearly telegraphed. The magnitude of the tragedy was unexpected, but the reactions and developments, to me were trite. If that had happened to me - or affected me. I would be completely, utterly gutted. There would be some serious God-versations going on, and I dont think it would be all wrapped up as neatly as it was in the book. There was no struggle at all as there was in previous books when things like that happened. NONE. Just a prayer, and a good old round of "Great is thy Faithfulness."
(also. while my beliefs on heaven and what happens after death is different from Karen and a lot of mainstream Christian writers - a LOT of writers when whomever goes to heaven, the first thing they see is an angel, and/or Christ, God. Not here. It's a big family picnic with the Baxters in heaven. Wouldn't the first thing ANYONE would want to do is see the Lord?).
It would be nice for once, to pick up a Karen Kingsbury book and not see the ending so clearly telegraphed. (regarding the adoption angle, etc). In a Moment of Weakness, the adoption trial was brilliant with twists and turns and everything wasn't JUST about "being evil." No sir, not here. Adoptive Mom is clearly Evil, so the Baxters can Clearly Win. Because they are the Baxter Family after all. (a round of Great is thy Faithfulness anyone?)
The sum of this review is be very careful what you wish for. at the end of Reunion all I wanted was more of the Baxters. And then Karen delivered. And it was the biggest regret of my life.
This is a "borrow from the library" book, should you need to see what happens. (or I could save you the time. Just read re-read all your other books, and imagine a tragedy. it shouldn't be too difficult).