Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“It was a way to show you cared. To show you were grateful for them. To show up for them. That’s what mattered. More than blood. More than just loving someone. My mother had probably loved us, but she’d still made the choice to leave.
Loved mattered, but loyalty was just as important.”
And therein lies the underlying challenge of Melanie Harlow’s Tie Me Down. As its name says, tying one down means to stay and work through whatever comes your way. This is the struggle with Harlow’s captivating couple, Beckett and Maddie, a couple who never really started in high school as life and circumstances dragged them apart. Now, in the present, they have an opportunity to acknowledge and live the truth of their attraction. The question becomes…will they accept that opportunity or let the other get away?
What is there to love about Melanie Harlow’s Tie Me Down?
From its outset, Beckett Weaver is the eponymous small town good guy. There is nothing to dislike about the handsome, hard-working, patient, and long-suffering Beckett except his reticence to be true to his feelings for Maddie. This is a man who has missed all his shots because he never plucked his arrow. Hiding behind a multitude of excuses, Beckett spends much of Tie Me Down not “shooting his shot.” His loyal friends, Griffin, Cole, and Enzo, act as his advisors only to have him push aside their advice. What does this do for the story? It keeps you entranced with it as you wait for Beckett to finally allow his overwhelming interest in Maddie to take over. Don’t worry (and this isn’t spoilery as most readers know they have a happy ending) it eventually works itself out. But Harlow’s choice to have Beckett withhold his feelings makes for a story that holds you a prisoner to its thrall.
This leads us to Maddie, the heroine who has endured much. Her characterization is so important for Harlow’s Tie Me Down in a few ways. She’s been raised without a father; her relationship with her mother prior to her mother’s death was contentious at best, setting Maddie up for failure with her inflated expectations. Without the correct steering, Maddie has a poor people picker for her romantic entanglements because she uses her mind to choose rather than her heart. As Maddie progresses through the story, she’s enfolded into the Bellamy Creek family, and she finds people who provide the insight and wisdom she needs. This allows Maddie to make better choices, and Harlow uses Maddie’s journey to highlight her message about following your heart and making choices from that place instead of one’s expectations.
Through Maddie and Beckett’s story, Melanie Harlow does something that I don’t remember reading in her Cloverleigh Farms stories (I have yet to read the stories prior to that series). Harlow intentionally crafts characters to focus on some keen social topics, namely gender biases and sexuality and the issue of Alzheimer’s. Both Maddie and Beckett have challenges at varying levels. As they fall deeply in love, they both must negotiate those challenges, finding acceptance in the end. And I loved this part of Tie Me Down. Harlow’s insistence on creating a character like Maddie’s son, Elliott, steals your heart and challenges your thinking in a way that I had not yet read in a Harlow story. It made me want to applaud this turn. If she has done it in stories before Cloverleigh Farms, then I’ve missed it. To end the Bellamy Creek series with this intention adds gravity that is more about humanity and less about genre and tropes.
And in the end, Tie Me Down brings a beautiful end to the Bellamy Creek series. In the last few books, we’ve been treated to the future of this group of friends, the brotherhood so deftly crafted by Harlow, and each book has given us further hints into their happily-ever-afters. Beautifully wrought, Melanie Harlow’s epilogue and bonus epilogues show her detail, her ability to make connections to her past stories and her present ones. Look, if you want to get lost in a book, Tie Me Down is just the ticket to do it. I know I did.
In love and romance,