Top positive review
A hopeful depiction of the power of connection- so charming!
Reviewed in the United States on August 24, 2020
No one writes small town romances like Melanie Harlow. Her stories also give me the feel-good warm fuzzies that I get from watching a Hallmark love story, but with some swoon worthy sexiness that Melanie writes so well. Drive Me Wild balances a tender thoughtfulness with playfulness and levity - this is an arresting story that made me smile, made me swoon, and reminded how beautiful it is to fall in love.
This charming story begins with an unlikely twist of fate and unusual combination-the best slice of apple pie in the Midwest, a poofy wedding dress, and a flat tire. The delightfully endearing former socialite Blair Beaufort quite literally crashed into the town of Bellamy Creek, on her way to start a new life at Cloverleigh Farms. Fortunately, local small town mechanic Griff is on hand to save the day. He’s so delicious Blair thinks she actually is in heaven. And to Griff she is….well, perplexing. He’s not quite sure what to make of the chatterbox beauty in what appears to be a wedding dress and tiara, with the middle name Peacock, no less. His protective instincts override his need to stick to his carefully constructed “rules,” the sense of order he’s created out of past baggage to distance his heart. Blair is just to0 enchanting - she’s more than a down on her luck elite, and as they find themselves thrust together thanks to more fate, and then increasingly as the result of their own free will, a deep and intimate emotional connection starts to form. But what does that mean for Blair’s quest for independence from relying on others? And, can Griff let go of his tightly held distance to risk his heart and open up to someone else?
Griffin is perhaps one of my favorite Melanie Harlow heroes to date. Ex-marine turned mechanic with loads of tats and baby blue eyes? And man rescues a tiny kitten?!?! Oh meow. But, his heart is what won me over the most. He’s got some moodiness to him- a brooding quality that makes him emotionally erratic in places, but this is all steeped in his baggage. His obstince is really the main conflict of this story- his tightly guarded heart, his fear of vulnerability, the distance he uses to prevent himself from truly connecting with others. But, Blair slowly and surely disarms him- with care and tenderness- and we see the sweet, protective, compassionate, hard-working, and deeply loving man he’s so carefully buried in his unaffected facade. I fell so hard for him, but even more so, I fell for Blair Peacock Beaufort, the shining star of this story. I could not adore her more. Her zeal for life, despite the fact that she’s really beginning it anew, is infectious. She’s abandoned, alone, completely without any means or resources, and yet somehow she not only exudes a radiant and disarming enthusiasm but she also so authentically connects with and cares about understanding those around her-even strangers. She INVESTS in people in a truly inspirational way, especially because no one has ever really invested in her. Despite her 1% background, she’s so relatable and authentic. She just wants to live on her own terms, to pursue her own dreams, and she wants to be loved for her true self. I admired her grit and determination- she’s so quietly brave and strong. And, she’s also a hoot- her motor mouth and unabashed curiosity paired with her tender heart had my heart wrapped all around her.
The chemistry here is TRULY fantastic- and really focused and intimate. Melanie makes these characters so specific, practically tangible. They are nuanced and complex and masterfully developed- we learn about their hopes and fears, their aspirations and dreams, their life changing failures and achievements. She lets us inside their hearts- which in turn helps us see their connection to be layered and meaningful. But there is also an ease, and organic quality to the progression- because Melanie so perfectly paces the romantic nature of their bond. There is instant-attraction, but the connection is earned, and beautifully so, because Melanie so thoughtfully invests in the “getting to know” you aspects of the relationship. Our story prioritizes the natural moments that make a relationship, that builds intimacy- the little conversations and traditions, the subtle observations you start to make about someone new, the newly-dating moments and awkward times that romance novels often gloss over. And oh my heart- it just makes for such a believable tie. And the sexy times in this one are probably the hottest I’ve read from her. These two are SCORCHING together- inventive, committed, and a bit wild. I loved how they found an sexy way to put Blair’s chatterbox antics to use in the bedroom.
And one of the best characters, of course, is the town of Bellamy Creek. Melanie GETS to what makes small towns special, what makes them magic. The way she uses setting to build familiarity and safety- using those endearing small town idiosyncrasies to create an unparalleled sense of belonging. This place is alive- as Blair says “if this place could love you back, or grow arms and hug you, that’s what this place would do.” THAT- wow, that my friends is why Melanie just GETS it. From the meddlesome towns folk and the fast paced gossip, the nosy family, the little quirky octogenarians to the “old man” baseball league, and all the charming little traditions- Melanie builds the small town world like no other- and you are invited right in. We even get some time with my favorite Cloverleigh Hills farm heroine, too.
What I loved the very most, though, was just how hopeful this story is. Melanie has shared that this book is inspired by the levity of Schitt’s Creek, one of my all time favorite shows. And she really captures that spirit- the slightly offbeat, charming, humorous but poignant emotional resonance that makes that town, those characters- and THIS town, and THESE characters just so unforgettable. And it makes the themes of this story so impactful. This is a story about the power of embracing connection, about accepting that plans and rules are no match for fate and authentic belonging. And the act of investing in and connecting with others- the vulnerable act of opening up to someone- is the bravest action you’ll ever take, even if it only requires a little hope and a little faith. That is the journey of this amazing story.
I loved the Cloverleigh Farms series- what I thought was the pinnacle of small town romance writing. But, I have a feeling these Bellamy Creek characters are going to rival my Cloverleigh Farms obsession. This has everything I loved about that series but feels a bit sexier and a bit grittier, and it moved my heart even more. And I am here for it- I absolutely loved this book, now one of my all time favorite small town romances, and I will definitely be one-clicking the next book in the series!