Melissa Tagg. Made to Last. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2013.
Every once in a while, I’ll pick up a book based on recommendations from other authors. I enjoy reading their books, so it seems intuitive to trust their advice regarding what books and authors would be fun to read. Over the last several months, I kept running across the books of Melissa Tagg, so after reading the recommendations on the back cover from Rachel Hauck, Susan May Warren, and Becky Wade, I decided to try Ms. Tagg’s debut novel, Made to Last.
In Made to Last, Miranda Woodruff stars as the host of From the Ground Up, a homebuilding show based in her North Carolina hometown. Although she is known nationally for her show, she works at maintaining her privacy and secrets from her fans and the media. As a talented woodworker and experienced homebuilder in her own right, Miranda attributes her handyman knowledge to her “husband,” who always remains behind the scenes. When the network threatens to cancel her show, Miranda’s producer comes up with a plan to save the day via a lookalike to the fiancé who abandoned her years before. Miranda’s world is turned upside down when Matthew Knox, a reporter with his own career to save, begins to shadow her every move and takes up residence in the cabin on her property. Unfortunately, that means the truth about Miranda’s fictional husband may hit the blog-o-sphere sometime before breakfast.
Filled with unique characters, Made to Last offers an interesting perspective on the world of reality television and the facades that people build around themselves, whether as stars, reporters, or everyday people. While Miranda discovers the price of the secrets and lies constructed around her on-screen persona, Matthew realizes the truth behind his own priorities and decisions.
Overall, I thought that Made to Last was surprisingly well done and much better than I initially expected. I found the beginning portion of the book started off somewhat slow, but it picked up speed in later sections. Miranda’s character was strong and well-constructed throughout the novel, while I found Matthew (the reporter) to be somewhat weaker throughout his earlier scenes. As the novel progressed, I found all of the characters to grow well together and the quality of Ms. Tagg’s writing improved throughout. I really enjoyed her minor characters, as well as the setting of the book in the mountains of North Carolina outside Asheville.
After reading Made to Last, I can understand why Rachel Hauck and Becky Wade both wrote recommendations for the novel. Their books share a common focus on (as well as audience for) light-hearted contemporary Christian fiction, although their particular settings vary. Personally, I would probably pick up Ms. Hauck and Ms. Wade’s books before Ms. Tagg’s, as I found their books to be more humorous and closer to the form of “romantic comedy” that I prefer. However, I look forward to reading Ms. Tagg’s Here to Stay and From the Start (coming March 2015) to see how her storytelling evolves further.