Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review: Meant to Be & Holding On by Karen Stivali

Meant To Be (The Destiny Series Book 1)
Sometimes you're already committed to the wrong person when fate finally brings you the right one.
When British NYU professor Daniel Gardner's career-obsessed wife convinces him to move to the suburbs, he hopes it's a first step toward starting the family he longs to have. Instead of domestic bliss he finds himself eating cold pizza alone most nights, until he meets his neighbors.

Marienne Valeti loves her freelance design job, but she's lonely and her husband's indifference seems to grow on a daily basis. When new neighbors move in and the two couples start sharing weekly meals together, everything changes.


A penchant for good books, bad movies, and Marienne's to-die-for brownies sparks a powerful bond between Daniel and Marienne. As their marriages unravel and their lives take unimaginable turns, their friendship helps them weather every hardship, leaving them both single and wondering. Were they destined to meet? And are they meant to be friends or much, much more?

*This is a standalone title with no cliffhanger, no cheating and a HEA ending. The sequel, Holding On, is already available and contains a free bonus novella.*

What I thought about Meant To Be

I've been reading this author for a few years now having started with her contemporary romance, and how I missed this one, I don't know. I love the theme of this book -- what happens if you find out that maybe you married the wrong person?  What happens if your soul mate shows up after you've already committed to someone else?  I should note that there is no cheating in this book as both parties do honor their vows.

 Daniel and Marienne are both married and are moving through their lives not particularly satisfied.  When they meet, there's a connection between them that develops into a very strong friendship. Marienne is sweet and kind, the type of person that believes in the good in people.  Daniel is an NYU professor. He's thoughtful and introspective.  They totally hit it off together and their relationship fills that hole they didn't even know they had in their lives.

When their marriages fall apart, they have each other.  Will they let their friendship turn into something else? This story was sometimes heart wrenching, sometimes humorous and definitely engaging for me. I've had many discussions with friends about where friendship comes into play in a marriage and I think this book examines that aspect of a relationship very well.

I really liked these two characters.  They felt real to me, so I was able to feel right along with them as they struggle with their current relationship and turn to each other for the human connection they need, and they do it while still respecting their marriage vows.  It's always interesting to examine where's that line when it comes to the dynamics of marriage - when does emotional intimacy equal breaking vows?  I don't know the answer, but I loved that this book put a big spotlight on this issue in a very easy way.  That's what I love about Karen Stivali's writing -- there's an ease and gentleness to it even when circumstances are full of conflict. 

Loved this story and the characters.  Definitely recommended. And I love the new cover!

ARC provided for review.

Holding On (The Destiny Series Book 2)
When you have everything you've ever dreamed of, the hard part is Holding On.
British NYU professor Daniel Gardner thinks life can't get better than the day his three-year-old stepdaughter, Ella, calls him Daddy for the first time. Then his wife Marienne tells him she's pregnant. Daniel is thrilled, but worried about Marienne's health. Not wanting to cause her stress he turns to writing to calm his nerves. He pens a screenplay, thinking it's nothing more than a mental health exercise, but when a colleague reads it and hands it to a producer, it turns into a production contract. Daniel accepts the offer and transfers to a teaching position at Dartmouth, hoping that small town living and a shorter commute will simplify his life.

As he attempts to juggle his new responsibilities he gets an unexpected letter from Roger, the father he never knew. For the first time since they met, Daniel and Marienne are at odds; she wants him to give Roger a chance but Daniel wants nothing to do with the man he thinks abandoned his mother. As Daniel and Marienne struggle they must contend with interference from Daniel's sexy ex-wife, who appears to want him back, and a handsome, all-too-helpful single dad who desires Marienne as more than a play-date pal. They must both confront deep-seated issues with trust and acceptance if they're going to find a way to make their marriage work and hold onto the love they share.

*Holding On is the sequel to Meant To Be. These books are best read in order. No cliffhanger. HEA guaranteed. Holding On also includes the bonus novella WHITE WEDDING!*


What I thought about Holding On
In this follow-up to Meant to Be, Karen Stivali gives us a view of what happens after the HEA.  Now that Marienne and Daniel are together, how does their relationship change?  This is another interesting theme to the subject of contemporary romance.
Daniel and Marienne are dealing with the stresses of everyday life -- long commutes, missing moments of togetherness, sacrificing quality time for obligations.   It's stuff everyone has to deal with and that made it easy to relate to these characters.
When they get the opportunity for a quieter life when Daniel is offered a position at Dartmouth, they take it.  But life is not smooth for them when Daniel's script is picked up for production and he's away from home.  Enter the single dad that threatens to become Marienne's friend, very much like what happened with Daniel.  This brings up questions about commitment and jealousy.  Karen Stivali portrays these doubts so well in Holding On. 
Overall, I really loved Holding On. It's a perfect follow up to Meant to Be and still captures the interesting examination of what it means to be soul mates.


ARC provided for review. 

About the Author
Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies, and fictional British men. She's also the multiple award-winning author of contemporary and erotic romances. She writes novels about real life, only hotter.

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