Review: Karen Stivali’s “Meant to Be”

Title: Meant to Be
Author:  Karen Stivali
Genre:Women’s fiction with strong romantic elements/ Contemporary romance (cross genre)
Grade/Rating: 5 out of 5

Synopsis:  Sometimes you’re already committed to the wrong person when fate finally brings you the right one.

When 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 his neighbor, Marienne Valeti. She loves her freelance design job, but must contend with a growing sense of isolation created by her husband’s indifference. A penchant for good books, bad movies, and Marienne’s to-die-for brownies sparks a powerful bond between them. Passion simmers, but they resist its lure, surrendering only in the seclusion of their minds. Their friendship helps them weather every hardship, from divorce to widowhood, leaving them both secretly wondering if it can survive a first kiss.

Note:   This book contains mature themes and adult situations and language. Sex scenes are not closed door and are sensual (not erotic) heat level.

Read an excerpt from Meant to Be.

The above three lines were the inspiration behind Karen Stivali’s first full-length novel, Meant to Be.  How do we know which purpose someone is filling when they come into our life?  We don’t.  We can never predict who our “lifetime people” will be.

Marienne Valeti, a graphic artist, had a difficult life growing up as she struggled to fit in with her family and seemed to always fall for the wrong guy, including her husband Frank. But how you could you not adore Marienne?  Regardless of her hardships, she is so sweet and kind and definitely the type of person I would want as a best friend.  Marienne is warm, giving, and a nurturer—always doing things for other people and helping in any way that she can.  Oh, and she loves to bake, especially when she is stressed out about something and can’t sleep.

Daniel Gardner, a professor at NYU, is such a sweet man, always doing things for the people he loves.  The week after the Valetis move into their new home, Daniel and his wife Justine moved into their home, which is directly behind the Veletis’ home.  Daniel eagerly anticipated the day when he and Justine would have their own “family.”  You see,  Daniel was an only child, never knew his father, and his mother died when he was only 16 years old, so he was sent over to the states to live.

Although Daniel and Marienne were neighbors and their families started hanging out every weekend, they also shared a unique friend, which began when they volunteered with the theater league.  It was during that time that they discovered they had so much in common, including their love of books and reading.  Daniel had never had a friend like Marienne, as she was such a great listener, and she never judged him

Daniel was so at ease and comfortable around Marienne that he finds himself telling her all sorts of things he wouldn’t normally tell people. When he is around her, he feels cared for and cared about in a way he hasn’t in a very long.  However, being the perfect gentleman, Daniel would never say or do anything to jeopardize their friendship.

Of course, Daniel isn’t like the other men that Marienne has known.  Not only is he sweet and charming¸ he is also funny, very complimentary, and an incredible listener—always taking in the little details.  Oh, did I mention that he has a British accent as well?  (I know how my fellow Lovers here go weak in the knees with that accent.)  Although Daniel is very friendly and has that personality where he has never met a stranger, he is very private and does not like to burden others with his problems.

“See, that’s why you’re going to be a good mum.  You’ll see the good things in your child, and you’ll say them out loud.” Daniel to Marienne

The book follows these two couples over the course of a few years.  What I loved about this book, besides the incredible writing by Stivali which made me feel like I was “there,”  is that it was “real life.”  Yes, it was a love story, but the book contained so many real-life scenarios.  Not everything in marriage is hearts and flowers.  Below is one scenario that really stood out for me, as it is interpreted through different colored glasses by Justine and Marienne.

Justine to Daniel:  “You were capable of becoming a model and making heaps of money at it, but you chose not to because you weren’t comfortable with the cameras.  You were capable of taking the job offer from LINTUS, you could be one of their top ad men by now, but again you weren’t comfortable with the career.  Instead you work at the same college you attended, the same place you’ve been forever, in your very comfortable job, with the same boring classes to teach over and over.”  (In Justine’s eyes, Daniel is “just a professor who teaches.”)

Marienne to Daniel:  “Seriously, look how great you turned out.  You’ve got a nice house, a beautiful wife, a fantastic job where you’re actually doing something meaningful, you’re always helping people.”

Yes, this book was a bit predictable, and I found myself rooting for Marienne and Daniel, calling Justine a selfish B****.  And Frank…I’m not sure of Frank except for the fact that Frank seemed older to me because of his name.  He seemed like he was in his 20s going on 50.  He was just a selfish, unappreciative husband who didn’t think about anyone else but himself.  What I also loved about this book  is that Marienne and Daniel were never unfaithful to their spouses ~ this was nice to see.  And they never bashed or talked badly about their spouses.  Oh, and there are definitely some steamy love scenes in here too.

If you enjoy real-life stories that contain romance, some steamy love scenes, witty characters, then this book is for you.  I’m excited to say that had we not participated in this blog tour, I probably would have missed this fantastic book.  I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Holding On, coming November 26, 2012.

“Sometimes things just happen, for a reason maybe, but not necessarily a reason we’re meant to understand straight away.”  Daniel to Marienne

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