Title: Holding On
Author: Karen Stivali
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Stars: 5 out of 5
Synopsis: 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 on to the love they share.
Holding On, the sequel to Meant To Be, will be published by Turquoise Morning Press on November 26, 2012.
This is a public service warning, DO NOT, I repeat do not read this book; because if you do read it, it will ruin your life as it has ruined mine. I have fallen for another woman's husband. The object of my desire is Daniel Gardner, the male lead in the book Holding On; he is beyond wonderful. Maybe I better rewind and get back to the beginning.
We were asked by author Karen Stivali if we would like an ARC (advanced reading copy) of her soon-to-be-released book to review. Michelle Eck, my fellow lover, had reviewed her previous book Meant To Be, and our blog was part of her blog tour. Due to other commitments Michelle wasn't able to review this new ARC. To be honest I had not read Meant To Be; but I had read Michelle's review, and it was in my to be read pile. If I was going to read Holding On, I wanted to read it's predecessor. I wanted to get a feel of the author's writing style and experience the characters from their first meeting. Therefore, I read Meant To Be.
Each time we are offered an ARC I feel privileged, as the writer is entrusting us with a piece of their talent. So you see, even if I don't like a book; I respect the talent and the time it takes to produce a work of art. For that is what writing is: art, bringing settings, characters, and emotions to life; making something from nothing; creating an entire world for the reader to experience. Some writers are by far more skilled at the process than others authors. Some writers have potential; and as they write, they are able to explore their own talent and give voices to their characters. Then some writers are born with that voice intact. I don't know if there is a `talented writers gene' that sets some apart from others; but if there is, then Karen Stivali has it.
Hold On, the sequel to Meant to Be, finds Daniel and Marienne Gardner married six months and living with Ella, their daughter from Marienne's first marriage. Daniel and Marienne are the perfect couple and wonderful parents. Daniel is a professor of literature at NYU, and Marienne is a freelance graphic artist. They make their home in New Jersey; therefore, Daniel spends long hours commuting. Their lives are in flux, changing and growing and so is their family. Everything in their lives is blissful at the start of the book. Since they were such close friends prior to their marriage, their communication is open and free flowing. Like most marriages theirs isn't without it's challenges. As their lives change, they encounter some problems along the way: commitment issues, jealousy, miscommunication, heartache, and insecurities from both of their pasts.
The major surprise in the book for me was Daniel's withdrawal from communicating with Marienne. He went from being her best friend, who told her everything, to a husband who starts to keep secrets. After Marienne's past he should have realized that keeping anything from her would hurt her. The wife never wants to be the last to know about anything. His intentions may have been honorable, but Marienne needs transparency in her relationships. I don't believe Daniel has a dishonest bone in his body but was taken aback by the airport car scene. Without giving away spoilers this one scene shocked me, as the Daniel I'm in love with would never even have had such thoughts.
Daniel's fears and imperfections are highlighted in the book, especially when his past is explored. Dealing with his past is a long hard road for Daniel, one that he may not be mature enough to handle.
Marienne is more than justified in her fears of being betrayed. Yes, she should trust Daniel implicitly; but Frank, her dead husband, had betrayed her time and time again. It wasn't just his physical betrayal, it was also the emotional loneliness that he saddled her with. Furthermore, Marienne is not the conniving type either; she has always seen the good in people and is not one to truly see the deceit in others. She was and is incredible loyal; she was even loyal to Frank who ignored her throughout their marriage. Marienne comes to rely on people around her too quickly, as she is always seeing the good in people, which makes her somewhat naive. She isn't jaded, and she trusts and loves with her entire heart; it's a shame that she has been betrayed so often by others.
There are times in the book that I, like Daniel, was amazed that she didn't see the truth. I wanted to shake Marienne and tell her to "wake up and smell the coffee," but I, like Daniel, would never be that cruel to my new book girlfriend. I wonder if she needs a baking partner, but then I would be around Daniel and end up burning baked goods. Better to just be BFF's from afar or my own husband will end up looking like a toad compared to Daniel.
The book has the lovely couple expecting their first child. To say that the father is a basket case would be an understatement. Daniel was worried and attentive during Marienne's pregnancy with Ella; and he wasn't even the husband or father to that child, so imagine how Daniel deals with the pregnancy of this new baby. He pours all of his fears about impending fatherhood into his writing, which turns out to be a screenplay. I think if Daniel would have talked to Marienne it might have helped, but her pregnancy is not without complications. Despite the complications, this pregnancy goes far more smoothly than that of Ella's.
In his career Daniel is also dealing with changes in his department at NYU and the time he has to spend away from his girls commuting. When it comes to his girls, you could not find a more doting and beloved husband and father. Despite Ella not being his biological daughter, she is the light of Daniel's life. It is a shame her biological father never felt this way about either her or her mother.
The family makes a major move to New Hampshire for Daniel's job. The stress of the move, his screenplay career, and the introduction of two new characters into their lives, complicate the newly married couples relationship. One of those characters is a new friend in the form of an unwed father and the other is from Daniel's past. The unwed father becomes fast friends with Marienne, a little too friendly to Daniel's liking. These, combined with the re-emergence of the beautiful ex-wife Justine, puts stress on the new marriage.
If you want to read a book that will make you grin, laugh, love, forgive, understand, and lust; then I highly recommend Holding On by author Karen Stivali.
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