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.
I love when I read a sequel and like it as much as the first one. I just finished reading Holding On by Karen Stivali and loved it. I couldn’t have asked for a better story for Marienne and Daniel to show what it’s like after the Happily Ever After ending at the end of Meant to Be. It is 6 months into their first year of marriage and everything is blissfully good. Daniel is so in love with his wife, he has a family with Marienne and her daughter Ella and a good job teaching at NYU. With time things begin to change and there are challenges that they both have to face in order to keep their marriage on track. This can happen in any marriage and we see what both Daniel and Marienne have to face to keep theirs together.
The first half of the book you see the wonderful connection they have and the love they express for each other. I want to be married to Daniel. Lucky for me I have a Danielesque man of my own. They started out as best friends and you see them sharing their lives with each other. Then she becomes pregnant with a second child and things begin to change. Daniel is stressed with this pregnancy after witnessing what happened with her first and that wasn’t even his own child. Stress and insomnia takes his toll on him and he turns to writing and expressing his feelings in a screenplay. Little did he know that this would be submitted through channels and picked up to be made into a movie. What is a little shocking is his lack of communication with Marienne. Why all of a sudden is he not telling her things?
Life is thrown another curveball when Daniel is offered to teach at Dartmouth in New Hampshire. It would mean so much to have a shorter commute and spend more time with family but it is a stressful situation to sell and purchase a home plus keep working your job. Things would work better so they move and things are good but not without jealousy rearing its ugly head. Marienne becomes friends with a single dad Bob who has a daughter who plays with Ella. Marienne is so trusting and sees only the good in people and never sees things as they truly are sometimes. When Daniel has to travel to California to deal with preproduction meetings he runs into his ex-wife Justine. Marienne finds out and old insecure feelings creep into her subconscious and she wonders if she is being cheated on again. All the men in Marienne’s past have lied and cheated, so she was afraid Daniel would too.
If that wasn’t enough, a man from Daniel’s past comes to New Hampshire and he’s torn from making a connection to this man. Roger claims to have known Daniel’s mother and may be his father but doesn’t want to let this man enter into his life. What ends up happening is that Marienne wants the opposite and they find themselves at odds over Roger. Is it too late to change the past and finally have a father for the first time in his life? Can he let go of the hate he felt growing up without one and the feeling of abandonment for his mother? Good questions that the author covers in her writing.
The beauty of this story is the way the author develops her characters and their relationships and gives you a true sense of how people would react and interact. I found myself falling into the world of Daniel and Marienne that the author created and wanted to shake both of these characters to say “what are you doing?!!” or “wake up and smell the coffee Marienne because the man IS flirting with you.” You want their marriage to make it and for them to get to the ways things were, the way they were meant to be. I believe Karen Stivali is a superb writer in contemporary romance and have told her so in person when we met at a recent conference. She has written a wonderful continuing story of Daniel and Marienne and I was so glad to get more of them in Holding On. I raved about her first book and I’ll be recommending this one as well. I only warn some readers that these novels are not sex-filled, hard-core erotica, but are rather “chick-lit” scenes, full of love, romance and lust. Please read them in order if you get the chance. You will be so glad that you did.