REVIEW: MEANT TO BE BY FIONA MCCALLUM

MEANT TO BE

Author: Fiona McCallum
Harlequin MIRA RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan

Meant to Be concludes the story of Emily Oliphant, introduced in Saving Grace and continued in Time Will Tell. Emily’s story began with her separation from John, her abusive husband, and tracked her move towards financial independence and a new relationship with Jake. Now, in Meant to Be, life seems to be settling into a new, but good pattern, with Jake joining her on the farm she inherited following John’s death. Emily has come a long way since readers met first her, with her self-confidence and assertiveness growing in leaps and bounds. However, those familiar with Emily know that life for her is never smooth sailing.

It starts well, as Jake and Emily embark on a project to rebuild the cottage reduced to rubble by John and open an art gallery. It’s a win-win for both of them – a sense of purpose and a potential business for Emily, and free publicity for Jake’s building company. While that project moves along with few setbacks (apart from Emily’s mother’s disapproval), other challenges create some emotional problems for Emily and Jake, including an illness, their friends’ personal crisis, some unexpected news and Emily’s increasing irritation with her mother.

While the novel highlights some of the challenges of building and developing a business in a rural area, as well as the way news gets around, the focus is more on the positive and showing the benefits of living in the country … peace, tranquility, community spirit during a crisis, and so forth. The sense of rural living was not as strong as I’ve seen in many other rural romance/fiction novels. What comes out more strongly is the contemporary nature of the issues – ones many of us can relate to – clashes with parents, worries about the future, taking a risk into the unknown, impending parenthood and so on.

This novel is the strongest of the three. I found Emily frustrating at times, especially in the earlier books, so it was good to see her grow emotionally and deal with some of the things in her life she’d left to wallow, and to see the series come to a positive conclusion. Overall, it’s a fairly slow and steady series (which is probably just what most of our lives are) and it makes for a pleasant, easy and light read.

Available from bookstores and Harlequin. My copy was courtesy of Harlequin Books Australia.

Bookish treat: Cheese and olives were consumed during the reading of this book.