Genre: Romance; Women's Fiction
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 416
Date of Publication: March 16, 2021
My Rating: 5 Stars
An inspiring new family saga by New York Times bestselling author Jude Deveraux
Two headstrong sisters are bound by tradition but long to forge their own path.
It’s 1972 and times are changing. In the small farming community of Mason, Kansas, Vera and Kelly Exton are known for their ambitions. Vera is an activist who wants to join her boyfriend in the Peace Corps. But she is doing her duty caring for her widowed mother and younger sister until Kelly is firmly established. Kelly is studying to become a veterinarian. She plans to marry her childhood sweetheart and eventually take over his father’s veterinary practice.
But it’s a tumultuous time and neither sister is entirely happy with the path that’s been laid out for her. As each evaluates her options, everything shifts. Do you do what’s right for yourself or what others want? By having the courage to follow their hearts these women will change lives for the better and the effects will be felt by the generations that follow. Meant to Be delivers an emotional, smart, funny and wise lesson about the importance of being true to yourself.
In this touching story of two sisters, two lives take on directions neither of them ever expected. Vera Exton is an activist who has long had plans to join the Peace Corps and to join her boyfriend in Africa. However, she had lost her father and takes her responsibilities towards her mother and sister quite seriously. Vera's sister Kelly is in veterinary school and Vera does not want to leave until Kelly becomes established.
Kelly's life seems well on track. She is doing well in veterinary school, might be marrying a boy she has loved since childhood, and just might be able to take over his father's veterinary practice.
However, neither Vera nor Kelly are truly happy. Things seem well in line for both of them, but their lives take on tumultuous change when Adam Hatten, Vera's long-time boyfriend, returns home from Africa. His father has passed away and Adam's eighteen-year-old brother Robbie has been getting into trouble and is in need of guidance. While things look good for Vera as she gets back together with Adam, it soon becomes clear that their hopes for the future have been derailed.
This would be a good time to discuss the title of this book - Meant to Be. The title is quite apropos because it becomes quite clear that what has been expected might not always be the best course of action - especially where matters of the heart are concerned. Things began to change for both Vera and Kelly, including the men in their lives that they thought they would be with forever.
This book is more than Vera and Kelly's stories. It is a multigenerational tale that began in the year 1972. The book then brings the reader to 1996 and we then have Caitlyn's story. I'll not tell you whose daughter she was, but her story is pivotal to this book, and is part of Vera and Kelly's continuing saga. Caitlyn's story is just as touching as to what took place during the first half of the book, and then segues to modern times.
Whether the book took place in 1972, 1996, 2002 or 2007, it all flows together remarkably well. This is a wonderful family that dealt with disappointment, heartbreak and betrayal. Yet it was more than evenly balanced with love, hope, joy, courage and the strong connection of family. This is an excellent book and I love the experience of reading an author that my mom read during my younger years.
Many thanks to MIRA and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Please enjoy the following excerpt:
Mason, Kansas May 1972
Adam is back.
Vera Exton couldn’t get that thought out of her head. The man she had always loved, the man who held the keys to her future, was finally home.
She was on the front porch of her family home. As always, she was surrounded by newspapers and magazines. She paid to have the New York Times sent to her. That it arrived three days late didn’t matter. At least she got to see what was going on in the world. The world. Not just Kansas, not just the US, but everywhere.
In college, she’d majored in political science, with a minor in geography. She knew where the Republic of Vanuatu was, where Rajasthan, India, was. She could tell Bhutan from Nepal by a single photo. She’d studied languages on her own and knew a smattering of several. Rhodesia, she thought. Madagascar. She’d send her sister photos of herself with a lemur when she got there. Kelly would like that.
Vera closed her eyes, leaning back in the old chair that her mother had bought at a craft fair. It had been made by someone local, using local materials. That was the difference between them. Her mother and her sister prided themselves on “local,” while Vera could only see the world.
“And now it’s all going to begin,” she whispered, and opened her eyes.
Bending, she began stacking the newspapers and magazines. Her mother complained about the mess that always surrounded Vera. “We can hardly walk through a room,” her mother often said, frowning. Since her husband died two years ago, Nella Exton did little but frown.
If Kelly was around, she helped Vera clean up. Or helped Vera do anything, for Kelly was deeply glad her big sister was there and doing what everyone expected her to do.
When Kelly mentioned her gratitude, their mother just sniffed. “She’s the eldest child, so of course she takes care of things.” Even though the sisters were only ten months apart, to their mother Vera was to take on the family’s responsibilities, so she was doing what she was supposed to do. There was no other choice.
But Kelly didn’t feel that way. In what people tended to call “the drug culture,” many kids ran away, never to be seen again. The idea of “family obligations” was becoming obsolete. But not to Vera.
She had postponed the future she’d dreamed of, had studied for, to give her sister what she wanted and Kelly was ever thankful, grateful and appreciative.
For all her sister’s appreciation, right now all Vera could think of was that Adam’s return meant the ordeal of staying at home was over.
He’d arrived just in time for his father’s funeral, as there’d been delays on the long flight from Africa. Vera had searched the newspapers to find out what was going on in Kenya. During the years he’d been away, Adam’s letters were full of stories of floods and bridges collapsing, infestations and diseases with exotic names. His letters had made her heart pound with excitement. She’d read them to her mother and sister, then was shocked by the horror on their faces. “But doesn’t it sound wonderful?” Vera would ask.
Nella said a flat no, and Kelly would say, “If you like that sort of thing.” Then she’d pick up a few of her animals and feed them or groom them or whatever she did with them.
Vera had seen Adam after the service, but she’d not spoken to him. He was surrounded by people offering condolences. His father, Burke Hatten, had been a big shot in the county. “Ask Burke” was a common catchphrase.
In Vera’s opinion, the man thought he knew much more than he did, which is why he and his eldest son had always butted heads. Burke’s temper and his son’s matching one was why Adam had run off to join the Peace Corps.
Well, that and Vera’s endless talk of how she was joining the second she finished college. She’d begged Adam to go with her, but he’d always said no. He said he’d be waiting for her in Kansas when she grew tired of moving about the world and came home.
Funny how things work out, she thought as she stacked the papers. Adam had the big fight with his dad and had run off to the Peace Corps. Vera had planned to join him, but her father had died suddenly, leaving no one to care for the farm. To Vera, the solution was to sell the farm, but Nella had refused to leave the place. In just a few weeks, everything changed. Vera had agreed to stay behind until Kelly finished veterinary school. The new plan was that as soon as Kelly graduated, Vera would join Adam wherever the Peace Corps had sent him.
Now everything was going to change again. Burke Hatten’s horse threw him and he’d died instantly, so Adam had returned. But this time when he left the country to go back to his job in Africa, Vera wouldn’t be kissing him goodbye. They’d leave together. The goodbyes would be to her mother and sister, to the farm, to her job at the travel agency. Goodbye to the town of Mason. The world she’d been reading about was out there and calling to her.
At last, she was going to answer its call.
Excerpted from Meant to Be by Jude Deveraux Copyright © Jude Deveraux. Published by HQN Books.
Jude Deveraux is the author of forty-three New York Times bestsellers, including For All Time, Moonlight in the Morning, and A Knight in Shining Armor. She was honored with a Romantic Times Pioneer Award in 2013 for her distinguished career. To date, there are more than sixty million copies of her books in print worldwide.
Author Website: https://judedeveraux.com/