Meant For Each Other

Title: Meant For Each Other
Author: D.H. Starr
Publisher: Ai Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: Novel (181 PDF pages/~89k words)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

One Sentence Review: Though not without a few issues for me, a solid read that has me looking for more from this relatively new author.

***This review contains what could be considered spoilers***

THE BLURB

Sometimes your first love is the one that was meant to be.

Craig Harper and Jeremy Finn were best friends growing up. They attended the same school, spent all of their time together, and hung out with the same group of people. It wasn’t until the day before Jeremy and his family moved across the country that they discovered their attraction to one another.

Fifteen years later, they reunite by chance in New York City. Both are in relationships and have established a routine in their lives. But routines and relationships are shaken as they begin to spend time together once again. Old feelings and connections are still strong and the passion that pulls them together is a powerful, soul-searing call neither man can deny.

As each deals with the issues in their own relationships, they begin to question whether the comfort of what they know is more powerful than the pull of what they could have been…and what they might become. Struggling to find the answer, only their hearts can reveal if they are meant for each other.

THE REVIEW

Meant For Each Other is the first book by this fairly new author that I’ve read. I picked it up because I am a sucker for reunion stories, and it seemed right up my alley. While I overall liked this character-driven tale and there were quite a few plusses for it, several things were problems for me, things that I think that as the author matures into his craft, will improve as I believe he shows promise.

The story opens in 1995 to fifteen-year-old best friends Craig and Jeremy on the afternoon before Jeremy is due to move across the country with his parents. They are both sad, but trying to make the most of it. This afternoon is a time for truth, as both boys admit very strong feelings for the other and share their first kiss. Jeremy leaves the next day amidst tears and promises to keep in touch. Despite those promises, the phone calls dwindle down to none over the course of many months, and Craig and Jeremy lose contact. Fast forward fifteen years. Craig is now living in New York City with his investment banker boyfriend of eight years, Robert, and co-owns a graphic design firm. He loves his work, but he and Robert are having problems. In a different part of NYC, Jeremy is teaching second grade and is in an eight-year relationship with investment portfolio manager, Andrew. He and Andrew are also having problems. A chance meeting at the party of a mutual business associate brings the two former best friends together again. Thrilled to be back in each others’ lives, the attraction that they each still feel is very evident, but they are each in a relationship. As they reconnect and spend time together, the feelings grow stronger, and as their relationships seem to deteriorate further, all parties need to figure out what should happen next.

Told in third-person by the four main characters — Craig, Jeremy, (and to a lesser extent) Andrew and Robert — Meant For Each Other has themes of second chances, rejuvenation, changes in relationships, fidelity, and staying true to one’s self. The tale had a lot of potential, which I think it mostly met, and I was engaged from the first page. I liked that Starr took his time in having the protags meet up again, which allowed me the opportunity to see how their lives are now and what they are like as adults.

I liked both protags very much, and I found them to be fully-fleshed, flawed and believable. I felt like I could be friends with them, and I found myself caring for them over the course of the book. I connected with each of them on different levels, and could sympathize with them and the struggles that they had in their relationships. I liked that they questioned whether or not their feelings for each other had more to do with recapturing the past or true feelings still there.

I enjoyed the scenes with Jeremy’s class, and I liked that our heroes could experience each other’s jobs during the story. The smexxin scenes are quite steamy, and there was a good story-to-smexxin ratio.

I liked that Starr did not demonize both partners. Though I thought that Jeremy’s boyfriend, Andrew, was a bit selfish at times, he had a good heart and ultimately did care how his actions affected Jeremy. He grew on me. In fact, I kinda hope that we will one day see a book of Andrew getting his HEA. Craig’s boyfriend, Robert, on the other hand, was irredeemable for me. We are meant to not like him and I didn’t.

Conflict is presented in the form of fidelity issues as well as disagreements over (in)equality among partners and struggling with changes and growth in relationships. A note about the former: if cheating is a hot point for you, I suggest that you don’t pick up this book. Also, I am not a fan of the breaking of committed relationships to get into another, but I think it was presented well here as we are intimate with the situation and the thoughts of all four characters.

My niggles:

This book, in my opinion, would have benefited from much tighter editing in that there are a LOT of words, words (and variations of) that are repeated several times throughout. Many of these instances are the four main characters saying things both internally and externally to other people about their relationship over and over. How they met. What has changed. Their problems. For example, we hear many times various characters saying “when we first met X…and now Y…,” that our heroes make less than their partners, and how our heroes understand each other in ways their current partners don’t (and vice versa). We also are told several times that private school teachers make less than their public counterparts and that Craig wants variety in his work. This came sharply into view for me as, in between the two readings for this review, I read a few other books that were very tightly-written, with no spare words, and I realized just how often I am told things here that I really only needed to be told once.

I also felt that the protags had what I’ll dub Mirror Syndrome: both men moved to NYC eight years ago; both men have been in relationships for eight years; both are unhappy in those relationships; both think of the other a lot and compare other men to each other; both partners are pushing the heroes to do things in their careers they don’t want; both partners feel our heroes are not living up to their potential; both partners are in finance, have had promotions (with big ones two years ago), make loads of money and have changed for the negative because of the raises they were awarded. Some readers may feel that the parallels are sweet or serendipitous, but to me, it felt a bit contrived and as if the author lacked the imagination to mix it up some.

Lastly, a few minor things:

Starr has our heroes talking in the prologue (in 1995) about how they’ll stay in touch, and there is mention of email and Skype. While I will concede that two teens could possibly have had email back then (maybe through AOL or CompuServe?), the first beta of Skype was not released until 2003.

There is quite a bit of pants-adjusting that goes on as it seems that they can’t talk to each other without their cocks beginning to fill, tightening their trousers.  After a while, it wore a bit on me.

I found multiple, small editing errors, such as missing quote marks and periods.

OVERALL

Though not without a few issues for me, a solid read that has me looking for more from this relatively new author. Recommended to readers who like reunion stories with some conflict thrown in.

DH Starr

Aunt Lynn:

Thanks so much for the review. I really loved how honest and detailed you were. It’s so helpful to me so that I can grow and adapt as a writer.

Doug

DH Starr
I just want to thank everyone for their responses and I am thrilled to have such discussion around the story. It’s good to hear what turns readers on and what turns them off. I’m in final revision stages of my most recent book which is shorter than most I’ve written, 60K, because I didn’t add extra stuff. It’s a love story between a vampire and a human, both of whom feel slightly off kilter with their surroundings until they find each other, and then something in them becomes whole. Enter someone the vampire unwittingly harmed in the past, and this… Read more »
Sirius

Oh I definitely noticed liking a lot of books you liked Lynn and cheating in the stories does not bother me (as long as it is well written nothing in the stories bothers me actually except death of one of the guys he), so I think I will try this one.

Great review. 🙂

Aunt Lynn

Hey there Sirius. We do end up liking the same books much of the time, so I am curious to see if this falls into that. let us know after.

Tj

Love the review Lynn. Very nicely done. I most likely will have many of the same issues that you did, but if the story is good otherwise I can overlook them. I’ll add this to my list and give it a try. I like second chance/reunion stories and it’s always nice to try a new author. Thanks for the review.

Aunt Lynn

My pleasure TJ. I thought the story has many redeeming elements, so for me — and while still there — the issues were tolerable.

Aunt Lynn

Hey Eve. This is his second book, and I understand that he made improvements between that and this, and this shows promise of better things to come. I wouldn’t have rated it as highly as I did if it wasn’t worth the rest, so take the chance. 🙂

thelastaerie

Thanks for thoughtful review. I’m torn ;). It’s a premise that I think I’d like to read, but yes, those pararell lives both heroes turn out to live, that sounds a bit lazy… On the other hand, experience told me those who wrote a promising but flaws-filled first novel, could turn out to be my favorite writers later on.

DH Starr

Hi thelastaerie:

What a nice thing to say. I already feel like the experience of writing my first and second book has helped me to anticipate where I need to focus as I write. Tightening up prose, etc.

I hope you enjoy future titles that I have coming out.

Lily

Sounds interesting. Likely I’ll have the same problems (loved the “mirror” comment) but I’m adding it to my “read someday” list since I do like 2nd chance/reunion storylines. Great review, Lynn! 🙂

Aunt Lynn

Thanks Lily. If you do like reunion tales, I would stick this in a TBR pile somewhere.

Larissa

Hmmm new publisher? It sounds like a good book! I’ll give it a try!

Thanks for the great review!

Aunt Lynn

Hi Larissa. New author, new publisher. It’s worth it to try, for sure.

Wave

Lynn
Love the review and the way that you outlined all the issues. I also like the “mirror syndrome”. :)I noticed it as I was reading the review that the careers, relationships, and problems are in a straight trajectory on parallel paths. No imagination. I think a good editor would have picked up on these similarities and made the author do some fine tuning.

I’ll put this book in my “maybe” file. This is the second book by this author that’s been reviewed recently on the site and the rating seems to be improving. I think Doug has a lot of promise.

Aunt Lynn

Thanks Wave. I do think Doug shows promise and would be willing to try another title in the future. New author, new press, so I am imagining there will be some fine-tuning happens on both sides.

alina

I think Ai Press belongs to Sedonia Guillone.

Coincidence: there is an interview with D.H. Starr today, on michelendjeff blog ( DH Starr is a guy and there is a pic, too).

DH Starr
LOL. Yes, I’m a guy and that was on my dad’s boat. Ai Press is a new imprint and Sedonia Guillone is the owner. She guided me through this book and has been mentoring me as I write new books. The process of going back and forth with her on this taught me so much. Of course, she’s not Moses and can’t part the seas…the book is still one of the first I’ve written and so naturally will have an immature style/feel as I begin to find my specific voice and style. With that said, I love the quality of… Read more »
Aunt Lynn

Good afternoon Alina. I think you’re right about Ai and SG. Just the name reminds me of her.

And yes, total coincidence on the interview and review overlap. Thanks for the heads up; I think I’ll go over there when I am done.

Cole
Hey Lynn, I’m happy to see that you liked this story. I had requested it because it sounded good to me and I’m interested in this new author. Well, I have it now, I just have to find the time to read it for pleasure 🙂 I think we have similar reading peeves because these would bother me as well, but I can overlook them if I take to the characters or like the overall plot. If there is redeemable writing with the rest of the book then I won’t mind. I’m looking forward to reading this. Cheating doesn’t bother… Read more »
Aunt Lynn

Hiya Cole. Yes, we have very similar tastes and peeves, so I am really curious to see what you think after. Come back and comment.

Wave

Cole
I started getting emails from this publisher about 6 months ago but they have been in business at least since March of last year.

Jaime

Thanks for the review Aunt Lynn, this one is going on my TBR pile.

Aunt Lynn

Hi Jaime. I hope you like it. Let us know what you think after.

Luci

Thanks for the review. I like reunion stories, just not getting into a new relationship while you’re currently in one (unless it’s m/m/m) stories. Gonna have to pass on this one.

Aunt Lynn

Luci, I agree with you, but here I think it was okay. Like I said, knowing the general climate of both relationships and the history from all partners perspectives, it worked here. BUT, I completely understand if that will just put you off.

Helena

I may end checking up this book if eventually there is a happy ending for Andrew too. I will keep an eye in future releases by this author since it looks they may be interesting.
Thank you for your review 🙂

Aunt Lynn

Hi Helena. I hope we do see Andrew’s story. Maybe if enough of us ask, Doug will comply? 🙂

DH Starr
Hi everyone: I love hearing the reviews here. They are so honest and unapologetic. I do plan on writing a story for Andrew and am glad that you found him to be a likable character. My plan for him is to have him reflect on how his standards are misdirected to material equality rather than towards what really counts, emotional compatibility. I agree with Aunt Lynn. My style is maturing. I started writing for publication a little over a year ago. This book is much stronger than my first and the new books I’m working on are stronger yet. Some… Read more »
Aisha Phillips

Thanks for the review Aunt Lynn.

Meant For Each Other had the very opposite effect on me. I couldn’t get around all the head hopping. I couldn’t get into the story or find myself caring about the characters. I do find your term “mirror syndrome” spot on.

Aunt Lynn

Hi Aisha. Thanks for commenting as someone who read it. I thought, for the most part, there were pretty clear delineations between the POVs, though there were a few instances of headhopping that bothered me as well. Since it didn’t happen throughout, I let it go and didn’t mention it in my review. I can see, even with the delineations, that the four POVs could bother some readers (and I think we get a teeny bit of Janet in there are well, like a couple of sentences?).

Tam

You know what caught my eye? The publisher name. That’s new. I think the “coincidences” seem a bit too much for me. I may pass on this one for now but keep an eye out for something else.

Aunt Lynn

Hi Tam. Yes, I saw the new publisher as well. From what I can tell, it looks like Sedonia Guillone’s venture, as Alina said. There aren’t that many titles, and they are mostly hers. If she isn’t involved, I’d be surprised.

The coincidences were a bit much for for me, so if that would be an issue, then it isn’t a book for you.

Cole

Is the publisher new? I’ve seen books from Ai Press here and there and a few months ago I added it to my bookmarks folder of Publisher websites. Maybe they’re new? Or maybe they only have a few sparse releases? I kinda figured that someone like you or Wave or Jen or Lynn who has been with the genre longer than me would recognize it. Lynn, do you know anything about Ai? I’m curious…

Sedonia Guillone

Hi – I’m the owner of Ai Press. I started Ai Press in March of 2010 so I don’t have many releases yet. All erotic romances of all subgenres. Hope you’ll come look: http://www.ai-press.net Thanks! Sedonia

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