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***
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.
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.
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.
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.