Meant To Be
by Edie Claire, contemporary (2004)
Warner, $5.99, ISBN 0-446-61278-2

I'm seriously tempted to just cut and paste the review of this author's debut romance with Warner, Long Time Coming, because Meant To Be has precisely the same problems as the former that makes Long Time Coming more like Long Time Hemorrhaging. Adding to the problems are stock one-dimensional cardboard characters and unrealistic motivations for their actions. Hence it's a longer time coming for the internal bleeding to stop this time around.

In what is the first in an excruciating pattern of information-interruptus, Meara O'Rourke's birth mother (who Meara met only once before under not-so-heartwarming circumstances) dies before telling her that "something important" news which Mom summoned Meara to her bedside for. Later, Meara learns that Mommy died in a car accident, but before that, she managed to marry a man who left Sheila half the estate. This estate half now belongs to Meara. Meara's inheritance pits her against her new stepsiblings, including the hero Fletcher Black. Meara can't give up her share even if she really doesn't want it (she's selfless and unmaterialistic, after all) because she hears that the land is up for Development and she must Save The Trees.

If Ms Claire is so eager to save the trees, she should have never gotten this book published and made the spirits of the Amazon rainforests weep in pain.

The excruciating thing about this book is that information flow takes place drip by drip thanks to ultra-contrived scenarios, leading to all sorts of tedious misunderstandings. The characters are also so determined to be unhappy that they are like cartoon characters. Meara is never lucky in love because for some reason, she only has ridiculously cartoonish ex-boyfriends in her life. Fletcher hates Big City Life and everything about it - even if he has no compunctions about having a Truly Evil Ex from the Evil City - and oh, he hates women forever because All Women Are Sluts - even if he has no compunctions about having a Truly Evil Ex from the Evil City. Ms Claire seems oblivious to the fact that her main characters are horribly dysfunctional people who deliberately sabotage their lives just to reaffirm their beliefs that Something Is Horribly Wrong With Other People. Nothing is wrong with the other people - Meara and Fletcher should look in the mirror before they start acting like persecuted victims.

There is no romance as much as two unlikeable losers finding a common bond over a candlelight dinner of whine and more whine. The suspense is flat, the villain is as one-dimensional as can be, and Meant To Be is just not meant to be, frankly speaking. Everything about it is so staged and contrived, from the information interruptus headaches to the characters' too-ridiculous Social Life From Hell past to... well, basically everything, really. When the book eventually degenerates into a ridiculously out-of-place environmental tract, Ms Claire should have taken her own soapbox to heart and stop killing trees for books like Meant To Be.

Rating: 39

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