Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Holding On by Karen Stivali (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Karen Stivali, author of Holding On, the sequel to Meant To Be!

Author Guest Post

Writing Multiple Stories About The Same Characters

A lot of people ask me why I opted to write a sequel to Meant To Be but haven’t written sequels to any of my other stories. The answer is simple. I wasn’t done telling Daniel and Marienne’s story. Although I write in multiple genres (women’s fiction, contemporary romance and erotic romance) one thing that’s true of all of my books is that they have a Happily Ever After ending. I can’t write a book without one, it’s just not in me. With many stories that Happily Ever After ending is just that. An ending. For Daniel and Marienne in Meant To Be, it wasn’t an ending, it was a beginning. They’d spent the entire book getting to know one another, slowly falling in love, struggling with their feelings for one another…and although it ends with them engaged I knew that ending was a start to their new life together.

Writing Holding On was the easiest writing project I’ve ever undertaken. It really wrote itself. I already knew Daniel and Marienne so well that I simply watched their married life play out in my head and wrote down what I saw. Whenever I fall in love with characters, as a reader, I always wonder what happens to them after they get together. So few books explore that. It was a pleasure, as a writer to delve into that with Daniel and Marienne.

Although it was an easy book to write in some ways, the story flowed, the characters were so familiar, it was also heart wrenching. As anyone who’s ever been in a marriage or serious relationship knows, it’s not all smooth sailing. Writing about the difficult times they encounter was very emotional. I get very attached to my characters and tend to experience things right along with them. Their ups and downs definitely made for some moody/weepy/angsty days for me as I write their tale. But I’m so glad I did.

I’ve been asked by many readers if I plan to write more of their story. The answer is definitely yes. Daniel and Marienne are in a short story that will appear in a Wedding Anthology (due out from Turquoise Morning Press in June 2013). That story, White Wedding, takes place between Meant To Be and Holdng O. If you’re a fan of the books I guarantee you won’t want to miss reading it.

I’m also in the process of writing a spin off novel titled Just In Time. As readers may guess from the title, this is Justine’s story. Justine is only a secondary character in Meant To Be and Holding On, but trust me, she needs her own book. Daniel and Marienne with play supporting roles as Justine’s tale plays out. Just In Time will release from Turquoise Morning Press in January 2014. As for more? Don’t rule out a third book that’s all about Daniel and Marienne. They’re characters who are still active in my mind and I’m guessing they’ll talk me into telling more of their story one day very soon.

About The Author

Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies and fictional British men. When she’s not writing, she can be found cooking extravagant meals and serving them to family and friends. Prior to deciding to write full time Karen worked as a hand drawn animator, a clinical therapist, and held various food-related jobs ranging from waitress to specialty cake maker. Planning elaborate parties and fundraisers takes up what’s left of her time and sanity. Karen has always been fascinated by the way people relate to one another so she favors books and movies that feature richly detailed characters and their relationships. In her own writing she likes to explore the dynamics between characters and has a tendency to craft romantic love stories filled with sarcasm and sexy details.

Karen has published three erotic romances with Ellora’s Cave: Marry Me (June 2012), Long-Distance Lovers (co-written with Karen Booth, March 2012) and Always You (Passionate Plume First Place Novella Winner, RWA 2012).

Karen’s women's fiction stories, published with Turquoise Morning Press, include Meant To Be (August 2012) and its sequel Holding On (November 2012). Both full length novels are currently available in e-book and paperback. A prequel to these novels, the short story All I Need, appears in the Foreign Affairs Anthology (August 2012). Another short story, White Wedding, which takes place between Meant To Be and Holding On, will be in an anthology due out in June 2013.

Also coming in 2013 Karen will have two contemporary romances releasing from Samhain Publishing.The first of these, Then, Again is due out on May 23, 2013. Leave The Lights On will be out in November/December 2013. A new erotic romance novella will release from Ellora's Cave in Spring 2013 and Just In Time, a follow-up to Meant To Be and Holding On that will focus on Justine, will release from Turquoise Morning in January 2014.

Karen Stivali ~ Holding On ~ Virtual Book Tour Page ~ Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Book Review

Holding On by Karen Stivali
Sequel to Meant To Be
Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press
Publication Date: November 26, 2012
Format: Paperback - 310 pages / Kindle - 817 KB / Nook - 778 KB
ISBN: 1622371186
Genre: Contemporary Romance / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Holding On


Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

When you have everything you’ve ever dreamed of, the hard part is Holding On.

British NYU professor Daniel Gardner thinks life can’t get better than the day his three-year-old stepdaughter, Ella, calls him Daddy for the first time. Then his wife Marienne tells him she’s pregnant. Daniel is thrilled, but worried about Marienne’s health. Not wanting to cause her stress, he turns to writing to calm his nerves. He pens a screenplay, thinking it’s nothing more than a mental health exercise, but when a colleague reads it and hands it to a producer, it turns into a production contract. Daniel accepts the offer and transfers to a teaching position at Dartmouth, hoping that small town living and a shorter commute will simplify his life.

As he attempts to juggle his new responsibilities, he gets an unexpected letter from Roger, the father he never knew. For the first time since they met, Daniel and Marienne are at odds; she wants him to give Roger a chance, but Daniel wants nothing to do with the man he thinks abandoned his mother. As Daniel and Marienne struggle, they must contend with interference from Daniel’s sexy ex-wife, who appears to want him back, and a handsome, all-too-helpful single dad who desires Marienne as more than a play-date pal. They must both confront deep-seated issues with trust and acceptance if they’re going to find a way to make their marriage work and hold on to the love they share.

Book Excerpt:

Marienne sat down on one of the couches and waited for Daniel to return. The lobby looked exactly like she remembered it—beautiful atrium with tall glass windows, open all the way to the top floor. She couldn’t believe Daniel had arranged for them to spend their anniversary at the same hotel where they’d been married. So many good memories. All their friends gathered to wish them well. Ella in her beautiful gown. The whole night was like a dream come true. She’d felt like the luckiest woman in the world that night, but tonight she felt even luckier.

The baby thumped on her belly, and she rubbed her hand against the kicks. “You have such a wonderful father.”

“And a wonderful mother as well,” Daniel said.

Marienne jumped at the sound of his voice. “I didn’t even see you come in.”

“I was just watching you talk to our baby.” He placed his hand next to hers. The baby tapped twice in reply. “See, we’re all excited about our evening.”

The smile on Daniel’s face made her wonder what else he was up to. She sensed a bit of mischief in his eyes. Maybe he’s just looking forward to the honeymoon suite. She braced her arm on the back of the couch to push herself up. He cupped her elbow to help. Not that I can be much fun in this condition. She grimaced.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Nothing. I’m just thinking I had a much more appealing figure the last time we were here.”

Daniel’s hand traced its way around her back. “I can’t imagine anything more appealing than your figure.” His eyes glowed as he leaned in to kiss her. “Come, let’s go check in.”

My Book Review:

In Holding On, the sequel to Meant To Be, the story of Daniel and Marienne continues. Holding On is the story of one couple's ability to love and stay true to each other, while finding the strength and courage to hold on and make their marriage work with love, trust, acceptance, and understanding when unexpected life situations tests their marriage.

Newly married, Daniel and Marienne Gardner are enjoying marital bliss while living in a small town. They have special blessings that come into their lives when Ella, Marienne's three-year-old daughter, calls Daniel Daddy for the first time; Marienne finds out that she is pregnant; and Daniel pens a screenplay that is picked up by a LA producer. Can it get any better than this? Well, life has a way of throwing monkey wrenches into the best of marriages and relationships that will test their ability to survive. Daniel receives a letter from a man named Roger, who claims to be the father that he never knew; Justine, Daniel's ex-wife wants him back and tries to seduce him, which brings out Marienne's old insecure feelings of cheating; and Daniel's frequent travels to LA for preproduction meetings for the screenplay leads the lonely Marienne to befriend a single father named Bob during an arranged playdate for their daughters. Can the strength, trust and love in their marriage help them hold on and overcome life's unexpected situations?

Author Karen Stivali once again weaves an emotional story that delves into the realistic inner workings of a marriage through the trials and tribulations and life's challenges that will test its survivability. Written in the third person narrative, the reader embarks on an emotional roller coaster ride with the continuation of Daniel and Marienne's story. As their story unfolds, the couple encounter issues of commitment, miscommunication and insecurities that test their marriage. I think that the author's look into these issues are realistic and believable, you can't help but feel for the couple as their fears, insecurities and flaws come to light as they strive to maintain their happy marriage. As Daniel and Marienne journey to build upon their marriage, the reader is treated to a couple's love for each other that is simply magical. Through the ups and downs of the challenges and struggles that come their way, this wonderful couple's love endures as they weather life's storms together.

With realistic and believable characters who have flaws and issues that are easy to relate to; engaging dialogue and interactions; and an emotional storyline that will tug at your heartstrings, Holding On is a beautifully written story of the enduring spirit of love and marriage that is oh so sigh worthy.

Author Karen Stivali has created a series of stories that is a must read! Meant To Be is book one, Holding On is book two, and Just In Time is book three that will focus on Justine and will be released in January 2014.



  1. Replies
    1. Hi Samantha! Thank you for the opportunity to host the virtual book tour event, I did love the sequel! :)