Meant to Be Yours by Susan Mallery

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Meant to Be Yours is Susan Mallery’s fifth novel in the Happily Inc. series about the town dedicated to destination weddings. Wedding planner Renee Grothern is not interested in getting married. She has tried love and wasn’t good at it, but she’s good at planning weddings—just not her own.

She met her first boyfriend when she was in college. He wanted marriage and three kids—the whole kit-and-caboodle. However, after he met Renee’s mother, the romance slowly fizzled. Her second relationship was with a nice, caring man. The only problem was, he had a wife and three kids. Though Renee didn’t know that he was married at the time, when she found out, she felt used. Since then, she decided, she would never be married because men took advantage of her and later on left her heartbroken. As a result, she’s convinced she isn’t marriage material. So, when she meets thriller writer Jasper Dembenski, she is very clear; no marriage, fun sex only. That suits Jasper just fine.

Jasper is a former army military policeman who comes home from his eight years in the service in Afghanistan broken, a man who would never be normal again. He is physically intact but mentally and emotionally screwed up. He suffered from PTSD, sleeplessness, anxiety attacks and had nightmares. He went through therapy, drugs, group counseling and halfway houses. Doctors talked about managing his symptoms. One assignment the doctor gave him was to write about how he felt. Jasper started writing and couldn’t stop. Two years later he finished his first book, and for the last six years he has been a best-selling author.

Jasper was living in Los Angeles; he drove to New York to meet with his publisher and his agent. He was driving back home to California when his clunker of a car broke down in Happily Inc. While the parts were shipped in for his car, he stayed in the pirate room at Sweet Dreams Inn. He also visited the Boardroom for game night. He was intrigued by the town, liked the people and decided to stay. He bought a cabin up on the mountain and settled in.

Jasper and his publisher have decided that Vidar, Jasper’s hero in his novels, needs a love interest to finish up the last book in the series. As he works on his new novel, Jasper realizes he doesn’t know much about women. He tries to write about women and it’s a disaster. Jasper’s two friends, who are his early readers, confirm his ineptitude in blunt terms. They classify a love scene he wrote as somewhere between porn and rape.

Since he has decided to make his hero’s love interest a wedding planner, who better to help him than his new lover Renee, who suggests that he watch movies such as Steel Magnolias and Two Weeks Notice. He watches the movies Renee suggests but feels he also needs to observe a wedding being planned with the bride and groom. Unfortunately for him, Renee says flatly, “No.” She doesn’t want his serial killer cooties on her weddings. Renee is excellent at her job, but she is afraid Jasper will interject his ideas into the wedding and that’s a no-no to her. It’s all about the bride and groom and what they want.

Pallas, Renee’s boss at Weddings Out of the Box, disagrees, though; she knows how Jasper likes to research and learn about new things for his books. Jasper begins to observe Renee as she is planning one of her weddings. She has an apple wedding, a Halloween wedding, a Scottish-themed wedding and a giant dog wedding coming up. Each one is different, but in many ways, they are the same.

Thus begins Mallery’s exploration of the relationships in women’s lives and how these relationships affect romance, friendship and family. Renee has complications in her romantic life and her family—her mom. For the most part, she gets along well with her friends.

The novel is believable and enjoyable. Mallery writes dialog that rings true and scenes that are well thought out and relate to her story. I liked both characters. The back and forth between Renee and Jasper is funny sometimes, and at other times, serious as only two people who are falling in love can be.

The only distractor in the story was Renee’s mother, although she is a minor character. Verity talks to animals; she understands what they really want to say. Renee finally comes to grips with this phenomenon, but I couldn’t. It seemed like a reach to me.

The novel is great entertainment for those days when only a light-hearted romance will do. Put it on your bookshelf and save it for a rainy day. Snuggle up with a bowl of Cherry Garcia and read. You will feel much better for it. ■