Author: Theresa Rizzo
What I’m Talking About:
Just Destiny was presented to me as a contemporary romance, and while it had love at its very core, it doesn’t read like a typical romance. There is sweetness, sincerity, and fleeting kisses, but no swooning or heaving. In fact, there isn’t really even any dating since its main character is married. Instead, as a legal drama it’s made dramatic by the complexity of the relationships it involves. Just Destiny is an ode to the fact that life is messy and it takes maturity and growth to navigate it, but love makes the effort worth it.
The book opens with main character, Mrs. Jenny Harrison, about to leave for the weekend on her second wedding anniversary. She has just discovered that she is mere weeks along in an unplanned pregnancy. The only person who knows is her next door neighbor and best friend, Steve, a retired major league baseball player and attorney. The weekend away will be her perfect opportunity to tell her husband Gabe the good news. Unfortunately a tragic accident takes Gabe and her unborn baby, leaving us with a despair that reminded me of the movie Return to Me. No matter how many times I watch that movie, David Duchovny slumped against the door after his wife’s death still makes me cry. Rizzo takes us there and it is a tough way to start a book, but sets us up for the complications that follow.
Jenny then raises an ethical battle when she chooses to both donate Gabe’s organs and save his sperm for future insemination. This is the crux of the book and is made out to be a very big deal, inciting national media attention. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but then there were a couple references that seemed dated to me too. (No one consults the newspaper for movie times anymore.) I think the fact that science is racing ahead of the law makes for very interesting discussions as real-life application creates unforeseen scenarios, but this didn’t feel like one of them to me. That, however, is likely Rizzo’s point, to incite discussion among her readers. Is this a big deal or not?
Rizzo treats her readers as intelligent, tossing in vocabulary like “quixotic” and “vituperative.” For this reason, I had to question the motivation of some of her characters. In a few places, it seemed they were uncommunicative for the sake of the story and not because it was natural to that character. A few of the lesser characters were distinctly one-note. Her intelligent readers will pick up on that. Still, I liked all of her characters except for the one we were not supposed to like. He was an ass, plain and simple. I will admit that sometimes it’s nice to have a villain that’s easy to hate.
I especially liked the trial scenes. Thankfully it was pared down to spare us the qualifications of experts and questions that go purely to points of law. In this Law & Order type of sketch, it might have benefited from a little more physical drama, but the verbal unveiling of secrets was excellent. Written from multiple points of view, the one that seemed out of place to me was prosecuting attorney. Her perspective seemed irrelevant and only appeared once. The tension and angst it seemed intended to illicit was addressed in the very next chapter so the reader wasn’t left hanging or worrying, so what was the point?
Overall, I like it a lot. As a self-published author, Rizzo is anxious to have her work read and encourages readers to share the book. She welcomes book club Skyping and has included a list of thought-provoking discussion questions in the back. I took the opportunity to ask my husband a few questions and was surprised by some of his distinctly male answers. I think I expected he would agree with me more than he did. Rizzo’s bio states she likes to write “emotional stories that explore the complexity of relationships and families through real-life trials.” Just Destiny definitely does that. I look forward to the next one, hopefully to check in with the two characters who do end up together in this book and get a little more of the romance that this one lacked.
My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot
About the Book:
What would you do if your whole world fell apart?
Jenny Harrison made some poor choices in the past, but marrying Gabe was the best thing she’d ever done. They had the perfect marriage, until a tragic accident leaves Gabe brain dead and her world in ruins.
Devastated by grief, she decides to preserve the best of their love by conceiving his child, but Gabe’s family is adamantly opposed, even willing to chance exposing long-held family secrets to stop her. Caught in a web of twisted motives and contentious legal issues, Jenny turns to best friend and attorney, Steve Grant. Steve wants to help Jenny, but he has reservations and secrets of his own.
When something so private and simple turns public and complicated, will Jenny relent? What is Steve willing to sacrifice to help Jenny?
Release Date: March 31, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Literature
Format(s): Paperback (374 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Author