Thursday, September 29, 2011
Requested Review: Finding Felicity by Monica Marlowe
Ebook: 252 pages
Release date: 2 August 2011
Digital ISBN: 978-1-61572-447-5
Print ISBN: 978-1-61572-448-2
Main characters: Madeline O' Connor & Anthony Lamberti
“Madeline O’Connor was happy. Or was she? When she learns that her estranged sister is gravely ill, she leaves behind her life in Manhattan to be at her sister’s side in Italy. There, she discovers an ancient Benedictine monastery that accommodates travelers, and she decides to stay there, among the monks. Everything in her life turns upside down when she falls for Brother Anthony Lamberti, a soft-spoken Italian completely different from the men she knows in New York. Together Madeline and Anthony find love for the first time, and learn that life and love always find a way. Loving Anthony creates a new life for Madeline. A new life she would never have imagined and yet is perfect for her in every way.”
When Monica Marlowe asked if I wanted to review her story I said yes because I liked the Italian vibe that surrounds it. But it took me a while to get into the story because of the switching between the past and the present. All these different characters were introduced and it was obvious they were all connected somehow, but as a reader I did not know how. So that was a bit confusing for me at first but at the same time it kept me on the edge of my seat because after a few chapters I understood the connections between the characters but I had no clue in what direction Monica Marlowe would take me with this story.
I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster ride. I really had a love – hate relationship with Finding Felicity. When I finished it I had this lump in my throat for quite a while and I actually cried. Now, that is not like me. There were parts that I loved but also parts that I hated and I totally did not grasp the actions of the heroine. The story grabbed me by the throat and urged me to think about certain aspects of life. To me this is not the average light and fluffy romance, it does not have the usual happily ever after and I truly had mixed emotions about it. It left me pondering about certain views of life.
Businesswoman Madeline O’Connor is very much in control of her life. She lives for her business, her staff is her family and she is a great boss and a kind person but has no personal life at all. At the request of her nephew Jonathon she goes to Italy to visit his mum, her estranged sister Carrie who is seriously ill, a sister she has not seen in seven years, a sister she cannot forgive for falling in love with her husband. A sister who got pregnant by her husband. And here she meets Brother Anthony, a friend of her sister Carrie and her nephew Jonathan, she immediately feels this deep connection with him, he feeds her soul, shows her to look at things from a different point of view and with that forces her to scrutinize her own life. She starts to question everything in her own life that has happened. Although she knows it can never be she falls in love with Anthony.
Anthony has been abandoned by his mother and was left at the doorstep of the monastery. Father Marco found him and raised him among the monks, they have set him on the path to a monastic life, but lately he has become restless, questioning himself, his faith and wonders if it is not time to leave the monastery. He has great insights, has no need to be anything else but himself. But his feelings for Madeline confuse him, it tears him up because he cannot be a man for Madeline and still serve God as a monk, he does not know any other life than the sheltered monastic one he has lived so far.
For me it feels like the whole story is based on making choices, choices that altered the lives of many loved ones involved. The secondary storyline of Father Marco shows that wonderfully. As his story slowly unfolds it is clear that he would not be a servant of God today if he would have made a different choice in the past, one that involved a woman he loved very much. Also the being at the right place but at the wrong time is a leading factor in this story, it left me upset and constantly pondering the “but what if?” question. But as many people in real life the characters of this story are trapped in their own lives, choosing what is safe and familiar above the unknown.
Finding Felicity is a fascinating entangled web of tragic relationships and choices made. While I easily understand the choices of the secondary characters (Father Marco and Carrie) I could not grasp Madeline’s decisions. The choices she made in Italy did not match the in-control-business-woman from New York, which I found strange and annoying. Who would leave a sister who is on her deathbed to be with a man, and then a little later ends up in the bed of yet another man. I could not wrap my head around that or the fact that she so easily switched men and claims to be in love.
As for Anthony, he made some strange choices too. His struggle with his feelings for Madeline and his love for God is heart rending, so are his decisions. But at least I understood them and they were consistent with his character, which does not mean I agreed with every decision he made. But at the end of the story he writes a letter to one of the characters explaining his actions, this left me completely satisfied yet at the same time it tore me to pieces.
But still I loved Anthony the most in this story, he made Madeline a better person just by showing her that there are other points of view about certain things, he teaches her about forgiveness and he forces her to think about what she really wants from life and if she is on the right path. When Madeline goes back to New York she expects to just pick up her life again, but she can't because she has changed. She looks more closely and different at things and she wants different things from life. Madeline’s love for Anthony has made him a better person as well, but in the end meeting Madeline is not so life-altering as vice versa.
I did not like the way this story unfolded, I was so hoping for another twist in this story but it did not happen and once again my heart broke into a thousand pieces at the end. And yet again the question “What if” crossed my mind. At the same time I was a bit overwhelmed by everything the characters had to face. I mean things as death, cancer, faith, betrayal, adultery, infertility, a plane crash, war, religion and homosexuality; for me it was all a bit too much.
And although I wanted a different ending for Finding Felicity because I felt a deep connection to most of the characters and wanted them all to be happy (in a way they are happy just not the way I wanted it), I admire the direction Monica Marlow took with her story; it took guts to write it the way she did. I love how all the characters and the choices they made are connected with one another. There is a happily ever after just not the one I hoped for as a romance reader “pur sang”. Finding Felicity is beautifully written and touched me deeply, it took me on an emotional journey and lingered in my mind long after I finish it.