Book Review: Meant to Be by Emily Giffen

Posted June 2, 2022 by WendyW in Book Review, bookblogger, Uncategorized / 34 Comments

Meant To Be
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

by Emily Giffin
Publication Date May 31, 2022
Published by Ballantine Books
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Genres: Fiction / Women
Pages: 368
Format: ARC

***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***

A restless golden boy and a girl with a troubled past navigate a love story that may be doomed before it even begins, in this “glorious, satisfying” (Adriana Trigiani) new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of All We Ever Wanted and The Lies That Bind.

“I’m a sucker for an iconic, against-all-odds love story, and Meant to Be truly delivers.”—Tia Williams, author of Seven Days in June

The Kingsley family is American royalty, beloved for their military heroics, political service, and unmatched elegance. In 1967, after Joseph S. Kingsley, Jr. is killed in a tragic accident, his charismatic son inherits the weight of that legacy. But Joe III is a free spirit—and a little bit reckless. Despite his best intentions, he has trouble meeting the expectations of a nation, as well as those of his exacting mother, Dottie.

Meanwhile, no one ever expected anything of Cate Cooper. She, too, grew up fatherless—and after her mother marries an abusive man, she is forced to fend for herself. After being discovered by a model scout at age sixteen, Cate decides that her looks may be her only ticket out of the cycle of disappointment that her mother has always inhabited. Before too long, Cate’s face is in magazines and on billboards. Yet she feels like a fraud, faking it in a world to which she’s never truly belonged.

When Joe and Cate unexpectedly cross paths one afternoon, their connection is instant and intense. But can their relationship survive the glare of the spotlight and the so-called Kingsley curse? In a beautifully written novel that captures a gilded moment in American history, Emily Giffin tells the story of two people searching for belonging and identity, as well as the answer to the question: Are certain love stories meant to be?

Meant to Be by Emily Giffin is an emotional and somewhat nostalgic book that is very loosely based on the Kennedy family.  I really enjoyed this well-written story with an inside look into the lives of the rich and famous.  

Joseph Kinglsey is the son and the grandson of famous, rich, and powerful men.  He’s been raised since birth to respect his family’s legacy and lived with expectations that he too would leave a legacy of his own.  Growing up with these expectations has taken a toll on Joe, and he’s at loose ends on how to live up to the legacy of his father and grandfather.  

Cate, on the other hand, grew up without any expectations.  She grew up with a single mom, who eventually married a monster.  The abuse causes her to vow to leave her middle-class home in New Jersey and make a name for herself on her own.  She learns early to keep the boys away, as the last thing she wants is an unexpected pregnancy to ruin her plans of freedom.  She eventually becomes a model and makes the kind of money she needs to escape her childhood home, and become the woman she’s dreamed of.  Modeling comes easy to her, and before she ages out of the modeling business she finds a job at a fashion house and continues to make the kind of money she needs to ensure her independence.  

When Joe and Cate meet, he is immediately attracted to her, but she knows that the high profile world of Joe Kingsley will eventually uncover all her secrets of her abusive childhood and her poor childhood.  Joe is persistent in his pursuit of Cate, and they eventually start a relationship.  But, can such a union survive under the scrutiny of Joe’s high-profile world? 

The author tells us a fictional story loosely based on John Kennedy Jr.  I found the story engaging and a fast read.  I’m not a fan of the super-rich and don’t usually like to read about them, but here the author gives us quite a sympathetic character for Joe Kingsley.  Although rich, he also has his troubles and he’s very aware of the inequalities between the haves and the have-nots.  He was also partially raised by his Grandmother, who was able to inspire him to try to do something with his life.  And gave him a grounded outlook on life. 

I normally avoid reading about rich and beautiful models as much as I do the super-rich, but once again, the author was able to make Cate a very sympathetic character.  She dove deep into Cate’s early years and gave us a character who was easy to root for.  Like Joe, Cate is humble and aware that her life is special.  She works very hard to ensure she can stay independent as she never wants to have to rely on anyone other than herself for anything

These characters and this powerful story combine to make a fascinating story, that I enjoyed very much.  The book is very well written and emotional.  It seems impossible that Joe and Cate can ever truly be together, but the author weaves a believable story that will have you reaching for your tissues.  

I highly recommend, Meant to Be to anyone who enjoys Womens’ Fiction.  I received a complimentary copy of this book.  The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin is a graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Virginia School of Law. After practicing litigation at a Manhattan firm for several years, she moved to London to write full time. The author of seven New York Times bestselling novels, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Baby Proof, Love The One You're With, Heart of the Matter, Where We Belong, and The One & Only, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and three young children

34 responses to “Book Review: Meant to Be by Emily Giffen

  1. As you know, I’m not a big romance reader, but this one does appeal to me. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s loosely based on the Kennedy’s?

    Your review was lovely and honest, a brilliant job as always.

    Elza Reads

  2. I added Meant To Be to my TBR as soon as the read the synopsis and have been looking forward to it ever since. I’ve only read two from Giffin but really enjoyed them both. It sounds like she created some truly sympathetic characters in Joe and Cate. Lovely review, Wendy!

  3. It’s wonderful that Griffen was able to make people you don’t enjoy reading about usually interesting and sympathetic. Great review Wendy 🙂 Glad this worked well for you

  4. I did not know this was loosely based on the Kennedy’s. Very interesting. Fantastic review, Wendy.

    • Thank you, Carla. I didn’t know much about it before I read the book, but I noticed the resemblance to the Kennedy family immediately. Then I read the author’s notes and she stated that she’s always been fascinated by the Kennedy family and that’s why she based the book on their family.

  5. This sounds really interesting. I’m now curious if Joe and Cate have the same fate as JFK Jr. and his wife. Obviously, you won’t say since that’s a huge spoiler, but it is curious.

  6. Can you believe I’ve never read any of Emily Griffin’s books? I really need to change that! Great review. 🙂

  7. This sounds lovely! I’m with you — I don’t particularly like reading about the super rich and beautiful. I’m glad the author could make them compelling characters. I also like that it’s inspired by the Kennedy family.

  8. I’ve always been fascinated by the Kennedys – one of the few nonfiction books I’ve ever read. Great review, Wendy!

  9. Sounds like this could be a difficult read for some. Why do we find the rich and powerful so fascinating? I really like that this is loosely based on the Kennedy family.

    • I don’t normally gravitate towards stories of the rich and famous, but I love this author and I think she did a great job of making them so normal.

  10. I find it so intriguing that this story is loosely based on the Kennedy’s. It sounds very moving. Excellent review!