Nardio Book Review
Is Meet Me in the Garden Worth Your Time?
What Did We Think Without Spoiling It?
Meet Me in the Garden is an interesting mix of romance and mystery, often with the mystery overshadowing the romance aspects. The main character, Amalie, is a great lead as she struggles to accept her past and present. It’s interesting because while I didn’t have the same upbringing or experiences as her, I find myself identifying with her internal struggles. She’s relatable despite all of this and I couldn’t help but root for her. She really carries the story even when it gets a bit out there.
Why it Works?
If you’re looking for the typical romance, you’ll likely be disappointed. A lot of Meet Me in the Garden revolves around Amalie and her mysterious visions/dreams and strange pains she has. Once she meets Ian Gardner – her love interest – the visions and pains increase. There are two parallel plot points going on, one in the present with Amalie as she gets closer to Ian and another with Myrna and Malachi, a couple back in Ireland in the 1600s. As you read through, the story lines begin to converge and it slowly builds up to the stunning conclusion and explanation behind Amalie’s pain and visions. The mystery and Amalie’s search for her true self kept me riveted as well as her waxing and waning romance with Ian. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorns in their relationship. Things get bad, quickly and it’s painful to watch it doubly pan out. Here is a woman who is abused and neglected not only in her past, but her present as well by the man she loves. She strays from the relationship to meet a man who seems to understand her – Artie McDougal. Eventually things come to a head and it seems like she’s doomed to repeat the cycle again. Luckily, as a romance novel things turn out all right, but not without a serious struggle.
I actually liked the way the author highlighted the issues in Amalie and Ian’s relationship. In so many romance novels, once the couple gets together everything is fine and they live happily ever after. Sure, maybe there’s a problem here or there, but it’s usually due to outside influences Here, the problem was firmly rooted in each person. Amalie has a hard time with intimacy and trust, which puts strain on their relationship. Ian, on the other hand, has his own demons that get to the point where Amalie can no longer rely on him. It’s heartbreaking and completely believable. It also makes their reconciliation much more heartfelt because they had to fight for it.
Why it fails?
That’s not to say Meet Me in the Garden is without its faults. I get the whole idea that these two are supposed to be “soulmates” but it would have been an interesting move to break that notion altogether to break the cycle so to speak. I also felt as though the whole witchcraft/occult connection Amalie had was unnecessary. She didn’t have to be witch even if her previous self was. I also felt like the introduction of Artie McDougal was so sudden and it ended just as suddenly. I would have liked to see more of her interactions with him and her growing fear of who he really was as well. I also kind of hated the fact that her last confrontation with him ended almost exactly same. Same repeated words, everything. Sure, it didn’t end exactly the same, but it would have been nice if, in that moment, she made a different choice or chose different words. If she just explained herself. It seemed like she just got lucky at the end. She didn’t do anything differently than before so why does her destiny change this time? Maybe there would have been no words that would have worked, but it would have been nice to illustrate how she had changed from the broken woman she was to the whole person she is now. And I can’t help but wonder, then what? Does she no longer have to reincarnate now that she’s with her love? It doesn’t seem that way. It seems like she’s repeated this cycle many times and even succeeded a couple times considering her words it has worked before. It will work again. So, what’s the point? She has to continuously go through this cycle of love and pain over and over again? I mean I guess in this life she’s happy but what about the next?
Also, while I liked how the author explored why Ian and Amalie’s relationship broke down, I kind of disliked the fact she forgave him after everything. It would have been nice to actually see her change her destiny and break the bonds of fate that tied her to these abusive relationships. Yeah sure, she admitted she loved him and the power of love, yada yada. But I kind of wanted her to take control of her future and break away from this soulmate concept. This is more a personal preference as I always disliked the idea of fate. In essence, she didn’t have a choice but to love Ian Gardner and that kind of made the romance fall a bit flat for me.
Ian’s character development was also pretty lacking. We get a little bit of background on him, but we don’t really see really why he became the way he did or when it really happened. The author keeps hinting at something darker but we barely scratch the surface. What exactly is it that drove him to that point? Stress? Work? Etc? Was he always that way?
Also, WTF is up with her not being able to afford rent? How much was she paying at her old apartment and why couldn’t she afford more? She’s the star editor and she’s friends with the boss, couldn’t she have asked for a raise so she could afford something on her own? Her boss knew about her situation and she viewed Amalie as a daughter, so I’m sure she would have helped out. So why didn’t she?
Despite some of the issues I had with Meet Me in the Garden, I still did enjoy having the mystery unravel as I read through. I also think the author did a great job touching on more serious issues like cheating, alcoholism, insecurity and trust issues. Still, I felt like the idea of soulmates weakened Amalie and Ian’s struggles as they learned how to navigate their own issues together.