Book Review – Not by Design

Not by Design “Not by Design” is the latest offering from multi-published women’s fiction author Carol Balawyder. It is a sequel to “Getting to Mr. Right,” which you should read if you haven’t. “Getting to Mr. Right” is the story of four women who meet at a support group (the focus of which is women who have men/father issues) and form lasting, sincere friendships.

“Not by Design” is Felicity Starr’s story. She is one of the women in the support group, and she has it all—looks, youth, a rich father, talent, true-heart friends and the love of a handsome, successful man. She is living a fairy tale life in France, studying art and pursuing a career in art, while enjoying an active social/love life. But even fairy tales are wrought with obstacles and that’s exactly what our heroine encounters—one setback after another. There’s the death of her father, a dwindling bank account which brings on financial woes, an art career that has stalled, and the painful decision to end her relationship with her fiancé and call off the wedding. But that’s not all. The biggest blow of all—a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). With all this dumped on her, Felicity makes the hard decision to release her dream of being an artist and living in France. She returns home to Canada to try and piece a life together.

The move back home is met with more bitterness. She fights to recover her reputation in the work world. She has disagreements with her mother and step-mother. She gambles on several romantic interests and loses. And, she must make a slew of difficult choices in regard to her living arrangements and medical treatment, decisions made more difficult because of her limited funds. One wonders if Felicity will ever catch a break when…help arrives. At the strong suggestion of her doctor, she attends a MS support group meeting and finds the support and acceptance she so desperately needs. With the encouragement of the group, she shares her medical condition with her friends, who surround her with love, care and acceptance. The end of the story details the good life Felicity has finally secured. No, it’s not the one she would have designed for herself, but it works. She’s happy.

This is a story that will take you low on the scale of human emotions and then pick you up. You will feel despair, then happiness; fear, then joy. This emotional seesaw is achieved in part by the story’s conflict—dreams and desire versus medical and financial worries, a situation many readers may relate to. I certainly did. And then there’s the overall story question: are we willing to release our version of our dream or life in exchange for an uncertain version? This is the question Felicity struggles with throughout the story but I dare say it is one many readers struggle with as well.

There are many things to appreciate about this story. It is inspiring, well written and has relatable characters. But the one aspect I appreciated the most was the focus on MS. Reading about the symptoms, the various treatments, the expense, and how it requires life adjustments was a real education. Thank you Carol for that.

I finished reading the book and shut down my e-reader thinking, I can’t wait to read the remaining sequel. The other three—“Café Paradise,” “Missi’s Dating Adventures” and “Not by Design”—have been purely enjoyable. Check ‘em out and see for yourself.

22 thoughts on “Book Review – Not by Design

  1. Pingback: Book Review – Not by Design | ugiridharaprasad

  2. Thank you so, so much Ann, for your wonderful review of my book. I am especially pleased that you focused on the MS problem with its complications. I am reblogging this!

  3. Reblogged this on Carol Balawyder and commented:
    Even though I am on a blogging sabbatical, every now and then I check into my WordPress account and today I got this unsuspected surprise. Thank you so much Ann Fields for your very kind and generous review of my book.
    If you are not familiar with Ann’s blog and her writing this is a good time to visit her at Not only is Ann a talented writer but she is also an advocate for peace and harmony. Ann, I am grateful and honored to be on your blog and part of your community!

    • The honor is mine! So privileged to be part of a blogging community of writers who are not only supportive, but also invested in elevating humanity. Hope you are enjoying your off-season and we look forward to your return. I hope like Shey you’ll share photos. No pressure though.

  4. I loved the whole sequel! I had very hard time trying to stop late at night, as I wanted to keep reading to the end of each book!
    My kind of reading, I am in my 70’s and found the stories very appealing.
    Just had to respond, this writer is tremendous!

    • Agreed! I like that the characters are a bit older than the usual chick lit characters. That makes the stories that much more enjoyable…a step above. Thanks for your comments and go ahead and keep reading into the night. Not every book demands that type of commitment.

  5. I liked how complete your review was. This really told enough to be motivated to read Carol’s books, as well as giving details to provide the value of each character’s part in the ongoing story. I agree, writing that Felicity has MS gives a new dimension on her heroine. I like that her path is strewn with mistakes since my life is a rather crooked path. 🙂

    • Yes, please, read it. Carol’s book gives insight on people living with MS–from symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and more. I learned a lot and even though it is fiction, it was very educational. I wish you well on your own “crooked path.” We all have one to travel, right? Blessings!

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