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Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite
It is the early years of the last century and Stefan Vladeslav leaves his family's Croatian home, running away from constant family problems. Stefan's father announces his illegitimate son Ivan as an heir and Stefan's mother is obsessed with the family's monetary inheritance. Stefan sells his horse and saddle and buys a ticket on the Orient Express to Istanbul and meets up with older woman Magda who he knows from a local gambling house that offers prostitution. Magda and Stefan tour Europe gambling and passing themselves off as a wealthy aunt travelling with her nephew. Madga dies in Italy in 1909 and leaves her money and her gambling house to Stefan. Stefan returns home hoping for forgiveness but he finds that his father is not speaking to him and that his mother is dead. Stefan's aunt Sophie, his father's sister, has an adopted daughter, Katya, who loves Ivan, Stefan's step-brother, but Ivan's mother calls red-haired Katya a witch. The local Gypsies agree with her and trail Katya's every move.
"Destiny Denied" is an intriguing story of a family's deep secrets coming to light and leaving them with choices that they'd rather not make. That the late local parish priest Father Lahdra kept a journal telling of those secrets is a good writing ploy and makes "Destiny Denied" above-average as an exciting read. The characters of Stefan, Katya, Ivan, Magda, Anton who is Stefan's father, Valina the Gypsy, Sophie and Alexie are totally believable. The plot line runs smoothly to the last pages as Stefan leaves home once again and Katya and Ivan are faced with an unexpected destiny. "Destiny Denied" is good historical fiction and should appeal to most readers.