Review: Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey

Exclusively YoursExclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey

Kowalski Family #1 // 282 pp. // Contemp. Romance // Carina Press // May 2010

GOODREADS SUMMARY: When Keri Daniels’ editor finds out she has previous carnal knowledge of reclusive bestselling author Joe Kowalski, she gives Keri a choice: get an interview or get a new job.

Joe’s never forgotten the first girl to break his heart, so he’s intrigued to hear Keri’s back in town–and looking for him. Despite his intense need for privacy, he’ll grant Keri an interview if it means a chance to finish what they started in high school.

He proposes an outrageous plan–for every day she survives with his family on their annual camping and four-wheeling trip, Keri can ask one question. Keri agrees; she’s worked too hard to walk away from her career.

But the chemistry between them is still as potent as the bug spray, Joe’s sister is out to avenge his broken heart and Keri hasn’t ridden an ATV since she was ten. Who knew a little blackmail, a whole lot of family and some sizzling romantic interludes could make Keri reconsider the old dream of Keri & Joe 2gether 4ever.

After months of hearing about the notorious Kowalski men, I figured it was high time I found out what all the hoopla was about. Enter Exclusively Yours, book one of the Kowalski Family series. Wow. I finished this book in a matter of HOURS!

To be honest, I was expecting a typical light contemporary romance — which I have no problem with; in fact, it’s one of my favorite genres — but what I got instead was so much more than “fluff.” Exclusively Yours is wrought with complicated family relationships, as well as two people whose love for each other is both long-lasting and complex.

I was taken by Joe Kowalski from the very beginning. Not only is he an incorrigible flirt, but he’s also up front and honest — with both his family and Keri. Also, despite not having any kids of his own, he comes across as a man who truly loves his family.

Keri is also likable, but I have to say that I rolled by eyes at her a few times. I admire the fact that she takes her career seriously, but there are a few instances where she’s way too prissy (i.e. cliché bitching over a broken nail and harping about needing a facial). I get that she’s spent the last 20 years in LA, but her high-maintenance attitude doesn’t really fit with her character, who seems fairly down-to-earth. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see a woman portrayed as career-driven instead of one so quick to drop everything in her life for the hero. I actually appreciated the fact that she follows through with her assignment after their time together. Let the hero do the chasing!

The rest of Kowalski family plays an important role as well, especially Terry, Joe’s twin and Kerry’s ex-best friend. Her marriage troubles add another layer to the story, which made me sympathize for her… at times. However, I’d have to say that about, oh, 85% of the time she is a major bitch. Yeah, I said it. I get that she’s going through a tough time, but more often than not she’s just a spiteful shrew. Ugh! I know that Ms. Stacey did an excellent job with this story if she could make me love this book despite an unlikeable character. Though it’s Terry’s issues that play a role in setting the story apart from other stock contemporary romances.

Overall, I have to to say that Exclusively Yours is a great introduction to the Kowalski family. At the moment there are five more books in the series, which means I have five more opportunities to delve deeper into the Kowalski family tree!

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Ahoy there! It’s been a few weeks since my last post because… I’ve been on vacation! I’ve mentioned wanting to get away before, and I finally got the chance to escape all the go-go-go and stress of life with a trip to sunny California for a much-needed break from, well, everything.

While there, I spent my days basking in desert heat, rubbing elbows with celebrities (sort of), and enjoying the Pacific ocean breeze. After two weeks of bright weather and a relaxing pace, it’s no surprise that I was a little bummed to have to return home and back to reality. Don’t get me wrong, being home isn’t all bad — it’s good to see my pup and sleep in my own bed — but I wish there was a way I could have both: west coast beaches as well as the east coast routine I’m used to.

Apparently I’m not the only one who wants to have her cake and eat it too; Grace Mills, the heroine in my current read, Craving Perfect (out this month from Carina Press), is sure her life would be perfect “if only” she were a size two, and “if only” that cute guy would notice her. Until one day she wakes up and realizes that in addition to her normal, hum-drum life, she’s living her ideal, “if only” life. At first, straddling the two extremely alternative lives seems like the perfect solution, but Grace soon realizes that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Is there a way to combine the two, or will she have to choose one path to permanently travel?

Everyone dreams of an “if only” life, and despite the old adage “be careful what you wish for,” I still wouldn’t mind having swaying palm trees in the background as I work and go about my daily obligations.

ROAMING QUESTION: If you could have an “if only” to make your life perfect, what would you wish for?

The Great Outdoors

When I was younger I used to go camping every summer with my abuelita (grandmother). Each trip lasted at least a week and our campsite was always located somewhere different — nestled in the California mountains, along lakes and freshwater streams, backpacking on the beach down the coastline… This past summer we took a trip to the Sierra Mountains and camped out for a week, just like old times. The days were filled with fishing and swimming in the lake, while the nights were filled with infinite stars and coyote howls. Ah, good times! People who know me are always surprised to find out that I am quite the nature-lover. From pitching my own tent, to carrying a 40lb pack, to even using the great outdoors as my personal commode, I definitely know how to “rough it.” I may like pink, but I’m definitely not your average girly-girl. :)

Anyway, I digress. All these outdoorsy thoughts were brought on after reading Rivertime by first-time author Rae Renzi. Ever since then I’ve been reminiscing about my past camping trips and have been seriously itching to get away again. If I could take another trip, I wouldn’t expect to meet and fall for a mystery man, but eating an ooey-gooey s’mores is a must!

Want to get away without having to deal with mosquitoes and no bathrooms? Pick up RiverTime and a bag of marshmallows (for s’mores) and camp out on the couch one afternoon. The end result will be just as good, trust me.

Sinfully Sweet

I’m a sucker for stories where the hero and/or heroine has a cool, interesting job. Lingerie designer? Awesome. Pastry chef? That’s cool too. Author? My dream job. So imagine my surprise when I picked up Sweet as Sin by Inez Kelley (Carina Press) and saw that the hero was an author and the heroine was a pastry chef — score!

After doing a little happy dance (in my mind, of course), I scorched my eyes with each turn of the [electronic] page because the scenes in this book were H-O-T! In addition to the spicy bedroom (and, ahem, pastry table) scenes, the emotional charge between the characters was intense with a capital ‘I.’ Trust me when I say this book was not your average romance; the emotional conflict and flawed characters take Sweet as Sin to the next level — a level that sets it apart from many contemporary romances currently out there. On the small chance that you need any more convincing, check out my official review on RT Book Reviews. Oh, and btw, 4.5 stars is the highest RT rating a book can get, so…yeah. Like I said, it is that damn good.