Sunday, 28 April 2013

Review: Bargain Reads - Exclusively Yours (Kowalski #1) - Shannon Stacey

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.

Considering the rate at which I usually chew through novels I am always on the look out for a bargain read, to this end I am always browsing Amazon in search of cheap reads. On one such search I came across Shannon Stacey. Like many authors Stacey has written a set of novels around one particular family, in this case the Kowalski family whose stories are all available on Amazon for under £2 on the Kindle.

I am always a bit weary of cheap Amazon reads, despite my dedication to trawling through the selection. The first in Stacey's Kowalski family series did appeal to me though, it seems I'm a sucker for the "you done me wrong" novel (and it's always nice to have a slighted male for a change) and as we all know I do love a well executed family dynamic novel, and I was not disappointed.

Stacey manages to keep a fine balance between focus on character development within the chaotic Kowalski family and budding romance between her main characters. We learn about each of Joe's siblings and their own personal dramas, most of which Stacey manages to cover with enough detail within the novel to make you really care for their conclusions too. One of the things I was most looking forward to in the book was the resolution of the side-plot between Kerri and Terry, Joe's twin sister, who had been burnt my Kerri in high school when she had moved on from her childhood best friend. Unsurprisingly, it was not difficult to fall for the entire Kowalski family with their rambunctious ways and I was pleased that they were covered in the detail that they were.

On to the main relationship in the novel. Joe and Kerri obviously have a hot and heavy past, and it was nice to see them interacting with each other without constant bitter barbs and blame throwing. The dialogue between the two was humorous from the off, the heat building steadily from their first (re)encounter - entirely believable given their history. Joe's destructive past, post first break-up, is nicely handled by Stacey who could have milked it for all it was worth as some authors would have done but I think she handles it skilfully, managing not to place too much emphasis but without using it as light padding either. My only complaint with the relationship is I'd have liked to have seen more of the questions that they asked each other, as there could have been some great opportunities for more flirtatious by-play between the two. Due to the detail payed to the rest of the kooky Kowalskis (hey, hey, that's good, eh?) the romance between Kerri and Joe did feel a bit rushed and the heat could have been turned up a few degrees and still not felt out of place or overdone. However, given the fact that the relationship between Kerri and Joe felt more realistic due to the time spent on characterisation and family dynamics I feel that this was a fair trade off. All too often characters get hot and heavy in books have  little development, fall into their happily ever after and I'm left thinking, "what if they've just fallen in lust?"

Only a few negatives (as always) I felt that twenty years was perhaps too long a gap to leave emotions brewing and the ending (no spoilers) did annoy me a little as it went the way it always seems to go, but I guess the author knows the characters best. My last concern (minor spoilers!), and it is a concern rather than a negative, is that with the vast majority of Kowalski family members left with their HEA (happy ever afters), and the kids too young to feature in their own novels without a significant time jump, the other books in the series can't feature these characters in significant detail, which is a shame (although Joe's youngest brother Kevin is the protagonist of the second in the series). I guess I'll just have to find out, eh?

Overall, Exclusively Yours is funny and charming with several laugh out loud moments. Kerri, Joe and the rest of the Kowalski family all easily worm their way into your heart and this bargain read is, in my opinion, being undersold with its well worth it  £1.91 price tag.

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