Sunday, May 23, 2010
ARC: Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey
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.
First, a huge thank you to Shannon Stacey for letting me have a sneak peek at this book. Exclusively Yours is one of Carina Press' launch titles. I really enjoyed it. It's one of just a few straight contemporaries that Shannon Stacey has published. It reads with Stacey's signature humor, but resonates more than her RS books (The Devlin Group) and is more introspective than her western historicals.
Keri and Joe were high school sweethearts until Keri up and left for California and left Joe to nurse a broken heart. It isn't until far later in the book that we find out why Keri left. And it's a good enough reason for a young 18 year old girl. Add to that the fact that Joe's twin sister was Keri's best friend and now hates her for breaking her brother's heart, and is having marital problems of her own. Also, Joe's brother is in a bit of a marital pickle as well. It all adds up to a fun, crazy, emotional family vacation.
Keri and Joe spend 2 weeks together on a Kowalski family vacation so that Keri can conduct a do-or-die interview with Joe for her magazine. While together, they rediscover each other on an adult level, and fall in love again.
If I could change one thing about this book, it would be that Keri would tell Joe exactly why she left. I wish they could have talked that out, much in the same way that Joe's brother and sister talked out their problems with their own spouses.
Joe's sister and brother each carry on their own side romance in this book, but although they are strong stories in their own right, somehow they don't overshadow the main couple. I thought that Terry and Mike's stories were realistic, and in turn heartbreaking, sad, and uplifting.
Stacey's clear love and knowledge of the 4-wheeling, camping lifestyle shines through in this book, and I enjoyed reading about it. Keri's initial horror at it keeps the reader from feeling left out of the inner circle.
What I loved: Joe isn't an alpha, but I wouldn't call him a beta either - he's a regular guy and like most, can't be typecast. His success hasn't tempered his love for his family. He's a total family guy.
Keri, while seemingly shallow at first for wanting the good things in life, slowly reveals more of herself, and in the end doesn't let her desire for success color her best judgment. Although she didn't really thing she'd be continuing a relationship with Joe, she never shut herself off to the possibility of getting to know him better either.
I adored the Kowalski family. They were so real. Family squabbles, marital issues that seem all too real, a bone-deep love and caring for one another. It may have seemed at times that there was too much going on outside the main couple, but Stacey managed to make it all work without overwhelming Joe and Keri's romance.
This is a strong, family-oriented book, full of laughter, heartbreak, fun, romance, and love. As much as I adore Shannon Stacey's Devlin Group (and when do we get Jack's book, hmmmm?), I think her true strength lies in contemporaries, and revealing people that a reader can completely relate to. Strongly recommended.