Undeniably Yours by Shannon Stacey

Undeniably Yours
Shannon Stacey

Undeniably Yours is the second book in the Kowalski series, this time centering on the romance of another Kowalski brother – Kevin. This is the brother who was introduced in the first book – the ex-cop, divorced bachelor who runs a bar. Although characters from the first book appear in this one, you do not need to read the series in order. (If you’re interested in the first book, Exclusively Yours, I reviewed it here:https://i2.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/livejournal_com.gifhttps://i0.wp.com/i58.photobucket.com/albums/g254/jayamei2/wordpress.jpg)
 
This review based on an eCopy from NetGalley.
 
The Premise: (feeling lazy, here’s the blurb from the author’s website): “One-night stand + two percent condom failure rate = happily ever after?
 
Bar owner Kevin Kowalski is used to women throwing their phone numbers at him, but lately he’s more interested in finding a woman to settle down with. A woman like Beth Hansen. If only their first meeting hadn’t gone so badly…
 
Beth’s tending bar at a wedding when she comes face to face with a tuxedo-clad man she never thought she’d see again. She tries to keep her distance from Kevin but, by last call, she can’t say no to his too-blue eyes or the invitation back to his room. Then she slips out before breakfast without leaving a note and, despite their precautions, pregnant.
 
Kevin quickly warms to the idea of being a dad and to seeing where things go with Beth. After all, he’s not the player she thinks he is. But she’s not ready for a relationship and, given his reputation, it’s going to take a lot to convince her to go on a second date with the father of her child…”
 
Read an excerpt of Undeniably Yours here
 
My Thoughts: Beth Hansen is a nomad. She finds a place on the map that appeals to her and she moves there when things at her current town get too stifling: “when I reach the point in relationships people start keeping tabs on me and making decisions for me, I get on a bus to someplace new.” She is fiercely protective of her independence to the point of blind stubbornness. When she gets pregnant (even with a condom) from a one night stand with Kevin Kowalski, she is not thrilled that it means a permanent tie to someone she considers a womanizer.
 
Kevin may have had a lot of women throw themselves at him at the bar, but he’s ready to settle down, and he wants a real relationship with Beth. The problem is that after their night together, Beth constantly resists anything that feels like a relationship. For the baby, she has to accept Kevin’s offer to move her from a unsafe apartment to an apartment across the hall from his above the bar, but Kevin has to choose his words carefully to get her to agree to anything beyond that. She thinks a serious relationship would be too much on top of being pregnant, especially since, if it ends badly, it would affect their child.
 
Undeniably Yours is about Kevin and Beth slowly getting to know each other after they’ve already gotten pregnant. Kevin has to slowly break down Beth’s defenses and convince her to consider being with him. In the meantime, there are plenty of loud Kowalski get-togethers and family moments. I’ve decided that the wry, sometimes frank humor from a lot of tell-it-like-it-is characters is what I like the most about this series. I feel like I’m guaranteed a general feeling of amusement from reading these books. Some of the commentary can get a bit.. salty, but this is an adult book, so whatever (there’s sex too, FYI).
 
I think that this book makes a good go of trying to convince me that Beth has reasonable fears, but I never quite understood her need to not be tied down by relationships with other people. The reason given was that her parents were overly-suffocating when she was growing up, but to make a person never want to stay in one town and never want to have people keeping “tabs” on her? I didn’t quite understand it. That seemed extreme. Later, when she admits to herself that the real issue is “not only imagining herself in one place with one person, but wondering for the rest of her life, especially during the rough patches, if they were just pretending for the sake of the child”, that admission comes too late – I’m already convinced that Beth has weird intimacy issues. It didn’t help that while Beth herself is the big hurdle to her own HEA, Kevin is pretty much a saint. If I can pick on a trend in this series so far, it is that while the women have to work through some issue, the heroes in these books are almost too perfect in comparison. I mean, this guy waits all through the pregnancy, not caring about the women that are slipping him their numbers, for someone who shuts him out constantly and tells him that all they are are friends who happen to share a baby? Makes me feel like it’s a struggle between feeling slightly irritated at Beth or irritated at what a martyr Kevin is. Of course, with these surprise pregnancy romances, there’s only so many ways the story can go. If Beth wasn’t resistant, then  this would be a very short story. I just wish we could have had the “do you want to be with me for obligation?” issue as Beth’s primary issue instead of her improbable nomad complex.
 
Like it’s predecessor, Exclusively Yours, Undeniably Yours has a secondary story. In this case it is a romance between Paulie, who works at Kevin’s bar, and Sam Logan, a customer and someone from Paulie’s past. As with Kevin and Beth, the hurdle in their romance is on the female’s side again – Paulie freaked out on her way down the aisle because she felt like she was conforming to her parents expectations and not being herself. The improbability in this one was that Paulie loved Sam yet never confided her fears to him, but this was easier to believe than the hurdle in the main romance. It was a fine secondary story but I enjoyed Paulie’s friendship with Beth and with Kevin more than her romance, which I felt competed with the main one. I would have been fine without it or with it in its own separate book.
 
Overall: Enjoyable in a “escapist popcorn read” kinda way. The writing is compulsively readable, and the relationships between characters, especially the dynamics of big family, felt very comforting to read about. That, the humor, and of course the guarantee of a HEA make this a fun contemporary romance. My only issue, and I feel like a dog with a bone over it, is the heroine’s intimacy issues (I keep revisiting it and it just doesn’t make sense). I can see that being a big sticking point for a lot of people, but if you enjoyed any other of the Kowalski books, this is still worth a read – ultimately I feel like this book lost points from me over it, but not a whole lot.
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
 
Other reviews:
Literary Escapism – positive
Pearl’s World of Romance – 9.0 (Awesome)
The Book Pushers – C-
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Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey

Exclusively Yours
Shannon Stacey

Shannon Stacey has gotten a bit of buzz online amongst the romance reviewing community since she debuted with Exclusively Yours, which was published as an ebook by Carina Press, Harlequin’s e-only imprint. Now, her books are going to be in print too (from HQN). I stumbled on Exclusively Yours on netgalley a few months ago and requested it based on the good reviews. I’m always on the lookout for good contemporary romances and this seemed to have a great premise.
 
The Premise: Keri Daniels is a journalist, who unfortunately, has a boss obsessed with the reclusive author Joe Kowalski. Joe Kowalski happens to be Keri’s high school boyfriend – the guy she dumped when high school ended. Keri would like nothing more than to never see Joe again, but when her boss finds out Keri’s long held secret, it’s either get an interview or lose her job.  Now Keri is back in her hometown and living her worst nightmare. Joe says he will answer her questions, but for a price. All she has to do is join him on the Kowalski family camping trip, and for every day she survives with his siblings, their spouses, his parents and a rowdy bunch of Kowaski offspring, she can ask one question. Keri was never a camping sort of girl, but now she has to spend time with a family that has every cause to dislike her, especially Joe’s twin sister, Terry, her one time best friend who now holds a monumental grudge.
 
Read an excerpt of Exclusively Yours here
 
My Thoughts: With the premise of Keri’s ex-boyfriend being in the position to make Keri really suffer on the camping trip, I was expecting a lot of back-and-forth friction between the ex-lovers, but this story surprised me. Other than his idea of the camping trip, Joe seems rather forgiving of his ex-girlfriend that broke his heart and sent him into such a dark depression that he took to drinking. In fact, he looks at Keri with much the same appreciation as he used to in high school and is pretty much a nice guy about the whole breakup. The rest of the Kowalski’s are pretty zen as well. Except for Terry, who has her own reasons to be angry at Keri,  no one seems to hold a grudge. This was a little weird, as I was expecting SOME resistance to Keri, and maybe some hurt feelings on Joe’s part, but it was also refreshing to have a not-so-predictable plot.
 
Instead of the expected drama of Keri’s inclusion to the Kowalski camping trip, much of the story focuses on the personal dramas of Joe’s siblings amongst the woods and ATVing. His sister Terry is dealing with hurt feelings because her husband moved out. She can’t help herself from reliving her husband’s departure and wondering what went wrong. She’s in no mood to deal with Keri, her once best friend that phased her out, then broke her brother’s heart. You can’t help but feel like Terry is taking out all her pain on Keri, just because she is a convenient scapegoat, and this would be right. Terry’s complicated situation and the way she acts out was well done. I didn’t particularly like Terry, but I understood why she acted the way she did, and I liked the secondary story of her marriage woes (I had quibbles with how this was resolved, but nothing major). While Terry has her problems, Joe’s brothers also have theirs. Kevin is a bachelor and bar owner who just got out of a bad divorce. Mike is a family man with four boys and who doesn’t want any more kids, but his wife Lisa, wants one more. This leads to some spectacular spats.
 
Compared to the drama going on among the people around them, the drama between Keri and Joe feels relatively tame. The biggest issue starts off as the conflict between Joe keeping his secrets (a mysterious engagement, his subsequent shunning of the limelight), and Keri needing a juicy story. But as the story continues Keri realizes that she has the same choice to make as before: whether she should choose Joe and her hometown, her career and L.A. Along the way of course, there is also the sexual tension they have to contend with, and much of the camping trip involves the dance between two obviously attracted people. Joe sees Keri and feels just like he felt about her in high school, and Keri feels like getting involved with Joe again would just be a big mistake. I liked the relaxed banter and the adult way that the hero and heroine acted throughout the book, and their obstacle to a happy ending felt more realistic than some of the others I’ve read in contemporary romance.
 
Overall: An enjoyable contemporary romance with humor and likable protagonists. I would say that it was a nice romance but the sense of family (their shenanigans and tribulations) and the well developed secondary characters brought Exclusively Yours up a notch from the average ‘fun romance read’. I’m interested in reading the next in the Kowalski series – this time about bar owner brother Kevin.
 
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
 
Buy ebook: Amazon (kindle) |  B&N (eBook)
 
Other reviews:
Monkey Bear Reviews – B-
One Good Book Deserves Another – 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Dear Author – B-
Pearl’s World of Romance – 10 out of 10