Exclusively Yours (Kowalski Family, #1)

Exclusively Yours - Shannon Stacey One of the debut releases from the brand new epublisher Carina Press, Exclusively Yours is a contemporary romance set in the exotic, mosquito-infested wilds of New Hampshire, where the ATVs roam free and the riders all work at giving love a second chance.Keri Daniels ends up in this mess when her boss, the editor-in-chief of an LA-based celebrity magazine, gets a hold of a compromising photo from Keri’s past. In the photo, she’s cuddling with her high school sweetheart, Joe. Of course high school sweetheart Joe is now blockbuster reclusive author Joe Kowalski, someone her boss has been obssessed with interviewing for years, and she’s a bit put out that Keri’s not mentioned this connection before. So she lays down the law - go to New Hampshire and get an exclusive interview, or kiss your job good bye. Not at all keen to lose everything she’s worked for, everything she left New Hampshire for in the first place, she reluctantly heads home to try to talk to Joe.High school may have been 18 years ago, but Joe never really got over Keri leaving him and going to California. He spent the four years after high school as a drunk, writing angry horror fiction where a Carrie Danielson meets a horrific end, before sobering up and trying to move on like a big boy. But his failed engagement with a socialite, and the sealed emotional distress lawsuit with said socialite, has just brought Keri back into his life. To weak to refuse her outright, he agrees to an interview - but only answering one question a day, and only if she accompanies him on the Kowalski family camping and ATV trip - figuring the polished city girl will turn him down. Keri takes him up on the deal, naturally, and what ensues is a hilarious clash of personalities, wants and needs between the hero and heroine and the entire cast of characters. Stacey truly outdid herself on the characterization in this book. Each character had its own personality, quirks and motivations. The dialog was so pitch-perfect that I’d swear I actually knew some of these people. I was busting a gut laughing at how the brothers spoke to each other, as they were pretty much just like my own family.After Lisa walked away, Joe grinned at his brother, “Piece of cake.”“Never works for me.”“That’s because you’re her husband. She likes me better because she doesn’t have to wash my underwear. Plus I’m better looking.”Mike laughed. “You keep telling yourself that while I’m getting laid out in the woods, my friend.”“You just like it out there because the mosquito bites make your dick look bigger.”All of the family plays a role in the romance plot. No, they’re not an army of cutesy matchmakers. In fact, Joe’s twin sister Terry is desperately trying to keep Joe and Keri apart.”Don’t the RVs have bathrooms?” she asked, feeling some pressure to fill the conversational pothole.Both women laughed, but it was Lisa who said, “I’ll take your lifeguard duty at the pool for three days if you can  have sex with a Kowalski man in that shower without knocking the camper right off its levellers.”“I’ll hide your bug spray if you even try to have sex with my brother in the RV - or anywhere else for that matter,” Terry said, and the way Lisa gasped make Keri think it was a dire threat indeed. “Go ahead, Keri, laugh at me. But once the sun starts going down you’d duct tape your own thighs closed for a bottle of Deep Woods OFF!. Trust me.”The family exists to further illustrate the second chances and conflicting wants and needs themes. Terry and her husband Evan are separated because he thinks they’re growing apart. Mike and Lisa are at odds over her wanting a baby, despite the fact they’d planned to celebrate the youngest of their four boys (good lord shoot me, four boys) reaching school age. And the main event, Keri and Joe, are fighting an obvious persistent attraction because of decisions they made at 18.So, everyone is trying to reconcile what they want with what they need. Will Keri choose Joe or her career? Would Joe move away from his family to be with Keri? Did Keri make the right decision when she left so many years ago?The characters all work out the kinks and settle their issues by the end of the book in organic, understandable ways. These were all familiar problems so their solutions were familiar as well. I could identify with everyone in this book, really. (To be fair, I’m a fellow New Englander to Ms. Stacey, so that might be a factor in the familiarity, or it may not. You tell me.)My one issue with  the book was with Keri’s character arc. Keri had what I thought was a powerful reason for dedicating herself to her career:Keri’s mom. Ed’s wife. Mrs. Daniels. Her dad called her hon and Keri called her mom. She never heard anyone call her Janie...And maybe that’s why, as they were filling into the gymnasium to “Pomp and Circumstance,” she’d been horrified to overhear a woman whisper, “That’s the valedictorian’s girlfriend.”“Oh, that’s right,” Her companion had responded. “I’d heard Ed’s daughter was Joe’s girl now.”...Ed’s daughter. The Daniels girl. Doll (her father’s pet name for her) and Peach (her mother’s.) Joe’s girl. Babe. Keri is determined to make the name “Keri Daniels” mean something to people, and I found her final decisions completely counter to that part of her, and needlessly so. Such a deflating resolution kept this from being a five-star read. Otherwise, this is the best straight contemporary romance I've read in eons. I truly cannot remember laughing so hard at a book while enjoying it as much as I did with Exclusively Yours.