From the BLURB:
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.
Celebrity reporter Keri Daniels knows better than anybody that the fame game is a tough, take-no-prisoners business. So she shouldn’t be all that surprised when her editor discovers Keri’s best-kept secret . . . that she has a tantalizing connection to Joseph Kowalski, America’s favourite reclusive author. He has been on the top-seller list for years now, the literary world’s new answer to Stephen King. But when Keri Daniels knew him he was just Joe, and he was her high school sweetheart. More than that, he was ‘the one’. They used to get hot n’ heavy in the back seat of a ’78 Ford Granada, before Keri ripped his heart out and ditched him after graduation for a life of sunshine and fame in California.
Now the past is back to haunt her, and put her career in jeopardy. Joe Kowalski is public celebrity number one as far as Spotlight Magazine is concerned. And Keri must do anything in her power to get the juiciest story possible.
Joe Kowalski’s life nearly came to a screeching halt after Keri left him. He went off the rails, and even while his books sold big, his life became bleak. It was only with the help of his close-knit family that he was able to drag himself out of the hole of heartache Keri left him in. So why is he incapable of turning her away when she comes sniffing for a story? It was only a matter of time before Keri’s inner journalistic blood-hound came begging for a tell-all tale. But there’s some part of Joe that still holds out hope for the Keri he fell in love with . . . so he makes a compromise. He invites her on the annual Kowalski family camping trip. If she can survive the ATV’s and his screaming nephews every day for two weeks, she’ll get her interview (one question a day. . .)
But the Kowalski camp ground is rife with gossip. His brother, Mike, is desperate for a vasectomy but his wife is keen for a fifth baby. Kevin quit the police force under a storm of controversy, and his sister Terry has been separated from her husband for three months now, and it looks as though they’re on the slippery-slope to divorce. . .
This camping trip will be a true test of Keri’s character. Will she sell Joe and his family out, all for the sake of a grabbing story? Or is there still some of the old Keri in there, the girl who Joe fell in love with?
‘Exclusively Yours’ is the first book in Shannon Stacey’s contemporary romance series, the ‘Kowalski Family’ . . . and it is fantastic!
I loved the premise for this book. The reunited high school sweetheart’s storyline is nothing new to contemporary romance – but what is unusual is Stacey’s decision to have the girl be the heartbreaker who trampled her fella’s dreams. Keri panicked after high school, afraid that the sum total of her life would be her role as a Kowalski wife and mother – so she left. She left Joe with a bruised and battered heart, and sought a career in California. I also think the trigger to bring Joe and Keri back together is kind of ingenious – one now a journalist, the other a hermit celebrity. It sounds outlandish and trite, but Stacey really only uses that plot to test Joe and Keri’s changed personalities.
“I wouldn’t do this if I had a choice, but my career means everything to me.”“No, babe, your career is everything to you. And we’re going to remind you success doesn’t equal bylines and bottom lines.”He wasn’t smiling, so she wondered if he actually believed the tripe he was spewing. “So you’re doing this for my own good? To save the shallow princess from the gleaming ivory tower?”Now the dimples made an appearance. “As the good and pure-hearted prince the shallow princess stomped all over on her way up the ivory steps, I just want to see you get mud in your hair.”
I loved Joe and Keri’s interactions. There are no flashbacks to their high school romance, but their exchanges are filled with warmth and familiarity. You can really read between the lines to how much they meant to one another, once. Throw in camping trip shenanigans and pent-up frustrations, and you’ve got plenty of burning page-time;
“Some women would be flattered to be the muse of a popular author.”“Some women didn’t get to read themselves getting a machete manicure.”The dimple on the cheek facing her popped into view. “Okay, that was a little harsh.”
Shannon Stacey has written a plethora of modern-day problems for her characters. Mike and his wife Lisa have four young sons, and no time for themselves. But right when their youngest child is about to start pre-school and they’re about to gain an iota of freedom, Lisa decides she wants to start the baby-making process all over again . . . much to Mike’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Terry’s husband left her three months ago, claiming a lack of spontaneity as the reason for his walk-out. Terry is stubbornly refusing to partake of marriage counselling, afraid to admit that her husband just doesn’t love her anymore. And Kevin Kowalski, the laid-back ladies-man of the Kowalski clan, is harbouring a particularly vicious heartbreak following his divorce.
In the beginning I was slightly concerned that there would be too many storylines for Stacey to commit to, and for me to keep track of. Especially when Joe and Keri’s story is the real clincher – they have history, high-stakes and heat! I really didn’t want to lose Joe and Keri’s story amidst all the family drama and complex emotional upheavals . . . but Stacey manoeuvres this plot beautifully, and she had me hooked from the first chapter.
The various marital and relationship pitfalls of the Kowalski clan are a wonderful counter-point to Joe and Keri’s rekindled romance. Mike and Terry are navigating the pitfalls of marriage with their respective spouses – combating the usual problems of flagging libido and what happens when you talk more about the kids than you do about yourselves. These marital problems act as an interesting contrast to Joe and Keri’s lives. When they are brought back together they can’t help but imagine what could have been – what might have happened if they’d gone for the marriage and kids instead of a book and journalistic career, respectively? If it hadn’t been for his families problems, Keri might have believed her ‘what if’ life would have been perfectly rosy.
I love, love, loved this book! Shannon Stacey has a fantastic contemporary romance tone – equal parts funny, meaningful and sexy. For all the LOL moments, Stacey really excels when she’s writing deeply complex marital problems for her characters, or putting them in morally compromising positions. I loved the ‘Kowalski Family’ debut, and will be delving into the next book with fervour.