Friday, July 29, 2011

A Hero Named Kowalski And A Heroine Named Miss Fickle

I am fervently attempting to avoid all contemporary romance novels. Even ones that come highly recommended are pissing me off no end. However, one has been nagging at me for a while, and for one simple reason.


As soon as I saw that Shannon Stacey's series had a family with the last name Kowalski, I knew I was going to read it. That is ballsy, funny, and so uncool it's totally cool.

Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey (Kowalski Family series #1) is just the way I like contemporary romance: fast paced, lots of comedy, lots of sexy chemistry between the hero and heroine, and a kooky family thrown in for good measure. The premise for the story is hilarious and cute--reporter is forced to camp with the subject's family for two weeks if she wants her interview questions answered. The prissy girl is not prepared for mud, kids, mosquitoes, and a still lingering attraction to her old high school boyfriend. They putt around on ATVs and butt into each other's business. Love it! All of the problems are tied up neatly at the end with a nice big bow. Great story!

Grade: A

Next up....I have recently read two Annette Blair books. One is phenomenal, one was okay. First up, Skirting the Grave. This is one of her Vintage Magic Mysteries. I have been really enjoying this series, which combines cute, cozy mysteries with a touch of paranormal and romance. Unfortunately, this was not my favorite of the series. The storyline was okay, but not stellar. I still enjoyed all the vintage clothing descriptions. There were a few totally unbelievable plot moments that popped me out of the story (Isobel finding out her cousin is dead and then joking around with Maddie a few moments later, etc.) that just didn't make sense.

Love triangles are tricky things. They can add sexual tension, but they can also make the heroine look like a fickle tease. The love triangle between Madeira, Werner and Nick was a great addition to the former books in this series. But in this story her waffling really got on my nerves. I'm not going to spoil the end of the book, but she went from struggling with her attraction for both men (and leading them both on) to making a split second decision, which, in my oh so humble opinion, was totally freakin' wrong! She picked the wrong damned guy! Ugh!

Overall, a cute story but not as sparkling as her other books. And the love triangle was a big downer and made the heroine look bad.

Grade: B

Sometimes it's hard to believe the same author can write two such totally different books. Here is a perfect example. Blair's mystery series is cute, fun, with lots of banter. There is not a lot of emotional depth since it's a cozy mystery. On the flip side, she has written an incredibly moving and emotionally intense novel, Jacob's Return. This is an Amish love story and it is a powerful bit of storytelling. I found this book mesmerizing--could not put it down. Blair has done a superb job immersing the reader into the Amish way of life. The characters are wonderful....real, nuanced, conflicted, loving. This book does not shy away from's simply unavoidable here. But after an emotional roller coaster, the ending was absolute perfection. Lovely, unexpected, and romantic. I bawled like a little baby.

This is a beautiful story....I highly recommend it.

Grade: A

Happy Weekend To Everyone,


Neeley said...

I saw Jacob's Return recommended somewhere recently, so I went to Amazon and saw all of these "WARNING! Sexually Explicit" review titles. So I'm all "Sweet!" and buy it.

It was truly great and wonderfully written, but my heart hurts for anyone that thinks that book is explicit. Three PG-13 scenes do NOT an explicit book make. It is however, a very heartwarming book about faith, love, family, etc.

But I'm Lou Grant. I hate perky. So no more Amish romances for me.

Penny Watson said...

Who the heck said Sexually Explicit? An Amish person? Seriously? This is NOT a spicy romance novel. Hmm. That's weird.

I didn't think this book was "perky"--it had a lot of emotional angsty stuff, but it did have a HEA, which I require for all my reading materials...hee hee!

So funny about the sex scenes....some folks get freaked out by a kiss, and some need XXX satisfaction. To each his own!

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Interesting. I might have to read Jacob's Return. The cover is a little too cotton candy for me, but I guess we're talking Amish romance...
Kowalski - reminds me of South Pacific or some old war movie. Good campy fun? Another one I might have to read.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Julia! I loved the Amish story...of course the hero has a beard, which is always a helpful visual! :^)

Tales of Whimsy said...

I remember you telling me about Jacob's Return :) Great review.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Juju! I really think you would like Jacob's Return. It has a very satisfying HEA even though it seems like there is no way there will be a good ending for this story.

Annette Blair said...

Thank you Neeley for stating the plain truth. The book isn't sexually explicit, but there are six, count them SIX, warnings of explicit sex.

I think people equate Amish with perfection, and no human on earth is perfect. Besides I interviewed Amish who had left the faith, and found out why. They are as imperfect as my books portray them. I didn't follow the rules of Christian writing, but they ARE Amish.

Annette Blair said...

Thanks Penelope for your candid reviews of both books. I can always count on you to tell it like you call it. Hugs,

Penny Watson said...

Hi Annette! I am always impressed by authors who can write such different styles of books. The mysteries are cute, light fun, but the Amish book was super emotional and intense. I love all of your "voices"!!!