Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to…
Author: Shannon Stacey
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Audio Speed: 1.25x
Series: Kowalski Family #1 & #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
I just adore Shannon Stacey’s voice and storytelling. After reading a couple of her stand alone novellas, I was excited to finally start the Kowalski Family series. I started listening to the first book, Exclusively Yours, and pretty much consumed it within 24 hours of starting. It was just that good and well-narrated.
Keri Daniels and Joe Kowalski have a history. Once high school sweethearts and lovers, she broke his heart when she left their small New Hampshire town for the bright lights of California. After 18 years of living on the West Coast, she’s come home to see Joe with hopes of getting an exclusive interview with the now famous (and reclusive) author. Forced into the situation by her editor and her job on the line, Keri agrees to Joe’s requirements that she go on the two-week Kowalski Family camping trip in order to get the interview. Once on vacation, the pair’s passion reignites, confusing what should be a simple 2-week professional interview.
Ms. Stacey writes feel-good, happy romances, and this book fits that bill perfectly. But don’t mistake feel-good for emotionally shallow because Exclusively Yours is anything but. Full of three-dimension characters who are gritty and real, the tale has both highs and lows, laughs and tears. While the story focuses on Joe and Keri’s personal journeys and eventual love affair, we are also treated to the marital and family drama of his three siblings. I appreciate and enjoy how real and touching each sibling’s story thus far and look forward to seeing where life takes them in the books ahead.
Joe and Keri make for a special couple. While the word sweet comes to mind when describing their romance, so does sexy and passionate. Rekindling an 18-year old flame happens quickly and naturally, but there are bumps in the road. I fretted over what would happen and celebrated their successes as I listened. And mostly, I enjoyed the honest emotions and true character growth that infused the tale.
The narration by Lauren Fortgang was superb! After listening to her as Gin in the darkly wonderful Elemental Assassin series, I wondered how it would translate to this light-hearted contemporary romance. I was pleased that from the moment I started listening, I never once thought of Gin or anyone but the Kowalskis. Ms. Fortgang does a fabulous job changing point-of-views between Joe, Keri, and his sister Teri, keeping each voice unique. Her performance is filled with emotion, creating the ideal listening experience.
After listening to only two books, I have some serious love for the Kowalski family and Ms. Stacey’s delightful contemporary romance series. Combining humor, real life, love, and heartache, the author has created a wonderful world, full of emotionally satisfying scenes and characters that I would call friends.
Although tied to the first book via timeline and characters, Undeniably Yours can be read as a stand alone story. This time around, the story focuses on Kevin, bar owner and only single Kowalski sibling. After a passionate one-night stand leaves Beth Hansen pregnant, Kevin finds himself excited at the prospect of being a father. Yet Beth doesn’t want a relationship with Kevin that would leave them always wondering, “if it wasn’t for the baby…” Soon the pair are going through the motions of being friends, wondering “what if…”
I absolutely loved Undeniably Yours. The story is sweet and tender, full of laugh-out-loud moments and even a few tears. While I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy the story of a pregnancy bringing Beth and Kevin together, I couldn’t be more wrong. I enjoyed listening to each character’s desires and fears from his and her point-of-views. This allowed me to empathize with both characters, yet aching for the pair to get together.
Additionally, we are introduced to Paulie, Kevin’s best friend and manager of his bar. Her romance with someone from her past is a side story that adds depth to the book. Her plot never detracts from the main storyline, and with it’s similarity to Kevin and Beth’s relationship, allows characters to gain perspective.
Narration by Lauren Fortgang is perfect. There isn’t much more I can add, other than I can’t imagine anyone else performing the Kolalski family.