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 #5 & #6
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Just after college, Ryan Kowalski took a risk and asked his best friend’s wife and young child to run away with him, but Lauren Carpenter loved her husband and said no. And when her bad marriage ended in divorce, Lauren always wondered what if… Now that Ryan is back home for a while to help refurbish the family’s Northern Star Lodge, he can no longer avoid Lauren, especially since her son, Nick, is working for Ryan to pay off a debt. Spending more time together leaves the pair considering why they should keep saying no to any kind of relationship.
All He Ever Desired is yet another wonderful tale from Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family series. Back in small-town Whitford, Maine, the book continues the story of the Northern Star Lodge that began in the previous book. I liked how the work on the Lodge and Josh’s concerns over running it flowed from the previous book right into this story, giving the whole series great cohesiveness without repetition. And seeing basically the same cast of characters really solidified my adoration of Whitford and the Kowalskis.
Lauren and Ryan share great chemistry, although I wish they’d have acted on it a little sooner in the book. However, the stories outside of the romance were equally as strong, so it didn’t bother me too badly that it did take some time. I adored the pair, loved their banter, and found Ryan’s dealings with Lauren’s son to be fantastic.
In general, I feel like the last couple of books have become a bit more serious. I still laughed and smiled so many times over the course of the story, but there is some hard reality going on, too.
As much as I adore Lauren Fortgang’s narration and found her performance in All He Ever Desired to be excellent, I have to admit I missed some of Renee Werbowski’s voices, especially since it was her voice I first associated with many of the characters. In fact, I struggled a bit with Ms. Fortgang’s Rosie after being accustomed to Ms. Werbowski’s version. But in the end, the narration was near perfect, and I am happy with the performance.
Definitely another must read from Ms. Stacey.
Finally, it’s Josh’s turn for romance! As the youngest of the Kowalski siblings, Josh was left to run the family’s Northern Star Lodge once his dad died and his siblings all left town to make their own lives. Now that his family knows Josh wants out, they’ve made huge progress to improving the lodge and have agreed to sell it so Josh can leave Whitford. Then there is Josh’s best friend: Katie Davis, who’s mom, Rosie, is the long-time housekeeper of the Lodge and helped raise Josh and his siblings after their mom died. Josh may be the only person in Whitford who doesn’t know that Katie has been in love with him forever. But Josh never saw Katie as more than “one of the guys” until he accidentally sees her in a tank top and pajama shorts. After that… Josh only has one thing on his mind when it comes to his best friend.
I really enjoyed All He Ever Dreamed a lot. I adored the friends to lovers trope and experiencing Josh’s journey as he learns what he truly wants in life. His story really takes place over the course of three books, starting back with All He Ever Needed (Book #4), when the series shifted from New Hampshire to Whitford, Maine. Watching Josh’s progress from isolated and unhappy to the man he is by the end of the book was very rewarding. And while the fate of the Northern Star Lodge plays a big role in the story, I like how it wasn’t left until the final scenes of the book to play out.
The romance between Katie and Josh was well done. Experiencing both partner’s thoughts and feelings added tension as each came into the coupling from totally different places. Katie has been pretending for years-hiding her feelings, and then not wanting to get her hopes up even when Josh finally notices her. And Josh is just clueless. But as his feelings grow, he’s not sure how to deal with what may be love for his best friend, coupled with his need to leave town.
Additionally, we are treated to more from Rosie’s point-of-view, and her side-story with friend Andy is sweet. I love how Rose’s POV breaks up the book and adds dimension to the tale. I also adore all of the citizen’s of Whitford and appreciate visiting with several over the course of the book.
The narration was well done, and I cannot find fault with Lauren Fortgang’s performance.
Overall, All He Ever Dreamed is a wonderful addition to the highly addictive Kowalski Family series. It packed quite an emotional punch this time around – looking at how selling the Lodge would impact the siblings, their memories, Rosie, Katie, and the town itself – hit me right in the heart. Great story and wonderful conclusion to the mini-storyarc that started two books before.