Thrown together with you.
Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)
First Published: 4th March 2014
Date Reviewed: 15th April 2015
Taken With You is the eighth book in the Kowalski series; it focuses, however, on a family friend, Hailey and the new game warden.
The series is nearing its end and it shows. As said, the book does not feature a Kowalski as a main character, so there’s that, but at times it feels forced anyway. Stacey has said herself that there was only so far she could go before she would be writing the story of the plummer who turned up once, and she has chosen to end on Hailey and, in the ninth (last) book, Max.
There are a fair number of issues with Taken With You, enough that it is firmly in the middle of the series as far as ratings go. It’s not the ‘worst’ but it’s not the best.
One of the two major problems is the way the characters are fundamentally incompatible. They are presented this way and many readers may feel that not enough changes during the course of the story to intimate that they’d be happy in the long-term. Matt is outdoorsy and after being burned by a woman who was embarrassed by his profession he wants a wife like him. Hailey is not outdoorsy at all and wants a city man – suit, tie, regular hours. That Matt and Hailey are together at the end seems much more of a Happy For Now than a Happy Ever After (capitalised to reflect current acronyms) even though it’s presented as the latter.
Editing is the second problem. Frequent grammatical and proof-reading errors and a couple of development issues. The sheer number is hard to ignore; it affects the way the book reads.
Hailey wants her suit and tie dream husband to be cultured. She wants to go to fancy restaurants, museums, the cinema, but never do we see her pursuing any of these activities herself. She reads and cleans and meets her friends; if the culture was presented as something she could pursue only on meeting such a man it would make sense, but it isn’t. Matt, on the other hand, does live his ‘hobby’ and date dreams. He is the more developed character overall.
The sudden changes, mental changes, undergone so that this couple can stay together are jarring. Stacey doesn’t have them change who they are (which is good because you wouldn’t want that) but barring a short conversation about compromise and doing what each of them want to do there is no sign they’ll ever share the same interests. This itself is okay if not for the way they discuss it.
The small town, by this point, can seem too much. If this is the first book you read it may be okay, but as number eight there is too much living in each other’s pockets, too many utopian stereotypes and what was friendly gossip and care for those in the community is now busy-bodying. The shopkeeper is knitting a baby blanket for an unrelated baby not yet conceived nor necessarily being planned.
What is good about Taken With You is the sexual chemistry – sexually, at least, Matt and Hailey are very compatible; it’s believable. Stacey writes it well. The characters themselves are good to read, even if Matt, as Hailey rightfully says, turns into a you-know-what-hole for no reason (it’s in part his attitude in that situation that cements the general incompatibility).
As a whole package, Taken With You isn’t bad, but it’s a Kowalski without a Kowalski and sadly it shows.