Should you judge this book by its bright, colourful, happy cover? Yes, you should.
Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)
First Published: 2011
Date Reviewed: 5th July 2011
When Sean Kowalski got home from the army he thought he’d spend some time relaxing before working out what he wanted from life, but when Emma turns up at his door he doesn’t know what to think. Emma needs a boyfriend, well, she doesn’t need one in the usual sense, she’s happily single for now, but she’d told her Gran that she had a boyfriend in the hope that said Gran wouldn’t feel bad about living in Florida away from her granddaughter – the lie is as extensive as this sentence. Now Gran is coming home for a month and Emma needs to find a real person to support her story of a boyfriend. The problem is she’d already used Sean’s name and face to back up her story, so she needs the man himself to act for her. After pondering on the madness of it all, Sean reluctantly agrees. After all, it will only be for a month.
Just when I say no to contemporary romance, one comes along that rocks my world. The only way I could describe the story and give you a good idea of what it’s like was to write a long summary. I am, it must be said, very surprised to have enjoyed a contemporary romance so much. And if you are like I was at the start of my venture into romance, and want to dip your toes into the genre but are hesitant, may I be so bold as to suggest that you begin with this book?
The set-up is completely barmy but it creates a fun situation to read about and the possibilities for plot development are endless. There are a lot of descriptions in the book that fill it with life. A big focus is placed on family, and although this was necessary as the book is the third in a series on couples in the Kowalski family, it expands the narrative and brings in plenty of dialogue and characters.
And the characters are great. They are realistic, they are funny, they are quirky, and the development of the relationship between Sean and Emma is never dull. Once an element of their relationship, or non-relationship, has been covered, Stacey moves straight on to the next. What’s good is that they are solid romance characters but would work just as well in other genres.
The speed at which the storyline takes a turn to a place that was always a possibility, is rather quick, but it is what allows the story to go up a notch. And the writing is very good. One thing I have found in the romance genre is that the writing is different to other genres, but in this case that’s not true, and it confirmed my thoughts that there must be a style of writing in romance that would make for a suitable transition for people wanting to give it a go. The only thing that brings it down are the numerous spelling errors dotted about the pages, the content could have done with another look over.
“Now she had to pretend not to love the man she was pretending to love while pretending she wasn’t sleeping with him.”
The story is fantastic, it really is, Stacey develops everything in it so well throughout, that although in theory it’s a rather simple tale, there is much to savour. For example, the way Sean lets Emma know more about him by leaving impolite notes on the bathroom mirror, which of course change in tone as the story continues, and the way Emma is a particularly strong heroine whilst being allowed to feel heartache. It’s the little things that are the best, the little things that each realise about each other that come to mean so much, while the big things are important but take a backseat.
Although there are many of them from a certain point onward, the sex scenes are tasteful and there are no crude words that could alienate a cautious reader. They are sexy rather than romantic owing to placement.
The narrative does repeat itself at times, however it is difficult to say whether this is a negative aspect or not, because the fact is that in the situation the characters are in when they think things they have thought before, it is all too understandable that they would be doing so. It’s a case of a book being incredibly true to life that in reading it one can see how silly us humans can be when we get in a pickle.
The subplot of Cat’s (Gran) relationship with her potential boyfriend works when it’s part of a scene or is a way of advancing the main plot, but otherwise it can be distracting and out of place. Of course there is nothing wrong with an older couple beginning a relationship, and indeed it’s rather lovely to read about and on a par with Sean and Emma, but it would have been better in it’s own book.
When I read Jane’s review of this book at Dear Author I was torn – I loved the sound of it but at the same time I couldn’t help but think that I’d find it too stereotypical. Jane was right. Stacey has written a fantastic book that looks at different issues couples face (from the time Sean moves in) in a way that means it’s incredibly easy to relate to no matter if you can relate to one of the issues or all of them. And she does so with humour and sincerity, and a great deal of heart.
And I am going to step forward and say I really, truly, enjoyed it.
I received this book for review from Carina Press.
July 17, 2011, 11:36 am
Love the sound of this. I can totally envision it being made into a fun, quirky film actually. :D
Charlie: I think I’d have to agree with you there, it would work as a film for sure.
July 17, 2011, 1:10 pm
I read this and the two preceding books a couple of weeks ago. I can’t wait for the next Kowalski books to come out next year.
Charlie: I’m looking forward to the print versions next year, I plan to read the first two then!