Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Review: Undeniably Yours

Undeniably Yours
By Shannon Stacey
Publisher: Carina Press (digital);
HQN (paperback)
Release Date: November 1, 2010 (digital);
January 24, 2012 (paperback)

The first time Kevin Kowalski sees Beth Hansen is in his bar. He thinks he’s rescuing her from unwelcome attention. She knows that the “rescue” is going to get her fired. The next time they meet is at the wedding of Kevin’s brother Joe and Keri Daniels (Exclusively Yours). This second meeting ends with the two of them in bed, and a condom failure ends with Beth pregnant.

Formerly a cop in Boston, Kevin returned home to open a sports bar when his wife’s infidelity with his captain ended both his marriage and his career. Kevin, the youngest in the close, boisterous Kowalski family, is content to be back in Concord, New Hampshire. He enjoys his family, and female bar patrons with their steady supply of lipstick kisses and phone numbers on cocktail napkins provide him with the kind of no-ties relationship that is what he’s interested in at this point in his life.

Beth, an only child who has become a rootless wanderer in an attempt to escape her over-protective parents, is on the verge of leaving Concord for Albuquerque when she discovers she is pregnant. In the reverse of the overused secret baby trope, Beth shares the news of her pregnancy with Kevin. Kevin is shocked, but he accepts responsibility and even looks forward to being a father. The protective streak that is a part of who he is intensifies when it comes to the mother of his child. He is determined that she has a safe place to live, good medical care, and anything else she needs. Beth is just as determined to maintain control of her life. She resists any move that seems to infringe upon her autonomy, even though she comes to accept that since the child she carries is a Kowalski, she too is part of this loving family of caretakers.

I loved Exclusively Yours and was excited when I had the chance to get an eARC of Undeniably Yours from the publisher via NetGalley. Kevin lived up to my high expectations. He is a charmer, but he’s also mature and capable of great tenderness. His concern for Beth and his feelings for his unborn child are endearing. I also loved spending time with the Kowalski family again, and the secondary romance between Kevin’s assistant manager and the man she left at the altar is terrific. In fact, the only thing I didn’t love about this book was the heroine.

Stacey does a superb job of characterization with all of these characters. I believe in Beth, but I don’t like her. This is no wounded heroine with a tragic past. Her problem is that her parents, who lost four other children through miscarriages, hover. They want to know too much about her life, and the only way she can preserve a relationship with them is to be constantly on the move from city to city. Really? There is no evidence of their need to control their daughter other than her perception. They appear to be loving parents.

And then there’s her response to Kevin’s attempts to take care of her. Buying a cell phone so that she can call for help if she needs it is cause for a meltdown. She’s even reluctant to accept his help with her medical expenses, although she has few financial reserves and refuses to ask her parents for help. She also recognizes that her mother’s history may mean a difficult pregnancy. I can understand that the Kowalskis might be intimidating, but I have problems sympathizing with Beth’s reaction to Kevin and his parents moving her out of a lead-infested apartment that smells like cat piss. As for the baby shower, I’m at a loss. I’ve known many grandparents who delighted in being extravagant in gifting baby paraphernalia and clothing, but I’ve never known a soon-to-be parent who feared the gifts were an attempt to seize control of his/her life.

This is a romance, and so Beth eventually comes to love Kevin and his family. She and Kevin share some steamy scenes and some sweet ones, and the ending merits a sentimental sigh fest on all counts. But I’m never totally convinced that Beth deserves Kevin, who makes my list of all-time favorite heroes.

Despite my unhappiness with the heroine, I do recommend Shannon Stacey’s books. Exclusively Yours was an A read for me, and Kevin and the secondary romance make Undeniably Yours well worth reading. Yours to Keep is on my eTBR, and I look forward to reading it. The Kowalskis and their tournaments of Doom rank with the Bridgertons and their Black Mallet of Death in my affections. And I've become a Shannon Stacey fan, if not a Beth Hansen fan. 

Have you read romances that left you wondering if one of the H/H pairing really deserved the other? How does a less than enthusiastic response to one of the pair affect your overall evaluation of the book?


irisheyes said...

Thanks for the review, Janga. I think I have Yours to Keep on my Nook. Since this looks like a series I'll have to check it out and make sure I read them in the right order.

I think it is more of a problem for me if I don't like the hero. I believe I've read books before where I thought the heroine was undeserving. It's annoying but the opposite makes it a wallbanger for me. I'll have to figure out why that is. LOL (If I think of any examples I'll post again)

MsHellion said...

I can see the confusion, but agree that her conflicts are in her mind--and that can be a really big conflict. :)

I think we're a lot harder on heroines than heroes. (While Irish may burn a book with an undeserving hero, I tend to let it go.) I mean the guy has to be an outright jackass--like that one from the Fool's Gold series. Ethan, I think?--who ticked me off to no end. Loathed him. But usually I'm pretty tolerant of heroes who were jerks and come around, even if their reasons for being jerks isn't that deserved. Come on haven't we ALL had our hearts broken? Doesn't mean you get to be a bastard to the next girl.

But heroines who act like the male characters (so to speak) get on our last nerve. I think it's because we think women should be better than that. Men can't help it, but women can. That's the only rationale I can come up for the reason I'm so sexist about it. *LOL*

Janga said...

I hate reading a series out of order, Irish. I've been known to reread it in order when I do.

I like the hero or the heroine better in probablt fifty percent or more of the books I read, but it's rare that I dislike one. On one level, it's a compliment to the writer because the character has to seem real to inspire that strong a reaction. LOL

I'm looking forward to Yours to Keep, but right now I have a stack of books that I have to read in order to review. They take priority. Not that it's a sacrifice to read them when I have books by Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, and Jodi Thomas in the stack. :)

Janga said...

You're probably right about most readers demanding more of the heroine, Hellie. I think that was part of the discussion at AAR that brought the term "Duke of Slut" into use years ago. We accept behavior in our heroes that would be roundly condemned by many--perhaps most--readers of mainstream romance fiction.

On the other hand, some of the characters who inspire the greatest dislike for me have been heroes. You and I see Mallery's Ethan in the same terms. One of her heroes in the Bakery trilogy affects me the same way. This despite the fact that Mallery is a writer whose books I usually love.

We may also be harder on favorite wrters who create characters who displease us. I know I'd put Alex from EJ's Potent Pleasures at the top of my list. When he jumps to a false conclusion and condemns Charlotte the second time, he moves from flawed hero to jackass in my estimation. No groveling could redeem him from the repeated error. I didn't think he deserved Charlotte or his children. And yet EJ has created some of my most beloved heroes--Rafe, Mayne, Villers, Quin--and she is a writer whose books always earn accolades and rereads from me.

MsHellion said...

I agree, some of the heroes I've despised most are from authors whose other heroes I've adored. *LOL* Can't win them all, I guess!