Taken with You
By Shannon Stacey
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Hailey Genest may think longingly of the shops, restaurants, and other perks of city life, but she loves her hometown of Whitford, Maine, and her job as librarian in the small town’s only library. But the sudden rash of weddings and babies among her friends have made her newly conscious of her single status and the limited dating pool Whitford offers for a woman who just hit 40. When a new, single friend suggests they celebrate their singleness by joining a wilderness adventure expedition, Hailey, who is so not an outdoors type, stays calm and buys hiking boots. She’s not really surprised when she and her friend get lost, but she is unprepared for the bearded, dirty, smelly Grizzly Adams type who shows up to lead the two lost women back to civilization. He might offer an excellent rear view, but he is the very opposite of the man Hailey is looking for.
Matt Barnett is enjoying the final days of his vacation before moving to Whitford and taking up his new position as game warden for the area. He’s much more interested in the beer waiting for him back at his cabin than he is in playing savior for two lost women, but he’s too much good guy to ignore their plight. The pretty blonde catches his eye, but he recognizes that a woman who wears full makeup and new hiking boots for a trek through the woods is definitely not his type. That feeling is reinforced by her obvious distaste for his unkempt appearance. Matt has had his fill of women who turn up their noses at the dirt and sweat that are an inevitable part of his outdoors vocation and avocation.
Neither Hailey nor Matt think they will ever see one another again, so the reluctant attraction each feels toward the other is not an issue. But when Hailey sees Matt in her library teaching an ATV safety course, she knows that she’s going to see more of him than she’s comfortable with, and when Matt finds out that his new next-door neighbor is the blonde from the woods, he knows she is not going to be so easy to dismiss from his mind. Despite the chemistry between them that is too powerful to ignore, Matt and Hailey know they are too different for the long term, but they agree to enjoy the moment with each other, exploring all the facets of their incomprehensible connection with no promises for tomorrow. They forget that the heart is no organ of reason, and soon what was supposed to be just a lusty friendship turns into love. But those very real differences exist, and they may be too great for even love to overcome.
I’ve been addicted to Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski series since I read Undeniably Yours and upon finishing it, immediately bought Exclusively Yours, the first book in the series. Taken with You is not a true Kowalski book since neither of the lead characters belongs to that family, but it takes place in the Kowalski world, and most of the Whitford branch makes an appearance. More importantly, these characters have the same genuineness, humor, and layered lives that made me a fan of the earlier books.
Anyone who has ever been in a long-term committed relationship learns that compromise has a necessary role, but it’s not an element given much attention in romance. I really liked seeing Hailey and Matt learn that love doesn’t melt essential differences but that, as the old Diamond Rio song says, “ain’t no road too long when we meet in the middle.” I also loved that Hailey is an unabashed forty and still believing in the possibility of Prince Charming—and that when he arrives, he is so unprincely and uncharming that she almost fails to recognize him.
Although Taken with You is officially Book 8 in the Kowalski Family series, it can easily be read as a standalone. If you like your contemporary romance with a generous serving of heat, likeable characters whose lives and loves have an appealing verisimilitude, and connections of family and friendship that plausibly bring former characters into new stories, Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski series is among the best. I highly recommend it, and Taken with You can serve as an introduction. Once you read it, I bet you’ll look for Stacey’s backlist. After eight books, my addiction is still going strong. I’m now eagerly anticipating Falling for Max (July 29, 2014); it’s the story of the mysterious Max Crawford and Hailey’s wilderness adventure partner, Tori Burns. I’m hoping to see more of Hailey and Matt in it and, of course, more of the Kowalskis.
The attraction of opposites is a popular theme in romance fiction, but it is one that often fails to convince me of the HEA. Taken with You is an exception because it shows the role of compromise. Do you believe opposites attract? What is necessary for you to believe in the HEA of opposites?