This month’s TBR Challenge was to find a book that got inescapable buzz. As it turns out, I have had one sitting in my Kindle for ages, waiting for that perfect time to be read. When Carina Press launched back in 2010, one of their debut titles, Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey generated lots of chatter almost from the beginning and it filled my Twitter stream for months. In fact, this title generated so much buzz and so many sales that it ended up being picked up for reissue in print by HQN. As it turns out, it ended up being the perfect companion for me as I sat through my 3 hour glucose test(ah, the joys of pregnancy.) If you like single-title contemporaries, this one is a cute, light-hearted read. I’d give it a B+ for the huge smile it left on my face.
The basic set-up is this: Hero and heroine fall in love in high school. Heroine wants a life outside of small-town New England and she takes off for the West Coast, where she starts to build a career for herself writing for celebrity tabloids. Hero, meanwhile, goes on to become a famous author and also notoriously reclusive in his private life. When Keri Daniels’ boss finds out about her past relationship with Joe Kowalski, Keri is dispatched home to snag an interview with Joe.
Keri is the girl who broke Joe’s heart, so he’s not exactly falling all over himself to help her out. In the end, he does agree to answer some questions for her provided that she comes along on the Kowalski family camping trip. What happens next ends up being part crazy family romp and part heartfelt love story. The balance between the two isn’t always perfect, but it’s close enough to work. This could easily have been just a fun little romp in the woods, and I really liked that Stacey did more with it. She introduces some darker, deeper elements into the romance and uses them to showcase the maturity of her characters, and that made me like the leads and the story more than I would have otherwise.
In this story, we get plenty of scenes between Keri and Joe, but because of the family camping trip setting, we get to spend plenty of time with the rest of the family as well. And for once, it felt natural rather than like a parade of sequel bait. Keri and Joe get some scenes together that range from the soul-searching to the flirtatious, but we also see the larger picture of the family dynamic. Sometimes the Kowalski togetherness can be a little cheesy, but I found them more fun than irritating. Yes, some of the scenes (oh, those family ATV rides!) feel a little contrived, but I found myself smiling along even if I did have a pretty good idea of what was going to happen next.
Sometimes when a book gets lots of buzz, I end up disappointed because it just doesn’t live up to the hype. Thankfully, Exclusively Yours didn’t have that effect on me. I only wish I’d read it sooner!
– Lynn Spencer