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Heidi Hart

By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general. 

Refreshingly Down-to-Earth Contemporary Romance

Exclusively Yours (The Kowalskis) - Shannon Stacey

At first I wasn't sure I'd like this. I guess I'm a bit of a snob about ATVs, and so the idea of a book where the bulk of the action takes place during a two week camping/four-wheeling vacation wasn't initially my cup of tea. It also took me awhile to warm up to the hero and heroine, but I was totally smitten with them both by the end.

 

I love a good hero-in-pursuit story, probably because they're rare in a genre populated mostly by commitment-phobic rogues and playboys. It's refreshing to come across a hero who recognizes love when he sees it and doesn't run screaming in the other direction just to stretch out the story. Joe is such a guy: he knows from the start that Keri is The One Who Got Away, and now that she's back (albeit temporarily), he means to win her for good. He's not afraid of settling down. He's mature enough to understand the dark side of being single: sure, he can do what he wants, but he has no one to talk to when he's had a bad day or has exciting news to share; he can take up the whole bed, but he's got no one warm to snuggle with.

 

Other reviewers have said Keri is shallow and self-absorbed, but she resonated with me. She's an intelligent woman determined to build a career for herself, longing to give her life purpose and meaning beyond being someone's wife, someone's daughter, someone's mom. At the same time, though, she has reached the point in her life where the paths she didn't take are beginning to haunt her, and as she approaches her forties without spouse or family, she remains devoted to her career but aches for all she has given up.

 

I loved the supporting characters (Joe's family), and the subplots featuring them (two of Joe's siblings have hit rough patches in their marriages, and they are struggling to fix what's broken as Joe and Keri are falling in love). I found the portrayal of the setting (northern New Hampshire) to be very familiar and believable. (I live in Vermont right across the river from New Hampshire. Books set in northern New England are rare and often tone deaf, turning our small towns into twee travel brochures and peopled with characters who are flat caricatures of backwoods hillbilly farmers. This wasn't like that.)

 

This book will definitely stay on my "keepers" shelf!