Friday, September 14, 2012

All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey

Why I read it: Carina sent an early copy to all of it's auto-approved NetGalley reviewers.  Thank you Carina! But in any event, I'm a fan of the series.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  Born to Roam

Mitch Kowalski lives out of a suitcase—and he likes it that way. Traveling for work has the added bonus of scaring off women who would otherwise try to tie him down. But when he’s called home to help with running the family lodge, he’s intrigued by the new girl in town and her insistence that she doesn’t need a man—for anything. If there’s one thing Mitch can’t resist, it’s a challenge, especially a beautiful one.

Looking for Home

After a nomadic childhood, Paige Sullivan is finally putting down roots. Determined to stand on her own two feet, she lives by the motto men are a luxury, not a necessity. But when Mr. Tall, Dark and Hot pulls up a stool in her diner and offers her six weeks of naughty fun with a built-in expiration date, she’s tempted to indulge.

Mitch won’t stay put for a woman, and Paige won’t chase after a man—they’re the perfect match for a no-strings fling. Until they realize the amazing sex has become anything but casual…

What worked for me (and what didn't): First of all, Mitch Kowalski is ROWR.  He's also a bit of a player, but he's not a dick about it.  He makes it clear from the start that he's not into long term.  Things will end, he will say goodbye and leave.  He won't call, he won't text and he won't be back.His role as boss/owner of a demolition company (what a cool job!)  means he travels a lot and he's very busy and he learned the hard way that his business and a long term relationship don't mix well. 

But, even before that, he was a love 'em and leave 'em man - as many many ladies in Whitfield will tell you - the strange thing is that no-one holds a grudge.  All the memories are fond (at least on the part of the women, some of their daddy's?  Not so much.)
She leaned her hip against the stainless steel island the coffeemaker sat on and looked him over. “Tall, dark and handsome, with pretty blue eyes. You must be one of Josh’s brothers."
Usually a guy didn’t like being told he had a pretty anything, but he’d learned a long time ago having pretty eyes led to having pretty girls. “I’m the oldest. Mitch.”
When Mitch comes home to Whitfield to help his brother Josh with the Northern Star Lodge after Josh breaks his leg, it is with bittersweet joy.  It is good to be home, to see family and the lodge, but he detests that he doesn't seem to be able to shake off the mistakes and hubris of his teen self.  No-one in Whitfield will let him forget his adventures - and over the years, many of them have been embellished.   

Mitch doesn't take long to spot Paige and decide that he'd like to spend his 6 weeks in Whitfield getting cozy with her.  Paige's role-model was her mother - a woman who flitted from one man to the next, who felt it was necessary to have a man to be "complete".  Her philosophy is that men are a luxury she doesn't need so she's sworn of relationships. Despite how hot and sexy Mitch is, it does take him some time to wear down her resistance - by the time he does, half of his time is up (which seemed like a bit of a waste if you ask me - I mean, he was the perfect candidate for a fling wasn't he?  Temporary and hot - and,  not staying, so she wouldn't have to keep bumping into him in town.)

Paige also has to deal with the "girlfriend code" - her good friend Hailey had a fling with Mitch when they were teenagers - in fact, it is one of the reasons Hailey is urging Paige to go for it.
“But still nothing. Trust me when I tell you there was no emotional involvement at all, for either of us, and you are clear to land, honey.”
“My runway’s closed.” Paige frowned, then shook her head. “I’m butchering this whole airplane thing. I can’t be the plane and the runway.”
“Let me make it easy. He’ll be the plane. You be the hangar.”
“For a guy who’s parked his plane all over town? He can taxi on down to another hangar.”
Hailey laughed. “You’re right. You do suck at the airplane thing. But I don’t think he’s quite as free with his plane parking as legend makes him out to be, you know. I’ve lived my whole life here, and a lot of those stories are the equivalent of my uncle’s fish stories. They just want everybody to think they landed the big one.”
“I can’t do planes and fish. You’ve gotta pick one.”
“Reel him in, keep him a few weeks, then throw him back and let him swim away.”
“You’re killing me with metaphors.
I didn't mind the build up of the sexual tension actually, it was sexy and fun and it gave the couple some time to do a bit of courting.  But, I did think Paige's turnaround made little sense in the big scheme - after all, nothing had really changed, other than resistance being futile I guess. And, I would have liked the period of "togetherness" to have lasted longer than a couple of weeks.

When Paige and Mitch do get together, they certainly scorch up the sheets (and a few other places as well) and find extra uses for a can of whipped cream.  Pretty soon, both of them have developed feelings but Mitch won't stay and Paige won't go - if she does, she would be giving up on her dreams and they're just as important as Mitch's.  What I liked, is that Mitch never ever contemplated that Paige would or ought to do so (which was why I was able to forgive him for a couple of his more sexist type comments - like we woman need a man to open a jar! Really!).   The compromise, when it occurs, seems obvious (and not dissimilar to that reached in Slow Summer Kisses really) but I didn't see much resolution of the other problem Mitch has with Whitfield - not being able to escape his past.

I think, in the end, perhaps the 6 week duration of their journey from "hello" to HEA was a little on the short side for me, particularly as they were dancing around each other for half of it.  I guess I would have liked the relationship to span a little more time.  Other than that, I can't really articulate why I like others in the series better than this one (having said that, I didn't not like it).

As usual, there is plenty of sizzle and spark and humour - all the things which have made Shannon Stacey an auto-buy for me.  Her contemporary voice just works for me.  While this book wasn't my favourite in the Kowalski series, it was nevertheless good fun and I recommend.

What else? We are also introduced to the other Kowalksi brothers Josh and Ryan and their soon to be significant others (they just don't know it yet) Katie and Lauren (Ryan and Lauren are next) and a broader cast of Whitfield townspeople.  I particularly liked Drew and the storyline with his wife Mallory.  He wants children, she doesn't - but she's told him for years that she would eventually - turns out, not so much.  Their ending in this book isn't happy.  I'm hoping that over the course of the trilogy we might see Drew get a HEA of his own (ETA:  Ms. Stacey tweeted that Drew will be getting his own book - yippee!) - whether his HEA will be with Mallory again or someone new, who knows.  They certainly have believable and large obstacles.  I can't help but be sympathetic to Drew's position - children were something they had agreed on before they were married and Mallory's been lying to him about it for 10 years.

There is an overarching storyline about whether Josh will stay in Whitfield and whether he will keep running the lodge which didn't bog down this book but links the 3 stories together.  Next up is Ryan's carpentry assistance to get the lodge into tip top shape for the as-yet-unknown future.

The good news is that All He Ever Desired is out in October and All He Ever Dreamed is out in November, so we don't have long to wait to find out what happens to the other Kowalksi brothers.

Favourite Quote:  
“Men are a luxury, not a necessity.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked, scowling as if the concept was totally foreign to him.  Which it probably was.

She moved away from the island and straightened the salt and pepper shakers just to give her hands something to do. “It means I don’t need a man in my life. And I have that written on a sticky note taped to my fridge so I don’t forget it."

“But you want a man, right?"

She pretended to think about it for a few seconds. “Not especially.”

“Who opens jars for you?”

“I have a little gadget that does that.”

“But…” He grinned. “What about sex?”

“I have a little gadget that does that, too.”

Grade:  B-


Marg said...

I loved that last quote you shared. I bought this the day it came out and devoured it straight away. I find it so easy to just get absorbed in Stacey's writing. I didn't really get how Mitch managed to come out of his sexual history still smelling sweetly (metaphorically of course).

Kaetrin said...

@Marg I tried her romantic suspense years ago and it didn't work for me that well, but her contemporaries are just wonderful. I love the humour and sizzle.

And yes, it was hard to believe that every other woman in town he'd been with didn't get hurt - because for them to feel that way about him afterwards, that's what must've happened. I guess that's why they call it "fiction" LOL.