Exclusively Yours (Kowalski Family, #1) - Shannon Stacey
Here I am again. On my long, lonely "Is It Just Me?" limb. It seems like everyone in the Romancelandia absolutely loves this book/series. I wanted to read this because everyone raves about it and Shannon Stacey. And I, for the life of me, don't understand how anyone liked this book. This is basically a DNF at 60% review, though I (heavily) skimmed through the end just to see what the secret one of the characters was holding onto was. It took me until now (from October 2012) to even do that, I was so annoyed by this book.Terry was the only person in the story I could stand/like. The only one for whom I felt anything. I wish we could have spent this book on her surviving her marital issues. Of course then it would have been chick-lit and not a romance. But I felt she was the only one who had the right feelings and emotions and stuck with them throughout the story even though she was being bullied left and right and dealing with a selfish child of a husband. Although in the end it seems she's the one who starts trying to change how she is to make him happy, which I hate because I don't think she's wrong. Like the scene in the end where he wants to push her to not care about him wearing shoes in the house. And I'm like, considering he just admitted that he never did his own laundry in his life until he walked out on his wife, I gather he doesn't wash the floors or vacuum so why is she the asshole for having him take his shoes off in the house? Anal or not, she's right either way.Keri is simply awful. She's a selfish, vain, vapid asshole. She walked away from Joe the first time without a second thought. Like he meant nothing. Now she's back only to use him. (Honey, if you're trading on a sexual relationship you had eighteen years ago to get an exclusive story on a reclusive author . . . you're not a "hard-hitting journalist". I'm not even sure why she'd think she was as a tabloid/entertainment reporter.) In order to inure herself against him and make herself feel better about the empty life she chose, she kept mentally putting Joe down and was a total hypocrite about it, too. She claimed he was pompous and full of himself when there was no evidence of that, and really it was all her and her L.A. high life and putting down NH and people that don't live the fast life. She doesn't even care about Joe as a human being. She hurts him during an interview session and she laments causing the "subject" to close up to her and not that she just hurt him. She's horny for him and that's about the extent of her caring about him. I love ambitious women. I love women who don't get held back or talk themselves into wanting something else for a man. But there has to be some humanity there. (Plus, I didn't get her ambition to be a gross tabloid reporter. It's not even a real journalism career she keeps choosing over people.) Leaving him to get what she wanted would be one thing if she talked to him, acted like she cared about him at all. She just cut and ran. "And so had she. Or she’d hoped, anyway. But Joe’s future consisted of staying close to his family and tapping away on his keyboard. Keri wanted her future to include travel and maybe some wealth, and definitely some killer shoes." So she made a choice for both of them instead of giving him the chance to make a choice. Through the story we were never given any flashes or indications that Keri cared about anyone but herself. That she had the capacity to love Joe as something other than a stepping-stone. She had no remorse for leaving him/losing him. Nothing. Well, except, of course, his penis.Joe is okay, but nothing special and frustrating. It makes no sense to me that he didn't have any strong feelings about how Keri treated him, and was now using him. "She’d broken his heart. She was using him to get ahead at work. She lived as far away as possible without leaving the contiguous states." "She’d made it very clear she didn’t even want to come back to New Hampshire to see him, never mind stay." I did get the sense that he really cared about her, but I never got why. All of the memories we're given as an audience was of their inappropriate high school fuckfests. Nothing about actually being a couple. Nothing about what he loved about her, other than her vagina, that caused him to spiral the way he did after she dumped him. Or what has kept him hooked for eighteen years. There weren't even moments when they would talk and confide in each other or joke around and laugh where even he, let alone Keri, would say that they missed it – talking to the other, or laughing. SOMETHING that isn't all sex. Also, the way he kept calling her "babe" reminded me of that "Two A-Holes" sketch on Saturday Night Live. Which actually isn't too far off the mark here.So, in the end, this romance was nothing but annoying to me because I felt that she wasn't worth anything, and he had no reason to want her.Even when they finally did stop going on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about missing the sex from their youth and how hot they make each other and actually had sex it was so . . . lame. 'Fuck it, I'm tired of fighting it let's just get it over with.' '*pant pant pant pant pant desperate clothing removal*' This is where I tapped out. If your sex scene pretty much repels me, there's just no hope. I skimmed the rest of the book.The other family drama was good, but most of those characters I didn't like either. At least the ones that stood out from the pack. The mother of the clan, Mary, was just awful. I don't understand how a mother could so wholeheartedly welcome back the girl that hurt her daughter, broke her son, and is now only here to use him. “Things are very settled between Joe and I. When you guys go home, I’m going back to Los Angeles, where I’ll write my article and get my promotion.”“We’ll see,” Mary said with an enigmatic smile Keri was afraid to analyze too much." Even told point blank, she doesn't care!Then, she kept blaming Terry for the destruction of her marriage. Her husband walked out on her. He'd made it clear he'd rather live alone in a crappy apartment than be with her and their daughter. That he didn't love her enough to try and work on the marriage before picking up and leaving. Yet all her mother can do is say that she's not trying hard enough to get him back. She needs to talk to him to save their marriage. She cares more about her daughter's marriage staying together than what's actually going on and she's putting it all on Terry instead of the asshole who walked out on her. What is wrong with this woman?! All three of Terry's brothers were like that as well. They kept pointing out that they were friends with Evan, and he was family so Terry really doesn't have a right to be mad about them still liking him and wanting to hang out with him. What? What in the hell kind of family loyalty is that? They know she had been taking his walking out on her hard. Joe knew a little about her crying jags and sadness but their friendship with him is more important than their sister?! And when Evan shows up out of the blue and is hanging out with the guys not one of them stood up for her. Just joked about 'women, heh heh heh' or changed the subject if he made cutting statements about her. If you're going to write about a useless family at least make it some soap opera-like, backstabbing, Dallas kind of thing. Make it delicious. Instead of trying to portray them as a strong loving family when their actions don't support that.The other character that stood out, and not in a good way, was Lisa. Who really just ran away with the Asshole title. As bad as everything I've mentioned about the other characters above is, she is ten times worse. I don't get how any of these couples get an HEA. (Even – sort of – seeing it when skimming, none of them rang true – the story just ignored all the major issues residing within these people.)The writing was okay, competent. I might have enjoyed the story if the characters didn't suck as much. It's a character-driven story so the plot is really thin especially because the character motivations were weak. I think we all know by now I'm a character person and your story will live and die by them if the plot can't sustain them. I needed stronger, more likable characters. The story could have used focus, it jumped around to the different couples having issues and didn't seem to satisfactorily conclude any of their storylines (by way of growth). I didn't feel like there was any character development so I can't see how things are going to be okay. And I would have appreciated less irritating high school memories. Not just because of how inappropriate all that was for kids their age (but this is an adult book so I don't care about that as much), but because they never gave me what I needed: a reason for Joe to want this woman. A reason for them to actually be in love with each other. They served their purpose for Keri since she didn't care about Joe beyond sex with him and serving her career. But for him to be so hung up after so long and he doesn't even harbor resentment . . . there had to be more than just sex. Well, there doesn't have to be. Jebus knows I've read a ton of romances where the love is built on nothing but great sex. But it makes for a crappy story. I have the next two books in this series already, so I'll keep reading. Eventually. I really hope they're much better than this one because this was just an unpleasant read for me. 1.5 stars.