Undeniably Yours

Shannon Stacey’s Undeniably Yours is the second book in her series about the Kowalski Family. The first book was his big brother Joe’s story, the second book is Kevin’s story.

Kevin Kowalski used to be a cop in Boston. Now he owns a bar in Concord, NH. Owning a bar means that all the bar bunnies hit on him pretty regularly. Owning a bar in New England also means that Kevin scores when the New England Patriots win. But two years after his divorce, the whole bar bunny thing has gotten pretty stale. Kevin is starting to want a real family, just like the one he grew up in.

So instead of the bimbo trying to get his attention, one night Kevin is keeping both eyes on a brunette fending off her date, who just won’t take “no” for an answer. Not just because the woman was more than pretty, but because the guy she was with had slid down the scale from merely obnoxious to drunken scumbag very, very fast. As the owner of the bar, Kevin was legally obligated to cut the man off. That’s when things turned ugly. And, he found out  he was wrong: the scumbag wasn’t the brunette’s date, he was her boss. Ex-boss, since said scumbag fired the pretty brunette as he was being hauled out of the bar for resisting arrest. He turned out to be a seriously drunken, as well as totally stupid, scumbag.

Getting a lady fired is not a great way to introduce yourself. Having the subsequent conversation interrupted by one of the bar bunnies is even worse. Just as Kevin thought he might at least find out more than that the mystery woman’s first name was Beth, she disappeared on him. He was only polite to the bleached blonde bimbo because it was good for business. He was interested in Beth, and she was gone.

A couple of days later, Kevin was sweating in his tux, posing for the “best man” photos at his brother Joe’s wedding (Exclusively Yours) when he spotted Beth tending bar for the wedding. Kevin thought he’d been handed a second chance to make a first impression. In less than 24 hours, he blew that one, too. But fate, a one-night stand, and a defective condom gave him nine more months of chances. Kevin Kowalski needed them all.

I found this story frustrating to read. I read the last book (Yours to Keep) first, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Not just the primary story, but the secondary characters also had an interesting romance, and the family was interesting, and funny. I wanted to see where the relationships started. Being kind of a completist, I got the first two books.  Exclusively Yours was great. The idea of the second chance at love was well done, and again, both for the primary and the secondary story. In Exclusively, I understood why their relationship didn’t work when they were teens, and why they could make it work this time. I thought the author did a good job of showing that they didn’t pick up where they left off–they picked up where they were now.

But Undeniably Yours, I did not get the female character’s reasons for any of what she did. She packed up and moved every six months to a year, holding down mostly low-end jobs and living in literally stinky apartments because she felt smothered by her parents, who lived in Florida. She wouldn’t let anyone help her with anything because they might take over her life. What happened to her to cause this? I didn’t get her. I couldn’t understand why she kept pushing Kevin away, but she wouldn’t let him go, either. Nor did her epiphany at the end seem to come from real growth, it was too fast, or her emotions weren’t explored enough.

This story would have worked better for me if the secondary characters had been primary. Trust-fund heiress runs away from smoking-hot business tycoon at the altar when she is literally halfway down the aisle. He finds her hostessing at a sports bar five years later and sweeps her off her feet, without making her change who she really is. Paulie and Sam were fantastic. Kevin was terrific. Beth, not so much.