Review – All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey

Publisher: Carina Press
Publish Date: Out Now
How I got this book: NetGalley

A second shot at first love

After college, Ryan Kowalski decided to leave Whitford, Maine, rather than watch Lauren Carpenter marry another man. Now his siblings need his help to refurbish the family-owned Northern Star Lodge and he’s forced to face the past sooner rather than later when he collars a vandal—and learns the boy is Lauren’s son…

The last person Lauren needs back in her life is Ryan Kowalski. With a bitter ex-husband and a moody teenage son, she has enough man trouble already. But her son needs to learn a few lessons about right and wrong, even if Lauren has to escort him to Ryan’s door every day to work off his crime.

With all this close contact, Ryan and Lauren can’t deny the chemistry between them is as powerful as ever. But can a few searing kisses erase their past and pave the way for a second chance at true love?
*Blurb from Goodreads*

I feel deeply in love with Shannon Stacey at the first Kowalski book, and she has continued to keep the series strong and exciting and one of my favorite contemporary romances!

Ryan left town long ago, and never wanted to come back. He built a successful career and has been focusing all his attention on being the best that he can be in his field. But when the family lodge gets in trouble and Ryan has to head back to Whitford he will be forced the face the real reason he left all those years ago: Lauren. Ryan and Lauren were close friends growing up, and although Lauren was dating Ryan’s best friend, he always had a soft spot for her. But watching her get pregnant and marry his best friend was more than Ryan could take, so he ran and never looked back – until the day he caught her son vandalizing his lodge.

Lauren never regretted having her son, but between his teenage angst and her ex-husbands drama she has sworn off men. When she learns that Nick has been the one causing damages out at the Lodge, she makes him work off the damages by Ryan’s side. THe one thing her son desperately needs is discipline, and although Lauren can’t seem to trust her libido around Ryan, she is willing to suffer for Nick’s sake. But Ryan isn’t immune to their sexual chemisty either, and before they know it things are heating up between them in ways they had both always fantasized about, but never acted on. As their relationship slowly starts getting more and more serious, Lauren and Ryan have some tough decisions to make, and ones that might tear their fragile relationship to shreds.

I was so looking forward to this book, because I am such a sucker for second chance love stories. Although this wasn’t really a second chance, as Ryan and Lauren were never really a couple before, it did have some of the same reunited elements I’ve come to love in the genre. However, I was a little surprised by exactly how much history there really was between them. I never expected or would have guessed the bold and somewhat jerkish move Ryan made when they were just barely kids. I don’t want to give any big spoiler away, but I have to admit that I wasn’t very impressed with Ryan’s past actions.

That being said, I still loved and adored this book. I thought that Ryan and Lauren were great together, and watching them separate the fantasy from reality of one another was great. I’ll admit to melting in a little puddle each time a hero and heroine have to come to grips with the differences between the reality of someone in their life, and the fantasy of “what-if.” Both Ryan and Lauren had almost a lifetime full of what-if’s on their minds, and the more time they spent together, the more they realized how different their lives could be with the other person there day in and day out. I love that it’s the little things that get the most attention – the sitting down to watch TV as a family at night, the taking care of one another when one gets the flu. It’s the small moments like those that open the characters eyes to each other, and have me smiling like a baby and grinning from ear to ear.

I’ve always been a little hesitant when romance books have a child as a main character, especially if that child is the son/daughter of the hero or heroine. Some authors handle it perfectly, while others tend to fall flat. I thought that Stacey did a wonderful job with Nick, not only as a surly teenager, but also as an individual character. He was able to stand on his own two feet, and added so much depth to the story. I loved that Ryan went out of his way to bond with Nick, but also made sure that Nick knew he wasn’t trying to become his dad. The balance between friend and mentor and probation officer and mom’s boyfriend was difficult for Ryan, but he kept at it and by the end of the book I loved the relationship between Ryan and Nick as much as I did Ryan and Lauren. I will admit though to never really getting over my dislike for Lauren’s ex. Don’t know why, but I just couldn’t stand the guy…

Probably my favorite aspect of this series is how important the role of family is for the Kowalski clan. I loved getting to see more of Ryan’s brothers and extended family. It reminds me of my large and loud and fun family, and Stacey does a wonderful job of showing the readers just how important family is, without shoving it down the reader’s throat. I am so anxious to see where things go with the other two single Kowalski siblings, especially since Liz is most likely coming back to Whitford and Josh is still somewhat in denial about his feelings for a certain housekeeper’s daughter. *wink*  I love that Stacey has this way of keeping each book – specifically the romance in each book – fresh and unique, all while keeping us up-to-date with what is going on in the ongoing lives of the extended family.

All in all I absolutely adored this book. The romance between Lauren and Ryan was a bit of a slow build up, but it was full of sexual tension and drama from the past. I loved the way Lauren’s teenaged son Nick fit into the story, and how well he stood out as his own character and identity. It was great to see the Kowalski clan descended on the Lodge and catch up a bit with the heroes and heroines from the first set of books. I’m so excited to see where Stacey takes the series next, as I’m always blown away by her ability to keep each story and couple unique and new.
I give All He Ever Desired a B+

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