Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey
published by Carina Press in June 2011
Sean Kowalski no sooner leaves the army than he's recruited by Emma Shaw to be her fake fiancé. Emma needs to produce a husband-to-be for her grandmother's upcoming visit, and, though Sean doesn't like the deception, he could use the landscaping job Emma's offering while he decides what to do with his civilian life. And, despite his attraction to Emma, there's no chance he'll fall for a woman with deep roots in a town he's not planning to call home.Genre: Contemporary romance
Emma's not interested in a real relationship either; not with a man whose idea of home is wherever he drops his duffel bag. No matter how amazing his "pretend" kisses are...
Series: Kowalski clan, Book #3
The Story: Returning from Afghanistan, Sean Kowalski is looking forward to spending quality time with his cousins and especially eating his aunt's food while he figures out the next stage of his life. He's been in New Hampshire for less than an hour when he meets Emma Shaw, his cousin's wife's best friend, and is asked to pose as her fiancé. Turns out that while Emma's grandmother has moved to Florida, she worries a lot about Emma and the demands of the house on a single woman and to appease her grandmother, Emma made up an imaginary boyfriend which later proposed... named Sean Kowalski. And now, Emma's grandmother is coming up for a month-long visit... and since Sean is back, it'd be easier for Emma to continue the charade than tell her the truth. At first, Sean is reluctant, but he understands Emma's motives and therefore accepts.
However, what neither expected is the attraction between them... and with the intimacies of an engaged couple... let just say the month will be longer than they thought :)
My Opinion: I'm a bit torn with Yours to Keep. The Kowalski series is very popular and Yours to Keep has been getting a great buzz around blogland and while I want to love it as much as everyone else... I don't. Oh, don't get me wrong, the book was good and I enjoyed it... but it wasn't a wowzer to me. It simply doesn't reach me as it seems to reach everyone else and I find that overall, the book and the series is missing a bit of omphf.
Similarly to previous books, Yours to Keep is a character-centric/relationship-focus book and I'm really happy about that. I think that there's not enough of these in contemporary romance nowadays... and it's even better when all the elements - the writing, the characters, the relationship development - are handled by an author as skilled as Ms Stacey. I thought Emma and Sean were great characters because they were so real. I understood Emma's motives and was glad that Sean helped her. I don't think they had great chemistry, but their relationship and interactions were real as well. For me, what set Yours to Keep apart from most of the books with similar plots is that their scheme definitively had flaws and Emma's grandmother saw through them right away. An engaged couple has this aura, this intimacy that even if there's attraction between the two persons, it cannot be faked...
While I enjoyed Emma and Sean, what I preferred were the dynamics between all characters. How well Emma's grandmother knew Emma, the ribbing between the Kowalski cousins, the bet they had going, the jealousy between brothers... LOL, the fact that Sean had to bribe his nephews and niece LOL. Also, Ms Stacey did a great job at balancing everything - Emma and Sean had just the right amount of time, readers were able to catch up with the previous characters without them stealing the show and the grandmother's romance.
Oh and can I say I loved Sean's grand gesture at the end? Awwww. Also, the post-it relationship was pretty cute :)
All in all, there is a lot to like about this book. In fact, objectively, Yours to Keep is excellent and I have no issue with it at all... Except that it just didn't grab me, reach me ^_^; I guess that's on me and not on the book.
My Grade: B+.