November 19, 2012

Book Review: All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey

WARNING: This review will include Spoilers from mild to big, so consider yourself warned. 

At First Sight: Ryan Kowalski left his hometown shortly after finishing college and the few times he has returned since then have been short and he has kept it close to his family's lodge, avoiding Lauren Carpenter at all costs. 

About fifteen years before, Ryan asked Lauren (plus her son Nick) leave town with him; but she was married to Ryan's best friend Dean and said no. 

In the years since, Ryan has moved on with his life - getting married and divorced and building a very successful business in Massachusetts. While Lauren eventually divorced Dean and is trying to do as best she can raising Nick mostly on her own as her ex has remarried and formed a new family. 

But when renovations at the Northern Star Lodge bring Ryan home for a more extended period of time, it's only a matter of time before he and Lauren run into each other. Neither of them knows how to react, as they both still remember what happened the last time they saw each other and are still pretty determined to avoid each other. 

Until Lauren's son is caught vandalizing the lodge and is forced to work there until he has worked off the cost of the repairs for the damage caused, forcing Lauren and Ryan to spend more time together. 

Second Glance: All He Ever Desired wasn't exactly what I expected and I found the official summary was a bit misleading, as the things that happened between Lauren and Ryan were a little more complicated than one is lead to believe. 

They were never together and Lauren didn't know of Ryan's feelings when she married his best friend, it was a big shock for her when Ryan made his proposal all those years ago and even now she isn't sure how she feels about it, even though she has had plenty of time to wonder What If. 

Ryan knows that what he did wasn't really okay, but has moved on with his life for the most part even though he's still trying to avoid his left-over feelings toward Lauren and Dean and the whole situation, even if he doesn't have it in the fore-front of his mind all the time. 

These aren't two people who are pinning after each other all the time, though they both wonder at what could have happened, and how their lives would be different if they had made different choices. Yet, once they are back in each other's company they do reverse a little into teenage behavior: they don't know how and don't want to define their relationship, they day dream about each other and fight over silly things. 

(Now, for the seriously spoilery stuff about the ending, highlight to see)

My biggest problem was with the ending, because it felt very, very rushed. Lauren and Ryan go from not wanting to define their relationship but being fine, to him proposing to her (again) and them getting into this big silly fight over moving to Massachusetts, to them being fine again in a space of maybe twenty pages (I don't know for sure because I was reading the e-galley) and then the book just suddenly ends. 

I honestly had no problem with them moving, but you never actually get to see that or see them making a go of their lives in a new place because the book just ends. And I know I'll probably see more of them in the next book but I'm still not okay with it. 

I don't want to make it sound like the book is bad or that I didn't enjoy it, because that's not it on either case. I liked the characters and the setting and it was a fun read, it just wasn't as good as it could have been for me. 

Bottom Line: The book had some highlights, like Ryan's relationship with Nick and seeing the other Kowalskis from books past, but it's far from being my favorite of the series. It's still a fun, well-written contemporary, though. 

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