Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review - - What it Takes: A Kowalski Family Reunion

What It Takes: A Kowalski Family Reunion
By Shannon Stacey
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Reviewed by: Janga

Laney Caswell is newly divorced after ten years of a marriage in which she gradually lost more and more of the person she was and turned into an eager-to-please wifey. She left her Rhode Island home to take a job for the summer at the Northern Star Lodge & Campground in Whitford, Maine, as an assistant to Rosie Miller, the matriarch who manages the place and the Maine Kowalskis. Laney’s plan is to enjoy her new job and spend her private time watching movies her ex disliked, reading books she never had time to read, and rediscovering the spirited, independent woman she used to be. Laney hasn’t given up on the idea of a forever love and marriage and children, but she needs time to become her own person again before she thinks about inviting a man into her life.

Ben Rivers grew up in Whitford, best friends with Sean Kowalski (Yours to Keep, Book 3, 2011). Approaching burnout after years as an urban paramedic, he eagerly accepts when Josh Kowalski (All He Ever Dreamed, Book 6, 2013) and Josh’s brother-in-law and Whitford chief of police Drew Miller (Love a Little Sideways, Book 7, 2013) offer him the newly created position of the small town’s paramedic. At thirty-eight, Ben is not only ready to return home; he is also ready to settle down with a wife and start a family so that he can find the kind of happiness he sees in the lives of all his Kowalski buds.

The attraction between Laney and Ben is immediate and it is deeper that just physical attraction. Laney is certainly not immune to Ben’s obvious appeal, but she is even more impressed with his willingness to accept her need for independence. Still, Laney is wary. When the extended Kowalski family decides to hold the annual Kowalski family camping trip at the Northern Star during two weeks in July, Lacey and Ben are thrown even more into one another’s company as the gregarious Kowalskis insist they both join in all their activities. But what kind of relationship is possible between a man looking for serious commitment and a woman afraid that loving a man means losing herself?

What It Takes is the tenth entry in Stacey’s popular Kowalski series. It has the strengths of the earlier books in the series in its likeable characters, credible contemporary situations, and appealing family dynamics. Laney is a sympathetic character and many readers will be able to relate to her determination not to fall into the trap of making her life all about pleasing other people a second time. Ben is an appealing, sexy hero with a tender beta heart. He not only falls for Laney; he also likes her and understands her.

For fans of the Kowalskis, a big part of the appeal of this book is the promise of a Kowalski reunion. I’m sure that I won’t be the only reader whose wish to see more of favorite couples (in my case, Keri and Joe from Exclusively Yours, Book 1; Kevin and Beth from Undeniably Yours, Book 2; and Max and Tori from Fighting for Max) will be frustrated. Nevertheless, Stacey skillfully pulls the reunion off. All the couples from the previous nine novels—even those who are not Kowalskis--make appearances, along with assorted children and secondary characters. Moreover, their cameos generally seem natural and unforced. It is logical that the characters whose daily lives are part of Northern Star—Josh and Katie and Rosie and Andy—have a larger presence. It also makes sense that Sean as Ben’s best friend would have a more prominent role. Ben and Sean have a reunion within the reunion, and a little bump in Sean and Emma’s HEA serves as a secondary thread.

If you are a fan of the Kowalskis, you will not want to miss this book. It is a delightful read for those who know and love these characters. If you have never read Shannon Stacey but like small-town contemporary romance with rich contexts and lots of family interaction, I think you too will enjoy this book. But be warned, reading it may just leave you adding the other nine books to your TBR list. I’m planning a reread of the full series.


  1. I did not know about this book - thanks for letting me know. I loved the rest of her books in this series, will have to dbl ck titles to make sure I did not miss any.

  2. I don't know how I missed this one--I've read the others and really enjoyed them. I'll be getting this one for sure. Great review!

  3. I have not started this series. Will have to add this to my summer reading.

  4. I discovered her books last year. Loved her Heat series. I'm working on the Kowalski's series. I enjoy her stories.