{I Love} The Kowalskis by Shannon Stacey

I recently texted my friend,

“I’m in love with a fictional character.”


 He responded,

“Matthew Crawley?”


I said,

“Please. Is there a Downton Abbey of Doom?? I think not.”


“WTF are you talking about?!”


This is what happens after you read Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family series.

First comes love,

Then comes mass texts to friends,

Then comes the delusional break from reality in a Kowalski carriage!

It’s awesome, even as it ruins other fictional men for you.

I started reading romance last year. It started off as a joke with a cringe-inducing book that shall remain nameless.* I was surprised by the number of romance books in the Los Angeles Public Library’s e-library—and the double digit waiting lists for them—so I borrowed one at random. My review of said book had my romance reading friends coming out of the closet to comment and refer me to books that wouldn’t make me cringe.

As a result, I decided to try Jennifer Echols’ writing partner-in-crime, Victoria Dahl. Dahl didn’t make me cringe at all; she just made me blush bright red while reading at Starbucks. I kept looking around to make sure people weren’t peeking over my shoulder at my Kindle, which I was convinced said,



Don’t get me wrong. Dahl books are enjoyable as hell, but jumping from mostly YA to Dahl was like going from Saved by the Bell to True Blood. But once you start True Blood, you know you’re marathoning all the episodes. I ended up reading 6 Dahl books in 2 back-to-back-to-back spurts. [Editor’s note: SPURTS! Omigod!]

After finishing the Tumble Creek series, I sent an SOS to Sarah. I wanted to read another romance, but didn’t know how to navigate the smutty waters. She directed me to Yours to Keep (Kowalski #3), a Smart Bitches, Trashy Books recommendation.

Thus began a beautiful, one-sided relationship.

This series is about a close-knit New England family—and the women who drive the men in the family crazy. This is where Shannon Stacey really stands out. Her characters are fantastic, not because they’re perfect, but because they’re normal and really likeable.

The female leads are in their late-20s to early-30s and they’re all self-sufficient and independent. And being independent doesn’t mean they have glamorous Carrie Bradshaw careers. The closest to that is Keri from #1 (Exclusively Yours), an entertainment reporter. Beth from #2 (Undeniably Yours) is a waitress, while Emma from #3 (Yours To Keep) is a landscaper. All three of them are focused on their futures and their careers, which they’ve worked hard for. Not once do you hear them bemoaning their single status or obsessing over their biological clocks—except for Beth, but that’s because she gets pregnant. I love that the female leads are modern and relatable. 

This brings me to the Kowalski men.

To use Laura’s FNL rating system, the Kowalski men are Eric Taylor AND Tim Riggins. Yes, it’s that serious. 

Kyle ChandlerIt is basically impossible to read the description of Joe Kowalski and not picture Kyle Chandler.

You’re very welcome.

Joe from #1 is a Stephen King-like writer, Kevin from #2 is a policeman turned bartender, and Sean from #3 is an Army vet just back from Iraq. They’re Kowalskis, meaning they’re tall, dark, and dimpled, but they’re also well mannered thanks to Mama Kowalski. When I got to the part where Sean starts reading, I knew it was book love. The men are sweet and protective, but they’re not chest-thumping alpha males, not with Mama Kowalski and her wooden spoon around! They’re hot as hell, obviously, but even hotter, they care about their family and the women in their lives.

Caring is all well and good, but in a romance novel, the author better bring the smut too, amirite?

Shannon Stacey brings the smut. 

I will never look at an ATV the same way again. Okay, fine, I’ve never laid eyes on an ATV in real life, but if I do, I’ll be thinking impure thoughts.

Yes, the Kowalskis do this on an ATV, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Not even close. {Photo by Francisco M. on Flickr, Creative Commons licensed.}

What I love most, though, is that in addition to the smut, Shannon Stacey brings the heart. I love the Kowalskis. All of them. And I am pre-loving the Kowalskis coming later this year. (Hurry, Carina Press!) I want to marry into a Kowalski family—minus the Celtics/Red Sox affiliations. (SPURS, baby! And baseball? I’d rather watch paint dry.)

Shannon Stacey makes spending time with family seem fun and essential, which is a nice change, but that doesn’t mean it’s free from drama or infighting. Still, through thick and thin, the Kowalskis are who you would want behind you. They’re fun and heartwarming.

These books can be read out-of-order, especially since #3, Yours to Keep, is the most popular and the best overall, but I recommend starting with #1, Exclusively Yours, so you can get all the references. My personal favorite is #2, Undeniably Yours, even though the premise (condom failure) was off-putting at first. Based on the reviews I’ve seen, this one and its female lead, Beth, are the most criticized. However, I loved Kevin. He was the crush I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

Whichever one you start with, get ready to fall head over heels for the Kowalskis. 


 {Buy the Kowalski series: Exclusively Yours | Undeniably Yours | Yours to Keep}

{Add the series on Goodreads}

*Hint: It inspired my Shame Shelf on Goodreads.

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