Source: A review copy of the book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
The Kowalski books keep getting stronger. This new trilogy almost feels like a different series, maybe because it features a new set of brothers living in a different town. I’m very glad because it keeps the books fresh. This new installment also features a role reversal in the main couple, and a heroine that pushes some genre boundaries, or at least has a set of goals that are quite uncommon in Romance.
Ryan Kowalski left town and never looked back. But unlike the typical Romance hero, wanderlust had nothing to do with his decision. The real reason he never came back was because the woman he loved married his best friend, and it was too painful for him to live so close to them. He did make a last effort to lure her away, but she shut him down because she was truly in love with her husband. So right there you have the role reversal: the hero is the one suffering from unrequited love, and she never saw him as anything but a friend. He became successful in his profession, whereas her personal life imploded.
Many years later, Lauren has a rebellious teenage son, a cheating ex-husband and tons of debt. But she’s happy and has no regrets. Sometimes she imagines her life had she agreed to leave with Ryan, but she knows it’s nothing but a foolish fantasy. The problem is that Ryan is back, at least temporarily, and she’s forced to confront that fantasy, and a new-found attraction that confuses her and is quite unwelcome. Everything gets even more complicated when her son gets in trouble with Ryan, and they end up spending more time together. Her reactions is reluctant attraction, his is a full on willingness to give themselves a chance to see where their relationship can go.
I liked this book a lot. It was better than the previous one, which I also enjoyed. I liked that the hero was the one who had his heart broken, the one falling in love first. It gave a new flavor to an old situation. They are honest and talk. She tells him her plans for the future, and he tells her that he’s committed to their relationship. She’s weary but hopeful, and doesn't let her fears get in the way of their relationship. It was a different type of story to what Ms. Stacey usually writes. The characters where more levelheaded and grounded, something I really appreciated.
Ryan is conflicted about his feelings, and feels guilty for what he did to his friend. It was obvious that he acted on impulse and out of love, but his actions were questionable and he’s fully aware of it.
Lauren’s son plays a pivotal role in the book, but he had personality and didn't feel like a mere plot device. He behaves like a teenager, gets in trouble and is grumpy. The secondary characters are a tad too cutesy, but it’s the curse of the small-town romance, the quirky characters are everywhere. Fans of the series will be happy to get a glimpse at previous characters when they reunite for Mitch and Paige’s wedding. However, the book stands alone well, so you don’t have to be familiar with the series to enjoy this book. Some of the secondary characters have recurrent plots, though, so that would be the only reason to read them in order.
My favorite thing about the book is that the heroine remains true to herself, and by doing so, the story tells us that happy endings don’t have to be based on what the genre traditionally tells us a happy ending should be. I don’t want to spoil you, so I won’t say more, but I was pleasantly surprised by the turn of events.
All He Ever Desired is a great book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to read the next book. Great Contemporary Romance, recommended to fans of the genre.
Review by Brie
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?
Carina Press. November 12, 2012