All He Ever Dreamed is the last book in the newest Kowalski trilogy, and as usual, the best brother goes last. It’s a strong addition to the series, perhaps not the best in this new trilogy, which I think ended up being the second book, but it maintains the quality Ms. Stacey has us used to. At this point I should be ready to say goodbye to the books, and making noises about never-ending series, but I think this one still has a few more books in it.
We met Josh in the previous book, but for those new to the series, he’s the youngest brother, and as such, he was saddled with the responsibility of having to take care of the family home that also acts like their business and legacy. All the other brothers left town as soon as they could, but Josh couldn’t leave because there was no one else left, so he put his dreams on hold and progressively became more frustrated and unhappy. A few months before this book begins, he had an accident that forced his brothers to come home and realize that Josh wasn’t happy and something had to be done with the house and the whole situation. So when the book starts, the family is getting ready to sell the house and Josh is getting ready to leave. The problem is that he’s not counting with all the attachments he has to the house, the town, and to his best friend Katie.
Every book in the series features conflicts for both leads, but the first one was clearly heroine-centric, the second had an interesting balance, and this one is mostly about Josh. And his particular conflict feels very authentic, because it’s based on sacrifices, desires, choices and desires to have choices. Even the climactic scene when he realizes what he wants, isn’t so much about his love for Katie, but about finally having the choice to make his own decisions. And I think that we all can relate to that.
Katie and Josh have had great chemistry throughout the books, and the culmination was sweet and less explosive than I was expecting. What keeps them apart is knowing that he dreams of leaving, while Katie’s life is the town, yet there’s little angst in their relationship because they are mature enough to deal with it like rational, communicative adults. She doesn’t get mad at him for remaining faithful to the goals he’s had forever, goals she was very aware of. So I was happy with them as individuals and as a couple.
But as much as I enjoyed the main character, I had some issues with the way the romance develops. One second Josh is clueless, the next he gets hit by the realization that he’s attracted to her. This is very common in friends-to-lovers stories, and it never works. It’s not that I can’t believe he’s in love with her, but the transition is so sudden that it doesn’t feel organic to the plot. It happens because the story needs it, not because the relationship develops and naturally takes it there. And it’s a shame because this is one of my favorite tropes, but I’m always left slightly frustrated.
Some developments at the end of the book seemed too convenient, but this is the type of book that doesn’t allow happy endings that are a bit rough around the edges, and overall I was happy with the way things ended, so I’ll stop complaining now.
What I like about these books is that they are small-town romances, and have the qualities that make such series so appealing and popular, but there is thought and effort put into each story, and Ms. Stacey doesn’t relies on reproducing the same formula using interchangeable characters. I appreciate a series that works under so many restrictive rules and still feels fresh after six books. I wonder what’s next *cough* Drew and Liz’s book *cough*.
Review by Brie
Josh Kowalski is tired of holding down the fort—better known as the Northern Star Lodge—while his siblings are off living their dreams. Now that his oldest brother has returned to Whitford, Maine for good, Josh is free to chase some dreams of his own.
As the daughter of the lodge's longtime housekeeper, Katie Davis grew up alongside the Kowalski kids. Though she's always been "one of the guys", her feelings for Josh are anything but sisterly. And after a hot late-night encounter in the kitchen, it's clear Josh finally sees her as the woman she is.
Katie's been waiting years for Josh to notice her, but now that he has, she's afraid it's too late. Giving her heart to a man who can't wait to leave town is one sure way to have it broken. But Josh keeps coming up with excuses not to leave—could it be that everything he's ever wanted is closer than he could have imagined?
All He Ever Dreamed (The Kowalskis) by Shannon Stacey
Carina Press. January 21, 2013.