Taken with You (The Kowalskis)
Carina Press / March 25, 2014 / $7.99 print / $4.99 digital
Hailey Genest has seen most of her friends marry and have babies, and she's happy for them, but it was a lot easier before she hit forty. She's spent her entire life in Whitford, Maine, and if she hasn't found her Prince Charming by now, she has to accept she's probably not going to. When a new friend suggests they go on an adventure and embrace being single, Hailey agrees.
Surviving in the woods is game warden Matt Barnett's idea of a relaxing vacation. But when he meets two women in need of help, he leads them back to safety—a task that proves more fun than expected, thanks to a certain hot blonde. He can't resist pushing her buttons, even though she's made it clear that the rugged, outdoorsy type just isn't for her.
Hailey is glad to see the back of her tempting-tour-guide-slash-pain-in-the-ass. When he shows up in her life again, she's determined to avoid him, no matter how good he looks in his uniform. But that's easier said than done in Whitford, especially when he's renting the house right next door….
Sometimes you just need a lighthearted fun book to help you relax and leave behind your worries of the day, and Taken with You by Shannon Stacey definitely fits that bill.
The premise, two mismatched individuals falling for each other, is not unique, and there is not much conflict, but Stacey infuses her story with humor and wit, which makes it charming. Maybe that's because her dialogue seems so realistic and genuine; her characters rib and joke with each other like family and friends do in real life.
Take Hailey’s conversation with her friend Tori, after she is talked into going on an outdoor trek through the woods instead of their normal movie night:
Hailey turned her stare on Tori Burns, who’d talked her into this stupid wilderness adventure.
”I hate you so much right now.”
Tori grinned. “Your mascara’s smudging.
“Why are we friends again?”
“Because you came into the diner during my shift and whined about being the last single woman on the entire planet because all of your friends have found their soul mates. When I pointed out I’m single, you decided we should be friends.”
Or like the conversation between Matt Barnett, the new game warden and the women, after he discovers they are lost. He can’t help the way he looks—he is on the downside of a two week camping vacation. Still, the women take one look at him and his lucky fishing cap and think serial killer.
“You ladies lost?”
“Nope.” It was the brunette who spoke. She looked him straight in the eye while she lied…
“Sounds carry in the woods, so I know you’re lost. I’m Matt Barnett. I have a cabin a couple of miles from here. I’ve been coming here my whole life and I haven’t buried a single body in the woods yet.”
“We totally believe you,” the brunette said. “Because serial killers always start the conversation with how many bodies they’ve disposed of.”
Even though there was a touch of humor in her voice, he noticed neither of them relaxed…
“Let’s go with the theory I’m not a serial killer for a few minutes,” he said. “I’m not leaving you stranded in the woods, so the way I see it you ladies have two options. You can let me lead, which means I’ll be in front of you and you can keep an eye on me, or I can shadow you, which means you won’t be able to see me, but I’ll be able to see you. That would be creepy.”
“Or we could run,” the blonde said…
She was looking at him like he’d just crawled out from behind a dumpster…
“Pretty sure I could catch you.”
The brunette snickered. “Of course you’d catch her. I’m faster than her, plus everybody knows the blondes always die first.”
“You guys are hilarious,” her friend muttered.
“I’m Tori,” the brunette said, “and this is Hailey.”
Of course they meet up again—Matt is teaching a kid’s ATV safety course at Hailey’s library, and like most men he can’t resist razzing her about all her mistakes during her time with nature.
“Okay, kids, let’s see how much you know about being out in the woods.” He was deliberately loud, knowing his voice would carry to Hailey. “How many of you make sure you wear bug spray every time you’re going to spend time outside?”
Less than half of them raised their hands, which didn’t surprise him. Where they were in the state, there wasn’t a lot of concern about mosquito-borne illnesses. Yet. He’d work on that.
“And should you use an insect repellant with DEET or one that smells pretty?”
They all shouted DEET at the same time. He looked toward the circulation desk and was rewarded with a very black look from the pretty librarian.
“That’s right. Next question is true or false. You should wear brand-new hiking boots if you’re going on a long hike in the woods.”
Most of them got that one right too, though he couldn’t say which kids did and which didn’t since he was looking over their heads. Hailey wasn’t even attempting to mask her annoyance.
“One more. If you’re going into the woods with a group of people, you don’t need to know where you are or have a map or compass. True or false?”
“False!” a kid yelled . . . “You might get separated from them and then you’ll be lost.”
“That’s right. And how old are you, buddy?”
Hailey and Matt are thrown together even more when he moves in next door. Hailey has already discovered he cleans up well, and Matt— well, he thought she was attractive from the very beginning. Neither of them think the other is his or her type, but they are willing to admit there is chemistry. But the more time they spend together they more they like each other– even when it is obvious they are just too different:
Matt leaned against the Kowalskis’ barn, arms folded across his chest and watched Hailey put her helmet on for what had to be the seventh or eighth time. At the rate they were going, he’d be too old to drive a quad by the time she was ready to hit the trail.
“You know what the worst part is?“ Andy Miller asked. . . “About the time she gets that helmet just right, she’d going to have to pee again.
Matt sighed. ”I wouldn’t bet against it.”
Apparently, her hair was the problem. She started with it in a high ponytail, but that made a lump that was uncomfortable under her helmet. She tried a lower ponytail, but that had the same problem. She took the elastic out but her hair plastered around her face . . . and she didn’t like that.
Finally Rose had come outside, sat her down on the porch and done some kind of fancy braid that held all of her hair while remaining flat. Now it seemed like they might be on the right track. When she had it settled on her head and gave him a thumbs up he walked over to her and did the buckle under her chin.
“You finally ready?”
She nodded, then held up a finger. “I’m going to go pee one more time.”
“Do not take that helmet off,” he called after her.
Even if you are not into trails and ATV’s, you will be taken with Taken with You. It will make you smile. I know it did me.
Learn more or order a copy of Taken with You by Shannon Stacey, out March 25:
Leigh Davis, Blogger