HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77685-6
Contemporary Romance, 2012 (Reissue)
Like the previous book in Shannon Stacey’s The Kowalskis series, Undeniably Yours was first published by Carina Press back in 2010. Because the author shifted impressive terabytes of the digital versions of her titles, the overlords of Harlequin decide to publish those titles in print under the HQN line.
I’m not sure about the “undeniably” part of the title, but Kevin Kowalski, our muscle-bound former footballer turned bar owner hero, is willing to believe that Beth Hansen’s baby is his when she spills the beans after he spilled the… ahem, I mean, after their one-time thing on his brother’s wedding. Before I go on, let me point out that I find it absolutely hilarious how Ms Stacey takes the trouble to contrast Beth’s superior mojo to that of a “blonde with the chemically enhanced lips, surgically enhanced boobs and alcohol-enhanced sex drive”, as if Beth is somehow superior to that floozy, when Beth has her legs up in the air with Kevin faster than I can say, “Drop ’em, toots!” Perhaps Beth’s plainness and flat boobs are meant to be reassurances of her non-whore status, but honey, it really doesn’t take much for her to put out. And if it quacks like one…
Anyway, that’s it for the plot. The plot, in fact, can be summed up in three words: “Heroine behaving crazy.” Because Kevin is a very nice guy, wanting to marry her and even giving Beth everything from a marvelous place to stay and even an easy job without insisting on a paternity test, this story needs an excuse to stretch past 20 pages. Therefore, it is up to Beth to behave like an irrational harpy. She doesn’t bother to know Kevin better – she loves to instead make snap judgments about his character flaws. First, Kevin is judged and dismissed by her as too fickle. Then, Kevin is too smothering. When Kevin treats her like a queen for the entire story, Beth’s continuous protests and prickly antagonistic behavior make her look completely deranged. In fact, Kevin being a nice guy who showers the woman with love, money, and security is the only thing that is not clichéd in this story. Everything else is right out of the standard handbook of irritating baby-of-convenience clichés. And 99% of these cliches reside in Beth, in the most obnoxious way possible.
What I find really irritating here is Beth’s continuous protests that she can take care of herself. I would respect her if she can walk the walk as loud as she screeches the talk, but Ms Stacey deliberately has Beth being the damsel in distress here. Beth has no job, little money, plenty of emotional baggage, and now, a baby on the way and no insurance. And this imbecile thinks that she can take care of herself? I’d love to see her do just that – walk away from the house and money that Kevin is showering on her – but I guess that her freezing to death at the nearest bus stop would be too cruel a fate for the poor baby. That brat is going to be saddled with Beth as a mother, after all. Dad would cheat on Mom with some hot waitress, Mom will become a mean drunk, and the kid would end up on Celebrity Rehab with the likes of Snooki and Heidi Montag.
Undeniably Yours isn’t completely unreadable. The secondary romance hits harder than the main romance when it comes to emotional resonance, and Kevin’s interactions with his family, however shamelessly sequel-baiting in nature these scenes may be, are pretty fun to read. Ultimately, though, this book is like that slice of chocolate cake that I have eaten too many times before. As nice as it may taste, I’m so tired of eating the same thing that I just can’t eat another slice anymore. And this particular slice has a cockroach called Beth in it.