Saturday, April 10, 2021

‘Taken With You’ by Shannon Stacey




“She just needed to find a GQ guy in the land of L.L.Bean.”

With all that’s going on in the world now, I needed a book that guaranteed me a happily ever after, so I grabbed one of the romance novels in my To Be Read pile and hopped on the treadmill. Forty minutes later, I knew I would give this book a fabulous review, because while reading, I actually forgot I was exercising — love when that happens!

This book is written in the third person point of view, shifting between the two main characters: Hailey Genest and Matt Barnett. I think one of the reasons it stayed in my To Be Read pile for so long was that it’s the eighth book in “The Kowalski Family” series. I started the series over half a decade ago, and I love this author, but something about an outdoorsy guy and a girl wanting fancy dinners gave me pause, so I didn’t read the book immediately. Big mistake.



Okay, maybe the main man is an outdoors, camping, hiking with bugs kind of guy, and that might have thrown me off my usually keen sense of finding fabulous books to read. While I prefer men in suits, I should’ve known a guy in a uniform would know how to make for an interesting read. Matt’s the game warden for the town where Hailey is the librarian, and as my chosen quote suggests, she’s looking for a professional, suit-wearing guy to enhance her life, while living in a small town in Maine. Good luck with that.

The author does a brilliant job of characterizing Hailey by showing us — the readers — just how much she doesn’t like hiking or getting dirty. Matt has a bit of chip on his shoulder from a previous relationship, where the woman was embarrassed by his outdoor aroma after a hard day outside. Because of this, he purposely gets filthy to test the next woman he dates, and by the time he meets Hailey, he’s turned off from neat, girlie girls who want a clean-cut guy. But he can’t deny being attracted to her, and that’s when the book gets interesting.

Everyone’s relationship is different, but every lasting relationship shares the same qualities. The couple, over time, will learn to adjust a bit here and there, grow together, and find ways to support each other’s interests. At first, Hailey wants Matt to fit the image of what she always wanted in a partner, but at some point, I found myself actually cheering for Matt to not give in to Hailey’s demands without having her try some of his activities too.

“He just wanted a woman who’d enjoy spending time with him doing what he loved to do.”

Watching them compromise and enjoy each other’s company was delightful, and it reminded me that the world is filled with wonderful experiences and chances to explore new activities. It also reminded me why I love romance novels.

Fun fact: in order for a book to be shelved in the “romance” section, the characters must have a happily ever after — or at least the promise of a future together. So, just like those Hollywood endings I so dearly love, romance novels fix my heart when it’s sad and remind me that sometimes love does conquer all, and everything can work out in the end.

I’m looking forward to hearing whether or not you like Hollywood endings — not necessarily just in romance novels. The really great ones make us believe all is lost before twisting the plot like in the movies Rocky or Star Wars. I guess I like cheering for the underdog. Do you?

As always, thanks for your time!

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marisa Cleveland loves to laugh, hates to cry, and does both often. She has a master’s degree from George Mason University and joined The Seymour Agency after she ended an eight-year career teaching students language arts, grades 6-12. Previous to teaching, she worked as an assistant director for a graduate school in Washington, D.C., before settling in Southwest Florida over a decade ago. As a former gymnast, cheerleader, and dancer, she understands the importance of balance, and she encourages everyone to stay flexible. Cleveland is a Leadership Marco 2015 alum, and she loves connecting with other readers through social media. Though she’s a painfully private introvert, she can be reached through her website: or follow her journey on Twitter: @marisacleveland.

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