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REVIEW: Love a Little Sideways by Shannon Stacey

Dear Ms. Stacey:

You are one of my go to authors in contemporary romance. I feel safe in one of your books. I’m not going to find assholes or cheating or anyone getting their heads cut off. The most unexpected thing I can expect in a Kowalski book is how badly an ATV will be mangled. In fact, maybe that should be the new rating I give to Stacey books. This one was a five ATVs but the other one was only worth three ATVs.

Love a Little Sideways (Kowalski Family #7) by Shannon StaceyLiz is the only sister of the big Kowalski family and she’s spent most of her adult life supporting an artist in New Mexico and she rarely saw her family. When she decides that the long term relationship is going nowhere, Liz heads home to Maine. There she starts a waitressing job and begins to consider what she really wants to do in her life.

One thing she’d like to do is Drew Miller, the Police Chief and best friend of her older brother. They had a one night stand (or one late afternoon stand) during the wedding reception of one of Liz’s brothers but they’ve kept it a secret because of Drew’s relationship with Mitch, the eldest Kowalski.

When Liz is back in Maine, their attraction to each other is hard to resist but there are two major impediments to any relationship. Drew is concerned about telling Mitch that he, Drew, is having sex with Mitch’s sister but the more pressing concern is the major difference between Drew and Liz’s outlook for the future.

Drew spent years married to a woman who never wanted to have children but never admitted it to Drew. This wasn’t something he knew and ultimately that led to a divorce. He is actively looking for a wife and one who wants to have kids. While Liz wants kids and a family possibly that is in the far future. Right now she wants to look at classes at a community college and even get a degree. She doesn’t want to wait tables for the rest of her life and is feeling a bit self conscious of how she compares professionally with her brothers.

Drew and Liz presented an impossible conflict. He wants to get married and have children and she does not. The entire Kowalski clan is brought back together for a camping trip where Drew and Liz’s first conflict – Mitch – comes to a head but their other conflict isn’t so easily resolved. Liz is still living in a rented house and with inflatable chairs and sofa. Her worldly belongings could fit into the back of a car. Nothing about her lifestyle indicates that she is ready to settle down.

Both characters are extremely likeable and I enjoyed revisiting all the other Kowalskis but I did wonder if the vast cast of characters would be confusing to readers. And while I felt that there was great chemistry between Liz and Drew, the impossible conflict had to end in either Drew giving up his dream of the future or Liz sacrificing for Drew. That wasn’t how the story was brought to a close but I had a bit of a hard time believing that the two were going to have a happy ever after. Instead I felt that neither character had really moved far enough in the other’s direction for a completely satisfactory conclusion. B- or 4 ATVs.

Best regards,


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Justine
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 12:04:31

    I also felt like the conflict was resolved too easily and quickly.

  2. Joy B
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 12:53:20

    I felt like they weren’t so far apart on long term plans – and Drew modified his short-term plan a bit.

  3. library addict
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 13:15:54

    I enjoyed this one a lot. I thought Liz wanting to go to college, etc was a similar conflict to what the youngest brother had in the previous book; that is what she felt she should want NOT what she really did want. It wasn’t really the fact that Drew’s ex-wife didn’t want kids that broke up his marriage, but that she had lied about it for so long. And as Joy said, he was willing to modify his short-term plans.

    I love Stacey’s humor and she has the ability to draw three-dimensional characters with seeming ease. I actually find her books relatively conflict-free, but while that can be a tad frustrating ultimately she’s reached the level of a comfort read author for me. While there are many authors I enjoy reading, that’s a pretty short list for me.

  4. Courtney
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 14:07:14

    I ready Stacy’s early Kowalski books and gobbled them up. They were easy, quick reads with the right amount of emotion and heat for my tastes. Then, I just got annoyed that every single book of hers involved a Kowalski family member. Not sure why, but I quit reading out of principle (sp?). I love family series, but I like to meet new families, not simply other branches of the same family.

  5. Kati
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 14:57:41

    I liked this one. As I told the author, I liked that for once it was two genuinely nice, grown-up people falling in to love. That’s rare these days.

    The camping was a bit much for me. But that’s mostly because I think if I die and go to hell, there will be camping.

  6. Mzcue
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 16:08:06

    I always enjoy the Kowalskis and find that Stacy gives me enough cues to remember all the players well enough to enjoy the interplay. The one gripe I had about the plot to this story is the “We’re buddies so my sister is off limits to you” trope. The protagonists are all above 30, the guy is divorced, the women is fresh out of a long term relationship, so there could be no expectations of innocence at risk here. Just seemed so silly that I found myself wincing each time the main characters gnashed their inner dialogs about what older brother was going to do.

    Other than that I found this latest installment of the Kowalskis as entertaining and satisfying as I’ve come to anticipate. Definitely in the category of comfort reads.

  7. Jamie Beck
    Dec 09, 2013 @ 17:44:26

    I really like Ms. Stacey’s books because they feature regular people, big family dynamics, and believable conflict. That’s not very easy to pull off in a contemporary, but her books are pleasant and satisfying. In fact, your comment about feeling “safe” is perfect, because it is completely true. Nothing over the top, no one too quirky or caricaturish (is that even a word?), no “trumped up” conflict, and nothing domineering/aggressive/borderline abusive when it comes to the love/sex. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m going to add it to my tbr pile despite your warning that the HEA isn’t 100% credible. Thanks!

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