Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Book Review: Kissing Kendall by Jennifer Shirk

Title: Kissing Kendall
Author: Jennifer Shirk
Series: Book #2 in the Maritime City series
Number of Pages: 202 pages
Release Date: 7 December 2012
Publisher: Entangled Publishing - Bliss imprint
Source: e-book copy provided by the publisher for review
Purchasing Info: GoodreadsAuthor's Website, AmazonB&N, Read an excerpt

Grade: 4 stars

Novellus superbus!
Goodreads appetizer: Kendall Grisbaum is finally taking charge of her life—pouring her heart into opening a new bakery business and even allowing her best friend Georgie to play matchmaker for her. Trouble is, the one guy she secretly wants is Georgie’s older brother, Brad, who is decidedly off limits.

Brad can’t seem to get his little sister’s best friend out of his mind. He and Kendall used to be close friends, too, and as a local policeman, Brad can’t help but play protector, looking out for Kendall. When he offers to help her renovate her new bakery space on the side, their friendship—and their attraction—flares back to life.

Amid the temptation of doughnut muffins and blueberry cobbler, a new temptation draws them both closer. Can they take a chance on love when it means risking their friendship, even when not doing so risks everything?

My Thoughts: I’ll start by saying that when I read the blurb of Kissing Kendall and saw that it was Book #2 in the Maritime City series I was a bit intimidated as to whether I should hop on the train in mid-ride since I haven’t read the 1st book, Georgie on my Mind, but I’m so glad I did, so have no fears fellow readers, Kissing Kendall can very well be enjoyed on its own, and I sure did! :-D

The biggest surprise for me was that I actually enjoyed Kissing Kendall and wasn’t left unsatisfied. Lol, don’t misunderstand me, what I mean is that I usually read steamy romances, I like to know how the physical attraction develops and evolves between the hero and heroine, so when I saw Kissing Kendall was a Bliss title (Entangled Publishing’s tame, sweet romance imprint) I thought I would feel like I do with appetizers: wanting more and being grumpy that I’m left hungry. :-( So the biggest surprise for me was that Jennifer Shirk managed to make me sigh with contentment at the end of Kissing Kendall, even though the story remained sweet and very PG ;-)

I am always sceptical when it comes to widow and widower characters because I fear the author won’t find that perfect balance between having the character getting over the death of their loved one too soon and remaining in love with their lost loved one. And in Kissing Kendall I thought that Jennifer Shirk managed to strike this balance quite well (yeah to be honest there were some instances when we got glimpses that the dead husband wasn’t the ideal supportive husband, but still). I enjoyed (and not in a sadistic way but rather in admiration of Jennifer Shirk’s talent) how Kendall was still trying to get over her loss and get back on her feet. She was still grieving and feeling pretty isolated from the outside world and her friends, as if although the world and life went on, she has been paused ever since she lost her husband. I liked how realistic her struggles were and how her pain, insecurities and fears held her back. It made me accept and trust her character, it was realistic that it really took her a lot of time and many things to overcome her fears and try to take little baby steps in the right direction, that is forward.

When I was reading Kissing Kendall I was thinking how easily Kendall’s character could have turned out to be or seen as a bit boring, dull, scared and indecisive heroine, and I guess it may be the case with certain people, it just wasn’t with me. So I get that as personal taste and sympathy go you may not have clicked with Kendall. For me all those back and forths added a taste of reality and substance to how really difficult it was for Kendall to get over losing her husband and battling with her attraction and even some stronger feelings for another man. How she experienced and went through the whole palette of emotions like guilt, fear, shock, bewilderment and happiness just to name a few.

Brad was very different from the usual alpha heroes as he was the quiet “best-friend-in-love-with-the-heroine-and-suffering-in-silence” kind of hero.

“Look, Kendall and I are just friends. That’s all. I admit I love her, but I love her as I would a…a sister.” Sister. He almost laughed out loud at that. His feelings for Kendall were nowhere near the sister zone; he knew that much. And he knew the difference between right and wrong. Wrong was arguing with Jake about Kendall the day before he died. Wrong was moving in on a friend before she was over her husband’s death—something he’d come damn close to doing the other day. Even though she had felt so good, as if she were made for him, she wasn’t his. And he needed to remember that.

He was all that is responsible and protective (hey small town police officer and big brother), considerate and reliable, he was always there for Kendall and never wanting to make her uncomfortable. At first. Because after that he decided she needed to get a little uncomfortable to realize how good he could be for her ;-)

He reached up and cupped her chin, unable to resist running his thumb gently along her jaw. “Okay, I’ll back off. But I’ll still be there for you. Kind of like your own personal safety net.” Kendall gave him a tentative smile.

“Thank you.” Then she leaned in and drifted a soft kiss across his lips. “If I had known they were making safety nets so handsome, I would have gotten myself one sooner.”

Brad reached for her hand again. “Come on,” he said, pulling her toward the parking lot. “Let’s go back to your place and I’ll show you what else safety nets are good for.”

“And what’s that?” He flashed her a wicked grin. “Getting tangled in.”

Brad was dreamy with all that quiet strength and resolve, he had so much love and tenderness.

“Look, it’s okay. I don’t expect you to say I love you back. At least, not right now,” he said with a grin, hoping to coax a smile from her. She did smile back, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Okay, thanks for being…honest.”

Brad stifled a sigh. He told her he loved her and she thanked him for being honest. Of all the possible scenarios of how his declaration of love would be received, never in his wildest fantasies had he counted on that one.

“And as long as we’re being honest,” she went on,“I want you to know that I’ve really been enjoying our time together, too.” She bit her lip, hesitating. “I’m sorry I can’t give you more than that.” He nodded once.

“It’s okay. Like I said, no pressure. I’m carrying enough love for the both of us.”

*sighs* And he even had a uniform!! *stares into space dreamily* Ok, where was I? Ah yes, the characters. As for the secondary cast, well maybe those who have read the first book enjoyed this a bit better, but I found that there was just a bit too much of Georgie and her husband in the story (the hero and heroine of Georgie on my Mind, the 1st book).

The story unfolded verry slowly but that was expected and even realistic considering the heroine is a grieving widow, so I knew with such a set-up I had to be patient. And once Brad decided he wasn’t happy sitting on the sideline and wanted to convince Kendall to give him a chance, things progressed nicely. Sure it wasn’t at breakneck speed, but with the PG rating as well as the specific condition of the heroine I felt it was acceptable.

After I saw some negative ratings on Goodreads I was curious to see how Kissing Kendall would fare and was pleasantly surprised what a wonderful, well written and enjoyable story it turned out to be.

Verdict: Kissing Kendall was a very pleasant surprise for me. The story flew smoothly and Jennifer Shirk is a natural storyteller, her writing is wonderfully evocative, heartfelt and moving. The end wasn’t such a hit with me as I’m not a fan of public declarations and I found Kendall’s realization a bit sudden, but Kendall and Brad are really good together. Kissing Kendall is one of those romances that makes you sigh with satisfaction and contentment because you just know that the hero and heroine will live happily ever after even after “The End”.

Kissing Kendall was a delightful, heart-warming story and I’m looking forward to reading more stories by Jennifer Shirk!

Plot: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Writing: 9/10
Ending: 7/10
Cover: 8/10

Read my dual review at Book Lovers Inc.

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