Tag Archives: Sarina Bowen

Us by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen

A follow-up to the

9682780

new adult romance Him, Us follows up five months later with Ryan “Wes” Wesley and Jamie Canning. Living together in Toronto as Wes skates through a stellar NHL rookie season (doomed to failure and disappointment as the Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since the year I was born) and Jamie is establishing his career as a coach. They don’t get to spend enough time together and when they do, they are constrained by the need to mask their relationship. Wes just wants to get through his first season without becoming known as the first out gay man in professional hockey. The burden of Wes’s travel, hiding their relationship, and lack of time together is wearing on the couple.

Many adults try to figure out how to manage new careers and a serious relationship, but Wes and Jamie’s efforts are further complicated by the arrival of the world’s largest plot moppet in the form of Wes’s teammate, Blake. He moves in upstairs and takes to dropping by at inopportune times to interrupt sex and ratchet up “we can’t tell anyone I’m gay and you’re bisexual and we can’t even be ourselves in our own home” tension before proving he has a heart of gold when everything hits the fan.

The guys are still likable and sympathetic, if not especially well fleshed out characters, and their intimate scenes are still hot, but Us, while it does provide some realistic feeling situations, wasn’t really anything surprising. It’s an enjoyable, but not particularly memorable, trip down a familiar road with some nice guys doing the best they can. Honestly, the most notable thing about the story is the unbelievable suggestion that Toronto Maple Leafs ticket holders would give up their seats, even if only for one game:

ushim

Those tickets are worth their weight in gold!

Note: I have re-read this book a couple of times since posting my review and I feel that I didn’t give it enough credit. It’s a good one and I recommend it if that wasn’t clear. Read its predecessor first.

I highly recommend Sarina Bowen’s new adult romance The Ivy Years Series and suggest you buy the box set, including the classic novella Blonde Date, but skip The Fifteenth Minute entirely. She is an author to watch.

Elle Kennedy’s new adult romance Off Campus series consists of The Deal  (great, recommended), The Mistake (good),  The Score (no), and The Goal (fine).

New Adult romance recommendations can be found here.

LGBT romance recommendations can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

The Ivy Years Series: The Fifteenth Minute by Sarina Bowen

The final book in Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Series is a bit of a head scratcher and one in which the author’s intent seemed clear, but I don’t think she managed the very delicate balancing act she had decided to undertake, but first let me praise the other five books in the Ivy Years series and emphatically recommend buying all of them immediately:

  1. The Year We Fell Down – BAM! This book got me right in the feels.
  2. The Year We Hid Away – That’s a lot for two such young people to have going on.
  3. Blonde Date novella – Perfect novella: Short, sweet, adorable, and added to my classics list.
  4. The Understatement of the Year – Surrender. Lying to yourself is exhausting.
  5. The Shameless Hour – “You don’t get to tell me who I am.”

As to The Fifteenth Minute, let me sum up my response with a picture of a word and its synonyms:

ambivalent

Lianne Challice is a child star whose fame comes from an ongoing series of movies about a character called Princess Vindi. Striking out on her own and trying to grow up by attending an Ivy League school, she first appeared in The Shameless Hour and I was happy to learn she was getting her own book. Happier still was I when I started reading and it was mentioned that Lianne, who is no bigger than a minute, would have logically proportioned beloved in DJ Trevi, who I took to be of average male height. Great start. Lianne wants her independence and to grow as an adult in her career, DJ just wants that false date rape accusation to go away.

Were you able to spot where the ambivalence came in? Are you, like me, AMAZED at the ovaries on Sarina Bowen for taking up a false rape accusation plot after dealing so beautifully with slut-shaming in the previous novels? I mean DJ’s not guilty, right? Sometimes, the guys aren’t guilty, right? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I don’t care if he’s not guilty, or that he’s a nice guy. I don’t care because I spent the ENTIRE book wondering what on earth Bowen’s intention was. Was it to spotlight the relentlessly inept way that accusations of sexual assault are handled on university and college campuses? Was it? Because, to me, it was all about how much some people claim that women make false sexual assault accusations, although the statistics on reported rapes tell a very different story, and this was an entire subplot about that very thing.

I didn’t even mind DJ. He had wrestled with the accusation and was keeping himself sane by clinging to what he knew to be true.  It was the center of his existence and he was persevering until he got his day in college court. Lianne continued to delight. They had great chemistry and made sense as a couple. Too bad I couldn’t pay attention to that part because having a story line in which a young, vulnerable woman makes false accusations to preserve her reputation is EXACTLY THE THING WOMEN ARE OFTEN ACCUSED OF and we don’t really need a book reinforcing that notion, least of all in a genre written almost exclusively by and for women. All those poor helpless guys who just thought they were getting their rocks off and then some witch turned around and accused him of a horrible crime because she was embarrassed. Why, Sarina Bowen, why?

Sarina Bowen’s catalogue can be found here. Bowen has also co-written two very enjoyable and steamy M/M romances with Elle Kennedy called Him and Us. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started

HISTORICAL Romance

  1. Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess  – enjoyable
  2. Dare, Tessa The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright  – fantastic
  3. Dare, Tessa Beauty and the Blacksmith – fun, bring your willing suspension of disbelief
  4. Duran, Meredith Your Wicked Heart  – such fun
  5. Grant, Cecilia A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong – very good
  6. Hoyt, Elizabeth The Ice Princess – nice version of a common trope
  7. Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter CLASSIC as a novella and of the genre

CONTEMPORARY Romance

  1. Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date CLASSIC new adult, a perfect novella
  2. Richland, Anna His Road Home – contemporary, wounded soldier coming home

PARANORMAL Romance  – Not my cup of tea, but it could help you determine if it is yours.

  1. Cole, Kresley The Warlord Wants Foreverplenty of THUNDER SEX™!

I also have a ruthlessly streamlined recommendations list: So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance.

Links to my reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy who have each published good new adult romances, collaborated on a new one called Him that manages to be enjoyable, well-written, and

blanche

To be honest the

may have overshadowed the story a bit, but I can’t decide how much I mind.

Jamie Canning and Ryan (Wes) Wesley were best friends from the age of thirteen to eighteen after meeting at an elite hockey camp in Lake Placid. One night that last year, things got a little out of hand after a night of drinking and their friendship imploded. Canning never understood what had gone wrong to make Wes cut him out of his life. Four years later, after they meet again at a college hockey tournament, Wes tries to rekindle the lost friendship and ignore the fact that he has always loved Jamie, but good luck with that, Wes. For his part, Jamie has some unexpected feelings for Wes that he decides he needs to explore. They take summer jobs coaching at the hockey camp where they first met.

Jamie and Wes are both amiable, engaging characters, but they could have been more fleshed out.  Wes in particular is presented as a fun, insouciant guy, but this characterization is not followed up on. Jamie is simply a nice, grounded person from a good family. He’s really likeable, but it doesn’t make for much excitement,  but there was some compensating excitement for the reader. Having read a few romances featuring two men, I was really happy that neither of heroes was struggling with his sexuality. Often, like, almost always, there’s a moment of, “I’M GAY and I WANT to WHAT my FRIEND?!” and Him nicely sidesteps it and throws in a couple more clever little twists on standard tropes as well. Ultimately, the challenges Jamie and Wes face are of location and striking the right balance between with their new professional and personal post-college lives.

There is a second book with Wes and Jamie called Us.

Sarina Bowen’s The Ivy Years Series – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, buy the box set

Elle Kennedy:
The Deal – great
The Mistake – pretty good
The Score – no

New Adult romance recommendations can be found here.

LGBT romance recommendations can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

51ecwpeoszl-_sx316_bo1204203200_

 

Gravity Series: Coming In from the Cold by Sarina Bowen

I gave this book a try because I enjoyed Sarina Bowen’s excellent new adult romance series, The Ivy Years, but lightning did not strike twice. Coming In from the Cold was enjoyable enough and Bowen is great at setting a mood and the scene, but the story never quite came together for me and I felt that the resolution was achieved too easily.

Summary from Amazon: Ski racer Dane “Danger” Hollister does not do relationships, though he keeps his reason a secret. The real-life curse he’s inherited from his mother will eventually cost him everything. Reluctant country girl Willow Reade meets Dane by accident. Literally. Her skidding truck forces him off the road during a blizzard. Stranded together in his Jeep as night falls, the two loneliest people in Vermont find themselves sharing more than they’d planned. And not just conversation.

That’s an excellent summary, Amazon. Well done, you!

Willow and Dane are both struggling with being grown ups and, despite their seemingly adult lives,  it isn’t going so well for either of them. Dane has lots of professional success, but his personal life is a morass. Willow is struggling financially and is stuck in a situation that puts her life on hold. When they get trapped together in a snowstorm, they are able to connect physically, but their emotional connection is more troublesome. Frankly, Dane is a bit of an ass and handles just about everything badly. Just as meteorological events forced them together for a night, life events force them together for the longer term and create a less comfortable connection. Things get sorted out and Dane’s realization of his manifest failure to act like a decent person was very satisfying, but I’m not sure he earned his transformation; conversely, Willow was practically perfect in every way even though self-esteem issues were thrown in to flesh out her character. Coming In from the Cold just felt too neat in the end.

Sarina Bowen’s catalogue can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

The Ivy Years Series: The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, and The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen

So many “new adult” romances, so little time. I recommend The Ivy Years series by Sarina Bowen and will be looking into her back catalogue. Taking place at a New England college, Harkness, the stories are not light and yet avoid melodrama. These are young people coming into their own and figuring out who they want to be. Each story features at least one character who is an athlete, mostly they are involved in hockey, but there are also soccer and basketball team members, and the football players are the villains. My experience of university may not have matched this jock heavy world, but since the beauty of a large student body is in creating its own neighbourhoods, I don’t mind all the sports, plus it justifies the ripped heroes.

Quick Overview:

  1. The Year We Fell Down – BAM! This book got me right in the feels.
  2. The Year We Hid Away – That’s a lot for two such young people to have going on.
  3. Blonde Date novella – YAY! Short and sweet and adorable and added to my classics list.
  4. The Understatement of the Year – Surrender. Lying to yourself is exhausting.
  5. The Shameless Hour – “You don’t get to tell me who I am.”
  6. The Fifteenth Minute – a misstep, skip it

The Year We Fell Down

Corey was a star athlete until a career ending and life-changing injury transformed her plans. She has arrived as a freshman at the school she was meant to play hockey for, but now she is living in the wheelchair accessible part of the dorm. The upside is that she gets a bigger room and has a great roommate. The up-upside is that Hartley, a dreamy member of the mens’ hockey team, has a badly broken leg and is living in his own accessible room across the hall. The downside is that he has a long distance girlfriend.

There is very little self-pity in Corey and whatever sadness she does feel is entirely deserved. While Hartley is mending from a break, she is never going to walk unaided or have sensation in her leg and feet again. It’s a tough road and she is making the best of it, showing remarkable resilience, but not in an unrealistic way or one that is free of emotional upset.  I think many of us have experience with life taking an 180 degree turn and having to change our expectations, so Corey was easy to relate to.

But what about her beloved (Adam) Hartley? He’s a mensch. He’s got issues of his own informing his life decisions, but whatever Corey has got going on, he’s ready to be part of it. They made a sweet couple and a sensible one.

The Year We Fell Down did make me cry, but I can’t judge whether that has to do with the writing or because I have dealt with a potentially debilitating health issue and it affected my reading experience.

The Year We Hid Away

Bridger MacCaulley and Scarlet Crowley have their parents to thank for the ocean liner’s worth of baggage they have between them, but what is university for if not getting out from under one’s childhood? Scarlet has found herself a pariah after her father is accused of genuinely heinous crimes and Bridger has been saddled with more responsibility than someone his age should have to deal with. While his burden is visible, Scarlet’s promises years of pain. She has changed her name and is trying to start a new life.

For a book with so much agita, I found it remarkably melodrama free. There were extreme story elements and responses, but in proportion to the events taking place. Bridger and Scarlet’s responses to their individual pressures are mature to the best of their abilities, but if the characters’ problems had been lesser or limited to just one of them, the story’s construction would have worked better instead of being really good despite this limitation.

Blonde Date novella

Oh, thank GOD! A quick, reasonably light, sweet novella. One of Scarlet’s roommates – Blonde Katie as opposed to Ponytail Katie – needs a date for a sorority event. To complicate matters, their brother frat members, and specifically her douchelord former boyfriend, will be in attendance. Scarlet volunteers Bridger’s neighbour, a young man she knows from high school. Andy Baschnagel is tall and he gangles (H/T Douglas Adams), and he is a genuinely nice and sincere guy. He has been smitten with Katie from the first time he saw her and desperately wants to make a good impression on this date.

The entirety of Blonde Date takes place over one evening and it’s just lovely. Admittedly, I am sucker for a novella and this is the best example of stripping a love story down to its basics I can think of. Katie has recently been shamed by the frat boys and with Andy’s calm kindness starts to figure out who she is and that who she wants to be may be different from what she thought, AND the affable guy gets the girl. HUZZAH!

The Understatement of the Year

In high school, (Mike) Graham and (John) Rikker were embarking on a relationship and were attacked the first time they showed affection in public. Rikker was badly hurt, Graham fled. Several years later, Rikker has transferred to Harkness and joined the hockey team (with Hartley and Bridger up there) after being outed and subsequently mistreated at his original college. It isn’t fun being a publicly gay athlete, but it beats the closet Graham has himself both locked and barricaded inside.

Rikker and Graham fight their way to togetherness, two steps forward one step back, but end up where they need to be. Rikker’s family has failed him, Mike won’t give his a chance to succeed. With patience and  forgiveness, the guys become a couple. They were both extremely likeable and had great chemistry.

The Shameless Hour

This is the novel in which Sarina Bowen took the slut shaming undercurrents in the previous stories and directed kleig lights on them. Bella is the men’s hockey team manager and she has worked hard and had a great time off the ice as well. When she meets a dejected Rafe, freshly dumped and drinking champagne alone on his birthday, the two hook up. He would actually like to date, but Bella is the rake in this romance and she is on the move.

A couple of weeks later, early in the morning, Rafe finds Bella stumbling out of a frat house in very shaky condition. I want to stress in case it is a big NOPE for you when choosing a book, that she has not been assaulted sexually; however, she has been traumatized. It was very hard to read and I admit to jumping ahead several chapters and then going back to catch up with the story. The devastating effect of her mistreatment and the public attempt at shaming her is the dramatic momentum of the story. Bella is incredibly strong and surrounded by people who love her, but she is not invincible and it takes her time to come back to herself and act on behalf of all women who have been victims of sexual double standards.

But what about the boy? Rafe is in many ways the wallflower in this book and in keeping with that role, he is wonderful and waiting patiently to be noticed. He is a great friend to Bella and ready to support her regardless of the outcome of their relationship, though he has a clear preference.

The power of The Shameless Hour’s reversal is that, of course, Bella has acted like legions of romance novel heroes, but unlike the ones who tomcat their way through stories, our culture likes to tell her that being a good woman requires a different standard of conduct. Bella has made her peace with this B.S., but that doesn’t mean it is easy for her to live on her own terms.

New Adult romance recommendations can be found here.

Sarina Bowen’s catalogue can be found here. Bowen has also co-written two very enjoyable and steamy M/M romances with Elle Kennedy called Him and Us.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

The Complete Reading List by Author

Short Version: Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, these are ruthlessly streamlined recommendations lists –

So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started
Plus just for funsies: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I have more content based lists over there on the right  –>

Annual Reading Tallies & Author Commentary 2012 – 2017
On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

My AUTOBUY List (Links Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare (on probation right now actually)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

-A-
Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark)
Albert, Annabeth Save the Date (Randall/Hunter)
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/ Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
Ann, Jewel E. When Life Happened (Gus/Parker)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Continue reading