Tag Archives: Sarina Bowen

True North Series: Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

Good lord, I need a few minutes alone with this cover.

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If I may take another moment, I should like to express my profound approbation for the return of facial hair to mainstream men’s fashion. All hail the lumbersexual!

The first book in Sarina Bowen’s new True North series, Bittersweet hits a lot of great notes, but doesn’t quite live up to her best work in her justly loved Ivy Years Series. The hero and heroine of this contemporary romance are two people trying to sort out their lives. One is tied down, the other at the end of a quickly unraveling rope.

Audrey Kidder is in Vermont looking for local sources of fresh farm products for the restaurant conglomerate she works for. Her career is not going well and this is both her last chance and a set up for failure by her employer. She needs to purchase their upcoming harvests to stock Boston eateries while convincing the farmers that the survival pricing she offers is fair. Her first stop is the Shipley Farm which, she quickly discovers, happens to be owned and run by someone she knew at university. Bowen seems to enjoy young characters weighed down with responsibility and Griff Shipley was saddled in his early twenties with the role of family patriarch. He and his widowed mother run the farm and work together to help his siblings have a solid future. Griff had been very interested in Audrey during their few encounters at university, but other than a couple of hookups, he had been unable to get her attention. He’s not sure he wants it now, but she is no longer blissfully unaware of his appeal.

Griff and Audrey come together as she is trying to figure out what she wants her place to be in the world.  She’s bright, energetic, and cheerful in counterpoint to his wry, quiet, practicality. They make a great couple and, as is often the way of things in contemporary romance, Audrey is also able to find a surrogate family to depend on and take some of the disappoint in her own away.

Characters are introduced in Bittersweet as Bowen sets up the series. She is a fantastic writer and I look forward to purchasing her books for years to come. The True North series (which is such a tease as it is not set in Canada a la “true north strong and free”, or,  I suspect, she and fellow author Elle Kennedy are Canadian,  and it’s a reference just for those of us from that home and native land) looks promising and I hope she can capture some of the lightning in a bottle as she did in previous works. She is an author to watch.

Let me again recommend Bowen’s new adult romance collection The Ivy Years Series and suggest you buy the box set, including the classic novella Blonde Date, but skip The Fifteenth Minute entirely. Sarina Bowen’s catalogue can be found here. Working with Elle Kennedy, she has published a two installment M/M romance called Him and Us, although each works as a standalone read. I suggest you check them out as well.

New Adult 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.

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New Adult Romances

I’m not sure I had heard of the New Adult subsection of the romance genre this time last year, but I have embraced it wholeheartedly.

Based on what constitutes a grown up in different historical periods, this list by default includes only contemporary settings and is somewhat subjective. The novels often feature folks who are in university, have just finished university, or are athletes.

Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked.

Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years Series – Recommended, except where noted.
The Year We Fell Down (Hartley/Corey) – start with this, buy the set
The Year We Hid Away (Bridger/Scarlet)
Blonde Date novella (Andy/Katie) CLASSIC
The Understatement of the Year (Graham/Rikker) – LGBTQ
The Shameless Hour (Rafe/Bella)
The Fifteenth Minute (DJ/Lianne) – skip this one, seriously

Kristen Callihan’s Game On Series:
The Hook Up (Drew/Anna)
The Friend Zone (Gray/Ivy)
The Game Plan (Ethan/Fiona) – wonderful

Christina Lauren’s Wild Seasons Series:
Sweet Filthy Boy (Ansel/Mia)
Dirty Rowdy Thing (Finn/Harlow)
Dark Wild Night (Oliver/Lola)
Wicked Sexy Liar (Luke/London) – best of the series
A Not-Joe Not-So-Short Short (Not-Joe/Perry)

Elle Kennedy’s Off Campus Series:
The Deal (Garrett/Hannah)
The Mistake (Logan/Grace)
The Score (Dean/Allie)
The Goal (Tuck/Sabrina)

Everyone else, series or no:
Banner, Darryl Dog Tags (Brandon/Jesse)
Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Him (Wes/Jamie)
Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Us (Wes/Jamie) 
Butler, Eden Thin Love (Kona/Keira) – 1st DNF of 2017
Falkner, Tammy Tall, Tatted, and Tempting (Logan/Kit)
Falkner, Tammy Smart, Sexy, and Secretive (Logan/Emily)
Grace, Aria More Than Friends (Ryan/Zach) – LGBTQ
Harber, Cristin Sweet Girl (Cash/Nicola)
Ivy, Alyssa Rose The Hazards of Skinny Dipping (Reed/Juliet)
Lyons, Kathy Two Week Seduction (John/Alea)
March, Meghan Beneath This Mask (Simon/Charlie)
Milan, Courtney Trade Me (Blake/Tina)
Milan, Courtney Hold Me (Jay/Maria) LGBTQ
Roberts, Holly S. Play: New Adult Sports Romance (Killian/Rebecca)
Schurig, Rachel Ransom (Daltrey/Daisy)
Ward, Tracy Rookie Mistake  (Trey/Sloane)

LGBT romance recommendations, including New Adults, can be found here.

As always, recommendations are welcome.

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

LGBTQIA Romances (Exclusively GB)

Most of these romances feature gay and bisexual men. I have read a lesbian romance, but, for me, it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that schwing. Unless otherwise noted, everything on this list has a contemporary setting. Reviews are linked, recommended books are in bold.

  • Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark) Hallelujah, both gay the whole time!
  • Banner, Darryl Dog Tags (Brandon/Jesse)
  • Bettencourt, Rick Marketing Beef (Evan/Dillon)
  • Bowen, Sarina The Understatement of the Year (Graham/Rikker) – New Adult, part of the fantastic Ivy Years series, I really liked it.
  • Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Him (Wes/Jamie) – New Adult, it’s steamy AND heartfelt.
  • Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Us (Wes/Jamie) – Not-as-new adults, finding their way.
  • Calmes, Mary A Piece of Cake novella (Jory/Sam) – Light and fluffy, mid-series novella
  • Charles, KJ A Seditious Affair: A Society of Gentlemen Novel – (Silas/Dominic) Historical, strong political elements and period details.
  • Dee, Cara Noah  (Noah/Julien) – squicky dynamic
  • Ford, Rhys Sinner’s Gin (Kane/Miki) – Overshadowed by the background story and over-the-top main plot.
  • Frank, Ella Try (Logan/Tate) – Too much sex? Is that even possible?
  • Frank, Ella Trust (Logan/Tate) – It’s possible.
  • Frank, Ella Finley (Daniel/Brantley)
  • Frank, Ella Devils’s Kiss (Jordan/Derek)
  • Gale, Avon Power Play (Misha/Max) – Contemporary hockey romance, quite enjoyable
  • Grace, Aria More Than Friends (Ryan/Zach) – New Adult
  • Hart, Riley Collide (Cooper/Noah) – Decent, I meant to review it, but never bothered.
  • Jaymes, River Brad’s Bachelor Party (Brad/Cole) – Not good
  • Jaymes, River The Backup Boyfriend (Alec/Dylan) – Decent
  • Jaymes, River The Boyfriend Mandate (Memphis/Tyler) – Meh
  • Hawk,Jordan Widdershins (Percival/Griffin) – Paranormal, very entertaining
  • Kell, Amber Attracting Anthony (Silver/Anthony) – Paranormal, weird daddy/son tone
  • Kennedy, Sean Tigers and Devils (Simon/Declan) – Charming, a novel with romance more than a romance novel
  • Klein, K-Lee Lazy Sundays (Devon/Scott) – Very quick read
  • Merrow, J.L Muscling Through (Al/Larry) – Big and stupid (really stupid) meets small and smart
  • Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal (Edward/Free) – It has a small lesbian subplot and a unacknowledged but clear gay partnership in addition to the main M/F romance, but this book is SO GOOD I am including it anyway.
  • Milan, Courtney Her Every Wish (Crash/Daisy) – It’s a M/F historical romance, but the hero identifies as bisexual.
  • Milan, Courtney Hold Me (Jay/Maria) – Contemporary new adult romance in which the hero is bi and the heroine is transgender.
  • Northcote, Jay First Class Package novella (Jim/Patrick) – quick, light read
  • Riley, Sierra Guardian (Titus/Alex) – If you like big, tattooed men, this could be for you.
  • Stewart, Nicole Home for Three (Selwyn/Jack/Kess) – A gay man, a bisexual one, and a straight woman.
  • Walker, N.R. The Weight of It All (Henry/Reed) – Contemporary, enjoyable, sweet, funny
  • Walker, N.R. Learning to Feel (Nathan/Trent) – Contemporary, mostly pretty standard.
  • Walker, N.R. Sixty Five Hours (Cameron/Lucas) – Contemporary, pretty good.
  • Walker, N.R. Imago (Jack/Lawson)- Contemporary, very good
  • Walker, N. R. Imagines (Lawson/Jack) – follow up story only
  • Walker, N.R. Twelfth of Never (Mark/Will)- follow up story only
  • Walker, N.R. Red Dirt Heart (Charlie/Travis) – good, not great
  • York, Sara Pray the Gay Away (A Southern Thing Book 1) (Jack/Andrew)- high school, drama, sweet, the start of a series.

As always, recommendations are welcome.

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

Us by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen

A follow-up to the

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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:

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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

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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.

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