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Release Reviews: Bittersweet: Sarina Bowen

Bittersweet (True North #1)
Sarina Bowen
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Expected June 14, 2016


If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard. 

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago. 

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way. 

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.


The last person Audrey Kidder expected to see on a buying trip to farms in Vermont was one of her college hook-ups, Griffin Shipley. She was already unhappy that the company she interns for won't let her work in a kitchen and use her culinary degree, and keeps giving her unrelated tasks. And this situation is already turning out to be as big a disaster as all of the others. Audrey is a woman who just needs a chance to succeed but is used to rejection and failure.

Griff is a hard-working, stressed farmer that does not exactly seem happy to see her on his property. But she brings back memories of an easier time in his life and the girl that got away. But his life leaves little time or energy for a women or to take on more responsibilities.

Their chemistry had always been hot in the past and five years did not change it. But they find themselves at odds over her job with a money hungry organization and his need to keep his family farm afloat. Their banter ranges from antagonistic, sarcastic, flirty, and fun. Their bodies gravitate to one another and they have combustible chemistry. They are a chaotic force into each other's life but their lives do not seem to fit together. Griff has some of his own dreams he is afraid to really pursue, and now Audrey is another to add to the list. And Audrey has her own future that she is planning for and doing whatever it takes to get a chance. 

Audrey is used to having to prove herself and getting rejected. But she is tenacious and motivated. Griff initially does not know quite what to do about her. But when Audrey is around, she finds a way to get under his skin and relieve some of his stress. They lose control together, but also bring some balance to each other. But it is in short bursts, and life sends them crashing together and then thrusts them apart again.

Hot, burly, bearded farmer alert! I loved Griff. He started out gruff and grouchy, but I enjoyed seeing his heart,  sense of humor, and personality begin to shine. He became quite protective, sweet, passionate, and downright swoony. 

Audrey was easy to like. She was a bit awkward and fumbling, but when in her element she was smart, savvy, and talented. She also had a big heart and thrived under the support from Griff's family since it was something she was not used to having. But her fear of rejection ran deep and she was used to not getting what she wants.

Despite their connection, they do have issues not only interpersonal ones due to fears and insecurities, but also outside influences and different plans.

The Shipley clan and farm hands were so much fun. I loved their taunting, teasing, and the way they stood up for each other. The matriarch, Ruth, was that mom everyone would love to have. Griff's siblings, May, Dylan, and Daphne made up a strong family unit along with their cousins and Grandfather. The ranch hands Zach and Jude were both interesting, likable, and had complex back stories.   I can see them easily slipping into the roles of male leads in this series.

The Vermont farm and orchard setting made me want to go visit. It was brought to life so vividly in Sarina's words. Even the meals Audrey cooked had my mouth watering since they sounded so good. I wanted to join every chaotic family meal they had sitting around the table. And it was even interesting following along with their daily chores and discovering more about organic farming. 

This book was engaging and easy to get lost in. It was funny, sweet, romantic, and passionate. I laughed out loud at some of the witty banter and sarcasm. It was also heartfelt and not only focused on romantic love, but also the true love and support of a tight family who brings in strays and makes them welcome.  I am looking forward to the next book, Steadfast, as the story has already been teased and it is a difficult and unique one.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 
This was one of those books that came up on my list at the perfect moment. I was jonesing for a sweet read with just a little bit of humor & drama and a great connection between the characters.

Audrey Kidder failed out of 2 colleges before finding success and her passion at culinary school. But even though she loves her career choice, her mother’s approval is much harder to come by. She is determined to build her own kitchen.

Griffin Shipley had his professional football dreams cut short when his family needed him to return and run the family farm. The pressures of keeping his entire family financially stable is a heavy burden that often leaves him feeling grouchy and short.

When Audrey sets out to secure contracts with Vermont farmers for her Boston based corporation to use in a new farm-to-table marketing campaign, she never imagines her first stop will put her face to face (and stuck in a ditch) with her college fling.

Sparks fly almost instantly between these two, as it apparently did when they met in college. A few flashback scenes serve to establish the quick connection between them, as well as explain why nothing more was pursued back in the day. Though the chemistry is hot and heavy between them, it is also the way they work to help each other out that really had me falling for them. Even though the decisions and help don’t always forward the relationship, they were always made with the other person’s best interest at heart.

Alternating points of view makes for a great, grin-inducing read. I loved getting to see both sides of the story as it unfolded and the reasoning behind each character’s actions. Griff’s gruff personality in his own voice made me smile rather than shut down, and even Audrey’s tendency to put herself down made sense when the reasoning behind her self-esteem was explained.

Griffin’s family and his farm hands are fantastic. They are a great, supportive group of people who are quick to laugh, tease, and support those they love. It was fun to watch them quickly fold Audrey and Jude into their circle.

This is the first of a new series from Sarina Bowen, and she has once again out done herself. The bits of humor (and Star Wars references!) were perfectly times and balanced with more serious aspects of the story. These two characters are both struggling with their choices and paths and watching them find each other and their futures was an experience. I am looking forward to more of Jude’s story, his return home, especially after getting to know him a little bit in the background of this book. 
I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.


Steadfast(#2)
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Expected July 12, 2016

Keepsake(#3)
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Expected October 2016

Sarina Bowen
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Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and New Adult fiction from the wilds of Vermont.

Her Ivy Years and Brooklyn Bruisers books are hockey romance novels. These two connected series began breaking hearts in 2014 with The Year We Fell Down. See http://www.sarinabowen.com for updates.

HIM and US are the bestselling, hockey LGBT novels co-written with Elle KennedyHIM is also a finalist for the Romance Writers of America's RITA® Award.

For lovers of angsty snowboarders, Sarina also writes the Gravity series, featuring snow sports heroes.

Sarina enjoys skiing, coffee products and a nice glass of wine. She lives with her family, six chickens and more ski gear and hockey equipment than seems necessary.

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