Release Reviews: Bountiful: Sarina Bowen

by - Friday, October 20, 2017

Bountiful (True North #4)
Sarina Bowen
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Release Date October 20, 2017

No last names. No life stories. Those were the rules.

Once upon a time a cocky, copper-haired tourist sauntered into Zara’s bar. And even though she knew better, Zara indulged in a cure for the small-town blues. It was supposed to be an uncomplicated fling—a few sizzling weeks before he went back to his life, and she moved on. 

Until an accidental pregnancy changed her life. 

Two years later, she’s made peace with the notion that Dave No-Last-Name will never be found. Until one summer day when he walks into her coffee shop, leveling her with the same hot smile that always renders her defenseless.

Dave Beringer has never forgotten the intense month he spent with prickly Zara. Their nights together were the first true intimacy he’d ever experienced. But the discovery of his child is the shock of a lifetime, and his ugly past puts relationships and family out of reach.

Or does it? Vermont’s countryside has a way of nurturing even tortured souls. The fields and the orchards—and hard won love—are Bountiful.

We have been waiting to learn more about the private Zara, especially the identity of her mystery baby-daddy. In my mind I had fingered one of Griffin's cousins, but oh what a delightful revelation that it really is a redheaded out-of-towner from in Brooklyn Bruisers! Hello, ingenious series cross over! With that being said, you can read this book as a stand alone, but fans of both series will see some familiar names and faces.

Zara was running her uncle's bar, The Mountain Goat, when Dave Beringer strolled in. He was in Vermont for two months on vacation with teammates and was attracted to Zara. They ended up sharing a life changing tryst, but not too much of their personal history. And then it was over. 

But it changed Zara's life in both scary and good ways. Two years later, her life is totally different when her ex-lover strolls back in to her life. And he has no idea how it is about to change his. 

I really liked spirited and sassy Zara. She was kind of a mess in the past, as she was a bit heartbroken, lost, guarded, pickly, and was lacking direction. And she is now more settled, responsible, and more open. Dave was funny, sexy, and bossy in the past. He had it all together with a single minded focus on his hockey career and was not looking for a real relationship or any kind of future. But in the present his life is in a bit more of a precarious spot and he is also about to find out some information that will totally send him spinning. 

Their histories have influenced how they look at relationships. And time and circumstances have changed them and provided opportunities for growth. It is hard to trust in themselves and the other. Dave especially never expected to be in the position he finds himself in. And they have more people interested in the outcome than just themselves. They have families and friends nosing into their business and pushing them. Their lives are built in different places. And they have to figure out the best way to take care of what matters most. It's about priorities, trust, home, family, and believing in yourself and someone else. 

I was already interested in Zara's story after getting teasers in other books. I enjoyed being back Tuxbury, Vermont and spending time with all of our old friends and also the cameos of some Brooklyn friends. The familiarity made it a comfy read that was easy to get lost in with her storytelling. But this one was not quite as emotional and challenging as some of the other books. It deals more with real life situations, parenting, and responsibilities, but also has some steam and swoon.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 
Zara thought she and Dave were having no strings fun. And they were. They did. Until he left town at the end of the summer but left something neither had planned for behind. She picks up, changes her plans, and moves along with her knew path, making that unexpected baby the center of her whole world.

Two years later he returns with memories of that summer in his head and is shocked to find he has a child. Children and a family were not on his radar after the nightmare of a childhood he survived. But now that he knows the possibility is there, he questions everything he thought about his future.

I love that Zara is so independent. She looked for Dave, but didn’t pin her hopes on tracking him down and when she couldn’t find him, she changed her direction to fit the new path her life would follow. She is a problem solver and at her heart, a fiercely independent, strong woman. Though she knows she can rely on her family for help (and does) she wishes she could do things on her own.

I loved watching these two during their carefree summer, and again in the present as they work through the landmines that happen when a surprise baby arrives. I had to laugh as Dave steps over his own feet so many times, making things between him and Zara so much more difficult than they needed to be simply because he was walking brand new territory.

This was such fun to read both as a continuation of the True North series and a bit of a spin off from the Brooklyn Bruisers series. I loved seeing Leo Trevi and other Brooklyn Bruisers teammates as they take turns vacationing with Dave in Vermont. Dave’s sister was also a hoot, as her reaction to learning of Nicole’s existence was such a 180 from Dave’s.

I sped through this book with a grin on my face. Every moment was entertaining, both watching Zara be strong on her own and let someone else shoulder her burdens. I always knew her story would be a good one, especially when she refused to name the father of her baby. She is a feisty one, and her story fit her to a T. I love returning to Sarina’s Vermont, especially when these releases fall during Autumn, and Bittersweet continues the True North tradition wonderfully.

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

Some sixteen months and two additional books since first meeting (and getting intrigued by) the plucky, prickly, and dauntless bartender/manager and ex-hookup of one of the main characters in Bittersweet, the first novel in Sarina Bowen’s True North series, the fourth book in the series, Bountiful, finally tells this woman’s story. Not only does this installment live up to all the great storytelling and character development I’ve grown to expect from this author, it builds upon my favorite setting found within any of her series in such a way that there’s no reason for me to believe there won’t be more stories to come.

Before I get further in my review of Bountiful, it is worth pointing out that even though Zara’s story has been touched on throughout the first three books of the series, no prior experience with the series is necessary in order to enjoy this novel, because all of the important parts are told again here, this time directly from her perspective. The set-up details a summer fling she has with an out-of-town patron of the bar, one that, by design, is meant to be no-strings and no-personal-details fun with an incredibly hot man. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned when it comes to these sorts of happenings in Romancelandia. Sure, Zara has a good time with Dave and realizes just how well they fit together, but she refuses to follow in the footsteps of her mother, pining after a man who’s unavailable—after all, Dave lives in Brooklyn and is only in Vermont on vacation. When the time comes for the fling to end, they part amicably, though it isn’t without longing for what might have been. It’s time to keep the good memories and move on, but it isn’t long before Zara discovers Dave left more than just memories behind. She’s pregnant. And though she makes as much of an effort as she can to find Dave to let him know, “Dave in Brooklyn” isn’t enough of a lead.

Of course, the reader knows who Dave is from the start because the story is told from both characters’ perspectives, and fans of this author’s other works will quickly figure out that the hockey player “Dave in Brooklyn” ties directly into another of her series, the Brooklyn Bruisers series. Two years after their initial encounter, Dave returns during his off-season hoping to remind himself of everything he enjoyed about Vermont, including Zara. The fact that he hasn’t been able to get her out of his mind for such a long time is unusual for him because his awful childhood experiences put him in a mental place where one-and-done is all he usually goes for when it comes to relationships. And there’s no way he could ever be a family man. Guess who’s in for a shock to start his vacation?

As has always been the case in my experiences with reading Sarina Bowen’s books—I’m well into the double digits now—Bountiful contains an interesting and heartfelt story that’s told in her nearly flawless and seemingly effortless style. I must admit that this is the first romance I’ve read that has involved an unplanned pregnancy (there just aren’t that many cases of getting knocked up to be found in gay romances… duh), and in retrospect, there are so many ways I can imagine this trope being unpalatable to me. In this case, for one, it would have driven me crazy if being a single mother had been too much for Zara to handle, simply because it would have contradicted everything about her character. Fortunately, that isn’t the case. Zara’s independence and perseverance are her foundation, and though she has a good support system within her family, it’s her tenacity that makes it work.

It’s also true that I didn’t quite feel the romance as much in Bountiful as I did in other books in this series. The characters and their emotions are believable enough, but, as in real life, the bulk of the story revolves around the toddler. Dave and Zara’s chemistry continues to be readily apparent, but because of the baby and Zara’s work schedule, not to mention a few miscues between them, particularly by Dave in trying to rekindle the heat they had before, it’s a long time before they get over the hurdles. That certainly does not mean this isn’t a satisfying story. It’s just not as much a romance as it might have been. That being said, the plethora of scenes involving Mr. Clueless Hockey Hottie interacting with the baby certainly had that wonderful “aww” factor. In fact, I was a little concerned that my nonexistent ovaries had been awakened at one point while reading. *grin*

Even though I believe those who are unfamiliar with the works of this author would still find Bountiful to be an enjoyable read, I’m not certain that this book is the best place for such a reader to be introduced to this author’s spectacular storytelling. For the well-initiated, there are a lot of cameos and “Easter eggs” to be found within this novel’s pages, and they aren’t just characters from this series, or course, considering Dave’s backstory. While these other characters do not play hugely significant roles, there are a lot of names to be found, a fact that might cause a new reader to try needlessly to keep them in mind. Of course, there’s a simple solution: read all the books in order. They’re certainly all worth the time.

And speaking of time, while the first three books in this series focused on members of a particular family found within this lush and rich setting the author has developed, Zara doesn’t belong to this family, so developing her character and bringing her family into the setting makes it all the more enjoyable. There really is potential for several more stories to come in this universe, possibly from either family. And if she chooses to continue, I will eagerly read them. Perhaps that fact is one of the extra meanings the author had when calling this novel Bountiful?

The author generously provided me a complimentary copy of Bountiful in exchange for this fair and honest review.
Bittersweet (True North #1)
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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.

Steadfast (True North #2)
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She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.

Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there's no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere.

For Sophie Haines, coming face to face with the man who broke her heart is gut-wrenching. Suddenly, he’s everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never turn up to volunteer in the church kitchen.

She knows it’s foolish to yearn for the man who returned all the heartsick letters she wrote him in prison. But the looks he sends her now speak volumes.

No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie's police chief father. But it's a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself.

Keepsake (True North #3)
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There's a first time for everything.

Lark Wainwright used to be fearless. Her life was a series of adventures, each one more exhilarating than the last. But her recent overseas adventure was one too many. Now she’s home and in one piece. Mostly. But her nights are filled with terror.

When her best friend offers her a stay at the orchard in exchange for help at the farmers’ markets, Lark jumps at the chance to spend fall in Vermont. But her nightmares don’t stop. Desperate to keep her fragile state a secret, she relies on the most soft-spoken resident of the Shipley Farm to soothe her when her dreams prove too much.

Zachariah is a survivor, too. It’s been four years since he was tossed aside by the polygamist cult where he grew up. He’s found a peaceful existence on the Shipley’s farm, picking apples and fixing machinery. But getting thrown away by your own people at nineteen leaves a mark on a guy. He doesn’t always know what to make of a world where movie quotes are the primary means of communication. Before hitchhiking to Vermont, he’d never watched TV or spoken on the phone.

Actually, there are a lot of things he’s never done.

Zach and Lark slowly grow to trust one another. One night they become even closer than they’d planned. But Lark may still be too broken to trust anyone. When she pushes Zach away, he will have to prove to himself that he's good for much more than farm labor.

This is also crosses over with the Brooklyn Bruisers hockey series. 

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Our reviews

The first novel in a sexy new series featuring the hockey players of the Brooklyn Bruisers and the women who win their hearts—from the USA Today bestselling author of the Ivy Years series.

In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold...

Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington.

Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast...

Hard Hitter  (Brooklyn Bruisers #2)
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He’s a fighter in the rink, but he’s about to learn that playing nice can help you score... 

As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O'Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O'Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team’s massage therapist.

After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she’s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers’ MVP. O'Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O'Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good... 

Pipe Dreams  (Brooklyn Bruisers #3)
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Our  reviews

A goalie has to trust his instincts, even when taking a shot to the heart…

Mike Beacon is a champion at defending the net, but off the ice, he’s not so lucky. A widower and a single father, he’s never forgotten Lauren Williams, the ex who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers office during the playoffs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right.

Lauren hates that she’s forced to travel with the team she used to work for and the man who broke her heart. There’s still undeniable sexual tension running between her and Mike, but she won’t go down that road again. She’s focused on her plans for the future—she doesn’t need a man to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie. When the field of play moves to Florida, things heat up on the beach.

One of Mike’s biggest fans doesn’t approve—his teenage daughter. But a true competitor knows not to waste the perfect shot at love. 
Sarina Bowen

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 for updates.

With Elle Kennedy, Sarina is the author of the RITA®-award-winning Him, and its sequel, Us.

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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