Blog Tour: Roommate: Sarina Bowen

by - Wednesday, January 13, 2021


Wanted: One roommate to share a 3-bedroom house, split the rent, and ideally not be the guy I can’t stop thinking about.

I’m a man with too many secrets, so the last thing I need is a new roommate with a sexy smile and blue eyes that see right through me. Eight years ago, Roderick left town after high school. We’re not friends. I owe him nothing. But back then, I let one of my secrets slip, and he’s the only one who noticed.

Part of me knows I should run far, far away. But the other part wants him to come upstairs and spend the night. But if I let him in, I could lose everything.

Seeking: a room to rent in town. I’m tidy, have no pets, and I will feed you homemade bread.

I should probably add: Gay AF, and has no filter. It’s no wonder my new landlord is so wary of me.

A smarter man would ignore those hot glances from Kieran Shipley. The broody lumberjack wants more from me than another fresh-baked pretzel. But if I push my luck, I’ll end up back on the street.
Too bad I’ve never been smart with my heart…

I was so excited when I heard Sarina Bowen was not only doing another M/M book, but that it is also set in the True North world! And it did not disappoint!

Roderick Waites is leaving a bad situation in Nashville and returning home...well to Colebury, Vermont where he last attended high school and where his parents still live. Unfortunately, the homecoming is not what he hoped and he is strapped for money, a job, and a place to stay.

Kieran Shipley is a quiet, broody, big, burly guy from a farming family. There are positives and negatives that come along with his large family, and his home is full of tension. He flies under the radar and only tells his truths on a need-to-know basis. He has some personal dreams of his own he wants to achieve, and one of them is moving out on his own. 

Roddy is gay and does not hide it. He is unfiltered, impulsive, and alone. Kieran is confused about himself, but afraid to talk about it. There were a few "incidents" in high school that put them in each other's sights and might still have repercussions now. But they are going to have to find a way to deal with being around each other...even more so than originally expected.

The sexual tension between these two is palpable. There are reasons not to get involved, but the temptation is just too much for them to take. Their dynamics are changing from cautious acquaintances, to roommates, to friends, to lovers. It is not a smooth path and at times they have to step back and look at their issues.

Roddy and Kieran's lives are both kind of in limbo. Roddy is lost, alone, and starting over. He has been forced into hiding too long in the past, so it is a trigger for him. But he is so sweet with teaching Kieran and helps bring him out of his shell. Kieran is a nice guy who just wants to help everyone, but sometimes it is to his own detriment. This is a lot about his journey of figuring out what he wants to do with his life and being true to himself. But he does not like rocking the boat and being the center of attention, and is fearful of the consequences of his secrets. So no matter how much they like each other, their issues are in direct conflict at times. 

This is a heartfelt, sexy, small-town M/M love story where both characters have some secrets and personal problems. Roddy and Kieran are just so wonderful together and balance each other out. I loved their honesty and vulnerability with each other even when the outside world was uncertain. There is just enough angst and drama to add some interest, but it is also fun and heartwarming. It brings back so many characters from the True North series and makes you feel like you are hanging out at home with friends but can also be read as a stand-alone. I am looking forward to the Vinos and Veritas LGBT+ stories and some of the other new books in the True North world. 
Roderick Waites doesn’t have a whole lot of options coming out of a toxic relationship. Returning home wasn’t high on his list of things to do, but without a lot of resources he hopes that returning to Colebury, Vermont to his parents home will give him a bit of time to get back on his feet. That reunion doesn’t go in his favor and he finds himself living out of his car hoping for something to go his way.

Kieran Shipley is reserved, a little closed off, and trying to deal with the pressures that come from living in a large farm family. The farm isn’t his future, but he finds himself being called on for more than his share of the chores, despite working 2 other jobs. He knows he needs to move out and take some steps towards his dreams, but isn’t sure how to make sure his family is covered if he isn’t right there to step in. 

These two find themselves working together at the Busy Bean, which wouldn’t be remarkable except that they have a bit of a clandestine history - a history that Kieran doesn’t know how to handle, or even what he thinks about the interactions (or lack of interaction) they had in high school. When they also become roommates, they have to deal with the past as well as figure out how to live together -- will they maintain the fragile friendship they have built, or will the tension between them transform into something more? 

This is a great story about reaching out, coming out, and discovering what is important. I loved the way Roddy and Kieran challenged and balanced each other. There is a little bit of opposites attract here. Kieran is quiet, a little broody, and unsure of himself, where Roddy is boisterous, social, and proud to be openly gay. Roddy isn’t a fan of living in the closet, but he also understands the reasons Kieran is hesitant to test the waters with him, and then to come out to his family. Though it would seem from this description that Kieran is the only one here with baggage, Roddy has his own set of issues he is dealing with. The emotional depth of this story is perfect -- each character has their own hangups with the relationship, and they will have to work through them all in order to be happy. 

Make sure you have plenty of baked goods at hand to read this book, because Roddy’s pretzels, bagels, and other treats will have you craving bakery goods. I love returning to Colebury and the Shipley clan. Though the Shipley family is familiar to Sarina’s readers, this is a different branch with slightly different expectations. This book stands alone completely, though some favorite characters are involved in the storyline. Grandpa Shipley has some golden moments in this story, and his guidance makes it clear where the Shipleys stand on life.

Back at home, I do all the chores and then some. 

First I put the cows in the north pasture. Moving cows is easy enough in good weather. It only requires me to move the portable fence and wave them through the opening. “Go on, enjoy,” I say as they file past me eagerly. Our herd is grass fed, and they don’t need to be asked twice. The long, seedy grass and corn stalks I’m offering are like a recently freshened, all-you-can-eat buffet.

Let’s face it—the cows are easier to handle than any of my family members. They go where they’re needed, no questions asked. But my dog—Rexie—gives the cows a nice loud woof just to pretend he’s working hard. 

After the cow parade, I close up the fence and turn the electricity on. After that, I spend forty-five minutes raking cow shit out of the lower farmyard in the dark. 

It’s boring drudge work, and my mind starts to wander. And, fuck, it wanders right to Roderick Waites—the guy who climbed out of a blue Volkswagen and right back into my brain.

I wish I could say I haven’t thought about him since high school, but that would be a lie. And if I were a more spiritual person, I’d probably interpret Roderick’s reappearance in town as a sign. A wakeup call.

Nobody knows all the tangled things in my brain, but for a split second when I was a teenager, Roderick came close to learning one of my biggest secrets. 

The first time I saw him on his knees in front of another guy, it was an accident. 

It was autumn then, too. I’d been at a high school football game. It was chilly that night and, last second before leaving for the game, I’d grabbed my dad’s jacket from the hook by the door. After shoving my hands into the pockets while standing on the windy sidelines, I’d found a flask of whiskey. My father must have last worn the jacket when he was sitting out in the deer blind with his pals. Bonus. 

But, of course, I’d had to sneak around to find a place to take a taste. 

Leaving the crowd and the game, I ducked inside the door to the school’s gym. Under the cover of the bleachers, I drew out my dad’s flask, and unscrewed the top. Just as I raised it to my lips, I froze at the sound of whispered voices. Whoever was speaking had entered the gym at the other end of the bleachers. 

Their shadowy figures weren’t easily visible. But I guessed it was a couple looking for a little privacy for a make-out session. And since a couple sneaking off together wasn’t a threat to me, I stood my ground. 

I took a swallow of my father’s hooch. My first sip wasn’t life-changing—it burned going down and made my eyes water—it’s what happened next that changed everything. 

After screwing the lid on the flask and pocketing it, I ducked out of the gym and into the hallway. Feeling nosy, I walked toward the gym’s other entrance, noiseless in my Nikes. When I reached the door, I eased into a position that allowed me to spy on the couple I’d heard whispering to each other. They were silent now, and I wanted to know why. 

When I saw who it was, I swear my heart almost stopped. A varsity soccer player—Jared Harvey—stood beneath the bleachers, bracing his hands on a tread overhead. Roderick Waites knelt in front of him, unzipping Jared’s jeans. 

You can bet I didn’t even blink for the next five minutes…

Sarina Bowen
Sarina Bowen is the RITA® Award winning author of over thirty contemporary novels. She most recently hit the USA Today bestseller's list in January, with Overnight Sensation. Formerly a derivatives trader on Wall Street, Sarina holds a BA in economics from Yale University.

Sarina Bowen is a New Englander whose Vermont ancestors cut timber and farmed the north country since the 1760s. Sarina is grateful for the invention of indoor plumbing and wi-fi during the intervening 250 years. On a few wooded acres, she lives with her husband, two boys, and an ungodly amount of ski and hockey gear.

Sarina's books are published in a dozen languages on four continents. In 2016, The Romance Writers of America honored HIM by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy with a RITA award for Best Contemporary Romance, Mid-Length.

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