If I may take a 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 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, 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. 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.