Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Christie's Review: Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

Title: Bittersweet
Series: True North
Author: Sarina Bowen
Release date: June 14, 2016
Cliffhanger: No
Rating: 3.5 stars


The new series is set in Vermont. True North is populated by the tough, outdoorsy mountain men that populate the Green Mountain State. They raise cows and they grow apples. They chop a lot of wood, especially when they need to blow off steam. (Beards are optional but encouraged.)

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.

I think I may be one of the last bloggers out there to have never read a book by Sarina Bowen. Sad, but true. After hearing the praise for her books for so long, I knew I had to sign up for this first book in her brand new series.

I had to think long and hard about what I would rate this book, I had some conflicted feelings over it. I don't want anyone to be dissuaded from checking this story out based on my final rating. Not that a 3.5 is bad, but it's sometimes viewed as so. I can honestly say that everyone's enthusiasm for Sarina Bowen's writing is well-grounded. I loved certain aspects of this story and I was thoroughly entertained by the humor. When it comes down to it though, the romance felt like it was missing something for me.

Audrey is a talented chef that is bound and determined to finally make a success of her life. After many failures and a lifetime of disappointing her mother, she wants to prove that she has what it takes to excel all on her own without her trust fund or her mother's influence. She dreams of one day owning her own restaurant and working for the unethical restaurant conglomerate is her first stepping stone toward that. Once again, she's on the verge of failure, and in order to save her job, she must go to Vermont and get several farmers' agreement to sell their produce for rock bottom prices.

Griffin is one of those farmers. Former college hook-up, huge, bearded, and grumpy, he's not going to be an easy customer. Not only is he offended at the outrageous price her boss is offering for his products, he's holding some hurt feelings over how they left things in college. Although he had a huge crush on her, he made a major botch of how he approached her back then, and their paths were headed in two separate directions anyway. It was never the right time or place for them.

They had an immediate physical attraction once again and some inconvenient yearnings, but it seemed they were doomed to never have a chance to explore what could be. She lives in Boston, he's the head of the family now and has to keep their farm running successfully into the future. I really loved Griffin. He was a really unique and endearing character. He was loyal and the most hard working hero I've seen. The sacrifices of his personal life and his dream of playing professional football were admirable. I loved his gruff exterior that didn't even remotely conceal his soft heart. He was like a big teddy bear that tried to growl ferociously and didn't quite pull it off.

Audrey was a relatable type of heroine. I imagine there are many women that can identify with having failed at life and wanting to prove that they could move past their mistakes. At least in one point in their lives. She had a difficult childhood with a cold parent whom she had nothing in common with. She never felt understood or supported and that only contributed to her determination to reach her dreams no matter what the cost. I loved her sassiness and her sense of humor, she really had me smiling on so many occasions. There was a scene where Griffin had to butcher a pig and her response to the situation had me laughing out loud. Not only did she not get disgusted, but she jumped right in and helped him.

Marry me, my brain offered up as I gawked at her bloodied hands and bright smile. Note to self-don't cross Audrey again, at least not if there's a well-sharpened chef's knife in the vicinity.

The chemistry between Griffin and Audrey was extremely well done and executed. They're sure to get readers' temperatures rising and hearts racing.

While I was loving the humor and it was keeping me well entertained, I never felt a strong excitement for the H/h in the first half as a couple. Looking back at it and trying to understand why, I think their relationship fell fast into the physical with not enough development into their deeper emotional connection. While they did have some internal dialogue wishing for more, I couldn't help but feel that their (extremely hot) hook-ups followed by falling back into antagonists and friends wasn't totally working for me. Maybe it's my overly romantic heart working overtime, but I could have used more here.

As well, I think Audrey's stubbornness in working for such a vile company not very respectable. (view spoiler)

I absolutely, positively fell in love with this group of secondary characters. Griffin's family was so lovable, and the future of the series was constructed so well with the groundwork of everyone's backstories. I'm most definitely sold on continuing with the rest of the series and seeing what the future holds for all of them. The unique characters and the entertaining humor are sure to be a hit with everyone.


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