Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen

❝ This feels right. We feel right. Whether it’s two years that passed or twenty-two, if I hold you in my arms it will always feel exactly right.❞

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Title: Pipe Dreams
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Berkley

Links: GoodreadsAmazon Barnes & Nobles  

*I received a copy of this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.* 

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads: 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.

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Mini Reviews: Forbidden Love, A Nerdy Hero & A Romance With A Twist

GOODBYE PARADISE by SARINA BOWEN

★★★★


34198964“And then he kissed him. Right on the lips. In front of God and everybody.”

When Sarina Bowen first announced that she was republishing two M/M romances she had previously written under another name, I had two reactions: (1) shock, because I never came across these two books when I was first discovered Sarina Bowen, and (2) excitement, because the Him series is my all-time favorite M/M series so of course I knew I was going to be in for a treat when I started Goodbye Paradise.

Despite its name, growing up in a place called Paradise has been anything but for young Joshua Royce. With no connection to the outside world, the only thing getting him through the past few years is his best friend, Caleb Smith. Josh has had a crush on his best friend for as long as he could remember, but never dared to act on his feelings as he feared what might happen if anyone found out.  But when Caleb suspects that Josh may be thrown out from the cult, he must figure out a way to save his best friend before it’s too late.

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Good Boy by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

“It’s been a long time since anything felt so fucking good. I’m drowning in this girl and I don’t want to be saved.”- Blake, Good Boy

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Title: Good Boy
Author: Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy
Series: WAGs
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Elle Kennedy Inc.

Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Nobles 

Rating: ★★★★½

Synopsis via Goodreads: Hosting her brother’s wedding for an MVP guest list is the challenge of Jess Canning’s life. Already the family screw-up, she can’t afford to fail. And nobody (nobody!) can learn of the colossal mistake she made with the best man during a weak moment last spring. It was wrong, and there will not be a repeat. Absolutely not. Even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs.

Blake Riley sees the wedding as fate’s gift to him. Jess is the maid of honor and he’s the best man? Let the games begin. So what if he’s facing a little (fine, a lot) of resistance? He just needs to convince the stubborn blonde that he’s really a good boy with a bad rap. Luckily, every professional hockey player knows that you’ve got to make an effort if you want to score.

But Jess has more pressing issues to deal with than sexy-times with a giant man-child. Such as: Will the ceremony start on time, even though someone got grandma drunk? Does glitter ever belong at a wedding? And is it wrong to murder the best man?

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Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

“You’re everything that I want, and everything I need. You already have my heart, and I don’t want it back.”- Patrick, Hard Hitter

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Title: Hard Hitter
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Publisher: Berkley

Links: Goodreads | Barnes & Nobles | Book Depository

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Rating: ★★★½

Synopsis via Goodreads: 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…

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Keepsake by Sarina Bowen

“Our kisses went wild, and I lost myself inside my own senses in a way that I hadn’t done in a long time. For this beautiful moment, there was no fear. There were no nightmares, and no darkness hovering over my heart.”- Lark, Keepsake

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Title: Keepsake
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: True North
Publication Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Nobles 

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads: 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.

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Rookie Move by Sarina Bowen

“You and I don’t have one-night stands. We have forever night stands.”- Leo, Rookie Move

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Title: Rookie Move
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Berkley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Rating: ★★★★½

Synopsis via Goodreads: 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….

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The Ivy Years Series by Sarina Bowen

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For the past month, I’ve been a little obsessive over Sarina Bowen’s books. Her simple and sweet romances with relatable characters have just been giving me ALL THE FEELS and after receiving an ARC for her upcoming release, Rookie Move, I cleared my reading schedule so I could binge-read The Ivy Years series.  I READ ALL SIX BOOKS IN FIVE DAYS AND IT WAS ONE OF THE BEST READING WEEKS I’VE HAD IN A WHILE!

Now, it’s time for the reviews and I decided that it would be best to knock these reviews out all at once so I can start Rookie Move. Let’s get started!

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Title: The Year We Fell Down
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years
Publication Date: March 20, 2014
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository 

Rating: ★★★½

Synopsis via Goodreads: The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else.

What now?

She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.

Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league.

Also, he’s taken.

Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.

They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.

But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.

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The Year We Fell Down follows our two MCs, Corey Callahan and Adam Hartley. Corey is a freshman who had dreams of playing college hockey, but after an accident during a game, she is left wheelchair bound. Hartley is a hockey player as well, but after pulling a crazy stunt, he is left with a broken leg and has to sit out this season’s game. Stuck in their rooms with not much to do, these two start spending time together and a budding friendship slowly starts to turn into something more.

Corey and Hartley’s story was a great start to this series. This is the first NA book I’ve read where both our MCs are handicapped so that was a new experience for me. Surprisingly enough, I found myself relating to Corey in a many ways. She such a strong female character who doesn’t let being stuck in a wheelchair keep her from doing things she love. But while she is strong, she does have her moments where she feels insecure, wondering whether or not if people treated her a certain way just because she was handicapped. I have to admit though, I am not much of a fan of Hartley in this book. He’s a fun-loving guy, but he frustrated me so because he was taking too long to make up his mind about Corey. I totally understand  his reasons for why he stayed with in the relationship he was in, but he was only doing more damage than good by staying in that relationship. But don’t worry, Hartley totally redeems himself by the fourth book and he is now one of my faves!

This is a slow-burning romance, like SLOW, so some patience will be required. But I really enjoyed seeing these two finally get together. My only main issue with this book was that it was really short. I needed a few more chapters with these two, just a few! Overall, The Year We Fell Down was a great start to this series and I started the second book immediately after finishing this book.

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Title: The Year We Hid Away21798646
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years
Publication Date: June 1, 2014
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository 

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads: She’s hiding something big. He’s hiding someone small.

Scarlet Crowley’s life was torn apart the day father was arrested for unspeakable crimes. Now the shock has worn off, but not the horror.

It’s a safe bet that Scarlet is the only first year at Harkness College who had to sneak past TV news trucks parked on her front lawn just to leave town. But college will be Scarlet’s fresh start. Clutching a shiny new student ID — with a newly minted name on it — she leaves it all behind. Even if it means lying to the boy she’s falling for.

Bridger McCaulley is a varsity hockey star known for being a player both on and off the ice. But a sobering family crisis takes that all away. Protecting his sister means a precarious living arrangement and constant deception. The only bright spot in his week is the few stolen hours he spends with Scarlet.

The two form a tentative relationship based on the understanding that some things must always be held back. But when grim developments threaten them both, going it alone just won’t work anymore. And if they can’t learn to trust one another now, the families who let them down will take everything they’ve struggled to keep.

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Unlike The Year We Fell Down, which was light and sweet, The Year We Hid Away was a lot heavier and filled with darker themes. Right from the start, the air is filled with suspense as our MC, Scarlet Crowley, sneaks off to college while her parents are out. Her father is accused of committing an heinous crime and she’s finally ready to escape the media and start her life over at Harkness College. There, she meets Bridger McCaulley who has a few secrets of his own. These two start spending more time together and it’s not too long before sparks fly and these two start falling for each other.

The Year We Hid Away IS MY FAVORITE BOOK IN THIS SERIES! I’m such a fan with books dealing with heavier themes and this one is loaded with them, like parental neglect and drug abuse. Both of our MCs come from unstable homes and I think it’s why they were so drawn to each in the first place. I completely love and adore both Scarlet and Bridger. Scarlet is a damn strong character because she puts up with a lot throughout this book. There were times where I worried for her well-being because her parents don’t do much to protect her in the first place and she really didn’t have anyone to turn to when it came to talking about what was going on at home. Bridger is my FAVE! While in the previous installment Bridger was seen as the party animal, in this book he actually has no choice but to get his shit together so he can provide for his little sister. Seeing Bridger step up to the plate and not only be a big brother, but as well as a parent, was so sweet.

There is a bit of a plot twist toward the ending since throughout this whole book. Scarlet is trying to figure out if her father did in fact commit the crimes he is being accused of. I didn’t see things playing out the way they did and I was shocked. The suspense was intense and I totally wasn’t expect that. Overall, I enjoyed this book, a lot more than the first one and I was just hoping that the books just got better and better as I continued with my binge-read.

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Title: Blonde Date
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years
Publication Date: July 6, 2014
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon 

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads: A blind date. A nervous sorority girl. A mean-spirited fraternity prank. What could possibly go wrong?

As a sorority pledge, there are commandments that Katie Vickery must live by. One: thou shalt not show up for the party without a date. Two: the guy shall be an athlete, preferably an upperclassman.

Unfortunately, Katie just broke up with her jerkface football player boyfriend. Even worse, her last encounter with him resulted in utter humiliation. She’d rather hide under the bed than attend a party where he’ll be.

Yet staying home would mean letting him win.

Enjoying herself tonight was out of the question. She could only hope to get through the evening without her blind date noticing that he was spending the evening with a crazy person.

Andrew Baschnagel is living proof that nice guys don’t finish first. He’s had his eye on Katie since the moment her long legs waltzed into his art history class. So when her roommate sets Andy up to be Katie’s date, he’d be crazy to say no. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of practice with either girls or parties. Yet.

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Blonde Date is a short and sweet novella featuring two secondary characters from The Year We Hid Away. Katie Vickery is in need of date for a sorority party and Scarlet offers to set her up with Andrew Baschnagel, who is also friends with Bridger These two could not be more opposites as Katie tends to run with the popular crowd while Andrew is a bit awkward and shy. But according to the laws of attraction, opposites attract and it’s not too long until sparks fly between these two and one date turns into something more.

I gave this novella five stars because I’m not too picky when it comes to novella’s. It’s a short, simple story and I wasn’t too bother by the insta-lust. I admit, I totally misjudged Katie because I initially thought that she only cared about her social status, but there’s more to her than that. But Andrew is a totally sweetheart! He makes Katie feel comfortable in her own skin and helps to shake off her insecurities. Also, some of the chapters are written in stanzas! I LOVE POETRY, so those chapters were my favorite to read. Not much more to say other than I loved this little book.

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Title: The Understatement of the Year22701480
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years
Publication Date: October 15, 2014
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository  

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads: What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexuality from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

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M/M romance is my FAVORITE type of romance, so I was very excited to dive into The Understatement of the Year. This installment is told from dual POVs of Michael Graham and John Rikker. These two were the best of friends, with a side of benefits, when they were younger. But after an act of hate lands Rikker in the hospital, his parents send him off to Vermont and Graham never forgives himself for what happened to Rikker. Fast forward, and Graham is a Harkness hockey player and still in the closet. But he’s about to come face to face with his past when Rikker joins the Harkness team. Old feelings return and Graham will have to decide whether or not he is finally ready to step out of the closet.

I honestly don’t know what it is about M/M romances, but I always cry when I read them. Rikker and Graham’s story was no different. I liked the plot for this book as it touches upon an important topic: the stigmatization of gay athletes in sports. Rikker is kicked off his hockey team when his Coach finds out about his sexual orientation and it causes quite the stir in the hockey community. It seriously sucks that this stigma still exists today because one’s sexual orientation does not affect their ability to play a sport. While Rikker takes on this controversy standing tall, Graham fears what people will say about him and refuses to admit that he is gay, even to himself. It was rough watching Graham go back and forth with himself as he comes to accept his own sexuality. There were times where he pissed me off because Rikker did not deserve to be treated that way, but at the same time, I can see that what he was going through was not easy and he eventually made up for his bad behavior in the end.

The things that pisses me off most about this book was that it broke my 5-star streak for M/M books. I couldn’t give this book 5-stars because it ended rather abruptly. It is the only book in this series without an epilogue and I felt like there were some loose ends that needed tying up. DAMN THIS BOOK FOR BREAKING MY STREAK!

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Title: The Shameless Hour
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years
Publication Date: April 12, 2015
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository 

Rating: ★★½

Synopsis via Goodreads: The girl who’s had everyone meets the boy who has no one.

For Bella, the sweet-talking, free-loving, hip-checking student manager of the Harkness men’s hockey team, sex is a second language. She’s used to being fluent where others stutter, and the things people say behind her back don’t (often) bother her. So she can’t understand why her smoking hot downstairs neighbor has so much trouble staying friends after their spontaneous night together. She knows better than to worry about it, but there’s something in those espresso eyes that makes her second guess herself.

Rafe is appalled with himself for losing his virginity in a drunken hookup. His strict Catholic upbringing always emphasized loving thy neighbor—but not with a bottle of wine and a box of condoms. The result is an Ivy League bout of awkwardness. But when Bella is leveled by a little bad luck and a downright sinister fraternity stunt, it’s Rafe who is there to pick up the pieces.

Bella doesn’t want Rafe’s help, and she’s through with men. Too bad the undeniable spark that crackles between the two of them just can’t be extinguished.

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I was really excited to learn more about Bella because I really loved her upbeat personality in The Understatement of the Year. However, The Shameless Hour was not a hit for me. I felt like it was probably the weakest book in this series, which is such a shame because I was really looking forward to Bella’s story. In this installment we meet Bella and Rafe. They’re nothing more than just dorm neighbors until one night filled with heartbreak that ends with these two hooking up. The awkward tension starts to build between them, but when Bella becomes the victim of a fraternity prank, Rafe helps to put her back together again and slowly these two start falling for each other.

The Shameless Hour had a lot of potential to be a great book, but it was just very basic. Considering what Bella goes through, I was expecting this book to be an emotional one, but I didn’t feel any emotions whatsoever while reading this book. First off, I couldn’t connect with the characters. Quite frankly, I found both of their personalities to be dull, especially Rafe’s. Honestly, he’s a bit of a pushover and he takes a lot of things sitting down and tends to avoid dealing with them until he has no choice.  I couldn’t buy the romance either because I didn’t feel the connection between these characters. I thought that they were great as friends and Rafe was a shoulder to lean on when Bella was dealing with being the aftermath of the fraternity stunt, but the romance is rushed at the end. WHERE WAS THE SLOW-BURN

I did like the fact that this book included diversity, with Rafe being Dominican. I really enjoyed seeing Rafe with his large family and I also liked how his Catholic faith played a role when it came to him making certain decisions. There is also an asexual character, although I wish that would’ve been explored more. Overall, The Shameless Hour was just lacking pretty much everywhere and I was so disappointed with this book.

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Title: The Fifteenth Minute26720038
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years
Publication Date: October 13, 2015
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository 

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads: Freshman Lianne Challice is known to millions of fans as Princess Vindi. But sometimes a silver screen sorceress just wants to hang up her wand, tell her manager to shove it, and become a normal college student. Too bad that’s harder than it looks.

She’s never lived a normal life. She hasn’t been to school since kindergarten. And getting close to anyone is just too risky — the last boy she kissed sold the story to a British tabloid.

But she can’t resist trying to get close to Daniel “DJ” Trevi, the hot, broody guy who spins tunes for hockey games in the arena. Something’s haunting his dark eyes, and she needs to know more.

DJ’s genius is for expressing the mood of the crowd with a ten second song snippet. With just a click and a fade, he can spread hope, pathos or elation among six thousand screaming fans.

Too bad his college career is about to experience the same quick fade-out as one of his songs. He can’t get close to Lianne, and he can’t tell her why. And the fact that she seems to like him at all? Incredible.

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Despite the mess that was The Shameless Hour, the final installment in The Ivy Years series manage to redeem this series in the end. In The Fifteenth Minute, we follow our two MCs, Lianne and Daniel. Lianne is famous actress who is looking for some sense of normalcy as she starts her freshman year of college. She spends most of her time locked in her dorm battling dragons and trolls until her roommate, Bella, convinces her to join her for a night of fun. There she meets Daniel, a DJ who knows how to get the crowd going and she develops a crush. But DJ is keeping something from her, something that will either make or break this relationship.

Lianne and Daniel are probably my second favorite couple in this series. I love the development of their relationship and the fact that music brought these two together. Lianne took me by surprise because I wasn’t too sure if I was going to like her or not. She’s a bit standoffish when we first met her in The Shameless Hour, but she has a nerdy side to her which I love. Her internal dialogue was one of the best because it was filled with gaming phrases and I am still saying “achievement unlocked” anytime I finish a task. I also loved Daniel because he’s a DJ and I love a guy with good taste in music. But in all seriousness, I liked the fact that he treated Lianne like an actual person and saw her for being more than just a celebrity.

The plot for this book was a not one that I have read before as in this book, our male MC is being accused of a crime and no one is giving him the benefit of the doubt. At one point, Daniel doesn’t even trust his own self and his own judgement and it is why he pushes Lianne away. It was all about him learning to trust again and this is probably the first time where I’ve read a book where the male MC is the victim and that was interesting to see. I also liked how the romance was woven throughout this story as nothing was rushed and these two took their time to get to know each other. The Fifteenth Minute was a solid ending to a great series and I was so sad when it ended because I didn’t want to say goodbye. I am going to miss these characters SO MUCH

I would definitely recommend picking up The Ivy Years series for those who are a fan of sport romances without the drama. I would also recommend this series to those who are looking to get their feet wet with the NA genre. This is a great series to start with because the characters are relatable and the writing is smooth and realistic. Now that I’ve completed The Ivy Years series, I am so excited to start the spin-off series, Brooklyn Bruisers. Finally a romance set in my neck of the woods. TIME TO FANGIRL!

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Steadfast by Sarina Bowen

“An addiction is when you can’t keep away from something that’s bad for you. Maybe Jude was a drug addict, but I was a Jude addict.”- Sophie, Steadfast

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Title: Steadfast
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: True North
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads: 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 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.

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It’s been three and a half years since Jude Nickel last stepped foot in the small town of Colebury, Vermont. Three and a half years since one fatal night that took a life and put him behind bars. Now finally out of prison, Jude is hoping to move on from the past. But starting over is not so easy when you can’t get a job, especially when you’re an ex-con with a drug addiction. He goes back to working at his father’s auto shop to get himself back on his feet. Everything seems to be going smoothly, that is until Jude runs into the last person he ever expected to see again, Sophie Haines, the only girl he’s ever loved. But Jude knows that he can’t ever go there again with Sophie, not after all the damage that he has caused. But forbidden love may prove to be harder to resist than any drug on the market.

In just a short amount of time, Sarina Bowen has managed to climb her way onto my FAVORITE AUTHORS LIST with her sweet and simple romances that just give me ALL THE FEELS! I completely adored Bittersweet, the first installment in the True North series, and I had high expectations for the sequel. Once again, Bowen has exceeded my expectations and I have fallen in love with yet another one of her books. Steadfast is a second-chance romance about forgiveness and rekindling of old flames. This book is a lot different than Bittersweet because it’s a lot darker since it deals with serious topics like drug abuse, family abuse, and depression. As a reader, I tend to be drawn to books with darker subject matter and I think that is why I loved this book even more than the previous installment. I really enjoyed the story of Jude and Sophie and watching as things fell apart and then come together again to make something new. It’s a slow start for these two and with each passing chapter, the tension builds and it leads to one hell of a finale. It was not easy reading the story of Jude and Sophie, but I loved watching as they overcame obstacles and found their way back to each other.

Jude Nickel is a redeemable bad boy after my own heart. I loved his character from the moment we were introduced to him in Bittersweet and my love for him has grown even more after reading Steadfast. He struggles a lot throughout this book, trying to stay out of trouble and overcome his addiction and even though some days are harder than others, he is determined to stay on the straight and narrow path. Sophie was a great match for him because not only is she a social worker, she is the only person that knows Jude best and if anyone was going to help him get his life together it would be her. I got to admit, Sophie did not react the way I had expected her to when she first saw Jude again. I thought that she would hold a grudge against Jude for ruining her family, but she doesn’t. She is such a STRONG, SELFLESS, CARING character who puts up with a lot throughout this book, especially with the shit her father pulls. The scenes with Sophie and her father were always the hardest for me to read because I was so scared for her well-being. I don’t think I could’ve handle it if anything happened to her.

Then there was the romance. The sweet, slow, heartbreaking romance that caused me physical pain. There was no “falling-in-love-again” because these two never fell out of love with each other, but finding their way back to each other was not easy. There are many obstacles, and people, that keep these two apart. But DAMN, I was fighting so hard for these two to overcome those obstacles and end up together. These two deserved a happily-ever-after considering everything they’ve been through.

Steadfast was a heartbreaking second-chance romance that stole my heart. Once again, another Sarina Bowen book has been added to my favorites lists. I am both excited and a little sad for the release of Keepsake, the final installment in the True North series. I don’t want this series to come to an end, but I can’t wait to see who Zach gets paired up with. If you haven’t met these North Eastern boys yet, YOU ARE MISSING OUT! GO READ THESE BOOKS ASAP!

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Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

“She and I were a dangerous combination. We needed cautionary signs like the ones hanging in the tractor shed over the cans of diesel fuel. WARNING: COMBUSTIBLE.”- Griff, Bittersweet

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Title: Bittersweet
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: True North
Publication Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis via Goodreads: 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.

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After an incident at a restaurant almost lands her an unemployment slip, Audrey Kidder heads up to Vermont in hopes of redeeming herself and landing her bosses a few new accounts. But her plans get sidetracked when she runs into an old flame, Griffin Shipley. The spark is once again reignited between the two and Audrey finds herself falling fast for the local cider maker. But when distance starts to put a damper on their relationship, Audrey must decide if she’s willing to give Griff and her a second shot, or let the old flame die out once again.

Although I’ve read both Him and Us, two books co-written by Sarina Bowen, Bittersweet is the first book I’ve ever read written by Bowen alone so I am marking this as MY FIRST EVER book I’ve read written by Bowen. And honestly, Bowen has landed herself on my FAVORITE AUTHORS list! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where I had a full-on, teeth-showing grin plastered on my face as I did for this one.

BASICALLY ME THE WHOLE TIME

The first thing I fell in love with was the book’s setting. I’m such a sucker for books set in small town and I lucked out big time because majority of this book takes place on a farm. Bowen does an AMAZING job and providing a descriptive image of all that Vermont has to offer. From the lush apple orchards, to the sunsets over the mountain’s peaks I felt like I was right in the middle of nature. I seriously want to take a trip up to Vermont myself so I can experience this first hand. TAKE THIS CITY GIRL AND TURN HER INTO A COUNTRY GAL!

The second thing I loved about this book were the secondary characters. OMG, can the Shipley family please adopt me because I want to be a part of this family so bad! The Shipley family plays a major role throughout this book as they are a close bunch who always puts the family’s needs before their own. There are a number of scenes with them gathered around a meal and helping out in the kitchen. We also have a few characters who are not related by blood, but the Shipley family makes sure that they too feel LIKE they are family. All the family time just warmed my heart and I can’t wait to see more of them in the upcoming installments.

I really liked our two MCs for this book. Both Audrey and Griff are career-driven individuals who have always worked hard to reach their goals. Audrey wants to be a chef and open her own restaurant and despite the hurdles that life has thrown at her, she still keeps at it. She is determined to make it on her own and prove her doubtful mother wrong. Gosh, I love a MC with ambitious drives.

And of course, we have our grumpy farmer, Griff. I never thought that grumpy farmers would make me swoon, but GODDAMN, Griff is one of the MOST SWOON WORTHY guys I’ve ever met!

He may look like mean gruff, but he’s really a big softie underneath the scruffy heard. He sacrificed a lot in order to keep his family farm from going under water and his dream is to one day be known for his famous cider. His dream is what actually brings these two together and once again lights the fire between these two.

Speaking of fire, the third thing I loved about this book was how (for the most part) smooth sailing the romance was. This was the first book I’ve ever read where there weren’t over-dramatic excuses about why two people couldn’t be together. These two just came together and realized that being together was what they wanted and as for the rest of it, they would figure all that out on the way. It was simple, it was sweet, IT WAS SO DAMN HOT

Bittersweet has to be HANDS-DOWN one of the MOST SWEETEST romances I’ve ever read! I loved it to bits and I think this may be one of my new favorite series. Jude’s story is the next installment in this series and I have a feeling his may be my favorite. A second chance romance that has a bad boy with a track record, YES PLEASE! Now if you will excuse me, this girl is going to load up her car and head up to Vermont to find herself her own grumpy farmer 😉 !

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Us by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

“It’s us. And it’s perfect.”- Ryan, Us

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Title: Us
Author: Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy
Series: Him
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Synopsis via Goodreads: Can your favorite hockey players finish their first season together undefeated?

Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He’s living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves—Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There’s just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice. 

Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It’s not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn’t help that his new job isn’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves. 

Or can they? 

When Wes’s nosiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly? 

Warning: contains sexual situations, a vibrating chair, long-distance sexytimes and proof that hockey players look hot in any shade of green.

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Us is the second installment in the Him series and it is the continuation of Ryan and Jamie’s story. Ryan and Jamie are currently living in Toronto and things seem to be going well, for the most part. Ryan is making a name for himself in the NHL, scoring goals left and right, while Jamie is adjusting to life off the ice with his new coaching position. These two have come a long way, but it’s not too long until there is trouble in paradise. Ryan is keeping his relationship with Jamie under wraps, hoping to avoid the media and the frenzy that will arise once people find out that he is gay hockey player. Ryan promises Jamie that once the season is over, they will no longer have to hide from the outside world. The only problem: trying to make it through the season in the first place.

“Love is friendship set in fire.”

The second installment in the Him series was even better than the first and I have completely fallen head over heels for Jamie and Ryan’s story. I love them to bits and I can’t get enough. Who knew I needed more M/M hockey romances in my life?!

While Him was about falling in love, Us was about fighting for love. Fighting to stay together. Fighting for acceptance. Fighting for a chance at a happily ever after. There are a number of conflicts that arise within Jamie and Ryan’s relationship and they try their best to overcome them together. One of the first major issue is with secrecy and the fact that Ryan does not want to publicly come out of the closet just yet. He wants to be known for his talented skills on the ice and not for being the first gay hockey player in the NHL. While Jamie agrees to go along with the plan, it is not long until he gets cabin fever and grows tired of being Ryan’s secret. I liked the fact that the stigma of being gay and an athlete was tackled in this book because it sucks in the first place that there is STILL a stigma! There was also the issue of using gay slurs as ‘motivation’ and that was tackled as well showing that this type of behavior is actually harmful, even if that was not one’s intention in the first place. WELL DONE on the LGBT front!

Our characters, Jamie and Ryan, also have their own personal issues that they are both trying to deal with. Jamie is not happy with his current job situation and it leads to him becoming depressed and angry, lashing out at Ryan and causing a rift in their relationship. Ryan is also coming to terms with the fact that his parents will never accept his sexual identity and him cutting ties with them. All these issues put a strain on Jamie and Ryan’s relationship as a whole and while in the previous book the romance was more fluffy and sweet, here there was more of a serious tone and it was heartbreaking. ICEBERGS WERE COMING OUT OF NOWHERE THREATENING THE STABILITY OF MY SHIP! WHY?!

“But in the back of my mind, I’m wondering where I belong. Or rather, where I’ll end up. Wes is my home. He’s my heart. But he can’t be my everything.”

Now onto the more happier things, SECONDARY CHARACTERS. Secondary characters played an important role in this book, the first one being Blake, who I had a love/hate relationship. I wanted to stab in during the first half of the book because he was ALWAYS getting in the way and showing up at the worst times. But he ended up surprising me and I grew to like him. He accepted Jamie and Ryan relationships, no question asked and became the honorary third wheel. I also NEED Blake and Jess’s book ASAP!!! Those two make an interesting pair and I can’t wait to see how things turn out for them.

We also have the Canning Clan, my FAVORITE FAMILY EVER! I LOVED Jamie’s mom and the fact that she took Ryan in as her own. When Ryan called her ‘Mom’, I DIED INSIDE. It just goes to show that family does not always need to be blood related.

“But I chose happiness over other people’s skewed opinions and cruel judgments. I chose Wes.”

I really can’t RAVE about this book enough and my streak of 5 star M/M romances is still GOING STRONG! I am ready for wedding bells. Get ready to pop lots of champagne because this is going to be one hell of a wedding!

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