Steadfast (True North #2) by Sarina Bowen

Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer, Seraphine Valentine
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, 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.
Steadfast Book Cover Steadfast
True North #2
Sarina Bowen
Contemporary Romance
Rennie Road Books
July 12, 2016
audibook; e-book

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.

Sophie Haines is stunned by his reappearance. After a three year absence, the man who killed her brother and broke her heart is suddenly 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 volunteer in the church kitchen.

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.

I really enjoyed this sequel. This author definitely puts some thought and research into this book because I felt like I gain a new perspective into the struggles of a recovering addict. I really empathized with Oliver and how every day his thirst for a fix was rated. Wow, my heart went out to both Jude and Sophie.

Jude Nickel’s seasonal employment at the Shipley farm was over and he was forced to return home to Colebury, a town he had been avoiding since he was released from prison and his drug rehab program. There were a lot of painful issues from his father to the loss of the only woman he has ever loved. I was on pins and needles since the relapse rate for recovering opiate addicts released from jail can be as high as 80%. But Jude was determined and with some luck along with the Shipley Clan, Jude was able to establish some routine in his life.

I appreciate the way the author wrote the reunion between Jude and Sophie Haines. It wasn’t all flowers and candy, but it wasn’t as brutal as I had expected. Sophie was a good heroine. She was strong, loyal and persistent. I wonder how she turned out that way because it wasn’t due to her parents. Her fortitude was the perfect counterbalance to the seemingly broken Jude. In her flashbacks, Jude was cocky, brash and sassy. Present day Jude was a man who was doing his best to navigate his land mine of a life. It was apparent that Jude took his sobriety very seriously and it was wonderful to see Mae Shipley and the others keep an eye on him.

Jude and Sophie had that abiding love and it was healing for the both of them. Sophie’s family dynamics was the only befuddling subplot in this book. There was no true explanation for the behavior and it made their actions baffling. It kept this story from being a 5-star read.
I still enjoyed every other character and felt emotionally engaged to their love story. I can’t wait for Zach’s book.

About Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont’s Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

Audiobook Review: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Narrator: Jorjeana Marie
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things Book Cover All the Ugly and Wonderful Things
Bryn Greenwood
Fiction, Adult, Dark Romance
Thomas Dunne Books
August 9th, 2016
audibook; e-book

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible "adult" around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

This book was a vivid, powerful and poignant chronicle of children living within a drug dealing and abusing environment. I wasn’t prepared for how listening to this audiobook would affected me emotionally. The absolute strength of will the characters had to survive was incredible. To reduce this book to just sheer age difference is a complete disservice to the story, the author’s writing and characters. Bryn Greenwood weaved this plot showcased several points of view so the reader can get a glimpse into the character’s lives but in the character’s voice.

Normally, it is disturbing to entertain the idea of a romantic relationship between a 13yr old girl and a 25-year-old man. A fair amount of rationalizing occurred in my head such as “with Wavy’s upbringing, she is more like 16 and Kellan is more like 18” or “He’s the only one who really sees and accepts her just as she is”. From age 8, Kellen had been Wavy’s protector of sorts. It doesn’t surprise me that when Wavy turned thirteen, her relationship with Kellen began to changing to a more affectionate one.

I am not sure her mom or aunt explained to her about puberty, hormones, feelings, etc. It wasn’t hard because I was so focus on the fragmented people who were scrambling to find an anchor in their turbulent lives. I wouldn’t characterize this novel as a romantic novel, but it was a love story. A gripping account of abiding love. It also showed extended family or friends playing a supporting role wanting to help and protect. I understood Brenda’s actions. She wanted to do the right thing but somewhere she lost sight of what her goals had been. I wanted to know more about Sean. That’s the only thing I didn’t quite get answers to. The rest of the story was done exquisitely.

This wasn’t the kind of love story I normally read but I am glad that I gave it a chance. It was one of the best written stories I have listened to this year. It’s a fiction tale that will stay will the reader for quite a while. If you want a story where you will be drawn in and actually feel it, then run and grab this book.


The Dark Light of Day by T.M. Frazier

The Dark Light of Day by T.M. FrazierSeries: Dark Light of Day #1Dark Light of Day
on September 15th 2013
Pages: 258
AmazonB&NNarrator: Christian Fox, Lucy Rivers

Wow. I really enjoyed this audiobook. Christian Fox and Lucy River’s narration of this story left me breathless with anticipation. It was so gripping that I had to just sit down and really feel everything as I was listening to it. Their voices blended so well with the story that I felt that they were sitting with me and just talking to me. I literally had goosebumps in certain parts of this story.

The story was really well written, though it was dark and gritty. But I was completely engrossed in the story the whole time. This series was so much better than the King series. The characters and plot was fleshed out more thoroughly here.

Abby Ford was such a strong heroine. She had survived her heroin addicted mother and all the men running through her house. She was going to school and living her grandmother until a tragic accident left the 17 year old alone. With only a few month before she was an adult, Abby decided to dodge child protective services by sleeping in various abandoned places until she could escape the CPS worker who was trying to place her with a foster family.

When Jake Dunn returned to town to settle his deadbeat dad’s affairs, he found Abby squatting in his father’s abandoned building. Taking pity on her and wanting to help, Jake offers her a job as well as protection by telling the CPS work that he was her cousin.

Their complication relationship began with both respecting each others baggage and not pressing for more information that the other was willing to give. Jake also had a terrible childhood thanks to his drunkard father so Abby recognized a kindred spirit.

“We were just us, broken and bruised, f**ked up and messy. And together, we were everything we never thought we could be.”

Slowly they built trust and a love that was tested when Jake was called away for a job. When he returned a rumor drove a wedge between them and Jake left Abby. 4 years later, when Jake’s father died, he returned for the funeral to find Abby still standing and still holding his heart. Now Jake had to find the courage to reach out and mend the rift. But would Abby be willing to trust him again?

There isn’t much that can be said without ruining this powerful and emotional story. It was real, it was touching and it was inspiring. Though some bad people didn’t change, some did and that made all the difference. There was pain, growth, heartbreak and later forgiveness. While some wounds would never heal, overall, that special thing Jake and Abby found was powerful.

I wish the author went super bold and left one detail unchanged. I thought the message would have been even more awesome if little Georgia really was Owen’s and Jake loved her regardless.

At the end I just felt like the sun finally shined after terrible storm. Now it was time to just bask and singing or something.
happy photo: happy Girl_happy_main.jpg
I am definitely keeping my eyes on TM Frazier because she floored me with this one.

*Special Thanks to Tantor Audio for the audiobook given in exchange for an honest review

King (King #1) by T.M. Frazier@TantorAudio

King  (King #1) by T.M. Frazier@TantorAudioSeries: King #1
on 2015-06-17
Pages: 302
AmazonNarrator: Molly Glenmore, Rob Shapiro
Homeless. Hungry. Desperate. Doe has no memories of who she is or where she comes from. A notorious career criminal just released from prison, King is someone you don't want to cross unless you're prepared to pay him back in blood, sweat, sex or a combination of all three. King's future hangs in the balance. Doe's is written in her past. When they come crashing together, they will have to learn that sometimes in order to hold on, you have to first let go. King is the first book in a two part series. Tyrant is the name of the second book due out August 2015.

Interesting! I thought the writing and character building were really good. I thought the story was well done. It wasn’t a lovey-dovey relationship like I tend to prefer but it was real.

We start off learning how young Brantley “King” met his smart mouth partner Samuel “Preppy” and the forging of friendship. Now King and Preppy are adults, running a criminal enterprise as well as a tattoo parlor. In comes a young girl who has no memory of her past, and goes by the name “Doe” and wants protection from the streets while she figures out who she is. The story unfolds and we learn both Doe and King are much more than meets the eye.

This story wasn’t really a love story though it had a romantic love story as part of the plot. I thought it was more about survival, sacrifice and loyalty. Sure it was steamy but it also had non consensual sex, drugs and murder. It was dark, but really well written because the characters are complex. King and Preppy weren’t just evil thugs, so it was hard to just write them off as bad people. Doe couldn’t remember much about herself, but there was a conscientious effort to respect the “Her” she couldn’t remember.

I liked that Doe wasn’t a pushover and that King wasn’t a complete neanderthal as some alpha males take the caveman act to extremes. They had great chemistry and it didn’t feel forced. I liked the makeshift family thing they created. Then the mystery of who Doe is began to unfurl, and I knew that it was game time.

This one ended in a big cliff hanger so I am going to begin book 2 soon.

*Special Thanks to Tantor Audio for the audiobook given in exchange for an honest review.

Jane’s Melody (Jane’s Melody #1) by Ryan Winfield

Jane’s Melody (Jane’s Melody #1) by Ryan WinfieldSeries: Jane's Melody #1
on 2014-04-08
Pages: 336
AmazonB&NNarrator: Emily Beresford

That’s the question a grieving mother must answer when she takes in a young street musician she believes can shed light on her daughter’s death—only to find herself falling for him. A sexy but touching love story that will leave you both tantalized and in tears, Jane’s Melody follows a forty-year-old woman on a romantic journey of rediscovery after years of struggling alone. Sometimes our greatest gifts come from our greatest pain. And now Jane must decide if it’s too late for her to start over, or if true love really knows no limits.

This book was very engaging and I couldn’t stop listening to it. The narrator did an excellent job convey the tone and emotion of this book. I will list my issues, but I want to be clear that I really liked the book, the story, the flow and the characters. It was pretty well written but it just felt a little incomplete, that’s all.

Jane McKinney decided to piece together the last year of her daughter Melody’s life before Melody died. She tried to connect with any of Melody’s friends and she ran into a young guitar player who seemed to have a connection to Melody.

Jane invited the young Caleb Cummings to her home in hopes of getting Caleb to tell Jane all he could share about his time with Melody. She offers Caleb a job as her gardener so Caleb could feel like he was earning his keep.

Jane quickly found herself attracted to Caleb, who was 15 years her junior at 25 years old. Plus, with Caleb’s connection to Melody, it just didn’t seem like a good idea for Jane and Caleb to become involved. But soon, they can’t help themselves as their attraction grows everyday.

Two people who had been in a lot of pain, found comfort in each other, and they had to decide if this was something to balm their current hurts or if they had something that was lasting?

I really liked this book but I always felt a little something was missing. First of all, I kept waiting for more information on Melody AND the family. I realize this book was about Jane’s journey, but Melody was a huge part of this walk and I would have liked more background information on Melody’s illness, Jane’s parents and John. There was so much animosity there and it was just glossed over by the author. Also, the perfection of a 25 yr old homeless boy was a tad too unbelievable. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Caleb. But he kept the place nice, he cooked, he was sweet and always had the most supportive words…yea, the only thing he was lacking was a halo.

I also wanted a little more with Grace and Bob. Especially since Grace preached the no-secret thing, I just felt that the author should have delved into that friendship a little more.

With all that said, I can’t wait to see the next phase of Jane’s journey as she starts anew.