Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bittersweet (True North #1) by Sarina Bowen & Interview

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Source: advance e-galley provided by the author

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.

Source: advance e-galley provided by the author

Firstly, I want to thank Sarina Bowen for getting me out of my reading funk. I’d picked up three other books in the last three weeks and haven’t been able to concentrate on any of them until I started Bittersweet. Secondly, holy hell is Bittersweet not one of the sexiest reads I’ve read lately! I mean, wow! I’m so eloquent, aren’t I?

The True North series is a departure from Bowen's sports-centric novels, and it’s a breath of fresh air. Set in a very picturesque Vermont, Bittersweet focuses on Griff a former football player drafted by the NFL who gives it all up to run his family’s farm after his father unexpectedly passes away. Not once did I get a sense of bitterness from his perspective as he seemed genuinely content with his lot in life. Let me rephrase. He finds joy and purpose in running the farm but does stress about maintaining it and supporting his family and employees. Audrey, on the contrary, who has dreams of becoming a chef and owning her own restaurant, is slaving away for some restaurant corporation that doesn’t utilize her amazing culinary skills. Instead, they send her on an assignment to negotiate food supply prices with farmers in the Vermont area. This is how she and Griff, two people with a brief history, meet again.

Normally, instant physical attraction is a tricky thing to write and make believable. In this scenario, since they already share a past, it’s easy to accept that Audrey and Griff gravitate towards each other instantly. And oh boy is it hot! I also like how different and similar the two of them are. They have this effortless connection between them that makes it fun to see where they’re headed. With regards to their communication, this is more grown up fare than that of the Ivy League series. This couple is slightly older, out in the world working diligently because so much is dependent on them being successful at their chosen vocation. Griff at this point is on steadier ground. What Audrey goes through as she finds her footing is a struggle that most of us can understand. There’s also much more at play here other their incredible chemistry. It’s also about family and what true support system means. The warm fuzzies I got from them is another reason why I enjoyed this book. Surrounded by his welcoming family and farmhands, Audrey yearns to have something akin to that for herself.

Bowen is a talented writer. The story flows effortlessly and her stories in general are simply enjoyable to read. That's why she's one of those writers where I don't even think twice about grabbing her books. If you ever wanted to have an idea about farming, Bowen has done the research for you. From milking cows, to picking apples to creating cider, every day is interesting and productive. It definitely gave me better perspective on what a farmer’s typical day might be. Bigger than that, with all the talk of cider-making and what seemed like the endless varieties of apples, Bowen had me craving apples! She also made me want to give up bacon briefly (about five minutes – let’s not get crazy here). Anyway, I think Bittersweet, featuring the gorgeous East Coast region, is an inspiring start to her brand new series. I’m ready for more!

~ Bel


Sarina is such a sweetheart and made some time to answer a few questions for us, about Bittersweet and other random topics. Read on!

1. With the True North series, you're shifting away from a focus on sports to a focus on a different kind of culture in Vermont. How did the idea come to you and what was it like to make that shift?

I love athletes, but I'm surrounded by the coolest, hippest innovative farmers, and I thought it would be fantastic to explore their world. You know what? I think I love guys who work with their hands. And Griff is an ex-football player, because I couldn't help myself.

2. What fun things did you discover as you researched about running a farm and brewing cider?

That making cider is so much fun! Cidermakers use some really crazy apples, ones that you wouldn't want to eat straight. They taste so bad they're called "spitters" because people spit them out. Also? Making hard cider is harder than making beer, but takes less energy. So it's both tasty and eco friendly.

3. You're working on a few series concurrently - True North, Brooklyn Bruisers, Him (with Elle Kennedy) - so how do you manage your time and keep track of multiple plots? And how does that work when you're writing with another author?

Elle and I have to work together in schedule gaps. It isn't easy. We're both horribly over-scheduled right now and hoping that changes next year.

4. In the Ivy League series, all your female characters are strong and there's always a theme of personal empowerment. You continue that in Bittersweet with Audrey, a character who's struggling but has grit. How much did you enjoy writing her?

She was fun and wonderfully imperfect. But she never lost her true sense of self, and she refused to compromise. I loved her.

Now here's the part of the interview where we like to have fun. Our motto at Bibliojunkies is "books, boys, pie". With that being said ...

5. Do you remember the book that completely blew you away as a kid? 

A Wrinkle in Time

6. What's your absolute favourite dessert and with which male celebrity would you share it? 

Huh. Okay. Sour cherry pie. Jaromir Jagr. Because I'm so impressed that this 44-year-old is still killing it in hockey. He's interesting and he totally deserves pie.

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