Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Steadfast (True North #2) by Sarina Bowen

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Source: advance egalley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review 

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.

You know, I fell happily in love with Bittersweet, the first of the True North books. There's just something so inviting about the setting. While reading it, I became curious about Jude, one of the farmhands who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. Steadfast brings his story to life. 

After spending time at the farm, a place that had become a safe haven for him, Jude finally makes the return home to Colebury. Everything that could and did go wrong happened here. Before he left, he was involved in an accident that left one man dead who was his girlfriend Sophie's brother. The accident also revealed Jude's drug addiction that he'd been hiding from everyone including Sophie. When he went away to prison he cut off all ties. Returning to his hometown is a precarious undertaking because he has to face all his demons head on while attempting to stay clean. Sophie who was left completely shut out and bewildered is unprepared to see him again. The accident changed her life dramatically. Now that Jude's back in town he can no longer evade her and she plans on getting answers whether he likes it or not. What she doesn't expect is just how much she still loves him despite all the things that went wrong.

I have a personal reason for reading this: I have known someone in my life who suffered from addiction and in reading Jude's story I hoped to develop some understanding of what it was like for this person. Even a small glimpse into this world spoke volumes to me. Steadfast, though not the type of book to go in-depth into drug addiction and rehab, does give you a good enough sense of the daily struggle of staying clean. Jude wages an internal war every single day, a war that's fought by his mind repeating mantras telling him that he can stay healthy and his body that will forever crave that bliss. Bowen presents his struggle in an accessible way by headlining each of his chapters with a craving meter. There's no going with the flow as sanity is a premium. As for Sophie, I have to admit I was a bit perplexed by her. A part of me couldn't get over that she would still be in love with him and that's only because of the dynamics involved. Their relationship has the ultimate baggage which is why their attraction felt a bit uneasy for me. Then again maybe they're the only two people in this town who get each other and with a history as intense as theirs, it would be hard to ignore their feelings. The subplot dealing with the accident is more than intriguing and I found myself getting excited about where that was leading.

I'm amazed by the endless ideas Sarina Bowen comes up with for stories. She is seriously talented. As with Bittersweet, Steadfast features other characters that add richness to the story such as the warm and welcoming Shipley family. If only we could all have the Shipley's as neighbours and friends! There's also the unexpected kindness that Jude receives from a stranger showing that not everyone will hold his past against him. Steadfast is heavier but it's terrific none the less. You want to champion the guy who's making inroads in repairing the damage he has caused, redeeming himself in the process. Who doesn't love a second-chance story where forgiveness heals and one feels worthy of people's love again? Here's to you, Jude and to the many others who are also rebuilding their lives one day at a time.

~ Bel

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