Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: True North #1
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Date: June 2016
Buy the Book • Goodreads
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.
Bittersweet is the first Sarina Bowen novel I’ve read and I loved it. In a genre full of MMA fighters, biker gangs, billionaire bachelors, and man-whores, it was refreshing to have a male lead who is an organic farmer in Vermont. Griffin tends fruit trees, milks cows, and makes artisan cider. He has a good relationship with his mother, three younger siblings, and grandfather, all whom his endless work helps support. You get an appreciation for the struggles farmers go through -the need to diversify your product in case one has a bad season and not enough product is there to sell, keeping an eye on where things are headed and which products will provide best over the long term, and just how much work it all is. The idea of right livelihood is something that means a lot to me and that plays a role in the story. At the end of the day, Griffin, his family, and the community of small passionate farmers that neighbor them, make their living offering something of health and value to others and do it in a manner that respects the land and animals that provide it for them. The balance between struggle and reward is something that is really noticeable from Griffins POV. He is young and misses his deceased father everyday and worries about his ability to make the right decisions for the business and his family. I found this all so much more interesting and easy to care about than other themes that often surround contemporary heroes.
Audrey by contrast has community surrounding her and a very poor relationship with her only family member, her mother. She is a talented aspiring chef who dreams of having her own restaurant, the corporation she works for could potentially fund that dream. It’s a long shot, but enough to cause her to stay in a low paying job that rarely utilizes her true skill (cooking) and instead has her doing a variety of tasks that are outside her actual skill set. She comes to Vermont on just such a task -to negotiate prices for product, something made more difficult when her company offers half the going rate. The disparity in the idea of livelihood is impossible to miss. Audrey makes no money working for a wealthy company who wants to pay very little for its goods. Griffin pays his seasonal workers a living wage, feeds them, houses them, and cuts no corners when it comes to ethics in his business. He is also perpetually having to worry about bankruptcy. I love that while this was at it’s heart a contemporary romance it also highlighted a very real problem in our world.
And last but not least, the romance. It was swoon-y and fun. Though Audrey and Griffin come from very different backgrounds they ultimately fit perfectly, something Griffin is more able to see than Audrey, who has a lot more issues regarding her path in life, her self esteem, and her ability to be loved and valued by others. Each has just what the other needs and there is the right balance of them being both similar and totally different in the right ways. I also want to give a shout out for another really positive dynamic, an ex fuck-buddy of Griffin’s runs a nearby bar. In so many books this woman would have been demonized as the jealous ex who we are not supposed to like and who does not get along with the new girlfriend. This does not happen here THANK GOODNESS. Zara may not have liked the way things ended with Griffin, but she and Audrey are friends and any issues she may have are targeted towards Griffin alone. And even that doesn’t last long. Kudos for girls being nice and supportive to other girls.
Bittersweet is the first book in a series, the next book Steadfast is currently set to release July 12, 2016.