A sneak peek at the: FIRST CHAPTER
A Review by Wendy
5 Accepting The Choices Made Stars
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Bittersweet is so perfect that as I write this review, I am taken aback. For our main characters both have to handle the bitter... to get to the sweet... and just like in our real lives... this is a common occurrence. We can plan and expect things to happen as we have dreamed... but in an instant all of what we thought was to be our "time in the sun", is taken away and we are forced to make the "right" decisions and go down a different path. This happens in careers and in personal relationships.
Griffin Shipley was the Vermont farm boy who became the football player at Boston College. He had the scholarship, fraternity and reputation of big guy on campus. That was what everyone saw yet he was more than that. He was part of a family which had dairy cows and apple orchards. He was torn knowing his time outside of farming or the decision to work the land with his dad was going to be limited...He had one opportunity to see what else was out there and was going to make the most of it. He made it onto a professional football team; was about to have his chance and then received the news his dad died...There was no decision to weigh...his family needed him and he stepped up.
Audrey Kidder has been told since the time she was very, very little she was a disappointment. With a single Executive Career Mother by her own choosing, Audrey heard day in and day out how things were supposed to be...organized, perfect, focused and no need for men. Women were to be out in the corporate world proving everyday they could do everything a man could do and better. Whether it was intended or not...her mother set up an environment of cold, distant and guaranteed for a difficult relationship between them...for Audrey loved all the little girl things not encouraged... like cooking. In fact, after she flunked out of two colleges, endured her mother's wrath of being cut off financially and emotionally (although there never was really any emotional support to speak of), Audrey found her calling all on her own. Cooking.
She worked her way through Culinary School, earning top kudos, and was on her way to being a professional chef of merit. It just hasn't happened yet. She is stuck in an important internship with a restaurant group which keeps putting her in positions not suited for her. She is a talented chef... not desk jockey. Having her do front of the house and handle the computerized reservation program is not her thing. Ordering shipments on a system no one has taught her is a recipe for the disaster which happened. This pattern of putting her where she shouldn't be is not helping her game plan for even doing this internship. This company does a contest every year for up and coming chefs; it is a pitch for what their establishment would be... and if picked, they will back the proposal. This is what Audrey is working for... as she is sure she will have the pitch which will be picked.
But first she has to handle her latest snafu. She is sitting in the boss's corporate office expecting to be fired for the mistaken peace offering to the staff at the last assignment. Instead of hearing you're fired, she is told she is to go to Vermont; approach all the organic farmers and order their crops for the group. Farm to Table is the big, new thing in eateries. The group has a list of farms to buy from, the set prices and she is told.... this is it. If she cannot make miracles happen and acquire all the goods then her ass is grass... period.
Again...she is being sent to do something she is not prepared for... Audrey sighs... sucks it up and goes forth...
As she drives a rental to the first farm, she has the continued bad luck of her car twisting on gravel and ending with a flat tire halfway in a ditch. Naturally. She is bent with her ass in the air reaching for her purse and phone on the floor of the passenger side when she hears the deep voice of Griffin Shipley saying " Audrey Kidder?" when she turns around...
Oh this is not going to be good...Audrey never forgot the college senior football player she had hooked up with when she was a freshman. She had been in a bad place with her high school sweetheart cheating on her. Griffin was there at the right time and place for her to be open to his sweet charms. Unfortunately, she never responded to his calls or texts when he wanted to take her out after the hook ups. She had shut him out. Now he was here, looking at her and he was oh so much more handsome and built then even before.
And he was Grumpy.
Of course he was Grumpy... He had the responsibility of the farm, the land and figuring out how to make all the profit he can to get the college tuition saved for his brothers and sister. Organic farming wasn't a walk in the park. It was rewarding, sure... but mother nature was not an easy ally; there was a reason chemical pesticides had been invented. They killed all the natural bugs and diseases which destroyed the apples, vegetables and anything else which grew. They made people conditioned to think all the things they ate had to look a certain way...perfect without a blemish... forgetting it was the taste that was important. This type of farming took every waking moment in a person's life...and Griffin had no time for a past freshman hook up from 5 years ago... no matter how cute, charming, sassy or great she may have been.
Griffin and Audrey exchange words...he being the man he is, helps her by arranging his main guy to handle her car and they go up to the farm where Audrey meets his family. On the way, she explains why she is there, what the offer is for his apples and we see the writing on the wall....
Both are equally intrigued with each other and how the years has shaped them...physically and mentally. We see how the company has given her a price point which is insulting to the farmers she will be approaching... a way to set her up for failure due to their crappy reputation in handling farmers in the past. We also see the determination of Audrey to figure out how to make this crap assignment work because her eye on that prize of a backing for her own restaurant is her goal.
This book had it all. Incredible character development... the insight into all of the main characters plus the secondary ones. Nothing was just hinted at and then left hanging...you got all the pathos and heart of these people. You knew who they were; the pain and disappointments, the frustration of having to take on the mantel before being ready... the want of just being let to do what you know you are great at...all of these things and more were there without you feeling manipulated or pushed.
Griffin was a man I could picture; he was complex in his straightforward way...he knew what he needed to do...had come to terms with his choices and understood he was going to make some difficult decisions for the family if they were to be profitable and make it. He respected his mother and siblings. He was good with his friends. We saw him go through the realization he could possibly have more in his personal life and when he went all in...Gahhhh, swoon. Plus he was sexy as hell.
Audrey was the perfect choice for Griffin and he for her. His ability to SEE her for the delight she was, to encourage her and give her the space to make her own decisions was equally as sexy as their times together. Audrey was extremely strong and talented. Yes, there was pain at the core from her childhood and mother...but she rose and became her own person in spite of it. She recognized all of the hardship added to who she was. She was a three dimensional person.
The other characters in this tale were all living, breathing and fully formed. The family, all of the components add heart... Mom, Grandpa, brothers, sisters and cousins. The farmhands- each had their own little part... with seeds firmly planted in our minds to blossom when the time is right (more books, heh heh).
But the main secondary character was the farm... with all of the knowledge acquired and shared about organic growing...of all the different types of apples...of making of cider and the blending. How the machinery for milking can be as important as the tractors for turning the land...all of it brought home how important farming is and how we all take so much for granted.
As you can tell I loved this book. I adored the all of the characters and even when I thought they may have missed a step or two in how business was done...I was ok with it because of how all of it came together. I read this in one sitting...and it moved across the page and my mind's eye like a dream.
I am so excited Sarina Bowen is doing this series and the next installment is going to be equally great... How do I know, you may ask... Well, I met the character in this book and feel as if I know him already. His story is a compelling one and....Hell, Bowen is writing it. Need I say more...I don't think so. In the mean time, read BitterSweet... I promise you will be oh, so glad you did.
A gifted copy was provided by author for an honest review.
Sarina Bowen is the USA Today bestselling author of steamy, angsty Contemporary Romance and New Adult fiction. She lives in the wilds of Vermont.
She is the author of The Ivy Years, an award-winning series set amid the hockey team at an elite Connecticut college. Also, the The Gravity series.
With Elle Kennedy, Sarina is the author of HIM and US.
COMING IN 2016: Two New Series!
Stay tuned for a new Vermont contemporary romance series, True North, and hockey novels from Penguin Berkley including Rookie Move.
Sarina enjoys skiing, espresso drinks and the occasional margarita. She lives with her family, eight chickens and more ski gear and hockey equipment than seems necessary. To be kept abreast of new releases, please feel free to sign up for the mailing list at http://www.sarinabowen.com/signup. Or visit the her Facebook page, or tweet her @sarinabowen.