Top 10 of 2016 – 3 Steadfast by Sarina Bowen

Number 3 on this year’s list is an unlikely selection. On the surface, nothing about Steadfast should make for an epic romance novel but Bowen works her magic and turns an unlikely male lead into a favorite you root for.

Title: Steadfast

Author: Sarina Bowen

Series: True North (standalone serials)

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary

Release Date: 12 July 2016

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ / 5

Amazon US Buy Link

Synopsis

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.

Why is it a top book of 2016?

I love an expected love story. This year’s list has had a few like Written in the Scars. But Steadfast really stands out because of the main character Jude. Jude should make every woman want to run. He’s the epitome of the bad boy who actually really got in trouble. Bowen’s writing and character development is just so amazing though. She manages to weave Jude into a man who bares his soul and makes you want to fall in love with him and cheer him on his journey every day.

Review

Sarina Bowen is one of those authors that I fangirl hard for. You all know what I mean. No matter what she releases I have to download it immediately and devour the words. So I hope the weight of my next sentence really resonates with you.

In my humble opinion, Steadfast may be the best book Sarina has ever written.

I started the True North series with the first released book, Bittersweet. I really enjoyed it. I mean who doesn’t want to crush on a hunky farmer who brews sexy cider? I loved the Shipley family. I loved the farm and the Vermont setting. The story between Griff and Audrey. It was an excellently written book and I had a good time reading it. It was a refreshing read among all the dark romances of the summer.

But then Steadfast arrived on my Kindle and something magic happened in my reading world. Jude’s story ripped open emotions deep inside me and made me rethink the romance genre (in a good way). For the first time in quite a while, a story had guts…soul. Steadfast has a beating heart and draws you in to live within its pages. This story line is entertaining without being unrealistic and is so chocked full of emotion and character growth.

Plot

This is a story about just how much love can conquer and much healing the human heart is capable of. It’s not an easy, pretty love story but it feels true to life. I loved this book so much because the story is so real. Small towns really do control people’s lives. Sometimes a person is forced to pick between love and their family. Sometimes you end up in a place where your dream is so far away, you can’t see the path anymore.

Jude and Sophie show how far you will go to find a road map to your destiny. The plot has some really interesting twists as the Jude and Sophie try to put puzzle pieces of their past together. This is a book that earns its ending.

Characters

Jude is the most unlikely book boyfriend you may ever read. Without a doubt, he is the surprise for 2016. We typically see male leads who are alphas and even if they are slightly broken, the female rolls in and stitches them back together by the middle of the book. They overcome an epic misunderstanding and live happily ever after or leave us hanging for book 2. You know the plot line. We gravitate toward sexy male alphas. We want the firefighter/cop/military member/doctor/biker/fill in the blank with your favorite male hero. And Jude is not a single one of those.

Jude is an addict. He’s a ex con convicted of killing his passenger in a car accident while on drugs. He is returning home to his small Vermont town after a short stint at the Shipley’s apple farm, his first stop after prison. The love of his life hates him. His reputation is a disaster. All he has to his name is a car that’s barely running and hope that his father managed to keep the family auto shop open while he was locked up…since he has no shot at a job anywhere with a record. He is everything that should scream he will never make it as a leading man in a romance novel. He’s raw, gritty and broken and you will catch yourself rooting for his win until the very last word in Steadfast.

Sophie, Steadfast’s leading lady, is another unexpected character. She’s by no means perfect either and she’s not a pillar of strength, grace and beauty. Sophie was devastated by a car crash that killed her brother…the same accident that sent Jude to prison. She’s sacrificed everything to keep her parents happy and she’s lost the love of her life because he killed her brother. He let his addiction ruin their relationship. Now Sophie is trapped in a town she’d like to escape with parents who are clinging to the past and controlling her future.

And then the unexpected happens. Jude comes home. Sure, Sophie knew some day he had to return. It is his home too. Seeing him again is unavoidable in their small town. But how do you really ever prepare for that day?

Jude isn’t the boy that Sophie used to love. He’s a man who she should hate. Sophie isn’t on the path that Jude expected she’d be on. And he shouldn’t be selfish enough to think he has any right to a place in her life again. Through a series of events, Jude and Sophie will be drawn together while her father does his best to keep them apart.

Feels

The characters will own your heart. Jude and Sophie both feel big…They have deep emotion and it shows through Sarina’s writing. Jude and his addiction struggle will eat at you and you’ll send every positive thought his way every time he struggles. You’ll want to pull him into a hug every time he is itching under his skin. You’ll want to be there for every sober chip he hopes to earn at AA. And Sophie will break your heart. You will connect with her broken dreams and her inner struggle. Choose the broken man who she never stopped loving or her family who has been broken because of him? You will want to be her shoulder to cry on and the best friend who encourages her to chase her dreams. And that is why this book will change your outlook. It will make you feel so deeply.

This is a must read for any romance reader. If you’re having a little bit of overload from the typical story line and want characters with depth and soul, one click this one. I promise you won’t regret inviting Jude and Sophie into your reader world!

Links to Sarina Bowen’s Social Media

Website

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter

As the time of this posting, there is an open giveaway on my Facebook Page for a signed paperback of Steadfast and other goodies!

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