Steadfast, by Sarina Bowen

>> Friday, February 21, 2020

TITLE: Steadfast
AUTHOR: Sarina Bowen

PAGES: 335
PUBLISHER: Self-published

TYPE: Romance
SERIES: #2 in the True North series

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.
As teenagers, Sophie and Jude were as far apart socially as you could be in a small Vermont town. Sophie was the good-girl daughter of the chief of police, while Jude was the bad-boy son of a drunk car mechanic dad. But they fell in love anyway, and with a bit of careful sneaking around, were able to keep a relationship going for quite a while.

And then tragedy struck, in the form of a car accident that killed Sophie's brother and sent Jude to jail. The accident also uncovered Jude's drug addiction, which he had so far managed to keep from Sophie. She tried to get in touch with Jude in jail, but he refused all contact, thinking it was for the best.

Several years later, Jude is out of jail and back in his hometown, having completed rehab. He's clean, but he knows it's going to be tough to stay that way. He would love to move away from a place where he's back in the environment where his addiction started and where the police make it clear he's going to be harassed whatever he does (Sophie's father is the chief of police), but as a convicted felon with zero savings, a job with his dad is the best he can do. But at least there's no risk he'll run into Sophie. Surely she went off to college to study music long ago, just as she always wanted.

But Sophie didn't. The accident that killed her brother has also left her mother majorly depressed and in need of care that her father won't provide. So Sophie has stayed home and chosen a different path, studying social work.

Of course, this being a small town, they meet again pretty damn quick. And there's still quite a lot between them.

I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed this. I found myself completely absorbed, particularly by Jude's story. I usually stay far away from stories about drug addiction, but this particular one really worked for me. The path Jude followed into his addiction felt so understandable, and seeing his efforts and determination to sort out his life and stay clean was heart-wrenching. At the same time, I'm glad the book concentrated on his recovery, not his addiction, and that Jude did have people around him who wanted to help.

The romance was really good as well. I liked that it wasn't really about Sophie and Jude picking up where they left off. They've changed a lot since they last saw each other, and for a large part of their relationship, Jude was hiding a big part of what was going on in his life. They relate to each other as grown-ups in the book, not as teenagers. I found their relationship believable.

Something else I liked was the setting. The first book in the series showed a Vermont that was pretty idyllic. This one shows some of the darkness, without making it feel grim. The Shipley farm (where the first book was set) still seems like paradise, and it certainly feels like that to Jude, but it's clear it lives in a world where pretty real people live.

The book is not perfect. Jude is a bit too determined to decide himself what is good for Sophie. There are aspects of the character of Sophie that don't completely gel (e.g. music is supposed to be so important to her, but you wouldn't know from what we see from her POV). And really, the final climactic moment was a bit too quick and easy, which actually made it feel anticlimactic. Still, that was relatively minor, and I enjoyed this loads.



jenmoon 22 February 2020 at 04:52  

This is literally the only one of the author's Vermont book series I found interesting. The rest were very bucolic and had very little conflict and plot, but this book rocked it. Some of the best romances are ones like this, AND she made "you killed my brother" (well....) work, darn it. Good job.

Rosario 22 February 2020 at 05:31  

jenmoon: This was certainly a lot more angsty than the others, but I did also find the one about May and Alec really interesting. There was something there in how they both felt like the family screwups that touched me.

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