Finding Love THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN–A Review and FREE BOOK!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a New Adult romance from Sarina Bowen. I absolutely loved THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR, which is book 3 of the The Ivy Years series, so I jumped at the chance to pick up book 1, THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN, when it was on sale. The series follows hockey players on the Harkness College team, so it’s totally appropriate for Stanley Cup season… 😉

The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years, #1)About the book:
The sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else.
What now?

She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.

Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. He’s way out of Corey’s league.

Also, he’s taken.

Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the “gimp ghetto” of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.

They’re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that she’s falling. Hard.

But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he won’t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness — one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy who’s afraid to love her back.

My Review:
Corey Callahan is a freshman like no other on the campus of Harkness College. She’s recently disabled due to a hockey injury which has left her with little feeling below the knees. She is in a wheelchair most of the time, but is gaining strength with braces and crutches. She has significant difficulty navigating many areas of her historic campus. Still, she wanted out her home where her parents can’t stop hovering, and is overjoyed that her roommate, Dana, is cool. And, it doesn’t hurt that the most delicious man on campus, hockey star Adam Hartley, is just across the hall.

Hartley, as everyone calls him, is an all-around decent guy with one giant problem–his leg cast. He busted up his leg falling off a rock-climbing wall–while drunk. He’s mentally furious, and physically challenged, but he and Corey make friends quickly–and, despite all Corey’s fervent wishing, they will remain friends. Hartley has a super-wealthy, super model-esque, girlfriend, Stacia, who is soon to depart for a study abroad quarter in Europe. No way Hart-throb will toss the girl for a gimp, right?

Okay, I’m just in awe of this book. There are so many great things to say, like, I really loved Corey. She wasn’t perfectly positive, but she was absolutely determined to make it in college. She struggled, as I think many wheelchair-bound people do, with the way she was treated. As if she was fragile, or simple-minded, or couldn’t make decisions for her own self. She was, in her own way, extremely capable. She planned, and researched, every trip she needed to make. She was shy, at first, but really struck out on her own a lot. Plus, while this is fiction, I know that many colleges struggle with being ADA-compliant. Even if they are, to some degree compliant, there are parts of a campus that can’t be accessed by wheelchairs, and yet, Corey broke through those boundaries time and again–she shattered her own emotional boundaries alongside.

Yes, she adores Hartley. Who wouldn’t? He’s funny and kind and loyal, and his precious Stacia is…not. She’s an ice princess, off enjoying all that Europe has to offer, including the men. It baffles Corey how Hartley can tolerate it, especially as stoically as he does. He isn’t naive, he’s just got different priorities–growing up the poor, unknown, bastard child of a trust-fund brat will do that to you, I suppose. He’s a bit starry eyed over Stacia’s immense wealth.

Things evolve between Corey and Hartley in the space of a semester. Their comfortable friendship becomes more fraught. This is only complicated by Stacia’s return just before term’s end.

I’m not gonna lie, this was a thinking book. I had a lot of information about disability–and ability –to absorb, and yet, it was easy. Though Corey complains that she’s a whiner, I didn’t feel that way about her when reading her POV. Her desire to be seen as a person of value, and a whole person–not just a wheelchair-bond “problem”–was endearing. As Hartley soon learned, Corey, who was honest and real, was so much easier to love than his airbrushed, waxed/dyed, high maintenance Stacia. But not only was it easy to love Corey, it was easy to respect her, to treasure her, to have real and meaningful conversations with her.

The end of this book left me wanting to know more about Corey and Hartley, which is always a great indicator for me. It’s the first book in a series, but each book is about a different hockey player at Harkness, so we only get snippets of the other books’ characters going forward.

Interested? You can find THE YEAR WE FELL DOWN on Goodreads, AND IT’S CURRENTLY FREE on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the author:

Sarina Bowen writes steamy, angsty Contemporary Romance and New Adult fiction from 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.

Waiting for more Ivy Years? You can read more about upcoming volumes in the four book series at

Also, the Gravity series.

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

Or visit the her Facebook page, or tweet her @sarinabowen.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Will you Love THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR as Much as I Did? #Doubtful–Review and Giveaway!

Understatement BannerHi all! Today I’m celebrating the release of one of my absolutely fave new M/M romances: UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR. This book had all the feels I dream of in a love story–and is especially poignant in light of the new revelations of gay players in the big leagues of sports.

Understatment coverAbout the book:
What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.
Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexual orientation from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.

Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.

My Review:
K. So. Sometimes a book just fills my head and my heart and makes songs on the radio speak to me in a new way because I’m thinking of this story.

That’s is exactly how I felt about this book.
First, I was sure that Rikker and Graham were going to be buried by their FLAWS

They seriously made me feel the hole in my soul. Rikker is a gay athlete–he survived a hate beating as a teen, and being shipped off to his grandmother’s care after coming out, but reuniting with his first love, Graham, might just kill him. Five years have passed and, while Rikker’s physical wounds have healed, he’s still emotionally scarred by Graham’s abandonment.

He’s a great hockey player and a newly transferred student at Harkness ready to hit the ice. Despite being a transfer, Rikker is not subject to a yearlong suspension of play–because his previous coach violated the non-discrimination clause kicked him off the team when he was outed.

In order to avoid all the drama, Rikker reveals his orientation at the outset, and is subject to casual and overt homophobia–as well as some GREAT teammate support. Except, the one teammate he wishes to be there for him, well, won’t: Graham.

Graham is so deep in the closet he might be able to sit tea with Mr. Tumnus. He is attracted to men, and denies this at every turn. He seeks out women, always under the influence of alcohol. To hear his thoughts, when experiencing the slights and slams of Rikker–both direct and indirect only cements in Graham’s head what a coward he is.

People like Big-D have it wrong. They think that the gay guy is going to be the one who’s slowly soaping up his dick, watching you shampoo. But that’s not how it works in a varsity locker room on planet Earth. The gay guy is the one who discreetly goes about his business, showering quickly and then getting the hell out of there. He puts his underwear on when his skin is still damp, even though it will stick up his ass crack for the rest of the night.
He isn’t staring at you, and he’d rather eat broken glass than sport some wood in the locker room.

Still, Graham simmers with attraction for Rikker, and uses lots (and LOTS) of alcohol to quell it. Rikker himself can’t let go of the affection he held for his once best friend (and first love) even as he expects the taciturn Graham hates him, now. Imagine his surprised delight when Graham lets his defense shields slip…only to have them nearly discovered.

With shaking hands, he stumbled into his jeans.

I pulled the blanket up from the foot of the bed, mostly covering myself. And I watched a freaked-out Graham prepare for a hasty exit from my room. I could almost hear the worry loop trailing around inside his head. Never should have done that. Never should have done that.

Whatever. If he wanted to freak out and run away after hooking up with me, that was his loss. That’s what I was going to tell myself, anyway. What’s one more bruise on a battered heart? Mine probably already looked like a veteran NHL player’s face.

Before the door closed on him, he said one word to me. “Sorry.”

I was tired of hearing that word from him.

On the campus Rikker is mostly a pariah. He keeps to himself, attending classes and team events/practices only. He eats alone, and lives in a single room in a dorm filled with foreign students to whom he cannot relate. He longs for connection, and after one drunken hook-up he reaches out for Graham again, and Graham reaches back–only when it’s a clandestine meeting, however. And Rikker accepts this–because, well…

In the dark, he studied me. “Rik,” he whispered. “I had fun tonight.”
“Me too, G.”

He moved then, hitching across the seat to reach me. “One more,” he breathed. “For old time’s sake.” Then he turned my face toward his, capturing my mouth in a kiss.

Stupid or not, I just went with it. If you stripped away all the confusion and the old heartaches, I’d had an almost perfect day. And this right here was pretty much all I’d ever wanted from Graham. I wanted his friendship, and then I wanted him to reach for me at the end of the night. So for those few minutes, I had everything.

Yeah. I got super melty over this book. The first loves. The separations. The reconnection and healing of woulds long scabbed over. The comic relief! Oh, I think we all needs a “Skippy” in our lives. He’s Rikker’s effeminate ex who’s known for spouting his opinion, getting his way, and wearing t-shirts with outrageous slogans like Power Bottoms for Jesus. I loved him. And, of course there’s a girl with a Graham-crush who’s gonna get hurt..a bit. But, she takes it all well.

Hearing Milky Chance croon “I want you by my side/ so that I never feel alone again” and lament the lost years of affection due to the actions of others…well, I was glad Rikker and Graham got a Stolen Dance with each other…

The anxiety factor is tremendous. I couldn’t fault Graham for his closet-case antics. He’d seen the worst of homophobia up close and personal, and never recovered. Rikker helped Graham to see the better side of coming out–in some ways. It wasn’t easy for Rikker by any stretch. The media attention wasn’t pleasant, and Graham certainly didn’t want such a spotlight on his love life.

By the end, I swear, I was hearing OneRepublic banging their drums in my brain and I was drinking the sweet, sweet nectar of a satisfying read where the Love [never] Runs Out.

This was a fave book for me–gay, straight, erotic, whatever. It’s a powerful read and handles homophobia, closet-cases, unintentional outing, isolation, and sports in such a commanding way. There is little sex, but when it’s there it is amazingly rendered in the emotional context of the story. I hoped so hard for these two men to find their path together, and I think the arrangement they contrive at the end is more HEA than Happy For Now. (Well, I HOPE it is!)

Interested? You can find THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR on AMAZON, B&N KOBO, and iBOOKS. It is the third book in the Ivy Years series, but it reads as a standalone.

Previous books in the series:

#1 The Year We Fell Down (March 2014)

#2 The Year We Hid Away (June 2014)

#2.5 Blonde Date (July 2014)

#3 The Understatement of the Year (October 1st, 2014)

About the author:
Sarina Bowen makes her home in the Green Mountains of Vermont, where she lives with her family, eight chickens and a large pile of skis and hockey equipment. She is a graduate of Yale University. You can catch up with Sarina online via Email, her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Good luck and keep reading my friends!