A standout read of my recent Sarina Bowen binge was the delightful novella Blonde Date, which used to be available by itself but is now only available in the Extra Credit anthology.
Grade: A Sensuality: Warm
If you’ve kept up with The Ivy Years series, you’ll remember meeting Katie as “one of the Katies”, roommates to Scarlet in The Year We Hid Away. Katie’s football player boyfriend ditched her, and Scarlet set her up with her boyfriend’s neighbor Andrew, a basketball player, for the sorority/fraternity event the ex will be attending. Normally, romance showcases the uncool girls, so I enjoyed the originality of seeing that blonde, bubbly Katie is just as insecure as the rest of us. But the real joy of this anthology is watching her with Andrew. I haven’t read a couple this genuinely sweet in such a long time. Andrew is so kind and lovable and besotted, exactly the hero Katie needs after her self-esteem gets rocked. As they say, get you a man who looks at you the way Andrew looks at Katie – but also, look back at him the way Katie looks back at Andrew. As I read this story and watched them go out of their way to be good to each other and build each other up, the dumb soppy grin on my face just got bigger and bigger. My only quibble is that Katie’s internal voice during the sex scene is a bit silly. A wholehearted A grade.
Grade: B Sensuality: Warm
After Blonde Date, anything is going to be a letdown. This story of a tutor who falls for the studly Francophone French Canadian hockey player coming to her for help is perfectly serviceable, but not highly memorable. The hero does make an adorable gesture to the heroine, but points are deducted for a silly misunderstanding at the end.
Grade: B Sensuality: Warm
This m/m short story is not a so much a romance as it is a continuation, because the couple is already together and remains solidly committed throughout the story. Yesterday follows up on John Rikker and Michael Graham, heroes of The Understatement of the Year, as they spend a holiday break at home, coming out to their high school friends and dealing with the homophobia of Rikker’s parents. I like stories which tackle keeping a relationship going as much as I like stories about courtships (see our Troubled Relationship tag for more of this type), but this one is purely about the couple confronting external challenges, not working on the relationship. If you loved their book and want to see them again, it’s probably a pleasant epilogue, but honestly, that’s where I think it should have been: at the end of their book, not in a separate anthology.
Currently, this anthology is listed at $2.99. If Bowen re-releases Blonde Date as a stand-alone, I’d say it’s safe to skip the other two, but for now, the $2.99 is worth it just for Blonde Date. It’s seriously that charming.
Buy it at: Amazon or your local independent retailer
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