Series: True North #2
on July 12th, 2016
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SheÔÇÖs the only one who ever loved himÔÇöand 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. HeÔÇÖd steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction canÔÇÖt find a job just anywhere.
For Sophie Haines, coming face to face with the man who broke her heart is gut-wrenching. Suddenly, heÔÇÖs everywhere she turns. ItÔÇÖs hard not to stare at how much heÔÇÖs changed. The bad boy who used to love her didnÔÇÖt have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And heÔÇÖd never turn up volunteer in the church kitchen.
She knows itÔÇÖs foolish to yearn for the man who returned all the heartsick letters she wrote him in prison. But the looks he sends her now speak volumes.
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.
5 ++ Stars
You know that moment when you are reading a book and you KNOW it’s gonna be one of your Top reads? With Steadfast, I had that feeling after only a few chapters. Jude Nickel is an addict in recovery, working at the Shipley farm when we met him as a secondary character in Bittersweet. I hadn’t looked to see who book 2 would be about, so when I read the teaser chapter at the end of Bittersweet, I was simply floored. It made so much sense, he was the mystery that I suddenly couldn’t wait to get to know.
Steadfast is truly one of the most beautifully layered stories that vividly looks at the life of an addict and the horrific and cataclysmic event that destroyed the family of the love of his life Sophie Haines. Jude’s addiction and recovery makes for one of the most thought provoking reads. Being in his head as he reasons through his regrets and lives moment to moment trying to stave off the itch to use drugs filled it with a unique tension. There’s no doubt that recovery is a condition and Bowen does an amazing job capturing all the norms of addiction/recovery and many of the nuances.
Steadfast is also very much a love story. The connection between Jude and Sophie is palpable, especially while discovering how they are ripped apart after nearly three years together. And they would always face heavy opposition from Sophie’s family so neither had any reason to hope that their connection would hold and how natural it would be to fall back together.
“Kissing her wasn’t a decision I made. It was just inevitable, the way a clap of thunder follows lightning.'” ~ Jude
“But even a glimpse of him had given me palpitations. As if my subconscious had recognized a piece of my soul before my brain got a chance to speak up.” ~Sophie
Whether it was sheer loneliness, circumstance or fate that brings them back together, they were both mired in a desperate isolation. Individually they moved forward out of the pure necessity of life, but they are stuck in the aftermath of tragedy. When Jude returns to his fathers house and the family garage, he fights to retain control of his recovery:
“Colebury reeked of all my old mistakes and desires. The itchy void in my chest gave a throb, and I rolled over to try to quash it. But that only reminded me of another absence. I stuck my nose in the pillow and took a deep breath, wondering if any essence of Sophie might remain. But she was long gone.” ~ Jude
Sophie is in no better a position. Sophie’s life is hell. You can feel the desperation of Sophie’s life; living under the roof of her tyrant father and essentially motherless. Combine that with losing the love of her life, their separation is utterly heartbreaking.
“My heart believed he had left Vermont just as thoroughly as he’d left my life. “
My heart was a goddamned idiot, obviously.” ~Sophie
While the story line is driven by Jude’s life as a recovering addict, ensuring Jude and Sophie can move past the tragedy creates an element of mystery. Bowen very skillfully builds up the suspense and we are left waiting for the other shoe to drop. But she balances this with a passionate love story. The story told from their alternating points of view and while they both reflect on their past, they slowly work towards a future.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want Sophie in my life. I wanted her very badly. I just wanted there to be a better me to give her in return.”~ Jude
“An addiction is when you can’t keep away from something that’s bad for you. Maybe Jude was a drug addict , but I was a Jude addict.'”~ Sophie
The secondary characters, Father Peters and the compassion he shows Jude does much to restore his faith in himself. And surprisingly , Denny made it onto my list of good characters. Romantic notions aside, he cares deeply about Sophie and he stands by her as a much needed friend. But it’s the Shipley family that gives the story the essence of the community. It makes me long to spend even a week on a farm, communing with nature and eating cookies.
Ultimately, Steadfast is a story about forgiveness, forgiving oneself and others, and the power of hope.
5++ #Gingersnap Stars and recommendation!
~Review by Cyndi