Review partner (and my bookaholic sister) Dolorianne has been looking forward to this book SO MUCH!!! You can imagine how excited we were when she had the opportunity to listen to the audiobook of today’s new release, ROOMMATE a bit early! As expected, Sarina Bowen’s relatable characters and superb storytelling did not disappoint. ❤
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: shared history with True North series
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Review Copy: Audio/provided by author*
Narrator(s): Stephen Dexter, Teddy Hamilton
Wanted: One roommate to share a 3-bedroom house, split the rent, and ideally not be the guy I can’t stop thinking about.
I’m a man with too many secrets, so the last thing I need is a new roommate with a sexy smile and blue eyes that see right through me. Eight years ago, Roderick left town after high school. We’re not friends. I owe him nothing. But back then, I let one of my secrets slip, and he’s the only one who noticed.
Part of me knows I should run far, far away. But the other part wants him to come upstairs and spend the night. But if I let him in, I could lose everything.
Seeking: a room to rent in town. I’m tidy, have no pets, and I will feed you homemade bread.
I should probably add: Gay AF, and has no filter. It’s no wonder my new landlord is so wary of me.
A smarter man would ignore those hot glances from Kieran Shipley. The broody lumberjack wants more from me than another fresh-baked pretzel. But if I push my luck, I’ll end up back on the street.
Too bad I’ve never been smart with my heart…
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO AN AUDIOBOOK EXCERPT
The cover follows the current trend of a single character with a contrasting background and graphic text, and the warm coloring is eye catching. The blurb catches my attention right away because it’s a story where the main characters share a history, though it isn’t immediately clear how well they know each other. I’m a sucker for friends/enemies-to-lovers, and this book is checking that box too. As for the content itself, having read gay romance by Sarina Bowen before, I was already expecting a well written contemporary with a lot of depth … a romance, sure … but also a deep dive into our couple’s lives beyond their relationship with each other.
What I Loved:
I loved everything about this book. The writing style was casual and comfortable, which allowed me to just fly through the audiobook. The narrator’s engaging performance was a bonus on top of an already wonderful book.
Kieran is the mainstay. He has strong ties to the area, with lots of friends and family. Roderick is more at odds with the small-town he left years ago, but he quickly finds people who welcome him with open arms. I was surprised at the secret they shared. There is a common expectation when this type of thing is hinted at in gay romance, but I was thrilled when it turned out differently. And this is a common theme throughout the book. Plenty of “trope-y” goodness without the predictable details.
While I didn’t like that our main men each had strong issues within their families, I did enjoy the storytelling. Families are messy. Kieran’s was more complicated than Roderick’s but I felt Bowen let us peel back the layers for the most impact. Did Kieran and Roderick sometimes get in their own way? Yes, absolutely! Did they have reason to be wary, to be angry, to be done with the B.S.? Yes, absolutely! Did I feel every step they took towards independence and self-confidence? Yes! Absolutely!
On the bright side, the majority of the supporting cast were fun, interesting, and I appreciated seeing so much of them. They were truly a compliment to Kieran and Roderick’s love story.
Kieran and Roderick were great together. Their awkward beginnings made their eventual truce and growing friendship even sweeter. I loved watching them find joy in mundane things just as much as seeing them navigate their attraction to each other. There is plenty of heat for readers looking for passion, but I appreciated every word of their romance as it unfolded over cooking lessons, moral support, and the average, everyday shared experiences of setting up house as roommates. Not that they didn’t have some bumps along the way. But Bowen masterfully wove a believable path for resolution. I ached for their pain and cheered when real strides were made for redemption. And where redemption was not possible, Kieran and Roderick were able to reach their own peace.
What I Didn’t Love:
If I had to nitpick anything, it was that I didn’t realize the book was part of a series. I think some vendors and marketing materials have been updated at this point, but it was originally billed as a standalone, and even the “start” of a new series in a couple places. It became obvious early on that the book was heavily populated with characters from previous books. There was plenty of situational context clues, so I believe that most readers could definitely read this book as a standalone, but I am a staunch proponent of reading things in order no matter how small the overlap or connection. However, the book was so well done that I couldn’t force myself to stop reading. I’ll be going back to read the M/F books that make up the rest of the series.
This book didn’t just meet my expectations but surpassed them. I felt like I was witnessing friends begin their lives together and hope that other contemporary romance readers find time to meet Kieran and Roderick