I binged the first few books in Sarina Bowen’s True North series and wasn’t planning on reading from the expanded universe but this book intrigued me because Kim Hartfield chose to write for one of Bowen’s characters from Speakeasy (True North #5). In that book, 22-year-old beer distributor and party girl Chelsea has her heart broken by one of the heroes. I assumed she was sequel bait but she is apparently never mentioned again in the original series.
In Flipcup, Chelsea is still an aimless, self-centered party girl but now she’s vowed to swear off men and work on personal growth. Then she meets Tara, the flirtatious new bookseller at Vino and Veritas–the wine bar/bookstore Chelsea delivers to once a week.
The beginning of the book is a little rough because Chelsea is sort of objectifying Tara. She just sees her as a loophole to get around her no hooking up with men vow. But it smooths out as Chelsea begins to discover her own bisexuality and develops feelings for Tara. The last half of this book shines as Tara and Chelsea build up their relationship. They’ve both never had a serious significant other and discover what it’s like to have someone in your corner for the first time.
I was so impressed by the level of character building and storytelling Hartfield managed in about 180 pages. I especially liked how she ran with the bones of Chelsea’s characters. I always thought a weakness of Speakeasy was that Bowen didn’t know how to write characters who like to party and Hartfield absolutely nails it. She uses Chelsea’s love of fun and games as part of her character arc.
The weakest part of this book for me was the bookstore/wine bar setting. This multi-author series revolves around the titular Vino and Veritas but we get very little about it in this book. I can’t even see what it looks like in my head. I assumed the point of a series like this was to have little throughlines between the stories but we never see Tara interact with her co-workers or customers at the bookstore. Idk how you can have a series about a safe space for the LGBTQ community and not have the people interact.
I did some of this on audio and narrators Abby Craden and Angela Dawe worked well off each other as they switched between the bubbly Chelsea and more subdued Tara.
Flipcup is a fun, dynamic, entertaining quick read that packs a punch. The entire Vino and Veritas series is available on Kindle Unlimited and the audiobooks are on some Hooplas!
Look, I know the expanded world books exist for the money but I think it is disingenuous that a series revolving around an “inclusive” bookstore and wine bar is just two cis white f/f stories and sixteen (what appear to be) cis white m/m stories. In what way is that inclusive ???