The last two books in the True North series return to Shipley Farms with romances for the youngest members of the Shipley family–20-year-old twins Dylan and Daphne.
Heartland (True North #7)
At 18 years old, Chasity Campbell escaped a fundamentalist cult and found home in rural Vermont’s small community of cult survivors. Now a 21-year-old college student, she’s ready to experience everything the cult told her was sinful–especially boys. Her heart is set on 20-year-old Dylan Shipley, the fun-loving, fiddle-playing, farm boy next door.
But he doesn’t seem to see her.
What she doesn’t know is…
Dylan Shipley has harbored a secret crush on Chastity for years but is terrified of taking advantage of Chastity’s naivete about sex and relationships. Dylan is also at a pivotal crossroads and has to decide if he will join the family farm or forge a new path.
When Chastity comes up with the idea to use the milk from Dylan’s goats to start a gourmet caramel business, the two become business partners and learn to see each other in new ways.
This is a heartbreaking friends-to-lovers romance that packs an emotional punch. I thought it was great. It’s also very steamy. Chastity’s character development is wrapped up in her experiencing the desires she’s always been curious about so the heat level in this book is much higher than in previous books.
Not only did I love the romance between Chastity and Dylan, but I also Ioved the gaggle of friends (and frenemies) surrounding them. I thought New Adult college romance just wasn’t for me but this book changed my mind. I can’t say how accurately Bowen portrayed Gen Z but it feels like an effort was made with modern pop culture references and touchpoints.
I did kind of side-eye the addition of the character of Ellie–a 17-year old prodigy that Chastity befriends…Chastity’s whole thing is not being seen as a child but the only friend she can seem to make on her own is a 17-year-old ??
I listened to this on audio and I didn’t love Erin Mallon’s work on this. She is one of my favorite narrators but she made Dylan sound so dopey and her Chastity voice felt a little mature for a 21-year-old. The male narrator, Lee Samuels, is new to me and his voice is great, he was really hitting the emotional beats involving Dylan.
Content Warnings: parental death, physical abuse, emotional abuse.
Waylaid (True North #8)
Waylaid is the romance between Daphne Shipley, Dylan’s uptight, prickly twin sister( who has been kind of getting a villain edit in the series) and 22-year-old Rickie Ralls–Dylan’s eccentric roommate who is spending the summer working on Shipley Farms.
This romance has everything; slow burn, brother’s best friend, grumpy/sunshine, a reverse second chance romance…
What’s a reverse second chance romance?
Oh, you know it’s that thing where a guy asked a girl out two years earlier but then he gets amnesia from a traumatic brain injury and forgot she existed.
Daphne and Rickie both suffer from PTSD. Daphne’s from sexual harassment that sent her running from an Ivy League college and Rickie’s from an incident at a prestigious military college that left him with millions in settlement money but no memories. Through their weekly drives to the city, the two untangle their pasts and learn how to build trust in each other as well as the people around them.
I was getting a bit of series fatigue when I started this. I was kind of on the fence about starting another True North but after a few chapters, I was captivated. I love a good character driven romance and the character work in this book is some of the best. This was such a good read.
Bowen recently announced she is publishing a suspense novel in 2024 and I can’t wait to read it because I was GRIPPED by the end of this book as Rickie starts to get his memories. I just had to know what it all meant!
The audiobook is narrated by Zachary Webber and Callie Dalton. Dalton is new to me and I wasn’t sure if I liked her for this because she sounds very West Coast but she completely won me over. She and Webber are an absolutely amazing team, their performances blend seamlessly. I later heard Webber on a podcast talking about how he collaborates with his co-narrator when creating voices and that effort really shows in this dynamic performance.
Oh, also at two points Daphne is said to have a “good girl complex,” I wonder if Bowen in some way inspired the title of Elle Kennedy’s 2022 book.
Content Warning: sexual harassment and rape.
…And just like that, I’ve read all 8 books in the True North series! Waylaid came out in 2021 and, despite there being some implied sequel bait, Bowen doesn’t have more True North books under development on her website so I’m assuming that’s it.