Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Open Bombshells, the newest book in the Brooklyn Bruisers series, and you find immediately that it is quintessential Sarina Bowen. Like her other Bruiser stories, you find a very masculine hockey player in the form of Anton Bayer, cousin to Eric Bayer from Bowen’s Moonlighter, book 1 of her The Company series. Where “Baby Bayer” deviates, though, is in his characterization. Let me explain. One of the qualities of a Sarina Bowen romance, what makes her quintessential Sarina Bowen along with the books in her World of True North series written by other authors, is this insistence on bringing “more” to the genre of romance. Some authors do this, and honestly, it feels preachy. We read romance to escape, to find relationships that end in happily-ever-afters. When an author uses the genre and becomes emphatic on using storyline to speak to social injustices, if it isn’t done well, it undermines the essence of the genre. Sarina Bowen’s brand of romance doesn’t do that. She doesn’t undermine the story of her hero with the story of her heroine, for example, in Bombshells. You’re probably wondering what I mean by that.
In Bombshells, we are not only treated to Anton Bayer; Bowen introduces us to her women’s hockey team, the Bombshells. Her heroine, Sylvie, a woman recruited from Canada to become the backup goalie for Rebecca’s newly created women’s hockey team. Since there is a shift away from the Bruisers (albeit they still feature heavily into this story with its inclusion of Bayer) to the Bombshells, Bowen finds space for a discussion about issues in parity between men and women’s sports. Interestingly, this message takes up a small portion of her story, while also challenging her reader with considering the issues between men’s and women’s sport. Again, she doesn’t “hit her readers over the head” with this message; it is carefully woven through the story, never overwhelming it. Instead, it sits within your consciousness as Bayer and Sylvie fall in love. Additionally, Bowen crafts Bayer with everything we love about her masculine hockey players, but she also creates him with a kindness and compassion that doesn’t detract from his maleness. Instead, he easily complements Sylvia. There are other players, such as Drake, who, with this message about the disparity between men’s and women’s sports, might undermine the message or even make it seem preachy. Instead, Bayer and Sylvie’s coupling allows that theme the space it needs to challenge the thinking of Bowen’s readers.
This theme is further elaborated on through the construction of Sylvie’s character. We find out from the beginning that Sylvie’s teenhood sweetheart, Bryce Campeau, plays for the Bruisers (he’s actually a friend to Bayer). Hoping to call on a promise that Bryce made for their future, Sylvie surprises Bryce and realizes quickly that he has no intention of committing to his promise. Instead, he insinuates himself into Sylvie’s life as an overbearing protector, providing another layer to the debate about women’s agency. Again, this is done with a finesse that is a Sarina Bowen feature that doesn’t overwhelm the reader but provides a challenge instead.
Finally, sitting with a Sarina Bowen book such as Bombshells brings with it an ease in its articulation. Once this book began, I couldn’t and did not want to put it down. From the bittersweet storyline of Sylvie’s mother to the ease of friendship and then more between Bayer and Sylvie to the camaraderie of the Bombshells and their male counterparts, the Brooklyn Bruisers, you find a combination of nostalgia (the former Bruisers’ characters) and the promise of more stories from the Bombshells (I am personally ready for a story between Drake and Charli). Sarina Bowen’s Bombshells is everything you love from the world of the Brooklyn Bruisers with so many cameos of past characters that it’s impossible to count. And honestly, you just don’t care to. Instead, this is a book where you can sit back and get lost in a story about two people with insta-chemistry, a foundation of friendship, and the promise of the best of forevers in hockeyland.
In love and romance,