Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Seven Reasons to Read: The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3) by Sarina Bowen

The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years, #3)Series: The Ivy Years #3
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Publication Date: 9/29/14
Format: eARC
Pages: 281
Source: Author
Rating: 5 stars

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What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexual preference from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.


Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.

Opening Lines  In all my favorite movies, when something bad was going to happen, the protagonist usually sensed it. He saw a sign, or felt a disturbance in the force. But that's not how my real life worked. And I'm no action hero. S o you can be sure that I didn't see it coming.

One of the biggest comforts - the brightest light - in my life is love. Love for my kids, and love for my husband. My heart simply chose whom it chose, and that was that. I believe that is how the heart works, regardless it it's loving the opposite or same sex. The idea that I could be disowned, beaten, ridiculed, vilified for simply loving someone is honestly more than I can process at times. But for some, this is all too often a reality. And it is so ugly. My heart doesn't understand intolerance, especially for those who are simply trying to live their lives.

So why am I standing here on my proverbial soapbox? The Understatement of the Year is a story that hit my heart heavily. This was my perspective before reading, and it's only been reinforced.

Here are seven reasons I loved The Understatement of the Year.

1. I love Sports Romance, especially baseball, but also football. But when you give me collegiate hockey, and the romance is between two of the players? Even better.

2. With a love story between two male, college athletes, Understatement isn't your average love story, particularly New Adult. With this change in dynamic, we have a story that is inherently angst, in the least-contrived, most organic nature. I actually don't read a ton of NA books, or at least, that I notice. I felt that a lot were based on jerk heroes and trauma. Maybe that's unfair, but there ya go. I was automatically drawn to this story because I just knew it was going to be thoughtful, important and a great representation of the age category.

3. Understatement is an instantly engaging story. There's no build-up, no long foreshadowing or drawn-out, melodramatic opening. The conflict hits you straight-on, right out of the gate, when Michael Graham looks up to see John Rikker, his first and only love, walk into his locker room. The newest player on the team. The only person on earth who knows his secret.

4. John Rikker was an amazing leading character. His strength...was stunning. This is a man who's choices have been taken away from him multiple times over the years. He was practically disowned by his parents, outed by a former lover, kicked off his college hockey team, then transfers to the school of his first love, the boy who ran away from him. Knowing that he could be abused, tormented, Rikker stands strong, unapologetic about who he is and who he loves. He was devastated when Graham ran away, but moved on. He's still drawn to his first love, but isn't dying to have him back. His life is what it is - the situation with Graham is what it is - and Rikker is strength personified.

5. At first glance, maybe at ten glances, Michael Graham doesn't seem good enough for Rikker. He loved him and left, in the confused and frightened way of a fifteen year old boy. But Graham never truly moved on. Driven by fear and the words of religion and bigotry, Graham is deeply closeted, choosing to hide who he is by being with women, though he has to mentally check out to do so. Without diving too deeply into it, Graham is not a stand-up guy when Rikker shows up. But in the spirit of true character growth, he can become a man worthy of Rikker's heart.

6. This is my first Sarina Bowen book, and I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed! I found her story to be deeply moving, insightful, and even fun and very, very sexy. In fact, I loved her writing so much that I immediately bought the rest of The Ivy Years series, and am immediately going back into this world.

7. At the heart of it all, The Understatement of the Year is a love story. Just as it should be. We have two characters with a troubled history, with so much hurt between them, but more love. The fight for the future was brutally emotional, but so very worth it. I think it's the type of story that can open hearts, help those who don't understand to see, and to help those who do understand (like me) to see more. I loved The Understatement of the Year, and I highly recommend it.

Favorite Quotes

  Before that awful day, naïveté had made me far too content. I'd never realized just how dangerous it was to be with Rikker. I knew we could never tell anyone. That went without saying. But I'd never been forced to witness what would happen if people knew. I hadn't understood the sheer repulsion that I'd somehow earned by loving another boy.

  And this right here was pretty much all I'd ever wanted from Graham, I wanted his friendship, and then I wanted him to reach for me at the end of the night. So for those few minutes, I had everything.

  My arms were full of this beautiful boy, and each time I pressed my lips against him, it felt like coming home.
  Ever since I could remember wanting anyone, I'd wanted him. I never had a choice in the matter. There was never a moment when I said, "Okay, I've decided to choose Rikker over the entire female population." In fact, I'd wasted a whole lot of time trying not to want him. But the desire I carried for him came from someplace deep....
  My desire for him was there whether I wanted it or not. And if I could figure out how to just own up to it, maybe I could get some peace.

The Ivy Years
The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years, #1)  The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years, #2)  Blonde Date (The Ivy Years, #2.5)  The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years, #3)
(covers lead to GoodReads pages)
Sarina BowenSarina Bowen writes steamy, angsty Contemporary Romance and New Adult fiction from the wilds of Vermont.

She is the author of The Ivy Years, an award-winning series set amid the hockey team at an elite Connecticut college.

Waiting for more Ivy Years? You can read more about upcoming volumes in the four book series at

Also, Coming in From the Cold, published by Harlequin-E, is book #1 in the Gravity series. Book #2, Falling From the Sky will appear in the fall of 2014.

Sarina enjoys skiing, espresso drinks and the occasional margarita. She lives with her family, eight chickens and more ski gear and hockey equipment than seems necessary.

 photo AndreaSig_zps3f75055b.jpg


  1. This definitely sounds very different from the majority of NA reads and that makes me want to read it even more. With how much you loved this one, I'm going to have to add it to my TBR. Great review!

  2. I like that NA is finally diversifying slowly. I can imagine how difficult it was to read this. Thankfully, society is becoming much more accepting of all kinds of love and that makes me very happy.
    I really like the sound of the characters in this book. It sounds perfect for me.
    Beautiful review, Andrea! :)

  3. I agree -- I can't imagine not being able to love who I love, being reviled and ridiculed for experiencing that love. Terrible. It hurts my heart to think of it.

  4. This sounds angsty as hell but in a way I can actually tolerate. I loved your thoughts on most NA plot lines. GREAT REVIEW!

  5. Awesome review. This sounds like something I would really enjoy. I love LGBT books, and there are more and more really good ones!

  6. I adored this book too. I would have given it 6 stars if it were possible.

  7. I read the first book and liked it well enough - Bowen is a great writer but I was kind of burned out on that type of story (but she does put her own original twists on the genre) but I really loved this one. So so so good.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

  8. I have heard about this series and it seems really interesting. It's so amazing when a book gets to your heart so much and those tend to linger. I'm happy that this one was one of these for you. Great review, Andrea :)

  9. Ahhh well you might have me. I've not jumped into m/m yet but I do love a sports romance something fierce!

  10. I actually prefer a good jab right in the beginning than a long drawn out and sometimes dragging shitty precedent. Rip the band-aid!

    Oh and I love the cover arts!

  11. Okay, I'm totally going to read this. I just went to check out the first book an it sounds REALLY good too. So I'll start there. But I'll get to this.

  12. Any book that can impact you and affect you so deeply is one that I will love as well. It is so crazy to think that people can't love who they love in this day and age, Andrea. This sounds like such an incredible story. I'm going to go check out the entire series. Lovely, moving review!!

  13. I totally agree most NA is "based on jerk heroes and trauma". I've been trying to stay away from those types of NA when I pick up a book in that category. This sounds like a lovely second chance romance. Wonderful review, Andrea! :)


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