She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.
Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there’s no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere.
For Sophie Haines, coming face to face with the man who broke her heart is gut-wrenching. Suddenly, he’s everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never turn up volunteer in the church kitchen.
She knows it’s foolish to yearn for the man who returned all the heartsick letters she wrote him in prison. But the looks he sends her now speak volumes.
No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie’s police chief father. But it’s a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself.
When I queued up Steadfast to read, I will readily admit that I couldn’t quite remember what book one was about. Even though it’s only been two months since I read it, for a book a day (or more) reader, that’s at least 60 books read since then. However, two words reminded me what Bittersweet was about – Shipley and cider – and it all came rushing back, and the single word – junkie – reminded me who Jude was and some of what he would be facing when his car pulled into his childhood home. Because Steadfast deals with Jude’s addiction issues, it has a far more serious tone to it than book one did. Bowen still manages to include a bit of humor every now and then, just as we would find in life, but Jude’s struggles are no laughing matter and the author handles the subject with sensitivity and care.
At the end of Bittersweet, we saw Jude leaving the safe haven he’d found on the Shipley Farm, heading home with the hopes that the progress he’d made since his release from prison and rehab would not be undone. Though his homecoming wasn’t celebrated, Jude took comfort in the fact that his father didn’t turn him away. But it was quickly apparent that in his time away, Jude’s father nearly ran the business into the ground. He also realized rather quickly that walking was a far more efficient form of transportation because the local cops would pull his car over almost every chance they could – killing the police chief’s athlete son did not make him popular. Despite all the odds that seem to be stacked against him, Jude is determined to stay clean, stay out of trouble, and stay away from Sophie – because she deserves better than the junkie who killed her brother. Fortunately for Jude and Sophie, a higher power had plans for them and Jude’s NA meetings in the church lead to him volunteering in the church’s weekly dinner outreach, where Sophie runs the kitchen, thus throwing them back in one another’s orbit. When one thing leads to another, Sophie and Jude pick up where they left off – sneaking around and keeping their “relationship” a secret. But as Sophie’s unanswered questions about the night her brother died return to the surface, and the information she learns doesn’t add up, she begins to question if she’s the only one in her family who’s living a lie.
There is a LOT that goes on in Steadfast, but it was so freaking good. I warn you, if you’re anything like me, you will get seriously frustrated with Sophie when you witness what she puts up with from her parents, and it gets worse as the book progresses. More than once, I wanted to shove her out the door and tell her to go live her own life. But with a single question, Sophie reveals that she’s more aware of what she’s doing than it first appears – “Mom, do you know what an enabler is?” When she posed that question, I had a “FINALLY!!!” moment, relieved that she seemed to be coming to her senses. Watching Jude struggle with his recovery and being inside his head as he faced down each hurdle and obstacle thrown in his path made this a fascinating read. The chapter subheadings were a stroke of genius as far as I’m concerned because they built a certain level of anticipation as I started each chapter, especially when it was obvious that things were about to get intense. I was stunned and appalled by the discoveries that Sophie made about her brother and father, and I was on the edge of my seat as I watched that play out. I really liked that Jude maintained his relationship with the Shipleys, not only because it gave me a chance to spend more time with a delightful family, but because they offered Jude a stability in his life he so desperately needed, proving to him that there were people who believed in him. I absolutely loved Steadfast and I cannot wait for the release of Keepsake because I’m dying to read Zachariah’s story.