Must-read romances: ‘The Year We Hid Away,’ ‘One Night of Sin’

"The Year We Hid Away" by Sarina Bowen.

The Year We Hid Away by Sarina Bowen (New Adult). High school hockey star Shannon Ellison should have enjoyed her senior year and happily planned for college. Instead, when her dad is arrested for truly horrific crimes, her family gains a ton of unwanted media coverage and Shannon must deal with all the shame. Shannon legally changes her name to Scarlet and leaves for Harkness College in hopes of a new, anonymous start. She leaves her beloved hockey behind and focuses on her classes. On the first day of school, she can’t help but stare at the gorgeous Bridger McCaulley. After continuously running into each other, they become fast friends. Bridger has his own dark secrets, including a drug-addicted mother who can’t care for Bridger’s 8-year-old sister. So Bridger is not only taking a heavy class load, he is secretly housing his sister in his dorm room until he can figure out what to do. He will do anything to keep her out of foster care. These two go from friends to lovers, and eventually trusting the other enough to share all their secrets. Together they face all the demons in their families and try to move on to a more happy future.

I just adored this book. New Adult, a genre featuring protagonists that are either in college or just starting off their adult life, isn’t always my favorite genre to read, but this one is done so, so well. Both Scarlet and Bridger have dark drama, but they also bring lightness to this book. They are both well adjusted and mature. They can laugh and have fun while dealing with the weight of their family issues. This book definitely has angst, but it doesn’t drag the reader down. I never felt like I was drowning in their drama, rather totally intrigued and invested in how it was all going to be resolved. And the romance never gets left behind. It unfolds beautifully and you can’t help but smile at the affection Scarlet and Bridger have for each other. I also recommend the first book in this series, The Year We Fell Down, featuring a friend of Bridger’s.

One Night of Sin by Elle Kennedy (erotic). Skyler is a good girl, going to school and getting her master’s in psychology. Her idea of a crazy night is overeating ice cream and watching a marathon of television, but she also feels like she is missing out on life. So when her friend drags her out to a club, she decides to just go for it and put herself out there. When she ends up behind the club to get some air, she runs into club owner and occasional bouncer, Gage.

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Gage owns this club with two of his buddies (they get the next two books) and is a former MMA fighter. Gage is more on the serious, dour side and tells Skyler, who is giving him the lusty eyes, to go back inside. But Skyler wants to have fun and won’t let Gage scare her away. Eventually Gage gives in, and these two have hot, hot, hot chemistry. Gage just wants it to be sex, but as we all know, it eventually turns into a relationship. This is a quick read, but I never felt their relationship was rushed or forced. Gage’s friends who co-own the club are a nice addition to the story. If you like Elle Kennedy’s Out of Uniform series (which I highly recommend), you will enjoy the start to this series. Book two releases next week.

Mandi Schreiner started romance review blog Smexy Books in 2009. She is obsessed with reading romance novels and collecting fictional boyfriends.