Thursday, December 12, 2019

Sarina Bowen - The Shameless Hour

For Bella, the sweet-talking, free-loving, hip-checking student manager of the Harkness men’s hockey team, sex is a second language. She’s used to being fluent where others stutter, and the things people say behind her back don’t (often) bother her. So she can’t understand why her smoking hot downstairs neighbor has so much trouble staying friends after their spontaneous night together. She knows better than to worry about it, but there’s something in those espresso eyes that makes her second guess herself.
Rafe is appalled with himself for losing his virginity in a drunken hookup. His strict Catholic upbringing always emphasized loving thy neighbor—but not with a bottle of wine and a box of condoms. The result is an Ivy League bout of awkwardness. But when Bella is leveled by a little bad luck and a downright sinister fraternity stunt, it’s Rafe who is there to pick up the pieces.
Bella doesn’t want Rafe's help, and she’s through with men. Too bad the undeniable spark that crackles between the two of them just can't be extinguished.

Comment: This is the fourth book in the Ivy Years series by author Sarina Bowen. So far I was impressed by one, glad about another and so-so about another one and now this too. There's a fifth installment in this series about college students I'm still debating about reading or not...

In this story we finally see Bella have the spotlight. Bella is a young woman who is very confident in her social life, in her romances and hook-ups and she feels comfortable in her skin and in how to be with other people, especially those of the opposite sex. Of course she also has doubts about her future, where she should go after college but besides that her most recent problem was to discover someone she cared about a bit more than as only a hookup wasn't into her the same way.
She is happy for him, though, but it hurt a bit to be put aside so she just wants to keep up her routines.
However, after discovering a problem she was not thinking she would suffer, she makes a mistake and is severely punished by it.
To help her, there's her downstairs neighbor Rafe, a sweet guy who recently broke up with his girlfriend after discovering she cheated and in a commiseration night, he and Bella spent the night together. However, intimacy is not something Rafe sees as casual and he is conflicted about having liked being with Bella and his own thoughts on the subject. When these two finally speak and talk seriously, they discover they can be, after all, a good match...

After being blown away by the previous book, The Understatement of the Year, I knew this one would be a challenge to overcome the other so my expectations were lower and, to be honest, I'm glad because I didn't like this one as much, just as predicted.

This story features a sexually active female protagonist and a virgin male protagonist which, in romanceland, can be quite the switch of roles. I think it's nice to empower women just as much as men when it comes to sexuality because everyone should be free to make their own conscious choices, whether to enjoy sex or to wait. I think this message that women can be healthy, sexually active and happy just as much as guys is very positive so I didn't really mind the idea Bella had been with many guys before and has had good experiences.
At the same time, this same issue is used to make another message come across: just because a girl enjoys sex is no reason to be considered promiscuous or any negative adjectives one might think of. After all, guys aren't labeled so if they have many sexual partners.

A key plot theme is, therefore, how women are treated if they are obvious in their sexual relationships and how often that is considered bad, as if that girl/woman cannot be "a good girl". I think this part of the book was quite to the point, incisive and presented a situation that probably happens too often, even if in a different way, all over the world. I also think the reactions Bella had throughout the situation were realistic and if her personality had been other, if her self esteem was lower, then things might have been portrayed in a more extreme manner too.

Messages aside, we obviously have the romance between the protagonists. We are told about how different they are at many levels: sexual confidence, social and racial background, age, among other things. The things they have in common should not be enough to make them a good pair but that is precisely what the author tries to make us see, especially because Rafe is so much more down to earth and calm and defender of those he cares about. He is in the right place to help Bella, as if being a good guy is enough to balance against the type of guys who we see were causing Bella her problems.
Sure, thy had some chemistry, they were good friends but I didn't feel as convinced of their feelings and of their suitability as I did with the previous book.

I liked seeing some secondary characters play a role in this book, I see Bella's roommate will be the protagonist f the next story, I liked seeing the guys from the previous books make an appearance... but the main romance and Bella and Rafe's descriptions didn't feel as strongly developed as I think they could have. In the end I was just not as interested in what they had to tell.
I'll think about the last book...maybe not for right now but it's just one left and I think I'd like to have the series finished anyway.
Grade: 6/10

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