Genre: MF Contemporary Romance, Explicit
Title: The Shameless Hour
Author: Sarina Bowen
Release Date: 12 April 2015
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.
What I Liked:
This book very cleverly inverts one of the most common romance tropes. So often in romance novels, both historical and contemporary, the focus is on a blushing, virgin heroine and her experienced, playboy lover. In this story, Bella is the older and experienced one, whereas Rafe is the innocent, blushing virgin, which is a refreshing change from the norm. They have different attitudes towards sex and sexuality. Bella is a very sexual woman who is free from the shame that society tries to place on women for their sexual appetites. Instead, it is Rafe, our male hero, who battles with shame over sexual thoughts and experiences, stemming from his religious upbringing. This take on modern sexual relationships was refreshing, since so many contemporary stories stick to the same old, tired romance tropes.
On the topic of shame, this book also does a great job exploring the shaming of women and bullying on campuses/social media. What happens to Bella is horrifying realistic, as is her reaction to it. While she isn’t raped, she is still violated and made to feel ashamed of herself for things that should be more acceptable to talk about in society. I am very lucky that I have never been in a situation similar to this, but I have heard many true stories that are very similar. I like that the author managed to present such a serious topic realistically and in-depth while still be able to keep the overall story happy and romantic.
What I Didn’t:
While I did like the trope inversion of the playboy and the virgin, Rafe impulsively jumping into bed with Bella felt a bit forced to me. Even drunk and hurting, his self-shaming thoughts about sex are so strong that I can’t really believe that he would be so quick to just say “fuck it!” and sleep with someone. Also, he seems to have ridiculous sex skills for someone with no real previous experience. I refuse to believe that ANYONE is so good the first time that someone as experienced as Bella wouldn’t be able to tell.
This book is another great entry into The Ivy Years series. While I am a bit disappointed that the focus has moved away from hockey players (sadface!), I am still enjoying all of the characters and relationships. It’s fun to get little glimpses at the previous couples in the series (Corey/Adam, Scarlet/Bridger, and Graham/Rikker) without them having big storylines that take away from the current couple. I really liked that this book inverted the normal virgin heroine/experienced hero trope, especially since Bella was such a strong, confident, and sexual woman. This book also handled slut-shaming and campus assault very well, especially for a book that is a romance and not an after-school special. I had a few believability issues when it came to Rafe, but those weren’t enough to really pull me out of the story. I’ve been enjoying this series so much, and I’m really sad that I only have one book left to read!
My Rating: 4/5