Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: The Shameless Hour (Ivy Years #4) by Sarina Bowen

The Shameless Hour (Ivy Years #4) by Sarina Bowen
Published April 12, 2015 by Rennie Road Books

She's not looking for a hero. He's not looking for a hookup.

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 nasty 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.

Sarina Bowen is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors, and her Ivy Years series is a great New Adult series because of how deftly she addresses current issues in a college setting, and this is my favorite book of the series because she turns so many stereotypes on its head: you have a sex-positive female (Bella) who doesn't pay much attention to her appearance; and a virgin male (Rafael, Rafe for short) who works in the school cafeteria, but whose masculinity and desirability is never once questioned. Bella's closet friends are members of the men's hockey team at the elite New England college which she attends. But when she's the victim of sexual harassment, she finds herself ashamed from turning to her friends. Her neighbors, Rafe, all-around-good-guy, and reclusive celebrity Lianne, step in when they see she's not okay.

Issues like sexual assault, double standards in rape culture, and shame are addressed well, although the thread of the challenges faced by first-generation minority students in elite higher education is left hanging. The rapport that develops between Bella and Lianne is hilarious, and there's a delightfully empowering scene where Bella gets retribution for a misdeed done against her.

Overall, this is an enjoyable read that challenges gender expectations and our attitudes towards sex and shame, and also authentically captures college life in America.

Rating: 5 Stars

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