Friday, October 9, 2015

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

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The girl who’s had everyone meets the boy who has no one.

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.

So I’m making my way through the Ivy Years series in anticipation of The Fifteenth Minute coming out soon (I’m weird like that – I have to read a series in order) and The Shameless Hour absolutely stops me in my tracks. Not what I expected, possibly because I didn’t read the synopsis carefully but I consider Sarina Bowen a superhero for trying to tackle the very controversial subject of slut-shaming and female empowerment.

Bella is a modern young woman who knows her mind. She sees herself as a feminist with the self-confidence that a lot of other women would envy. And envy her they do. It's no secret that Bella enjoys sex and the company of men. But that’s not all there is to her.  She’s also the hockey team manager for the Harkness men’s team who's very adept and successful at her job which she loves, and is well-respected by the team. However, that coupled with her penchant for hook-ups have earned her a reputation. No matter, she always shrugs off those nasty whispers or looks from other people, especially other women. She has more important things to worry about, mainly what she intends to do after graduation. That's the only area in her life currently with a big question mark. 

Rafe is the good boy any parent wants to see their daughter bring home. His single mother raised him to have a healthy respect for women and he believes in relationships. He’s completely blindsided by his girlfriend on his birthday and the relationship he once thought was rock solid, has crumbled instantly. Bella runs into him at their dorm that night and while commiserating over their respective broken hearts, they wind up hooking up. This is not Rafe’s thing and now he’s plagued with guilt while she sees it as no big deal. Unfortunately a lack of communication leads to some misunderstanding between them, thereby some seriously bad decision-making on both their parts. Later, Bella finds herself in a compromising position with only Rafe there to witness the aftermath.

While The Shameless Hour is well done, I struggled with it. A lot had to do with my personal upbringing. In short, I grew up being told that a woman should behave and dress a certain way in order to convey an appropriate message about herself. So that's what I've always kept in mind. A guy getting lucky is a stud yet a woman who enjoys sex is considered a slut. That double-standard is waning (thankfully), though I still find it hard to reconcile with what has been instilled in me. Harder yet is how as a parent I address this with my own kids. I appreciate that this book made me think about what female empowerment means today. Any time I felt myself being judgey, I’d tell myself to quit it.

The Shameless Hour is gritty and Bowen herself has said that it was hard to write. I can imagine. There were parts where it was like reading it with one eye open because I was so weary of what was happening. But there are also several moments that counterbalance the tough subject matter. When Rafe and Bella flirt with each other, it’s fun. When Rafe turns up his Latin charm, things get downright sexy. But the real hero is Bella. A few good friends in her corner and the love of a man who admires her, she rises above all the crap that’s been heaped on her. She doesn't care to prove herself to anyone, only to declare that she’s not one to be messed with. I encourage you to read this book. It’ll give you plenty to think about and discuss.

~ Bel

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