Novelette Review: THE BELLE VS THE BDOC by Amy Jo Cousins

The Belle vs. the BDOC (Bend or Break #0.5)The Belle vs. the BDOC by Amy Jo Cousins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This interracial New Adult romance is a light and easy read with a nostalgic 90s soundtrack and a sexy pair of heroines. Intellectually satisfying and empowering, it frankly and humorously celebrates female sexuality with liberating, shirtless dance parties, snarky sex-themed trivia games, and a bit of classroom cross-dressing.

The main character, Shelby, a Southern belle and gold star lesbian, is fiercely attracted to Florence, the most gorgeous and intimidating lesbian on campus. Unfortunately, Florence thinks Shelby is straight. So, Shelby embarks on a mission to get Florence’s attention and prove her rival wrong. She sharply strategies to crush Florence’s trivia team and assassinate Florence in a campus-wide paintball game.

Their rivalry quickly develops from an attraction into a relationship, though Florence continues to doubt Shelby’s sexual orientation. Shelby however counters that there’s no one right way to be a lesbian. In the end they both win by becoming allies instead of remaining rivals.

I liked the characters’ contrasting personalities, but I felt that Florence in particular was underdeveloped. Though Shelby’s backstory and family background are briefly introduced, Florence’s Vietnamese background isn’t. Her ethnicity doesn’t have much of a role in the story, except to describe her appearance. Though it’s told that they spend a lot of time in bed and argue about identity issues, they don’t talk about the kind of identity politics that might affect Florence as a woman of color.

I also wanted to be shown more than told how their romance developed, to experience more the sensation of falling in love and the range of emotions that accompany physical intimacy. I didn’t mind that the sexy times weren’t very detailed, but even without explicit details, I expect to feel something. It doesn’t have to be all angsty, but to be emotionally invested in any romance, no matter the length of the story, I really have to feel it.

I have read almost all of the books in Amy Jo Cousin’s Bend or Break series, and enjoyed them. I just wanted a little more from this one.

*ARC received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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