Knowing the Score by Kat Latham
Spencer Bailey is a star rugby player for the London Legends, hoping to win a spot on England’s World Cup team. After a scandal when he was younger, he keeps himself celibate during the rugby season, only allowing himself to indulge in his second favorite pastime during the off-season. Caitlyn Sweeney is an American working in London. She’s pretty typically American in her knowledge of rugby; mainly, she has heard of rugby, she knows it exists, but that’s about it. What Spencer needs for the next two weeks is someone who’s not looking for a permanent relationship. Someone who’s ok with a no-strings attached fling he can indulge in until training starts again. Caitlyn, whose visa is going to expire not long after the season starts, seems perfect.
There were parts of this book that worked for me and parts that didn’t. I liked Caitlyn’s job a lot. She works for an international disaster relief organization and goes all over the world helping people, specifically women, recover from natural disasters. There was a speech she gave to Spencer about it that opened his eyes, and mine, too. Frankly, living in the midwest of America, I had never considered how difficult it would be for women to deal with their most basic needs after an earthquake or hurricane. Where do you safely go to the bathroom? What if you have your period; what will you use? How will you wash your hands after? There’s no toilet paper to be had, how will you keep yourself clean? Spencer had clearly never thought of these things, and I’m ashamed to say, I hadn’t, either. Kat Latham’s history working in humanitarian aid shone through for me, and in a lot of ways it was the best part of the book.
I thought Caitlyn and Spencer had really good chemistry eventually. I didn’t buy it as much in the beginning. It came across more as Spencer thinking to himself “I need someone to have sex with for two weeks, and this woman in front of me is relatively pretty. I’ll ask her.” It just didn’t seem like there was any reason for him to decide to do this with her other than her proximity. Caitlyn’s reasoning made a little more sense to me. Spencer is gorgeous. And with the automatic expiration date on their fling, no one has to worry about getting hurt. Which is something that Caitlyn is very, very worried about. Plus, Spencer could help her with the pesky task of losing her virginity. And when I say Grace is still a virgin at 27, I mean she is the virginiest virgin I’ve ever read in a contemporary romance. She’s never had sex (obviously). She’s never had an orgasm, or even attempted to give herself one. The first time Spencer kisses her, she bites his tongue because she’s only kissed one other guy one time before, and she accidentally head-butted that dude and has no idea what to do. She’s completely virginal in every way. Which bothered me a little. If she had made a decision to save sex for marriage, or for some other reason that would be one thing.(See Jane the Virgin. No, seriously, go watch Jane the Virgin. I’ll wait.) But that’s not the case. She comes across as naive about the world around her. Has she never watched TV or a movie? Never read any books? She can’t possibly think tongue-biting is a natural part of kissing. Even Jane the Virgin manages to save herself for marriage while still recognizing and accepting that she’s a woman with a strong sex drive. It’s important to Jane that she remain a virgin until she’s married for a lot of reasons all of which are handled deftly and make a lot of sense, but she doesn’t pretend to be sexless. Caitlyn’s reasoning for still being a virgin just never rang true to me, because it wasn’t a decision she made for herself. She didn’t want to be a virgin. Ok, her dad was an abusive asshole and her college boyfriend was a nightmare. I understand that. (Question – she dated this college nightmare for two years and they never kissed or had sex??? In college??) I’m not saying that would have zero effect on a person. But she’s twenty-seven years old, doesn’t want to be a virgin, and hasn’t wanted to for a long time. It’s not that difficult to find someone to have sex with. It basically came down to her thinking she wouldn’t be good enough at it because of the way those two men in her past had treated her. But now that Spencer has presented her with this option, she’s ready. Again, that piece of it came across as her accepting the arrangement more because she wanted to have sex and Spencer was offering than because there was any real connection between them. She’s just very passive about the whole thing, which didn’t really mesh well with the woman we saw in other aspects of her life. She’s very strong and decisive in her work, she has to be. And when Spencer presents this arrangement, there’s no hesitation. She wants this, so she’s going to do it. So I didn’t really understand the hesitation before this. It came across as “I really, really want to have sex, so I’ll sit at home every night and wait until someone offers it to me.”
The chemistry between Spencer and Caitlyn did become more pronounced over the course of the book. There were a few tropey big misunderstandings that could have been cleared up with a conversation between them, or at least one of the characters being willing to listen to what the other has to say. But by the end of it, I could buy them being together. It did involve one of my least favorite tropes – virginal heroine scared to have sex because she thinks she’ll do it wrong or be bad at it having multiple orgasms the first time out of the gate. That does not happen. It hardly happens to any woman her first time out, much less one who’s gone her entire life being told and believing that she’s terrible at every part of intimacy, and who is also recovering from some horrible mystery illness she picked up in Afghanistan. She would have been so wrapped up inside her own head she couldn’t relax at all, much less enough for multiple orgasms.
The issue with Caitlyn’s virginity was the biggest problem I had with this book. It’s just not that difficult for a woman to get rid of her virginity if she wants to. Just leave the house. Guys aren’t that difficult to convince. And if you just go for a one-night stand, then any hang ups about being terrible won’t matter, because you’re never going to see him again. That goes double for a woman working in a foreign country. You’re not going to run into the guy at the grocery store. Just do it. Again, this is predicated on the fact that Caitlyn feels like her virginity is a problem. She wants to get rid of it. If she was saving it for any reason, that would be a whole different story. She’s clearly ok with losing her virginity to anyone, because she went into this relationship with Spencer expecting it to be a brief fling. But I liked Latham’s writing, and I liked a lot of the side characters, so I’ll read at least the next one in the series.