Logan Belle, up until this point, had given me (me, as a reader) Fun Erotica. With Now Or Never, the first installment in a series? She gave me something more. This story? This story is breathtaking.
Claire is in her forties and finally ready to get a life. She married young, got pregnant young, and when her ex decided to split? She became a single mother young. She falls into a trap a lot of women do. She puts herself on hold to raise her son. She doesn't date. She doesn't get laid. She doesn't have a life outside of 1) her job and 2) her kid. Now that kid is off to college and Claire is ready to find herself. Except now when she's finally ready to do that living? She's diagnosed with breast cancer. Just when she's getting ready to rediscover her body? Her body betrays her.
Her well-meaning friends insist she start attending a cancer support group at the local Y. Except Claire accidentally wanders into the wrong room and discovers an Erotic Reading/Writing Salon. Needless to say, after being sex-less for close to 20 years? Claire gets an earful. It's while taking a coffee break afterward that she meets Justin. Younger-than-her, handsome-as-sin Justin - who just so happens to troll AA meetings to pick up women.
What follows is Justin inviting Claire for a drink. For reasons she cannot explain, Claire says yes - and it doesn't take long for her sad tale of woe to come spilling out over cocktails. So, on a lark, Justin helps Claire write a list. The "Now Or Never List." A list of sexual shenanigans (everything from going to a strip club to a one-night-stand) that Claire should now accomplish to make up for lost time. And Justin? Yeah, Justin will be her wingman.
What Belle has done is create a truly interesting, remarkable and totally relatable heroine. Me, personally? I don't "relate" to Claire in the strictest since of the word (I'm not a single, don't have any kids and don't have breast cancer). But I felt like I knew this woman. And I think for some readers? Claire is going to be like looking in a mirror. Is it sad that Claire hasn't had much of a life for the last 18 years? Yes, it's really sad. But, especially as a fellow woman, you understand how she fell into the trap that she did. A lot of women have been here. A lot.
Justin is, to put it mildly, kind of a jerk. But he's a relatable jerk. He actually says stuff that I've heard other, as-in-real, guys say (The whole bit about how easy it is for a woman to get laid? Yeah, I've heard that. Actually spoken out of a real guy's mouth). He's Mr. Anti-Commitment all the way. It's why he hits up AA meetings looking for tail. Those woman? Yeah, need to concentrate on recovery. They know they have no business looking for love - so they don't. Looking for sex? That's another kettle of fish entirely. Is Justin a nice guy? Not really. But I liked him in spite of it and Belle does a wonderful job of slowly working his own personal baggage into the story.
There were several moments in this story that were like a punch in the gut. Things Claire says, things Justin says, things Claire feels. And the ending? The ending just killed me. It literally sucked all the oxygen out of the room. It's that moment in any great story where the author, in ethereal form, shows up in your living room, reaches into your chest, rips your heart out and says, "Oh, look what I found!" It's that good, that heartbreaking, that sublimely wonderful. I'm also willing to admit that I also may now hate the author a little bit for making me wait until January to get the next installment.
It's erotica that makes you think, feel, and bleed. It's erotica that turns a strong, focused eye on the heroine. In other words? It's my favorite sort of read. Don't miss this novella - it's wonderful.
Final Grade = A