Now and Forever by Logan Belle is "part two" of a story that started with Now Or Never. It probably could be read as a stand-alone, but I would not recommend it and actively discourage it. Because why would you want to deprive yourself of the whole story when that whole story is so amazing? Belle lays exemplary groundwork in the first novella, and part two is where the real meat and potatoes of the romance is. Part one gets you hooked and part two gives you the pay-off.
Claire is finally moving forward with her cancer treatment. While the cancer itself was caught early, Claire discovered she has the faulty BRCA gene. That means double mastectomy, reconstruction (which she opts for) and an eventual hysterectomy. So our gal really has no time for a relationship. She found herself caring for Justin, the playboy who helped her create the "Now or Never" sexual bucket list - but after their one night together, and one of the most gut-wrenching emotional scenes I've ever read, he's off in the wind. Or is he? Because as much as Justin tells himself that he's not a relationship guy he finds himself unable to stay away from Claire. The fly in the ointment? Claire's not sure this is the time in her life that she should be opening herself up for possible relationship disaster.
I don't want to imply that Justin was thinly drawn in the first novella, but readers do really only get to know the surface Justin. The façade he puts on display for the world. The devil-may-care playboy who trolls AA meetings to pick-up women, the guy who doesn't have to worry about money because his family has money, the guy who is all surface and flash. However meeting Claire, spending time with her, and yes - falling in love with her, changes him. As falling in love tends to do to a person. The problem is that now he realizes how he feels about her? Claire is the one running scared. Not without good reason. She cares for Justin as well, but she's got a long road ahead of her. Does she really want to expose him to all that when keeping their time together in a perfect, pristine, bubble - protected from the messiness of her health situation - is more attractive? She doesn't want Justin to think of her "like that" - with her breasts gone, sporting drainage tubes, in pain, and getting her chest expanded in preparation for reconstruction. Justin has proven in the past that when life gets messy he runs. Clare doesn't think she could survive him running, so why not cut him off at the knees now?
It's all very complicated. However complications are funny things. Sometimes people make things more complicated than they need to be because they're scared. And that's our Claire. She's scared. Justin has to prove to her she doesn't have to be scared - but that's not easy to do when she seems determined to push him away.
The secondary characters also add a nice dimension, and Belle introduces some new players that were footnotes in the first story. Readers get to meet the delightful Max, Claire's only son now off at college, and none too pleased his mother kept her health issues a secret for so long. Also, Justin's completely jacked-up family situation comes into play - with a domineering father, a clinically depressed mother, and wastrel brother. This really helps further develop Justin as more than a pretty-faced-playboy and molds him into someone more hero-worthy.
While the first novella was all about the heroine's journey, this story gives readers a more finely focused, traditional, romantic story arc. Justin proves himself, and Claire learns to take a leap of faith. I didn't love this quite as much as the first novella (which, honestly, was the best kind of emotional gut-punch for me) but this second novella is where these characters firmly cement themselves in my mind as "real people." Which, of course, they aren't. I know that. But when a fictional story tricks me into thinking they are real? We have a winner.
Final Grade = A-