Featured Read Friday: Beginner’s Luck

I could not think of a better year than 2017 to read, Beginner’s Luck, the debut novel from Kate Clayborn, and the first in the “Chance of a Lifetime Series.” In a year of ups and downs for many, this book is the perfect cozy read to sooth your soul. Seriously.  This was not a book I read in bed, or pulled up on my phone or tablet every spare moment.  This was a book I read curled up on the couch, with my christmas lights on, under piles of blankets and pillows, in my coziest clothes. A book I made time for, so I could just sit and take in the heroine and hero as their love story played out.

To be frank, this book is delightful as fuck.

We begin by being introduced to three very good friends, with very different careers and personalities. Ekaterina (Kit), Zoe, and Greer get a little sloshed, decide to all chip in on a lotto ticket, and spoiler alert, they win. This book tells the story of Kit, who decides with her winnings she’s going to buy a house, and turn it into the home she’s never had.

Kit is a girl after my own heart. She takes her winnings and buys a house that she plans on making her home. Kit had a rough childhood and buying this house, making herself part of a community, is all she really wants:

“I have this dream— it’s ridiculous, really — that someday I’ll know enough about this place to call myself a longtime local.  To be able to recommend my favorite burger joint or mechanic or dermatologist.”

Kit’s got her dream job, a scientist at a local college where she not only pursues her passion, but does work she’s proud of and does it well. Just like Kit, the author also does well at delving into the world of science without losing readers who, like myself, barely passed Geology. Part of Kit’s charm is how she geeks out over her field, and part of Clayborn’s charm is her ability to evoke the same excitement in her readers.

We get a brief glimpse of Kit in her element, the lab, before enter stage right, our hero, Ben.  Ben happens along at the perfect time to remind Kit that while she’s got it good, she’s still missing one piece of her happily-ever-after puzzle. And in my opinion Ben as a hero, could not be more lovable.  He’s a great blend of strong and sensitive, with just enough flaw to make him believable.

When we first meet Ben, he’s in town to recruit a scientist, i.e. Kit, for his company Beaumont Materials.  Kit turns down the offer because besides the fact that she loves her current job, she doesn’t want to move to Texas, or to work for a company that she believes doesn’t do work she finds respectable or responsible. Also, it probably didn’t help that Ben prior to meeting her, assumed she was a man, and then TOLD her that during their first interaction (facepalm).  Ben leaves slightly embarrassed, but no less determined to recruit Kit.  And he’s got time to try to win her over, because he’s also here helping out his father, who is unable to run his salvage yard after a recent fall (if I remember correctly he broke his tibia). Salvage yard you say?  As in a place that may be ripe with goods for a scientist with a newly bought house she has to fix up?

As the story progresses we get to see more of Ben the person, and less of Ben the businessman, and soon enough the businessman starts to fade away.  One of my favorite parts of the book that gives us a glimpse of who Ben really is, is when he reads an article so he can text Kit about it, hoping that it’ll get her to talk to him, i.e. try again to recruit her for the position in his company.  The article is about materials science, which is Kit’s specialty, and she responds by geeking out over it HARD.  And that’s when Ben’s hooked.  He doesn’t know it, but we do.  Boy has got it bad:

“Two texts and I’m way outside my pay grade in terms of the science, but I don’t care. I’d read her texts about crystal structure all night— I’m that excited she’s talking to me.”

Clayborn makes it easy to fall in love with both Kit and Ben, by switching between first person point of views for BOTH of them. WHICH NO ONE EVER DOES (AND IF THEY DO I DIDN’T KNOW UNTIL NOW SO HUSH).  And me, being the crazy single person that I am, was thrilled to FINALLY be able to see inside a man’s head…even if he is fictional (baby steps people). As their relationship develops, Ben of course finds Kit physically attractive, but he falls in love with her brains and heart more than her beauty AND IT’S JUST SO PROGRESSIVE AND SWEET I CAN’T STAND IT.

Oh, the sweet nature of their love story is great, but isn’t enough you say? You need chemistry? You need to know there’s a physical connection, full of steamy angst-y sex?Well, have no fear, Clayborn delivers in spades:

“But then I’m kissing her, my hands coming up to cradle her jaw, to tip her face just so, and holy shit, kissing Kit is hot, and sweet, and the way she opens her mouth against mine and slides her tongue across my bottom lip—I’ve got to stop myself from clenching my hands, from grabbing fistfuls of her hair to bring her closer to me.”

IS THERE ANYTHING BETTER THAN WHEN A HERO DOES THE FACE CRADLE DURING A MAKEOUT SESH? IN MOVIES OR BOOKS?  The answer is no.

Clayborn manages to expertly balance sexy and sweet, while also delving below the surface of Ben and Kit’s relationship, giving readers just the right amount of depth. (I did a lot of “OH MY GAWSH” 😩😩😩 while reading this because there are so many moments that give you all the feels.)

Now this may be a romance but they can’t just fall in love without working for it.  We gotta test ’em! Is their love true?  Can it survive the tests of time?

Clayborn navigates this perfectly by throwing a mix of Kit and Ben’s individual issues, some life situations that pop up, and the whole business conflict of interest mess, in a big old pot and cooking up some break-up stew.  But don’t fret! You’ll get your happily ever after.  You just gotta ride out the storm first. And why wouldn’t you?  That’s the best part. YOU GOTTA EARN THE LOVE BABY!

All in all Beginner’s Luck, is charming read that will leave you with a happily ever after you’ll sigh about.  Clayborn gives us characters and a story that feel REAL. You immediately become invested because the issues were real, the individual hangups were real, and the way Kit and Ben reunite to come together for good was real.  This was an excellent debut novel and I look forward to reading Clayborn’s next book.

Happy reading everyone.

S.S. Jaxon

In the second book of the series, Luck of the Draw, we get Zoe’s story and I can’t wait.  From the glimpses we’ve gotten in Beginner’s Luck she’s got sass, snark, and smarts.  All of my favorite things.  (Coming March 2018 from Kensington Publishing).

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