**This Review Contains Spoilers For Now or Never Book One and Study Break**
This book was easier to get into than Smoke’s previous book, Daimon. I’m not a fan of Reverse Harem, but I am a fan of supporting authors. While a lot of the description in this book weighed heavily on the purple prose side, I gave Smoke the benefit of the doubt and continued reading.
The book itself is evenly paced. Though It didn’t sit well with me how often one of the boys joined the main character in her bed. Harlow in and of herself is a trope of every female I’ve ever read in romance with one key difference. She does seem to genuinely care about helping other people.
The main mystery in the book, if you can call it that, sort of left me wanting. The “job” they did seemed to go by far too quickly. We didn’t get to see Harlow shine and show off some of her intelligence. Despite the book playing up her intellect from the very beginning.
The guys are very similar in stature and description and that left me confused a lot because I often didn’t know which man she was referring to. I know there’s diversity among them with Bellamy being Native American, but men are much more diverse than skin color. I would liked to have seen some differences in their personalities and outward appearance. Not all men are tall and lean with endless muscles.
At this point I’ve read several of Lucy Smoke’s books because she shows promise as a writer. I have noticed in many of her Reverse Harem titles that the boys are strikingly similar and not just among the books they’re in, but also across series as well. In her novella “Study Break” Dexter Jones, who bears an extreme likeness to Knix in Now or Never, tells the main female character, Jamie, that he will “spank her” if she doesn’t stop saying bad things about herself. Knix also tells Harlow he will “spank her” if she doesn’t stop saying negative things about herself.
Smoke seems to zero in one one man in the series to be their main character’s “focal point” despite there being three+ other men there that the character needs to pay attention to. In Now or Never this man is Knix. He is so obviously well-suited for Harlow and Smoke intentionally writes him this way. However, despite this, Harlow continues to pine over the other guys and worries about this hurting their feelings.
This didn’t make sense to me. Harlow has never considered a poly lifestyle for herself and based on this evidence instead of her wondering if this is okay for her to kiss all these guys who are already in a well-established friendship, shouldn’t she be agonizing over which one she should choose?
A lot of other reviewers have been praising Smoke up and down for writing Harlow as a “strong female character”, when there’s no such thing. There are only well-written female characters and poorly-written female characters. In reality, Smoke seems to write her female characters through the “male-gaze”. She uses tropes like “She doesn’t know she’s beautiful” and “these men have to save her”, not to mention, Now or Never wouldn’t even pass a simple Bechdel Test.
Harlow is a girl who randomly starts following a bunch of older men around because they claimed to be from an organization they couldn’t tell her anything about and they immediately started paying for her bills. Why? Harlow never questions this in any real way. Not to mention her only female friend exists to talk to Harlow about “the boys” or just relationships or men in general. That’s not a healthy relationship with another female.
Harlow also doesn’t once talk to “the boys” about the reality of the situation they’re in. She leaves so much unsaid, yet still decides to join their group, “Iris”, despite ¾ of them kissing her and she never once brings that up. I know Harlow is new to being Poly, but communication is key. This could potentially come back to blow up in her face and ruin the dynamic of the group. This is something she should have considered prior to joining. Instead, she negated to even bring it up.
Despite all of this, Lucy Smoke has a lot of potential. I look forward to seeing new works from her and seeing her grow as a writer. Well done, Lucy :).