Desert Isle Keeper
Best of Luck
Continuing with the lucky theme that runs throughout the fantastic Chance of a Lifetime series, Best of Luck proves three’s a charm; good things do come in threes; and it’s a magic number. While all the books are uniformly good, featuring likeable and relatable principal characters, secondary characters that absolutely enhance the story in every way, and settings and situations that feel comfortable and familiar, Best of Luck is the best of the series. Ms. Clayborn re-introduces Kit Averin’s older brother, Alex, a world-renowned photojournalist with a profound case of wanderlust, who’s flitted in and out the series since Beginner’s Luck. Alex falls hard for Greer Hawthorne, one of Kit’s best friends, whose roots in Barden (a fictional city in Virginia) run deep. From the teaser prologue that first appeared in Luck of the Draw, to the note perfect epilogue, everything about this novel sparkles.
Winning the lottery with friends Kit and Zoe changed Greer’s life. But unlike her co-winners, Greer didn’t struggle with what to do with her winnings. With Zoe’s legal help, she made arrangements to give much of the money to her family, using what remained to pursue her long-postponed education. Independence from her large and overprotective family and a permanent position as a social worker are finally within her grasp… until her graduation plans abruptly go awry. Despite her hard work, a miscalculation of the credits needed to graduate threatens to derail all her plans. A photography class – and the sanctimonious, unsympathetic professor who teaches it – stand between her and a diploma.
When Alex arrives – late – to the rehearsal dinner for his sister’s wedding, Kit happily greets him and pulls him into the celebration, but not before he spots Greer. Lovely and ever watchful, Greer remains separate, yet clearly an essential part of the friendly chaos around her – and he experiences the same frisson of awareness and attraction he feels whenever she’s near. When they find themselves together with Zoe, she makes it clear she hasn’t forgiven him for their last meeting when she spotted him on his way out of Barden. It’s still painful to remember her dismissive “You’re lying,” after he explained he’d been called in for a job. He’s spent the evening surreptitiously tracking Greer and spending time with Kit and her friends, when he abruptly realizes a panic attack is imminent. Alex moves out of the room quickly, struggling to contain his nausea and make it outside… but he’s only able to regain control of his breathing and heartbeat after Greer sidles up next to him and reaching for his hand.
After spending a frustrating evening trying and failing to ignore the irresistible pull Alex has on her attention, Greer is watching when he makes his frantic escape… and she follows. Familiar with panic attacks (her brother had them as a child), she grabs his hand and stays by his side until regains control. The panic attack – and his subsequent, painful admission that it isn’t the first time he’s had one – subtly changes Greer’s impressions of the seemingly unflappable Alex. She can’t forget how he fled from Barden two years ago, but witnessing his panic attack, changes her perspective on his inability to stay in one place for long. When she checks in with him at the wedding the following day, the comfort and intimacy of the previous night remains, and Greer finds herself making a confession of her own – that she might not graduate on time. Alex offers to help, but she rebuffs him; Greer is determined to fix it on her own. But then she realizes they might be able to help each other and the deal they eventually strike reverberates through the rest of the story.
Best of Luck masquerades as a simple (swoony) opposites-attract romance, and then slowly reveals itself as a lovely meditation on what it means to know and understand – and embrace – our truest selves. And along the way, Alex and Greer slowly discover the freedom that comes in wanting – but not needing – someone with whom to share their secret selves. On the surface, Alex is easy to love – he’s handsome, clever and kind. But once his history is revealed, it’s glaringly obvious to Greer (and us) that the panic attacks are rooted in Alex’s adolescent roles as father figure, brother and son. His therapy sessions (a trade-off for Greer allowing him to help her graduate) are alternately hilarious and profoundly moving – and they provide wonderful insight into his mind; these, paired with his superbly rendered PoV (god, it’s so good!), make him absolutely irresistible. Smart, irreverent, deeply in lust with Greer… he’s a devastating hero and Ms. Clayborn perfectly captures his vulnerabilities and insecurities, doubts and fears. Her characterization of this complicated, lovely man, is absolutely perfect, and as the novel slowly progresses, Alex eventually recognizes that home isn’t a place – it’s a person. And his Person is Greer.
Emotionally intelligent, resilient and often able to see things others miss, Greer is a much more challenging character to unwrap. (I also don’t want to reveal any of her secrets in this review). Suffice it to say, being forced to rely on friends and family growing up – spending her formative years watching others make decisions for her – has left Greer desperate to live life on her own terms. Winning the lottery accelerated her plans for independence, and with three credits to go, she has no intention of giving up on her dreams. Determined to graduate, she doesn’t want to need Alex’s help. But she accepts it anyway – on her own terms. Her feelings for Alex are complicated (he’s Kit’s brother!), but when they FINALLY transition from friends to lovers, Greer reminds herself to enjoy the moment, knowing her time with Alex, however wonderful, is fleeting. Greer is surprised by the sense of freedom she experiences being with Alex, but her constant worry and doubt over needing him – when he’s destined to eventually leave her behind – prevent her from envisioning a future with him.
From the moment Alex and Greer were first introduced in Beginner’s Luck, it was clear they were destined for each other. It’s been a delicious tease witnessing the tension between them – the thrum of attraction that’s marked each of their encounters – wondering how the author planned to bring them together. Ms. Clayborn brilliantly maneuvers the pair into each other’s orbit and everything about their relationship feels natural, right and wonderful. The novel works for many reasons, not the least of which is the author’s obvious affection for her principal characters and the friends and family that comprise their world, and I was wholly invested in this story from start to finish. I enjoyed each of the previous Chance of a Lifetime novels, but Ms. Clayborn simply outdoes herself in Best of Luck. I laughed, I cried, I sighed. And then I read it again and laughed, cried and sighed all over again. It’s a tremendous conclusion to an already terrific series. I’m sad to say goodbye.