Never Have I Ever by August Clearwing
Astrophysicist-in-training Piper Minogue has a lot of control over her day-to-day life. Between completing a Master’s degree at Caltech and beginning her fruitful career at a local observatory she has little time for socializing. Until she attends one specific party that is.
There, Piper is introduced to a drinking game called Never Have I Ever, and she finds herself admitting to a secret fantasy which challenges her friends’ views of her otherwise prudish nature. Her confession piques the interest of one man in particular, Noah; a handsome stranger with a darkly boyish charm.
The resulting spiral of rapture and torture that follows is threatened by the demons of both their pasts. Piper’s inability to give her heart to anyone, and Noah’s guilt over the death of his former lover claw to the surface to tear Piper away from not only the one man who has ever made her feel like she does not have to be in control of her desires, but also the newly collected list of Nevers they both want to turn into reality.
*Contains strong BDSM themes*
***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS AND IS INTENDED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY***
I am breaking so many of the rules I laid down for myself when I started this blog. To be honest, I had absolutely no intention of posting a review for this book until I hit roughly the 85% mark. And in spite of its 408 pages, I read it in pretty much one sitting (a habit I’m not sure is the most healthy of ways to spend my Friday nights, but what can you do?).
So what rules am I breaking? 1) I’m writing a review of a book that can only be called erotica—I don’t have a problem with the genre, but I generally don’t consider it appropriate material for this blog. 2) I’m including spoilers in my review—part of the reason I decided this book was worth reviewing is because of specific attributes of the plot. 3) Repeat of rule #1.
I’m breaking these rules because I think this book served a greater purpose than merely being erotica. As Clearwing said in his Author’s Note, he intended to write a story rather than merely “porn with a plot.” He expressed a desire that his readers would take something greater away from this book, and I truly believe that he succeeded. We’ll get to this point a little later. First, we’re going to run through my standard type of review, which will be spoiler free. Then we’ll get to the big picture, which will effectively keep all of the spoilers at the end of the post where they can be easily ignored if you decide you’re interested in reading this book.
To start with, I found Piper to be particularly easy to identify with. I don’t know if that’s just because I have a lot in common with her, at least initially, or if she’s simply that well-written. Either way, I was developing right along with her, and when things really started getting intense (and not only intense in the sexy way), I found myself holding my breath and hoping that things worked out for her. And Noah … Can I just say that any girl could wish for a catch like Noah? Sure, he has some shadows, but who doesn’t? I fell for him just as intensely as Piper did.
Clearwing has a clear and distinct writing style, and with the exception of some relatively minor typos, I was impressed with what he put together. I was pulled into the story he had to tell, and it wasn’t willing to let me even think about leaving.
***Spoilers from here on (oh, and I’m going to talk some rather dark socially issues, too)***
I appreciated that Clearwing didn’t pull his punches. There were the obvious/expected BDSM moments, but there were other just as serious topics. Aside from exploring the nature of a dom/sub relationship in “clean” things versus behind closed doors, I think he also successfully addressed the fact that there is a difference between rape/outright violence and BDSM.
Piper is a natural sub for Noah, and a very large portion of the book is dedicated to exploring and developing that relationship. She enjoys every minute of it, even when Noah comes close to her boundaries. The important things here are that she trusts Noah implicitly, and he makes her safety his priority.
Towards the end of the book, Piper is kidnapped, beaten/whipped, and raped multiple times. She did not enjoy it, for obvious reasons, and it left emotional scars as well as physical ones. She took the better portion of a year trying to recover to the point of being able to start almost from scratch in her relationship with Noah.
This distinction is something that doesn’t seem to be commonly acknowledged—I’ve seen quite a few stories floating around that treat them to be one and the same—more as in there seems to be some traction to the idea that rape is a subset of BDSM (like a square is a type of rectangle). Objectively, I’ve seen several instances that involve rape scenes that are okay because the woman ended up enjoying it. After all, if you like it rough, you must like it forcefully taken, right?
Now, I want to say right now that I have never been raped and can’t speak to the kind of trauma it might induce, I can, however, speak as a twenty-something female who has been afraid of being raped before. I worked late-night shifts on campus a couple years ago and was followed to my the same night that a girl in the same area was found stripped, raped, beaten, and left alone outside in the cold (as in winter-jacket and snow the next day cold); she was found, still naked, by someone who lived in the dorm she was left outside of sometime shortly before sunrise. It scared me in a way that I had a difficult time articulating for months, if not years. I’m grateful I wasn’t that girl, and frankly, I’m even more grateful that I didn’t find out about her until the next day. I’m confident that there was nothing about what happened to that girl that she enjoyed, and there was nothing about what happened to her that is in any way okay. I feel very lucky that I didn’t end up being that girl.
So what is the point of me sharing this with you?
I know that it is not uncommon for women to feel like they’re at fault for anything that happens to them because their bodies may have responded, or they may not have said no until it was “too late.” Or maybe they were into rough sex and their partner simply went too far and crossed a line. It’s also not uncommon to be unwilling to file a report with the police for a myriad of reasons. These are some problems with no obvious solution that are present in the world we live in.
I’m not writing this as a rally to arms—I’m not that kind of activist. I’m merely pointing out that Clearwing managed to address an awful lot of these issues in his story, and even though it is labeled as erotica and you need a fairly strong constitution to read every graphic detail, I think it was very worthwhile, if for nothing other than the perspective. Kudos, Clearwing—I wouldn’t mind reading more books if you publish them.