My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I’ve previously read Claire Kent’s Escorted series which I liked a lot. No Regrets, being a novella, was my choice for a fast read. I sure had some frustrating moments but the author has a way of writing that inevitably ends up touching your heart. I can’t confirm that I didn’t shed a tear or two, or had this silly grin on my face when the story ended, cause it had me in knots of emotions.
When Leslie finds her dog, Polly, to be terminally ill she breaks down quite naturally. Pushing 40 and rather a reserved, loner sort, her only constant companion had always been Polly. It’s not like Leslie didn’t have dates and so on, but somehow, she never had a stable, long-term relationship. So when she met the young and handsome veterinarian Josh, she wasn’t expecting anything, let alone a no-strings-hot-sex relationship.
Josh, whom she meets while taking Polly to her vet for the last time, turns out to be Leslie’s healing balm; at least for the time being. He does knock Leslie’s socks off on the very first moment they meet. He proves to be very efficient, helping her thru when Polly is finally put to sleep.
Later that day, a torn and restless Leslie finds herself in the park where not only she jogs regularly but also had taken Polly many-a-times for her walk. She definitely didn’t want to be alone in her apartment that night. Then she sees the sexy veterinarian again, who was also jogging at that time. Talks turn to a swift date... then, a one night stand. It was so unexpected that Leslie didn’t think she is capable of something like this. She has always done relationships, so I didn’t think she had random guys over at all. But there’s something so enigmatic and devastatingly sexy about Josh that in a spar of moment, she decides to do ‘it’ in a public restroom. Another thing she never even imagined doing with anyone!
When she contemplates on it later, the practical girl in Leslie tells her that being with Josh might not be the wise idea. But when she sees him again, the challenge in his eyes tempts her. Josh has already proposed a no strings thing but he also left the options open. Just sex, whenever they wanted, either his place or hers; she can take it or leave it. Leslie though, at first, wants to leave. Then, she finds herself turning around because she desperately needed some kinda distraction in her life. This hot, good-looking (and probably younger) guy wants her that much, and if their one encounter proves anything, he’s good at what he does, so why not?
So it’s settled. They’d see each-other, but it’s Leslie who has to pick up the gauntlet, as in, call Josh first if she wanted to hook up. Leslie doesn’t like it but sex is way too good to pass up. But, most importantly, she unwittingly begins to get attached to Josh in a way that was forbidden in their initial deal. She loves spending time with him, precious little as it is. There’s very little cuddling after sex, though she wants to cuddle up to him all night. She loves talking to him about everyday things. She just loves seeing him. Josh also seems to be enjoying their time together. But the invisible wall of ‘no-strings’ doesn’t let Leslie to get any closer. Josh has already confessed that he’s quite a bit younger than her. At first, it does shake her confidence a little. Leslie is nervous that Josh would tire of her and move on but he divests her off that notion by his crazy lovemaking every time they’re together. Some months pass and the spark between them is as fresh as it was the first time they met.
But Josh wouldn’t come clean about why he doesn’t want relationships. That’s a total no-go area. Leslie, gradually, begins to understand that it’s not only in his love life that he’s so reluctant to commit. Apparently, he treats his family the same way. He doesn’t have much communication with anyone, living alone in his place. Leslie is very curious, but she also knows her queries will fall into deaf ears cause Josh would stiffen up, which would be her cue to shut up. Josh has made her every forbidden sexual desire come true. He is, Leslie would go as far as to say, a willing partner in anything sexual. But she’s ‘just sex’ to him. And this keeps eating at Leslie all through their encounters. She keeps debating, should she stay or break it off? But ultimately, she realizes that no matter what’s written in the future, she has come to care for him much more deeply than she ever had for any guy.
Personally, I’m not big on one-night stands or no-strings stuff, which reflects in my choice of reading materials. I was prepared for it in this story, yet Josh and Leslie’s chemistry was so explosive, I found it unbelievable that these two won’t fall for each-other! For a long time, I found myself asking this, getting frustrated in turn. I liked the simplistic writing style, which went so well with the narratives. Loved majority of the sex scenes as Josh is as good as they can get without any unnecessary drama in bed. I absolutely LOVED Josh, so I could comprehend Leslie’s dilemma pretty well cause I’d probably feel the same if I was in her place.
After a while though, Josh begins to soften up a little. One day, he finally tells Leslie snippets of a horrific incident that he witnessed while working as a volunteer in Africa that changed the course of his life. And his lifestyle. Leslie finally understands that Josh is wounded enough inside to not want to get involved, to not want that connection to happen with anyone or anything. Hell, he doesn’t even want a pet, the talk of which once made them fight, catching Leslie completely unawares.
When the news of a personal tragedy in his family arrives, it unravels Josh at last. He seems so lost that, Leslie, on a spur of the moment, asks to accompany him, totally expecting him to decline her offer. But a visibly shocked Josh just nods his head. And every time they were at his home, meeting with relatives etc., it was very much apparent that Josh gathered his strength from Leslie’s presence, sometimes quite unconscious of him doing so.
After her time with Josh’s family, Leslie comes to a decision. It felt imperative that she does. Leslie knew she is falling for Josh, and quite bad. She cares, but she will not ask anything of him. Certainly not when this would be the ultimate deal-breaker. She knew what she was getting into but now, she can’t go on like this anymore. She wants him completely or this must end here, even if it’d break her heart to let him go. And that is what Leslie does after they return from the trip.
I was glad for that ‘break up’ because I really thought they needed this time off to think things through. Josh needed to come to terms with his feelings for Leslie, which was very much evident every time he made love to her. That guy was barely holding it in! But he was stuck in his own nightmare, not letting anyone get close. I’d be annoyed if he didn’t want a relationship just because he didn’t care to have one or was scared of commitments. But I’ve never read a H who needed to love someone as much as Josh did. He later confesses just how much it took him to restrain himself so that he didn’t ask something of Leslie that he was so reluctant to give in the first place.
I loved, LOVED the ending, even though it was on a HFN note. I didn’t care one whit! In my experience, most novella-length stories can’t deliver it all, the way No Regrets did. But I also believe that Leslie and Josh deserve their HEA. It’d be so lovely to read a spinoff if the author decides to write one sometimes in the future. 4.5 stars and recommended!
This ARC was provided to me by the publisher via netgalley which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.