Fiction, Reviews

It’s Been A Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Pleasure isn’t a person. It’s personal. And I need to work out what it looks like to me.

Published: September 2020
Genre: Romance
Representation: Bisexual, Gay (LGBT+); Plus-Sized; Mental Health
Content Warning: sexual content; low self esteem; self-deprecating thoughts; public defecation; teenage humiliation; severe anxiety; social paranoia; slur “fag” used to describe cigarettes; depression; grief; discussion of “social infertility”; kink shaming; struggling with the inability to have a child; miscarriage; cheating in a relationship; fat shaming; absent parents.

Summary

An empowering, feel-good romantic comedy about creating the life you want.

Noni didn’t expect to be starting over again at the age of thirty-six. But eighteen months after the end of her long-term relationship, she knows it’s time to pick herself up and figure out what’s next.

While a brush with a sexy firefighter is a welcome entry back into the dating world, Noni soon realises she’s looking for more than just brief, pleasurable encounters. She’s looking for more pleasure in, well, everything.

That’s how she finds herself embarking on a whirlwind trip to London to track down the one that got away: the alluring, elusive Molly. But Europe may have other surprises in store…

— summary from Claire Christian’s website

Review

Well. This book was an experience! The first half of the book, before Noni goes on her journey of self discovery reads in a very different way compared to the second half of the book. Fellow asexual readers may find themselves thinking “maybe I’m too ace for this book,” even as a romance reader. While the book is incredibly sex-positive throughout, the first half of the book doubles down on it, in the sense that it comfortably talks about uncomfortable topics. There’s explorations of various kinks while Noni tries to use sex as a way to find value in herself, which is inherently a difficult and likely triggering concept for many women. There is a feeling of desperation in seeking validation through sex, and along with the awkward situations Noni kept ending up with, these initial chapters of the book were quite discomforting for us. It was to the extent where we weren’t sure if we would enjoy the book at all.  And while the first half of the book reads that way because of how unafraid it is to talk about those squirm-in-your-seat awkward moments, the second half, where Noni figures out what she wants to do and embarks on her quest, is more endearing and relatable in its honesty. The second half of the book is the part that made us fall in love with the story as a whole.

The big thing about It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake is Claire Christian’s writing; she has a really strong, emotional writing style that makes the reader feel like they’re living the story and feeling the feelings even if you yourself haven’t had similar experiences before. It’s almost unnerving how she gets you to feel like you’re in Noni’s shoes, but it makes the book that much more powerful. By the time you finish the book, you feel like you’ve gone on this journey of self discovery with Noni. There are a lot of ideas and concepts of self worth and mental health explored throughout the novel that have likely been felt by a lot of non-cis-male readers throughout their life, allowing for a real engagement and understanding of the main character and the story. The great thing is that even while Noni is clearly struggling within herself, the book still normalizes things like mental health, therapy, and different coping mechanisms. Noni realizes partway through the book that she is not very kind to herself; and while her experiences and perspectives definitely contribute to that, a large part of it is that she is unforgiving of her flaws and mistakes. 

I would never tolerate the things I say to myself if someone else was saying them. I disregard my feelings. I don’t value my desires. I don’t nurture myself. I’m mean.

It’s a beautiful story of acknowledging one’s cruelty to themself and trying to find out how to correct it. It’s breaking the cycle of self deprecation and learning to appreciate the things that you’ve hated about yourself for a long time. Noni realizes something is wrong in how she treats herself, and it is so fun to follow this charismatic bi/pansexual protagonist as she tries to figure herself out and get to a place where she can feel comfortable in her skin and satisfied with her life. It’s a charming story centered on self love and empowerment, filled with unique, quirky characters and strong personal bonds. There are also a ton of too-close-to-home themes like self loathing, fat shaming, and having a difficult personal relationship with sex. At the same time, it normalizes mental health and therapy, non-heternormative relationships, sex, and self love. And with all of this in stride, by the time you meet the main love interest, you can’t help but fall head over heels in love with him. As much as the happily-ever-after ending of the story is wonderful, it’s also so amazingly good to see Noni realize that her happiness comes from within, from respecting herself and doing what feels right rather than have other people dictate what you should be doing. Yes, she finds love (and he is pretty great, and respectful of her journey), but it’s not just external. She finds love in herself, too. There is no way to talk about this that isn’t incredibly cheesy but we promise, it doesn’t (entirely) read that way!

There is a lot of sexual content on this book, and chances are high that some of it will make you feel a little weird to read; almost like you’re a voyeur, if we’re honest. Our advice is: get past the awkwardness of the beginning of the book and you’ll find an incredible, meaningful story that you won’t be able to put down!

2 thoughts on “It’s Been A Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian”

  1. This is such a great review! Like you said, the first half of the book was entertaining but had me questioning whether I would end up liking this book, but the second half was so good! Thanks for this great review!

    Like

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