Ten Reasons to Stay by Candace Knoebel ~ Sarah A’s Review

One day a week—Thursdays—my husband and I could do whatever or whomever we pleased.

Protection was non-negotiable.

And no matter what, we had to be home by midnight.

Jack was the one who wanted an open marriage, but we were supposed to keep things simple. No strings. No commitments. It seemed so easy…until it wasn’t.

Devilishly handsome Cole Blackwater was only supposed to be a fling, but everything about him made me feel alive. Wanted. Seen. When I realized he was my husband’s boss, I should have broken things off right then…but I didn’t.

One day a week, I could pretend that I was his and he was mine…until Cole wanted more.

But how could I decide between the man I’d promised to love, honor, and cherish, and the man who tempted me to break every single vow I’d made?

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I’m not going to beat around the bush; this book will cross all kinds of lines for most people.  It didn’t shy away from crossing lines about unfaithfulness, and everyone involved slept with different people throughout the novel.  It touched on the subtle way mental abuse and gaslighting can tear a person down to a person they don’t even recognize and how that kind of treatment can make a person question anything good that happens to them.  Ten Reasons to stay was so addictive, though, I couldn’t put it down regardless of how uncomfortable it got.

I’m not going to lie; there were moments when I hated the choices all three characters in this book were making; they were suffering because of the decisions of one incredibly selfish and careless man, and they were all stuck in a cycle of heartbreak and deception.  Their decisions were fueled by the complex situation they’d found themselves in, how other people might perceive their choices and the overwrought state of their emotions.  However, there was something so compelling about them that my heart ached for what they were experiencing, I was so invested in their lives I couldn’t help but be understanding of everything and hope they found a path to happiness.

As much as I often hated what Corinne kept putting herself through, I love her growth arc.  She started the novel as such a doormat; it was hard to understand who she was under all the complacency and weakness.  The parts of her that made her who she was had been carefully carved out until she was the pretty shell her husband wanted, and it was gut-wrenching when she realized she didn’t even know what had happened to herself.  As the book unfolded and we saw her begin to find the pieces of herself that had been torn away, it gave me a sense of pride in her and anticipation that she would finally see her life without the rose-colored glasses she’d been wearing.

I had a few wishes for this book, but nothing that made me feel the story was lacking.  There were some editing issues, often contained in the same sections of the book almost as if they had been added post edits.  I also felt like there were a few scenes that could have been more fleshed out, moments that really could have been fantastic but were rushed through or left before they felt like a complete scene.  There were also some strange transitions and scenes that felt unnecessary or like they were a set up for something that had either been removed in edits or was abandoned before they came to fruition.

Ten Reasons to Stay is the first book in Candace Knoebel’s Risky Hearts duet.  I was expecting a cliffhanger or unresolved story, as my experience with duets as of late is that they’re usually one story, but this book was one complete story with an HEA.  I’m quite interested in seeing what the other book holds because I have no idea what is coming.  Ten Reasons to Stay is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Corinne and one of her love interests.

Candace Knoebel is a completely new to me author; I hadn’t even heard of her before this book popped up on my radar.  She made quite an impression with this story and if Ten Reasons to Stay is indicative of her body of work, I can definitely see her rising through the ranks of authors to watch.  There were moments where her writing was a little stilted, but they were far outshone but the passages that were so beautifully written they nearly took my breath away.  I feel like Ms. Knoebel was finding her stride – as it got better and better as the book went on – in Ten Reasons and can only assume her work will continue to improve and mature.

“YOU HAVE A BOARD MEETING later today, and also dinner with the mayor tonight,” Bianca said, trailing me out of the office. The vanilla scent of her perfume wafted around me as she tried to keep in line with my steps. “I already sent for your dry cleaning. It will be hung up by the time you return home.” She stopped, which in turn caused me to pause and lift an eyebrow.

“What is it?”

She was frantically scrolling through her iPad.

“B?”

“Nothing. Just had to make sure your spot was reserved for tonight.”

The pleased expression on her face made me smile. Bianca was my lifeline. She’d been with me since the beginning, always by my side, picking up every piece I dropped. And never in all that time did the lines between boss and employee ever blur. I had too much respect for her to pursue anything, and she had a fiancé at home that would probably gut me if I ever tried.

“Thank you, B. Please, send it to my calendar.” I was already running late.

By the time I made it, Dennis was sitting at our usual table where we met once a week to eat and catch up. He’d taken me under his wing when I first came to the city, working under him fresh out of college. He was a rounded man with white hair. A soft smile that could easily be mistaken for a pushover. Those who knew him, though, knew better. He might have been kind, but he was the devil when it came to making deals.

I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment our relationship changed from business to family. Maybe it was after my parents passed. Those were the darkest moments of my life. Moments I still woke up drenched in sweat from. He’d been there with me through it all. Helped me make the hardest decisions a child never wanted to have to make.

He and his wife couldn’t have kids. Maybe it was out of pity, but they took me in and sort of claimed me as their own after that.

“Sorry I’m late,” I said as I sat, setting my briefcase beside me. A spread of pretzels and cheese was already on the table, alongside our favorite beers.

“No worries. I’m just an old man with little time left on his hands, but who’s counting?”

I flattened my smile. He loved to goad me.

His chuckle was warm as he reached for a pretzel. “How’s business?”

I took a sip from my beer, the foamy chill welcomed down my throat. Summers in New York were brutal for men like me who ran on the hotter side. Any cold beverage was a blessing.

“The usual. You? Any new deals?”

His eyes twinkled. “I’d have to shoot you if I told you.”

I flashed a grin. “That’s what I love to hear, Dennis. A sure sign I need to get my people to dig a little deeper because you and I both know once I figure out who you’re in bed with, they’ll be taken right out from under you.”

He gave a bark of laughter, clutching his stomach. He loved the competition as much as I did, and our companies were at the top of them all, trying to one-up each other.

“You know it’s true. I learned from the best.”

“Oh, my boy. This old bastard still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. Just you wait.”

“I’m counting on it,” I said seriously. Dennis wasn’t in the best condition health wise. Just as he went big with his business deals, he did the same with booze and good food.

We spent the next hour bullshitting before I had to head out for my board meeting. Every day it was the same. Meetings. Phone calls. Paperwork. Deals. More meetings. My life was orderly. Predictable. Dull.

Most days, I didn’t mind it. There was enough thrill in making deals that it kept things interesting, but I found myself growing bored lately. Maybe that was why I’d used Tinder more often than not. Searching for the next fix that chased away the loneliness.

After the day was over, I rode the elevator down to the lobby, about to head out to meet the mayor. My nose was stuck in my phone when the elevator doors opened.

And there she was.

Corinne.

Her big, chocolate-colored eyes were wide when they landed on me. She was wearing a one-piece bathing suit, a towel wrapped around her waist. Her dark hair was slicked back, droplets of water dripping from the ends, curving over the sweet swell of her breasts. She must have just come from the pool.

Damn, she was beautiful. Achingly so.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, every muscle in her body tense as she wrapped her arms around herself.

I chuckled. Tucked my phone into my pocket. “I live here.”

“Oh. Right. Sorry.” She fidgeted, refusing to give me another dose of those puppy eyes.

The doors began to close, so I reached out, holding them open for her.

“Sorry,” she said again as she moved to the other side of the tiny cubicle. I knew I should get out. Leave. But I couldn’t make my feet move. My entire day… hell… my whole week had been dull. She was bright, bringing color back to the world.

“What floor?” I asked as we sort of just stood there.

“Sorry… umm… eighteen.”

I knew that. I just liked hearing her speak. The curve of her words. The way her tongue pressed against the roof of her mouth. How her lips took on different shapes.

“You say sorry a lot,” I observed.

The side of her cheek brightened with pink. With the cold distance between us, no one would guess that I’d gotten her off. That she wanted to do the same for me. It made me smile to myself.

She risked a small glance in my direction. “Sorry.”

I was grinning. “You know… you shouldn’t apologize for being you.”

She tucked her hair behind her ear. Managed somewhat of a smile. “It’s just a nervous habit.”

I couldn’t stop watching her. She was cute in a quirky way. Judging her tiny frame, no one would suspect the fire brewing within her, desperately waiting for someone to breathe life into.

“Are you enjoying the building?” I asked, trying to break the ice.

Her gaze stared straight ahead. “It’s nice.”

“How about the view? The condo has the best view of Central Park.”

“I like it.”

There was a charge building in the air, buzzing between us. I was afraid of what would happen should we touch.

“So you… you like to swim?” I asked, staring at the goosebumps building along her skin. “I do, too. Usually try to do laps on the weekends. It’s refr—”

She spun so fast on me that I tensed up. “I want to repay you. For the other night, I mean. I’m available on Thursday… if you are.”

A smirk broke out on my face, spreading like a vine. She was awkwardly forward. There was something refreshing in it. An inexperienced assertion that was begging for a chance to learn.

“Next time, you should try looking me in the eyes.” I paused as her face reddened, loving every bit of control I had over her. She was like a gazelle, waiting for me to sink my teeth into her. “And… I’m not in the habit of sleeping with my employee’s wives.”

“Oh, I… um… I’m sorry.” She was flustered, turning her body away from me.

I meant what I said, but there was something about Corinne I couldn’t ignore. Something I’d never tasted before.

The doors opened to her floor. She stepped out, not bothering with goodbye.

Just before the doors closed, I said, “How about dinner at my place? Meet me here. Thursday. Eight PM. We can talk.”

She swiveled, slightly shocked, and nodded as the doors closed.

Candace Knoebel is a hopeless romantic with an affinity for whiskey and good music. Her love of words began when she met the boy who lived in the cupboard under the stairs. She’s a self-proclaimed Lost Girl. Words are her mirror.

With two completed series, her work ranges from paranormal to contemporary, all centered heavily around romance. Currently, she lives in Florida with her husband and two children and has just completed her thirteenth novel, The Taste of Her Words.

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