***He wants a second chance. I want a divorce. To get what I want, I’ll have to give him what he does.***
From New York Times & USA Today bestselling author, Nicole Williams:
The only benefit I want from my ex is a divorce.
We got married for all the wrong reasons. The one thing we got right was our separation. I should have known better than to think I could bet on forever with a guy like Canaan Ford. Everything about him screamed impermanent, from his wild eyes to his restless soul.
When I left him and the small town I’d spent my whole life in, I swore I’d never go back. Never only turned out to be five years. Canaan claims he’s changed, but he hasn’t—same knowing smile, same rough demeanor, same body crafted from sin and sinew. And yet, something is different. He thinks this is his chance for redemption. My disagreement comes in the form of divorce papers dropped in his lap. He refuses to sign them. Unless . . .
He wants a month to prove himself to me—that’s his offer. One month to make me fall in love with him again and if I don’t, he’ll sign the papers. As much as I want to say no, I agree. I can suffer my ex for a short amount of time if that’s what it takes to be free of him once and for all. I fell for him once; I won’t make that same mistake twice.
He says we’re not over. I say we were over before we got started. Only one of us can be right, and I can’t let it be him.
Before I could attempt to figure out how to follow that, he lifted his hands. “I’m here to help. That’s all. No hidden agenda. I swear,” he added when I eyed the stack of packing supplies like there was a secret code I was meant to decipher.
“I don’t want to fight. Or argue. Or debate. Or anything else you and I could never stop going on and on about.”
“I don’t either.” He kept his hands raised for another moment before dropping them at his sides. “We didn’t always used to be like that, you know?”
“I remember. And then we turned thirteen and hormones got the better of us and we couldn’t seem to stop fighting.”
“I remember times we weren’t fighting. Lots of times.”
“The only times we weren’t fighting was when we were making out or making something.” I closed the door and cleared my throat.
“Fighting and fucking. We were damn great at both.”
If it wasn’t for the boyish grin he gave me right then, he would have gotten more than a grumble from me.
“We should have just stayed friends. That was the only relationship we were good at.”
“We never could have just stayed friends.”
“Why not?” I glanced around for a sweater to throw on, since that was the second time he’d looked at me like he had to convince himself not to misbehave.
“Chemistry. You and I had it.” He started folding the first box, his hands working with all of his attention directed at me. “You and I still have it.”
The warm jolt that shot through my veins whenever he came close confirmed his theory. However . . .
“You need a lot more than chemistry to make a marriage work. To make any relationship work.”
His shoulder lifted as he taped the box. “Of course you do. But a hell of a lot of chemistry sure doesn’t go bad with all of that other love, trust, and respect stuff. Does it?”
Grabbing a box, I put a good distance between us before starting to make it. “I wouldn’t know.”
Canaan stopped in the middle of yanking a strip of tape. “I felt like we had those things. Maybe not in the amount we should have, but I always loved and trusted you. And I respected the shit out of you too.”
I thought back to all of those nights I stayed awake, waiting for him to come home. My hand cupped around my telephone, whispering silent prayers to whatever god was listening at the time. I thought about the empty bottles and mornings of him not being able to recall anything of the night before. The scents of other women on him. I remembered tending to wounds and mending injuries.
Although the real ones that needed fixed I was never able to heal.
My eyes met his and lingered there. “You had a funny way of showing it.”
His mouth opened instantly, but it closed just as fast. He took a full breath. “I know.”
3.75 Stars ~ Reviewed by Sharon Thérèse
Williams is an author who’s at the top of my must one-click list. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of romance genre she puts her hand to, they’re all unputdownable. Her latest release is of no exception; however, as the story unravelled it became clear to me that ‘benefits’ wasn’t exactly what the title implies. I also wished the cover had brought out an ooh-aah effect in me because it simply doesn’t do the hero justice. I can’t dispute the excellent narrative or the storyline which flows non-stop but in all the years I’ve been reviewing, never has a female protagonist pushed me beyond breaking point. When an author is capable of stimulating all the reader’s emotions, it can work both ways and in this case, I’m absolutely convinced Williams’ modus operandi was for me to have a certain antipathy towards her heroine. So I have to say chapeau ma’am, you cracked it!
Maggie and Canaan getting hitched so young for reasons to be divulged meant that mistakes were made, immaturity being one of the main factors. Fast-forward; not only did I find the change in Canaan enchanting, but his willingness to own up to his past faults convinced me that love can move mountains if it’s worth fighting for. Whether Maggie admits that her ex wasn’t to blame for everything that went wrong remains to be seen. But the massive breakdown in communication was made apparent throughout and of major concern.
I don’t want to be accused of being a cougar but blimey, is Canaan drop-dead gorgeous or what! And to my mind, his spanking personality traits were an essential facet in keeping the story moving. In fact, it’d be easy to run out of positive adjectives to describe just how I felt about him. What I couldn’t get my head around was his tolerant and forgiving behaviour towards a person who I would have told to take a running jump at the beginning of the story! Although he’s hell bent on a second chance, I felt as if he deserved more. Stubborn, he never ever gives up and him convincing the love of his life that she’s the one was quite honestly what I enjoyed more about this tale of regret.
Deary me, Maggie was in urgent need of a wake up call and undoubtedly added a raw edge to her and Canaan’s relationship. Not being totally honest with herself or more important, others; the manner in which she left without so much as an explanation and then returning back to her roots, taking advantage of sad circumstances, literally winded me! Her backtracking when the moment of truth is thrown at her is as if she doesn’t want to believe in her own instincts or what she sees before her own eyes. I found Maggie’s selfishness difficult to deal with and her lack of resolve, even more so.
Although the story is told from Maggie’s point of view, plenty of banter between her, Canaan and the well-developed secondary characters helped this reader keep involved in everyone’s differences of opinions and advice. Williams has brought home how you can change and forgive no matter life’s hurdles and she’s done it a treat. I loved Canaan’s deadline, and the ending…overwhelming! Still, I have to admit that Maggie’s feelings regarding what she wanted, what she’d done and how she reacted to certain truths, decisive in my star rating. It wasn’t for the want of giving this standalone five stars because it’s more than one-clickable, I just couldn’t! BRAVO Ms Williams for making me sit back and observe all the pros and cons of a second chance romance.
Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.