by Julieann Dove
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Chick-Lit
Purchase*: Amazon *affiliate
Elise Newton has it all—a dream job, a house that’s all hers, and a boyfriend who’s a cardiologist. Darren has been carrying an engagement ring in his pocket for two months, waiting for the perfect time to ask her to be his wife. He has no idea Elise has been waiting for the perfect time as well—to break up. You see, Elise has a fatal flaw. She cannot commit to love. An early-morning call from her sister gives Elise hope. She’s needed back home in Kentucky, to care for their mother who’s recovering from surgery. It’s the break Elise has been searching for, a reprieve from the strain of ducking Darren’s declarations of love. But along with Kentucky comes seeing Ben—her first love, the one who came closest to being her happily ever after. Now a single dad, Ben has moved on with his life. But has his love for her moved on as well? When Elise discovers a long-hidden truth about her family—and the reason why she can’t commit—she must decide which man will give her a reason to stay.
A Reason to Stay by Julieann Dove is a standalone contemporary romance that falls in the women’s fiction and chick-lit genres. Dove shares with us Elise Newton’s commitment issues. Issues that caused her to run from her true love years ago. Past and present collide forcing Elise to confront her feelings even if she’d like to kick up her heels and run.
Elise Newton fled her hometown years ago when she accidentally found an engagement ring from Ben. Elise suffers from abandonment issues that began when her Daddy left. Those fears festered as a young impressionable child/teen when her mother preached, “leave them before they leave you.” Therefore, Elise fled to college and never returned.
Fast forward and Elise finds herself in the longest committed relationship since Ben. She and Darren have been dating for almost ten months and he is talking about keeping more than just her toothbrush at his house. Dove clearly showed Elise’s commitment issues as we experienced first hand the running commentary in her head.
Elise is a quirky character and Dove allows the reader to slip inside Elise’s head exposing how jumbled up and neurotic she truly is. This is the third book I have read by Dove and her female characters are all going through emotional journeys and experience growth.
Even though this story features a love triangle and cheating (cringe), the author realistically conveyed Elise’s struggles. She made them feel genuine. Lets face it sometimes life is messy and complicated. Deep down you as the reader know what Elise wants, and we bear witness to her make mistakes. We understand her confusion and see her make strides towards finding her happy and ditching her emotional baggage.
The romance was clean and the sex scenes were fade to black. Dove did managed to convey their chemistry and emotions allowing me to root for them. I did not care for Darren, for some reason I kept imagining him as Niles Crane from the hit TV show Frasier. He wasn’t a bad guy, he just felt way to needy. Ben on the other hand was all cowboy and charming. I actually felt for him. While Elise is a caring person and successful at her career, I wish the author had been able to convey more of her personality. We understand her struggle easily enough and what it stems from, but I wanted to understand what these men saw beyond her issues.
Personally I would have prefered if the author eliminated some of the tropes early on and instead used those factors in the beginning to set up Elise’s mindset before her return home. I thought the thread involving Ben’s life between then and now a little too weird for my tastes. Dove handled it well wiping away my initial feelings on the subject. Some of the twists and situations didn’t quite work for me personally. However, Dove kept the characters grounded. Ultimately I had a good time and ended the book satisfied. Secondary characters, side romances and family relationships all played a nice role in adding depth and a small-town feel to the story.
A Reason to Stay took me a little while to slip into but I ended up loving the ending and closed the book with a smile.
Read an Excerpt
Like A Wrecking Ball
Elise Newton sat across the table from Darren Masterson in Pierre’s, one of the swankiest places in town to eat, watching him like she would an ailing person in the hospital. Right after the doctor informed her he only had hours left to live.
She studied him, trying to remember everything about him that she could. Things that normally couldn’t be recalled if just the image of him popped up in her mind. Like a quick snapshot of a tall guy with a nice smile, dark hair, and an amazing set of blue eyes.
No, Elise wanted to remember the details. Like the lines in his forehead, and how there was one very pronounced one dead center over the bridge of his nose, etched deeper than all the others. And that solitary vein that pulsed on his right temple when he was either chewing or talking very seriously about something.
She took a sip of her expensive wine and swished it around in her mouth before swallowing.
It tasted dry; she much more preferred sweet. But this would do the trick. She needed just a few more glasses of it, though, to deaden the pain she knew would come after she told him what she had to say.
But first his lips. She needed to remember his soft lips. If they had a flavor, it’d be buttercream, like the kind found in the middle of her favorite doughnut from Margie’s Bakery, down off Ontario Boulevard.
She looked at him then, letting her eyes wander down to his perfectly shaped mouth as it took another bite. Lord, she’d miss that mouth … that tongue … that…
“Babe, are you all right?” he asked, chewing at the same time.
“Of course,” she said, blinking rapidly to get the image of him licking her lips out of her mind.
“It just seems like there’s something on your mind. Something you want to tell me.” He wiped the corner of his mouth with the linen napkin.
She shook her head and stared at his blue eyes as he drove his fork around the plate. Now, his eyes were a whole other story than his lips. Ones that she would miss the most. To describe them merely as being blue as the Arctic ocean would be like describing the Northern Lights as blurry thing-a-ma-bobs.
No, they were like two of the most devastatingly blue eyes that she’d ever seen in
California, since moving there fourteen years ago. When she looked into them long enough, she discovered they were actually secret portals into the heart of his soul.
And Bam! There she had it. These thoughts about the man sitting across the table from her were the precise reasons why she had to end it. Nip it in the bud. Stop the presses. Lane four is closing, take all your feelings and emotions to the express checkout and get the H-E-double-L out of there.
Elise’s brain sent the cut-it-and-run messages through the loud speaker in her head, but her mouth was having a hard time with the command. She shook her head, trying to snap out of the trance she’d fallen into again. Like the one that caught her last week when she told herself that would be her last date with Mr. Perfect. So far, this was the fifth ‘last’ date she’d had with him.
What was her problem? Instead of studying him like an Adonis sitting front and center in a Petri dish, she had to saddle up for what she came to dinner to do. To break up with him. There was no way around it. It had to be done. Only she had to think of a way.
He wasn’t like the other guys she was used to dating. There was nothing that truly stood out to be a problem with him. Other than Elise was beginning to fall for him. She had been for the past couple of eight months.
She could hear her mother’s Southern-coated drawl play over and over inside her head. “Don’t ever think a man is the answer to your problems, little girl. There is no man out there that’s gonna do anything but destroy you. Destroy all your dreams, and destroy your future. End it with them before they end it with you.”
* I work as a virtual assistant for Julieann Dove and was gifted a copy. This did not influence my review and all opinions are my own.