Risk and Reward by Rachael Duncan

“...a roller coaster of emotions that will leave you physically exhausted... ”

by Scandal
The Deets Genre: contemporary romance  | Series: standalone  | Source: ARC  | GoodReads

Well friends, I found another new to me author to fill up my TBR shelf! I had no idea when I started Risk and Reward that it is part of a standalone series. You can tell by the term “standalone” that you don’t need to read the book that came before this but the gist of the series arc focuses on a group of girlfriends finding love, or in this case, rekindling love. Apparently Charlotte and Nate were mentioned in the first book, Calculated Risk, which is Marcus and Lydia’s story. Marcus and Lydia have cameo appearances in Risk and Reward, as well as a cast of other seriously interesting friends which I’m hoping will get books too. But let’s talk about Charlotte and Nate…

Risk and Reward hits the ground running. Charlotte and Nate have been together for the better part of a decade. They are happily married and until recently they had the sort of relationship all others envied. Nate was always quick to express his hopelessly devoted loving feelings towards Charlotte in the sweetest, most romantic ways. Charlotte was always doting on her husband and singing his praises. Then, unbeknownst to Charlotte’s closest friends, things started slipping. Nate landed his dream job and his travel schedule picked up considerably. Constantly distracted by his phone and work, Charlotte felt lonely and neglected. After silently dealing with her frustrations, Charlotte decided to win her guy’s attention back on night. Sexy dress, favorite meal, romance in the air…until all of it went unnoticed by a distracted Nate. Unable to deal with being backburnered any longer, Charlotte blindsides Nate by asking him for a divorce. Don’t worry, all of this happens in the very beginning, I’m not spoiling anything for you. The book is told exclusively from Charlotte’s point of view. This is important because it means you feel her pain, her struggle, her hurt but until Nate starts talking, you have no idea where his head is at. And really, isn’t that very realistic in relationships? We aren’t mind readers are we?

This book is set in Raleigh, North Carolina…of course this tidbit makes me try to draw parallels to people I know, silly but still…it happens when I read! Anyway, apparently the divorce law in North Carolina states you have to be separated for a full year before a divorce will be granted. Nate leaves the house the night Charlotte demands the divorce but it’s Charlotte that eventually moves out to start making her own way. On the surface, it looks like Nate is not fighting for their relationship – this “going dark” thing he does completely devastates Charlotte. We get glimpses of Nate over the next couple of months and he doesn’t seem to be handling the estrangement well at all but still, he’s not knocking down her door. Charlotte sets about finding a job, an apartment and a life. She has put her life on hold, gladly by the way, to be Nate’s wife and to try to start a family. Clearly she’s lost herself along the way.

Charlotte meets a man at her new job, his name is Ethan. He’s slightly younger and pays her all sorts of attention. This is the sort of special attention she used to get from her husband. Reluctantly, she agrees to go on a date with him. She tells him up front that she is not looking for anything physical or serious…so if you’re worried about this being some sort of “cheating, but they were on a break” book…don’t. Charlotte has lost so much of herself over the years, she ignores the red flags she should’ve seen flying all around Ethan’s head. Months pass and let me tell you the red flags are so bright and waving so wildly, it set all of my spide-y senses on high alert. Finally, after he assaults her in her own home, Charlotte sees the light. However, she is uncertain how she’s supposed to remove herself from this situation. He lives in her apartment complex and they work at the same place. He is everywhere she is.

Eventually, Charlotte and Nate talk. Oh man do they talk. Rachael Duncan does a beautiful job hashing out the ugly details of miscommunication. Relationships almost never end because of a one sided event – there are two people in a marriage and if both people stop talking to each other, both people are to blame. Charlotte and Nate had to realize they both played a part in the demise of their relationship and they both had to remember why and how they loved each other before it all got so incredibly out of whack. To say marriage is a full time job, something you have to work on every damn day, would be an understatement. I challenge you to read this and not fall in love with Nate. Goodness gravy, when she finally stands up for herself loud enough and gets his attention and he finally pulls his head out his ass – I’m honestly not sure which speaks louder, his actions or his words. Both, I kid you not, are the stuff of dreams.

Because I’d really love for you to read this the way I did, completely clueless of the direction, I’m going to be careful with everything I say. I will say, this is two stories in one. We get the heartbreaking relationship between a couple that has lost themselves. We get to see them do the work to find themselves again, we get to see the realistic way they struggle to repair the deep rooted damage they’ve both, unknowingly inflicted on each other…honestly, him more than her but that’s just my opinion. He emotionally and mentally left their marriage way before she physically left…but again, that’s just my opinion – feel free to read it and discuss it with me. In fact, please read this so I can talk about it with someone! The second story is Ethan and it is harrowing and sad beyond belief and straight up scary. Everything he takes away from Charlotte, her peace of mind, her freedom, her self confidence her everything – it is not easy to read. Ethan is a stalker and Duncan does a phenomenal job painting the picture of his downward spiral. The stuff of literal nightmares, I shit you not. I read this book in a day because I could not put it down. Almost a week later and I’m still thinking about the events that play out. The pacing is fast and a lot happens very quickly. This is a roller coaster of emotions that will leave you physically exhausted by the time you get to the HEA. Push through it man, push through the incredibly sad parts. Relationships are tough, sometimes you need a brutal reminder to see how important it is to fight for the ones you love every single day.

There is another book coming out this summer. At Her Own Risk is Charlotte’s outspoken friend, Paige’s book. Duncan does a nice job teasing where Paige is going and how she’s going to get there. I can’t wait to read her journey.



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  • Natalija says:

    Fantastic review! Marriage in trouble is one of my all time favourite tropes. Can’t wait to read it!

    • Scandal says:

      Thanks – I devoured this book. I love how it’s all from the wife’s POV so you really feel like her husband isn’t doing his part…when you finally hear his thoughts you’re like, damn…why don’t you people talk a little more!!???!!

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