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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review of What He Never Knew by Kandi Steiner


What He Never Knew
By: Kandi Steiner

“I knew how precious all of my books were, and I couldn’t imagine offering one up to a practical stranger. It was a special gift to have a book purchased for you, but to have one lent to you, to have someone trust you to take care of a piece of art so precious to them? That was rare.”

I have been waiting for Reese’s story for what feels like ten years. I was fully team Reese for all of WHDK & WHAK. I was heartbroken when Charlie didn’t choose him, and for me the story wasn’t over. Reese needed that happy ending.

Well, Kandi DE-LIV-ERED.

Reese has had a devastatingly tough life, and in all the scenarios I dreamed up for him the leading lady would change. Because the woman who tamed him was going to have to understand his pain—and how the hell could she ever do that?


Sarah Henderson is one of my favorite Kandi characters of all time. Out of all books and all the different book worlds, she takes the cake. Beautiful and broken isn't necessarily new for a Steiner novel, but Sarah took it to the next level. Kandi really pushed Sarah into the pain—and because she was brave enough to do so, she wrote one of the most incredible leading ladies I’ve ever read.

“Sarah Henderson may have been my student, and she may have been sixteen years younger than me. None of that changed the fat that she was irrefutably the most beautiful entity to ever grace that stage.”

All Reese has to do is look at Sarah and, like looking into a mirror at his own eyes, he sees the heavy weight she carries with her at all times. Sarah wants to play the piano with the passion and connection that she sees when she watches Reese. Unfortunately, her fear—her demons—are holding her back.
Reese calls bullshit.

“I want to be clear about one very important thing. I demand excellence from my students, Miss Henderson. Working with me will likely not be your favorite thing in the world. I won't take it easy on you, and I won't dance around something just to save your feelings. Piano isn't easy, it isn't for everyone, and I won't be too shy to tell you if I think you fall into that category.”

Sarah is ready to fall in love with the piano again, but she wasn’t prepared to fall in love with her teacher. She’s still recovering from a past that won't let her go, and every time love starts to bloom, she runs.

Reese is battling a different demon. He’s in love with a woman sixteen years younger than him and related to his boss. He is walking tepidly toward Sarah trying to heal what was broken, and all the while trying to heal himself.

“ ‘Reese,’ she finally whispered.
‘Yes?’
She sniffed, eyes flicking between mine as her fingers fisted in my shirt again. She pulled me closer, just a centimeter, and her gaze fell to my mouth before she spoke again.
‘Will you kiss me again?’ ”

***Some spoiler-ish stuff may be below this line, proceed with caution!***

Sarah’s road to recovery is breathtaking. First and foremost, it takes a special author to tackle rape in a novel, and it takes mad fucking skills to put it in the very first pages of the book. Kandi handled it with a grace that doesn’t tend to surround the subject. It happened. It happens. And it’s books like these that point to the beauty of healing and growth in the aftermath.

Sarah embraced the pain she’d shoved in a box for so long and let it flow out of her and into the piano. She did this is the book, and Kandi did this for the reader. What He Never Knew is riddled with links to actual songs, so that the reader gets the full experience along with the characters in the book when they are playing music. It was an out of this world reading experience. And “(No One Know Me) Like The Piano” is one of my new favorite songs.

My pouting over Reese and Charlie is over, and I accept that they weren't meant to be together. I had a hard time seeing that because I wanted that broken-hearted man to have a happily ever after so bad it hurt. And he finally got it.

I didn’t touch much on the age gap piece in here because age gap has been somewhat of a reality for me my whole life. My parents are 12 years apart—and they are the two greatest parents ever. They’re in love. And that’s all there is to it. So, when I saw age gap romance, I wasn’t all that taken aback. I understand the wariness and the “what will people think” that might go through their mind—but Reese and Sarah heal one another, and in that process they fall in love. That’s all there is to it.
“And for the record,” he said, “you are enough.”

Kandi, thank you for giving me the most beautiful happily ever after, & for trusting me with an ARC/review once again. I love your words.

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