Book Review: To Have and to Hold by Lauren Layne

I received this book for free from NetGalley, Tasty Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: To Have and to Hold by Lauren LayneTo Have and to Hold by Lauren Layne
Series: The Wedding Belles #1
Published by Pocket Books on July 26, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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four-stars
Sex and the City meets The Wedding Planner in The Wedding Belles, her sizzling brand new contemporary romance series about three ambitious wedding planners who can make any bride’s dream come true…but their own.

Discovering her fiancé is an international conman just moments before they exchange vows devastates celebrity wedding planner Brooke Burke’s business—and breaks her heart. Now a pariah in Los Angeles, she seeks a fresh start in New York City and thinks she’s found it with her first bridal client, a sweet, if slightly spoiled, hotel heiress. Then she meets the uptight businessman who’s holding the purse springs.

Seth Tyler wishes he could write a blank check and be done with his sister’s fancy-pants wedding. Unfortunately, micromanaging the event is his only chance at proving Maya’s fiancé is a liar. Standing directly in his way is the stunning blonde wedding planner whose practiced smiles and sassy comebacks both irritate and arouse him. He needs Brooke’s help. But can he persuade a wedding planner on a comeback mission to unplan a wedding? And more importantly, how will he convince her that the wedding she should be planning…is theirs?

For a lover of romantic fiction, it might be a little weird, but I’m not really a fan of weddings. I mean, I love it when people care about find each other, but I was never the kind of girl who dreamed about what her wedding day would be like and plotted it out from the flowers to the music to the games (do people have games at weddings? Doesn’t matter; I did). Incidentally, I did plan out my funeral. But despite never really being interested in what goes into a fabulous wedding, I’ve an abiding respect for wedding planners, and I’m fascinated by what they do. So of course when I heard about Lauren Layne’s new contemporary romance series, The Wedding Belles, I was instantly intrigued. And once I got my hands on book 1, To Have and to Hold, I pretty much raced through the read.

And let me just say it was charming. Wedding planner Brooke is on a mission to make a go of her fresh start in New York, and the first step to doing that is planning an awesome ceremony and reception for hotel heiress Maya Tyler. Which shouldn’t be too hard because the bride is the farthest thing from Bridezilla and the groom is actually pretty charming. Except that, Seth, the bride’s hotel magnate big brother and the guy footing the bill for the whole shindig is determined to see it—and consequently her—crash and burn. And it’s just Brooke’s luck that this jaded control freak is hotter than a Manhattan summer.

As far as romances go, this wasn’t really anything particularly groundbreaking, but I enjoyed the pacing of it, the way the characters danced around each other before coming together to tango. I also enjoyed seeing how they were headed for trouble, how they acted when the nasty stuff hit the fan, and how they worked their way back to a point where a happy ending wasn’t just possible, it was plausible.

Of course, it hurt not a whit that the supporting characters were all sorts of fun, too, and I can’t wait to read each of their stories! I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the unflappable Alexis, well, flapped by the love bug.

There were just two things that made me a little sad about reading this. One is that we didn’t see an actual wedding come together in this book. The other was missing out on the nitty-gritty of Maya’s love story. Other than that, though, Brooke and Seth were a great combination of sweet and steamy, and I closed the last page of the last chapter of this book with a smile on my face.

 

Feel Factor Rating

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The Wedding Belles Series Reading Order

1. To Have and to Hold
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2. For Better or Worse
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3. To Love and to Cherish
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to-have-and-to-hold-teaser

 

Excerpt from To Have and to Hold by Lauren Layne

It’s not as though Brooke had meant to start dating a con man. She certainly didn’t intend to get engaged to one.

But that’s the thing about con mans. The good ones were good at, well . . . the con.

And Clay Battaglia had been a good one. The best, actually, if you took the word of the FBI agent who’d debriefed Brooke and her family—while she was still in her wedding dress.

Turns out that while Brooke had been happily building her wedding-planning company, Clay had been quietly and competently been getting away with every white-collar crime in the book. While she’d been planning their wedding, he’d apparently been knee-deep in yet another Ponzi scheme.

Brooke hadn’t even known what a Ponzi scheme was when the FBI had told her.

She did now.

Following Clay’s arrest, she spent weeks researching white-collar crime. Wanting to know what he’d been up to all those times he’d quietly kissed her forehead late at night and told her he needed to make some phone calls for “work.” Wanting to know what her life would have been like if the FBI hadn’t taken him down before they’d exchanged vows.

Still, while Brooke would be ever grateful that she’d learned the truth before she’d become Mrs. Clay Battaglia, she’d be lying if she didn’t admit that the timing of it had stung just a little bit.

If they’d only taken him down a day before. Heck, even an hour before.

But no.

Just moments after Brooke kissed her father’s cheek and prepared to marry the man she loved at the wedding she’d poured her heart into, the FBI stormed—yes, stormed—the church.

Clay was in handcuffs before she even registered what was happening.

Numbly she watched as he listened to his Miranda rights at the precise moment he should have been listening to the vows she’d spent months writing.

And as reality slowly sunk in, Brooke waited. Waited for him to look at her. To look at her and say that it was all a lie. All one big misunderstanding, and that they’d be on their way to Bermuda as planned by tomorrow.

He didn’t.

He didn’t even apologize.

No, the man she’d loved for two years with every fiber of her being merely smiled at her and then shrugged.

There’d been plenty of photos taken that day, but that was the one that made it onto the front page of every major newspaper on the West Coast.

“The Greatest Con of All.” “Arrested by Love.” And her personal favorite, courtesy of her very own LA Times: “White-Collar Bride.”

The stories all read pretty much like you’d expect. About Clay, mostly, and the litany of accusations against him, but also about Brooke.

The papers had stopped short of defamation, but the implications were there. She was clueless and ditzy at best, a potentially overlooked accomplice at worst. Completely oblivious to the fact that she’d been sharing a roof with the most nefarious white-collar criminal in a generation—or pretending to be.

None of that had bothered her. What had bothered her was that she’d been a fool. Self-absorbed, naive, and downright blind.

Brooke had been dodging dumb-blonde jokes for most of her life, but the debacle with Clay was the first time she thought she might really, truly be deserving of the title.

She hadn’t been surprised when new clients had stopped calling. Hadn’t been surprised when current clients canceled. Nobody wanted to hire that wedding planner.

Brooke had even been relieved, at first. In those first weeks after Clay’s arrest, she hadn’t been able to handle any talk of weddings. Not her own, and not other people’s.

But the worst part of all of this, the part that kept her up long into the lonely nights, wasn’t the negative effect on her career. No, the worst part was that sometimes, in the very darkest corner of her soul, she feared that she might still love Clay, at least a little. Sure, her brain knew that all the things she’d loved about Clay had been a lie. Her brain understood that his name wasn’t even Clay.

But her heart? Her heart was having a harder time forgetting the way he always let her be the little spoon and tuck her cold feet against his warm calves. Or the way he’d brought her coffee in bed every morning. Or the way she’d come home after a long day with the worst sort of bridezilla and Clay would make them cocktails and sit on the deck with her, and watch the sunset and laugh.

She’d imagined that all their nights would be like that. All the nights for the rest of her life, with maybe with a couple of kids thrown into the mix eventually.

Brooke swallowed.

There wouldn’t be any more nights on the patio watching the sunset with Clay. Wouldn’t be any patio at all, because Brooke’s real estate broker had made it quite clear that she should be counting herself lucky to get a dishwasher in New York—a patio was out of the question.

So no patio. No Clay, or whatever his real name was.

No man at all, really.

No falling in love.

Not ever again.

 

About Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne is the USA Today Bestselling author of more than a dozen contemporary romance novels.

Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. A year after moving from Seattle to NYC to pursue a writing career, she had a fabulous agent and multiple New York publishing deals.

Lauren currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and plus-sized Pomeranian. When not writing, you'll likely find her running (rarely), reading (sometimes), or at happy hour (often).

 

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