I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.To Have and to Hold by Lauren Layne
Series: The Wedding Belles #1
Published by Simon and Schuster on July 26th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, General
Purchase Links: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound
ADD TO GOODREADS:
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 con man just moments before they exchange vows devastates celebrity wedding planner Brooke Baldwin’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 strings.
Seth Tyler wishes he could write a blank check and be done with his sister Maya'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?
Also by this author: Walk of Shame, I Knew You Were Trouble
Successful businessman Seth Tyler believes in exhibiting control over all things, be they business or personal. While this may not be a hindrance in the boardroom, it’s a trait that does little to endear him to his sister’s wedding planner, Brooke Baldwin.
After her love life and professional life in Los Angeles imploded (thanks to the FBI’s at-the-alter arrest of her con man fiancé), Brooke Baldwin landed a position with the elite New York City wedding planning agency, The Wedding Belles. Brooke’s enthusiasm at planning her first NYC wedding for the wealthy hotel heiress Maya Tyler is quickly tempered by the bride-to-be’s surly (and domineering) older brother. Fearing the worst of his sister’s whirlwind romance and her dubious fiancé, Seth decides to immerse himself in the wedding planning process in hopes of derailing the nuptials. Eventually, Brooke calls him on his actions. After hearing his concerns –and in an effort to appease the bride– she agrees to report directly to him on all wedding details, including her observations of the groom. What started off as major friction between Seth and Brooke quickly flared into a red-hot romance. Their snarky banter took on an even more flirtatious tone as they explored their mutual attraction.
Seth’s broody and gruff demeanor hid a surprisingly dorky and vulnerable core that balanced well with his commanding persona (especially in the bedroom!), making his character a standout. Brooke was a little harder character for me to warm up to. Given her recent history, Brooke was (reasonably) emotionally guarded but her slightly Pollyanna-like optimism was at odds with her experiences. Brooke’s realization that she needed to let herself heal came late in the book and the story, and her character, would have been better served if the process had been examined more thoroughly.
When Seth and Brooke’s relationship was good, things were very, very good; when it went bad, it was an epic implosion. Obviously, stories need conflict, but I wasn’t impressed with the events that drove a wedge between Seth and Brooke. Seth gave into his need to control situations, in an effort to protect those he loves. The reaction of Brooke (and his best friend Grant) was exaggerated, in my opinion. Seth’s grand gesture and heartfelt explanations, however, were perfect.
Ultimately, Brooke makes Seth want things he never even believed existed, such as happily ever after. Seth helps Brooke realize that one doesn’t always have to act happy in order to experience love (and life) to the fullest. Despite some bumps, I enjoyed the journey author Lauren Layne took Seth and Brooke on. Her signature combination wit and sensuality shine throughout To Have and to Hold.
Excerpt from To Have and To Hold
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.
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 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.
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.
Lauren lives in New York City with her husband (who was her high school sweetheart–cute, right?!) and plus-sized Pomeranian.
Five years ago, she ditched her corporate career in Seattle to pursue a full-time writing career in Manhattan.
She writes smart romantic comedies with just enough sexy-times to make your mother blush, and in her ideal world, every stiletto-wearing, Kate Spade wielding woman would carry a Kindle stocked with Lauren Layne books.
When not bringing The Sexy, she likes to blog about her Instagram addiction, and why mean girls are the worst.