Discovering her fiance 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 fiance 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?
One of the most important things that I look forward to when I read the Contemporary Romance genre is the feeling of being able to put myself in the heroine’s shoes and fall freely in love with the book boyfriend. I’m always, always, looking for a kind of hero that fits into his trope so well he almost outshines it, but also has that special unique something that makes me want to come back and read his book over and over again. With To Have & To Hold, Lauren Layne does not disappoint. Usually, her heroines just take the book away, and I‘m left with a girl crush and a feeling of awe for the heroine. But with this book, I saw the hero being more interesting, more complex, more more more and I cannot WAIT to talk about him!
To Have and To Hold marks the beginning of a new series by Lauren Layne, The Wedding Belles. In the three books, we’ll explore the love lives of the Belles, the most elite wedding planners in New York City. And book one is the story of Brooke Baldwin, who used to be a celebrity wedding planner in LA. But then shit happens. Her biggest ever project—her own wedding!—ends in disaster when her fiancé is taken from her, from the altar in cuffs. Turns out the douchebag was a international con man, and Brooke didn’t know a thing about that. For a fresh start after the entire mess, Brooke decides to move to NYC, where she joins Alexis and Heather as part of The Wedding Belles. Brooke’s first challenge as a planner in New York is Seth Tyler—brother to Brooke’s bride client, Maya—and basically a rich dick. Especially, when he is suspicious of Maya’s fiancé, and doesn’t want them to marry in the first place.
With Brooke, the reader gets to see optimism and charm and a smile. She was the personification of someone who did not lose their sunny outlook on life, come what may. Despite her disastrous wedding day, she still believed in a happily ever after, still believed in love, still believed in giving her clients a wedding day of out of their dreams. And while Brooke held a lot of emotions back, I loved seeing her impeccable work ethic. For some reason, the way Brooke handled her client had me really really impressed. She was the consummate professional—giving an opinion where needed, but also giving the client the space to figure out what they want for themselves. The other thing that really stood out to me was her entire stance on her con man fiancé. She knew what a cheat he was, and how everything they’d shared was lie, but Brooke was also comfortable enough within herself to admit that a part of her still loved him. I didn’t understand it, but I could definitely appreciate her honesty.
Seth Tyler was a complete new ball game. When I read the synopsis, I expected a Grayson Wyatt (a la Only With You) kind of a hero. Rich and gorgeous, but also gruff and emotionally underdeveloped. Basically the kind of hero that feels everything a little too much and knows not how to how to express himself. And Grayson is my favourite. But Seth was not Grayson. He was rich and gorgeous and gruff, but emotionally stunted? Oh no. Seth was emotionally motivated? What’s that mean? You’ll have to read to see what that means—just fyi, he was a bit of a dick in the beginning. He was controlling and bossy, but his interactions with his older sister melted my heart! And with Brooke? PERFECTION. I loved seeing Seth and Brooke together, partly because they were polar opposites, but also because they challenged each other. It was hot hot hot to see them stewing in their own sexual frustration but also being incredibly wary of pursuing each other. Their push and pull made the story infinitely more interesting, if not for the already juicy plot it had.
I did want to see Maya’s whole story—she was the blushing bride after all—but of course, she was only secondary to the story. The two Belles Alexis and Heather also played important parts in Brooke’s story, thereby making me wonder if we’ll get to see a whole lot more of Brooke and Seth in the two books to come. Also, if you’ve read the prequel novella about Leah and Jason…yeah. Major disappointment. They were missed in this one, but again, two more books to go! In true LL style, the series is started off with a bang with the chemistry and banter, but at its heart, it remains a story of love and giving a person a chance to make you happy 🙂