To Have and to Hold, by Lauren Layne

>> Wednesday, August 01, 2018

TITLE: To Have and to Hold
AUTHOR: Lauren Layne

PAGES: 384

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: First in the Wedding Belles series

USA TODAY bestselling author Lauren Layne is the “queen of witty dialogue and sexy scenes” (Rachel Van Dyken)! Now, 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?
Lauren Layne is a new author to me, and one I hadn't really heard all that much about, even though she has quite an extensive backlist and has clearly been writing for quite a while. I wanted a fun, relatively uncomplicated contemporary, and having seen some reviews of this author at Bona's site, this seemed like just the ticket.

To Have and to Hold starts a series focused round a wedding planning agency. Brooke Baldwin has just moved to New York to start a new job at The Wedding Belles, after her life in California came crashing down around her. Her own wedding was supposed to be the pinnacle of her very successful career as a wedding planner, the best one she's ever done. Instead, the groom was arrested at the altar by the FBI, right before the vows were exchanged. Turns out the man was a complete scammer and, rather than the successful businessman he was supposed to be, he was running a Ponzi scheme and defrauding people left, right and centre.

On her first day at work at the Belles, Brooke is asked to take on a new client, hotel heiress Maya Tyler. The only problem is that along with Maya and her fiancé comes Maya's brother, Seth, the CEO of the family hotel chain. And Seth is being difficult.

Seth's attitude is not due to overprotectiveness or to not wanting to spend the honking amount of cash needed for a big society wedding. Seth actually has some very well-founded concerns about the fiancé and what he's after with Maya. He has decided to spend as much time with the man as he can, to see if he can get some evidence to back up his suspicions, and that means inserting himself into the wedding planning. And that, in turn, means spending time with the wedding planner he's finding a bit too attractive.

Sooo, this was ok. It was a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours, and I did like the strong female friendships.

However, I spent more time than usual going "but that doesn't make sense!" at things that were there, not because they made sense for the characters, but because Layne wanted to push the plot in a certain direction, or needed conflict. I guess the best example is the complete freak-out everyone has at Seth's decision, after much soul-searching, to set a private detective to look into Maya's fiancé. Yes, it's a bit overbearing, but the way Brooke and his best friend react, you'd think he was killing someone (and this is the same best friend who at the start of the book was asking "so, what are we going to do to stop the wedding?". Makes no sense). But we need a reason for Brooke and Seth to break up for a while, so instead of a mildly dodgy thing to do, it's a huge violation of trust. Bah.

Brooke didn't really completely gel for me, either. It seems that being betrayed by her former fiancé, instead of leading to her becoming a bit more cynical and questioning, has made her determined to believe in the fairytale (there's something mentioned about her not being able to do the job she's doing otherwise, which is complete bullshit). So when Seth confides his concern about Maya's fiancé, Brooke basically closes her eyes, ignores the somewhat questionable reactions she herself has seen from the man, and goes "nananah can't hear you". I didn't get her.

(And BTW, the scammer ex-fiancé of Brooke's didn't make much sense either. I was never sure what he was after with her, why he'd go all the way into marrying her. He'd already got his future in-laws to give him their money, after all, and he clearly did not care at all about Brooke).

Most of the time I was able to go with the flow and ignore the stuff that didn't quite convince me, but I did finish this with the feeling that Layne doesn't seem to be very good at characterisation and plotting. However, I've seen several reviews suggesting that this is one that many people who love her work didn't really like, so I might give her another shot.



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