by Lauren Layne
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Lauren Layne’s latest novel about the healing power of redemption tells the story of a crush gone wickedly wrong, proving that what you want isn’t always what you need.
Growing up in New York, Michael St. Claire never expected to spend his twenties wearing cowboy boots. But that was before he learned about his real father, a total stranger with a family in Cedar Grove, Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, Michael meets Kristin Bellamy, who is exquisitely refined and everything Michael always thought he wanted in a woman. The only problem is that Kristin is dating Michael’s new half brother, Devon.
Kristin’s mouthy, curvy sister Chloe has always been in love with Devon Patterson. So when Michael offers to help Chloe break up Devon and Kristin, Chloe agrees to a deal that seems too good to be true. Before long, Chloe finally gets her man, only to make a startling discovery: She no longer wants the guy she had to fight for—she wants the one who stood by her side.
After all he and Chloe have been through, Michael swears he’s damaged goods. Can Chloe convince him that love is worth the risk?
♥ Buddy read with my wonderful Star-Crossed Ladies-Anna Banana and Jen ♥
**Arc provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**
It’s been six months since I betrayed my best friend.
Six months since I walked away from her. No. Since she walked away from me.
But more than that…more than any of that…
It’s been six months since I’ve bothered to care.
Let me just come clean, as I do whenever I read one of this author’s books-I am in love with this author. She is my rainy day, bad mood, giggle-fest, any mood author. So, while I am actually a very fair rater and reviewer, I still have warm feelings towards every single one of her books, even the one that I didn’t rate a 5 *gasp*. I did have things I do wish would have been different-just minor, baby things. But nothing deterred my mood once. Not. Once. There wasn’t a moment I wasn’t on cloud nine as I read this story and no page was turned without me being all fangirly. So, yeah, that’s right-I’m a Lauren Layne fan girl-DEAL WITH IT. And proceed with caution.
“Beefcake!” Again with one of those dopey, guileless smiles.
She plops down at one of the few vacant spots at the bar, and unlike the usual solo girls that daintily perch themselves on the stools, there’s no glancing around to see who’s noticed her arrival. No careful positioning to ensure her posture’s just right to show off her best side. She’s just there…and happy.
It’s so hard for me to say or admit to a favorite Lauren Layne series as a whole, but I am going to have to level with you guys-This is probably the series I get the most excited about. It’s the series I go out of my way to stalk netgalley for and it’s the series that I have fallen the most deeply in love with. I just connected with it on a visceral level and it touched me so deeply. Each guy and each girl holds a special place in my heart for very different reasons, but it all comes down to this: Every single person in this series is a tortured soul…..and I must say, masochist that I am, it’s the reason I think I fell so hard for the Redemption series. Ethan, the guy who’s girl cheated on him with his best friend. Stephanie, the girl who was ALSO cheated on and helped Ethan realize he didn’t need to impress anyone but the girl he wants to spend his life with. And then Olivia. The cheater. The one that broke her long time relationship with THEIR best friend. The one who went to Maine to help atone for her sins with a scarred ex marine….PAUL. Omg I LOVE PAUL. The asshole marine who didn’t think anyone could love him because of his scars and surly, asshole attitude. He brought Olivia out of her deep depression, and she him, and they became happy again-TOGETHER. And then our dear, Michael. The. Best. Friend. The one who technically lost two loves-his best friend and the girl who he had been in love with, secretly, for ten years. These are our three main characters that had problems throughout the series…but this story is about the one who royally fucked up their little trio and set them all on a path out of their comfort zones.
“You’re an idiot,” I say gruffly. It’s not what I mean to say. I don’t know what I mean to say. I just can’t stand the thought of this cheerful, good person going through what I went through.
Instead of being offended, she laughs. “Good pep talk, Beefcake.”
She laughs again, and it’s genuine and bold, and suddenly it hits me: Chloe Bellamy deserves better. She deserves better than what I got.
I must say, I fell hard for Mr. Asshole With A Horrible ‘Tude. I didn’t know how I’d feel about him, really, but the minute he opened his not-so-talkative mouth, I was smiling ear to ear and knew he’d be a tough one to crack. Just like I like ’em. He’s had more problems than just cheating with his best friend’s girl. When family is involved, it’s even worse. So, to say he is tortured is mild. But then this totally snarky chick starts to call him out, pull him into an area of his life he’s not accustomed to, and he starts to come out of his shell….a little. He lusts after the stick figures with perfect hair and toned bods, but he starts to connect with the sister (of his client) who is curvaceous, loud, and has untamed hair. What starts out as an agreement to help her becomes an understanding, becomes a partnership, makes them become….friends. He can’t believe, after months of seclusion and brooding, that his one true friend is this girl who won’t ever shut up and who constantly gropes and teases him.
Well, would ya look at that? I didn’t even try to cop a feel.
Progress. Definitely progress.
Lauren Layne is officially a weekend-only author. Her books are too good to destroy during a work week and I really screwed up with this one. Every time I started to get truly immersed in my reading or get to a super juicy part, I would start to get dizzy because I was forcing myself to stay up late….it hinders my reading experience and I hate that I felt that way this time-SO NEVER AGAIN WILL THIS HAPPEN. But that just proves my point on how good this was-I still got through it and loved every little bit…albeit a little bit hazily and strained because I was literally about to pass out from exhaustion.
That’ll help distract me from the real reason I asked if he wanted to go to dinner.
Because he’d looked lonely.
Or the real real reason.
Because I’m lonely, too.
Here’s another reason I love the Redemption series: It has formulas, sure, but omg they are the most FANTASTIC formulas. They all have grand gestures (and she doesn’t try to hide that every one of the stories ends with a grand gesture-she embraces it and literally says it multiple times in the story-it’s brilliant!! And so so cute) and ways to get the girl back and I absolutely ADORE that aspect. And it’s INDIVIDUAL TO THIS SERIES. She doesn’t use the same theme in any of her other stories, at least not so openly, and I LOVE going big to get the girl. I cannot believe LL kept up this theme from book one until this fantastic finale to wrap up all of these wonderful characters’ lives. It was just all so perfect.
“Um, I’ve seen the way you talk about your car. I’d be too scared to eat snacks in there.”
“It’s a three-hour drive,” she says, jerking her thumb over her shoulder.
I glance back and see a cooler and a paper bag with Lay’s potato chips perched on top. I can just imagine what other junk-food monstrosities lay beneath.
“Three hours,” I repeat.
“Lots of time to get to know each other, Beefcake.”
She grins and pats my leg. “Okay, no problem. How do you feel about Broadway tunes?”
And the thing is, LL doesn’t forget her roots. At one point, it literally quotes: “Yeah….She’s really lovely.”-which is an homage to book one Isn’t She Lovely.-it was said in the same dry way that Ethan said it in book one about Stephanie (The person above, coincidentally, was also talking about the firecracker, Stephanie) and it was just so funny and exactly as it should have been. It made me goon like a loser to see that idea resurface and it brought back so many wonderful memories-I fell in love with book one the minute I started it.
“Really.” My voice is sarcastic.
“Do you love her?”
If the room was quiet before, it goes downright soundless now. At least until Stephanie steps on a chip. “Shit. Damn it.” She crouches down to pick up the pieces. “Mikey, you got a vacuum?”
Olivia tries to hide a smile, and Ethan looks to the floor in exasperation. “Such a lady, this one.”
“Yeah. She’s really lovely,” Paul says, stepping out of the way when Stephanie bats at his leg to get the rest of the crumbs.
Is it weird that I not only got butterflies from the romance but also from this age-old, damaged bro-mance?? BECAUSE IT TOTALLY HAPPENED. Ethan and Michael…just omg it was too much. Odd of me, but true, nonetheless.
With Michael, it’s a little bit different. He’s a project invite, yes.
But he’s also the first of my projects that feels a little bit like…a friend.
Not that I’d ever tell him that. The guy’s about 84 percent scowl, and I think words like friendship would up that percentage to 90-something.
I did want a little more from the ending-that’s the only reason I took .5 away. I just wanted it to be a bigger deal than it was…but that wouldn’t have fit Michael and Chloe’s style, so ugh, anyway. And I also think this stems from me loving Broken (book two) so much. I couldn’t let it go, it was perfect and amazing and I was an utter addict for Broken.…And I’d even venture to say I loved Isn’t She Lovely about as highly as Broken, if not a little less-I dunno, it’s a beautiful Lauren Layne blur-but that doesn’t make this book any less great. I loved and obsessed over the moment I could get back to this story and I adored our brooding, mercurial Michael-I’d never discount my love for this book and this amazing series. But I did want to draw attention to the fact that the prior two were absolute favorites-maybe because they were my first two by this author and they hold a special place in my heart.
“Fine what?” He asks
“I mean fine, I’ll stick my tongue in Scott’s mouth and play with his hair while I let him pet my boob.”
I start to walk away, but Michael’s laugh stops me. Both because it’s a rare noise, and because I’m not sure what the funny part was.
“Chloe, I don’t know how you do it, but you just managed to take the sexy out of the idea of making out.”
So, wow, this is way too long…..but still not long enough. It’s so rare I enjoy a NA book this much. It just is. So when I pick up a book I know I’ll love, I guess I feel the need to express how much others could love it, as well. I won’t even get started on all the other books she’s written and the wonderful, successful, HOT AS SIN male leads that have me wishing I could make them real every day, but just know, she creates some of the most addicting characters ever. I am still tangled in all of their webs….I have been from the beginning. But this series holds a place deep in my heart, and I will likely re-read all three books over and over again until I have them all memorized. It’s a series about three best friends who found their way back to one another….it’s so poetic. And I wouldn’t have ended it any other way.
Reading Order & Links:
Amazon (click on covers) & iBooks (click on titles)
***Each book can be read as a standalone, but best enjoyed in order.***
Isn't She Lovely
EEEEP!!! I GOT THE ARC!!! WILL BE READING NEXT WEEK-NO MORE WAITING!!!! ♥ ♥
Aaaahhhhh…I need this…badly.
Can I have it?? Pleeassee?? Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease