BOOK REVIEW: To Have and to Hold (The Wedding Belles #1) by Lauren LayneTo Have and to Hold (The Wedding Belles #1)
by Lauren Layne
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Synopsis:

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 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?

Seth linked his fingers in hers. “Take me home, Baldwin.”
She laughed. “You know, for such a rich, savvy guy, you can be a total dork.”
“I like to think it reveals my vulnerable side.”
She glanced up at him suspiciously. “Do you have a vulnerable side?”
“I do. Her name is Brooke.”

Alright. So. I don’t think this will be very long because, as everyone around me knows, I hate bashing my favorite authors, especially one where this is the only book in existence I really don’t like by them. Unless something big happens that really sets me off or the book is just offensive on too many fronts, I don’t relish writing negative or down-trodden reviews. They’re depressing, they’re bleak, and they aren’t actually all that constructive.

But I’m sure all my friends who know I adore LL are wondering why this one didn’t work for me. And the answer is really simple: I did love the male lead, but everyone else was like a paper character in a paper play in a city made of, you guessed it, paper. Had this been….more…I doubt I would have felt disinterest for it. But, as it is, all I could think about was getting on to my next book, and, frankly, that’s a re-read….which doesn’t bode well for my attachment to this story.

“Brooke.”
She paused and looked at him, exasperated. “What?”
“Stay out of my way,” he repeated.
“Under one condition,” she said with a wide, fake smile.
He narrowed his eyes and waited.
“I’ll stay out of your way, big brother”—Brooke reached a hand up to his cheek, patted it with a condescending familiarity—“if you stay out of mine.”

Seth was, and always will be, the star of this story. He was the reason I didn’t DNF, he is the reason I still smiled and sighed and, in the end, was a gooey mess of ‘please love me, not her.’ I am extremely loyal to the men I fall in love with, even more so when they steal my heart completely. I can’t say Seth was my favorite LL character (I think that prize belongs to my baby Mitchell), but he was damn vulnerable, sweet, sexy, and powerful….He was a win in all the ways that mattered and I felt so bad this was his story-He deserved so much more, in my opinion.

Objectively, he was aware that he’d known this woman for a little over a month. It was far too soon to start thinking of them as a unit—to start thinking of her as his. And yet, he also knew down to the quietest, most secret part of his soul that she was his. And he was hers.
And that they would fix whatever had broken inside her.

And when his morals started coming into question, it really fucking pissed me off. I get it-we have to have the inevitable falling apart near the end so it can be swept up and made adorable-I get it. I even love this in LL’s, I really do. But what I can’t get over is how he was looked at, portrayed, and betrayed by those he loves most (aside from his sister, who, I thought would be the biggest issue but was, in fact, the least annoying side character) when he was just trying to help in the only way he knows how. SO, yeah, he wasn’t perfect and he makes mistakes-But the way he was treated….my BBF claws came out and I was ready to tear some people a new A-hole.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her slide her phone into her bag, and was surprised when she shifted her body around to face him. She didn’t even try to hide the fact that she was studying him. He half expected her to start jotting notes about him in her little book.
Uptight.
Control freak.
Unlikable.

And then I guess to wrap this up I need to address the heroine and her new cronies (aka, the wannabe Stiletto squad). I liked Brooke-a lot. But I feel like she was very…me me me. And while with most lead MCs this doesn’t bother me when they are like this, she did. For whatever reason, when she would flub up, I didn’t find it endearing-like I usually do-so much as obnoxious or eye-roll worthy. She was the sweetest chick and I was rooting for her, but when she causes problem after problem for literally no other reason than she’s scared, I can’t help but to get annoyed.

And as for her friends….I might have dozed off a bit as my mind began to wonder into la-la land when they were present. Never have I cared less about LL side characters…and GOD does that fucking suck. I don’t know what to say about them other than they are the first side kicks that I didn’t connect with. Maya, Seth’s sister, yes-I loved. Grant, Seth’s best friend-yes, he was okay, until the end in which I might have ripped his balls off with said BBF claws. But the Wedding Belle’s I was just talking about?? *Snooooooooooreeeeeee*

“There is no after dinner. It’s a business meeting.”
“Poor Brooke,” Maya said, patting Brooke’s hand. “I don’t think you realize just how much trouble you’re in.”
“How so?”
“Let’s just say when my brother wants something, he gets it. Always.”

So, ouch, that hurt. It did. But I think I’m at the point where if no one reads this other than myself (over and over and over again to edit and re edit), that’s okay with me. But, if by some small chance a new friend or someone who believes what I say on a regular basis looks to this review for candid advice, I can’t lie and pretend like it was okay-Because it wasn’t. If I can steer someone to literally any other LL book or series for their first endeavor, I will do everything in my power to do so. This author rocks and I adore her, so I’m extremely disappointed that I’m not liking where this series is going. I have 5 starred almost every single book she’s written, aside from a couple 4/4.5 stars, and that’s astronomical. This is my first full-length novel by her I’ve rated below a four…and it’s not a feeling I’m familiar with. I hope that you’ll see past my distance towards this book and look to what I’ve really been trying to say here: This may have been a miss, but there literally isn’t another one of her books I think negatively of. Go find them-and enjoy.

******************

Well…definitely not what I had hoped for. It was up and down, repetitive, and, most importantly, I was bored (a lot). As usual, the male lead was the star of the show and he had me smiling so big more often than not. In the end, I was a gooey emotional mess, choking on butterflies, and utterly won over….but, at that point, it was too little too late.

Some of the characters felt underdeveloped and it felt like a sad imitation of the Stiletto girls. I think I was most disappointed because this had so many perfect, wonderful developments that could have made this a five star, easily. I just hate in books when something happens and everyone reacts and blames [and gangs up on] the male lead and UGH I just HATE it. This put the final nail in the three star coffin for me. I don’t know.

Anyway, I’ll write a review, but it might be a couple days because I have so little time these days…and this just kills me to rate this so low.

RTC

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