Anyone who's been around here for a while knows how much I enjoyed Lauren Layne's New York's Finest series last winter. When I saw that she was writing a series that was about wedding planners, set in NYC, I couldn't snatch them up quick enough. But then I had them all on my Kindle, and they titles are so similar that I couldn't keep straight what order they were supposed to be read in, and I'm way too lazy to look it up, so I just read other stuff. A couple weeks ago I decided that I'd just read them out of order, but I needed to dive in, and I did.
First up is a little novella called From This Day Forward, which I really didn't like at all. This one is about two wedding photographers, who have a history (which is a plus in a novella) but the entire story was about sex between two childish people who couldn't just use their words. This really didn't leave me wanting to move on, but I reassured myself that it was just the novella length and kept going.
The first full length book in the series is To Have and To Hold and it is definitely better than the novella. Brooke Baldwin is a rock star wedding planner on the West Coast, who has just planned the wedding of the decade-- her own-- when she is horrified to find out that he fiancee is a con man. She flees to New York and joins the Wedding Belles, where her first job is the plan the wedding of rich heiress Maya Tyler. Maya's older brother, Seth, is certain that there's something fishy going on with the groom, and attempts to enlist Brooke's help in uncovering it. But how do you convince a wedding planner to sabotage the wedding she's planning?
One thing that Lauren Layne does really well is sexual tension and this book is no exception. Seth and Brooke are on fire from the first moment they see each other. I love seeing them deal with this, in the middle of client negotiations and planning that thwarts each other. Seth is impossibly wealthy and accustomed to getting this way in all things, and occasionally pouts badly when he doesn't get what he wants, but his love for both Maya and Brooke shines through very clearly. It's hard to pin down the time line, so it doesn't feel rushed, but at the same time the book is lacking the falling in love that I enjoy so much. This one goes right for the physical, which to be honest is also a good book, but it doesn't really make me close the book with the same type of satisfaction that a good love story does.
The second book in the series is For Better or Worse, and features the assistant wedding planner and her sexy next door neighbor. Heather has never really been in love and believes it's not for her. She's from small town Michigan and her entire life's goal has been to be a wedding planner in New York City. She doesn't have time to fool around or look away from her goal. Josh has recently overcome a bout with cancer, and can't take life seriously-- he knows how short it can be and refuses to add anyone else to the list of people who would be devastated by his death.
This one hit almost all of my sweet spots. The dialogue is truly excellent, the plot is believable, Josh is terrific. I believed that these two could fall in the love, and the romance itself is much better than in the previous book. The ending isn't tied with a pretty bow- Josh IS a cancer survivor- but so realistically handled that you can believe that these are real people and you close the book with complete satisfaction. (If you can ignore Josh's extraordinary wealth, but hey, everyone needs a superpower.)
The last book in the series,To Love and to Cherish, has SO much potential. Alexis, owner of the Belles, is a bit of an ice queen. I never really liked her through the whole series, so I was hoping that all would come to light in her book. Her hero is Logan, who is the Belles accountant. Logan has been madly in love with Alexis since the moment he laid eyes on her, eight years ago. Eight years is a long time to patiently wait, and Logan is ready to make his move.
This one is really hot, and the plot outline is equally good, but both Logan and Alexis were misses for me. Alexis has a standoff personality, that could have been good but I didn't feel was very well written. Logan would be my ideal beta hero turned alpha, but he "knows what Alexis really wants" way way too often. He's not abusive, but very high handed and not always in a sexy way. Plus, his sudden ability to BE an alpha at all, after years of being the polite accountant, isn't really believable.While I didn't dislike this one, and it doesn't finish the series nicely, I would not recommend it.
Overall, it's very hard not to compare the series to Nora Robert's Bride Quartet. Both feature a cast of women planners, and while this one doesn't break it down the same way, both feature a complete badass-in-control leader (Alexis here, and Parker for Roberts). Unfortunately, Roberts does it much better. I'm still a fan of Layne, but the New York's Finest series beats this one hands down.
To Love and To Cherish will be out on October 18th.