To Have and To Hold

January 13, 2017

To Have and To Hold. Lauren Layne. 2016. 385 pages. Pocket Books. [Source: ARC provided courtesy of NetGalley.]

This book has all the makings of a great story – an overprotective brother who doesn’t trust the naiveté of his sister or, more aptly, her new fiancé, a wedding planner with a failed almost-marriage, and the bright, twinkling lights of New York City. I was completely intrigued by the story and couldn’t put it down, but found myself wanting more from its characters. If I could give this 3.5 stars, I would; To Have and to Hold is a good book, but it doesn’t stand up as well to Lauren Layne’s other works.

Brooke Baldwin was one of LA’s premier wedding planners, until she found out her fiancé was a con man. The most important wedding of her career was a spectacle for all the wrong reasons: instead of her walking down the altar to start a life with him, the FBI dragged him down the altar to a jail cell. She ran to New York City to get away from the spotlight and quietly rebuild her career. When she’s picked up as a planner for Wedding Belle’s, one of the city’s high-profile wedding planners, and lands society girl Maya Tyler as her first she thinks she’s on the right track. And she is, until Maya’s “doting” big brother Seth decides to step in.
Seth is jaded, no question about it. He’s been scorned before and thinks “happily ever after” only happens in books. He prefers partnerships of mutual benefit, no more, no less. When he learns Maya is marrying a mysterious Neil after only three months of dating, he decides to take the reins. He’ll fund the wedding only if he’s involved in every detail. He loves his sister, but it’s a ruse to figure out the truth about Neil. Brooke and Seth’s chemistry is immediate and strong, but so is their disdain for each other.

I admit that I was caught up in the story, but it’s a stretch to believe that Brooke would have the misfortune of landing a client who is potentially making the same mistake she did only a few months earlier. It took a bit of suspension of disbelief to get past this, but the rest of the plot makes up for it. It was compelling to see how Maya’s wedding would play out, particularly with Seth breathing down her back about the suddenness of her engagement. I loved that you got just enough of the wedding planning process without it feeling like a bride’s checklist. As someone who doesn’t get really excited about Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings, I felt like the book had enough of the wedding planning to be a clear tie-in, but it was never overwhelming. Heck, Layne had a hilarious dress-shopping scene that I would have paid to see play out on the big screen.

Layne was on a good path with character development, but I was hoping for more of them. Perhaps it was her approach to foreshadowing for later books, but I just wanted more depth to others, especially Heather and Alexis, the other Wedding Belles. I loved the banter between Brooke and Seth, which was sexy and playful, but they seemed to only fight or be in love. That’s just not totally realistic, so the black/white of their relationship seemed less realistic.

Overall, I think this is a good start to a series that I think will be pretty fun and interesting to read. I recommend To Have and to Hold, and look forward to the next books in the series.

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