Series: The Wedding Belles #1
Published by Pocket Books on July 26th 2016
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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?
Brooke Baldwin’s new start in New York is really an act of running away from the humiliation of a failed wedding and her new job at a premier wedding planning firm is her new and hopefully, triumphant start on a different coast. But what she doesn’t count on is the domineering brother of the bride on her first case as well the rich hotel tycoon financing everything who gives her another shot at love. He also happens to be the man determined to stop this wedding, convinced that the groom isn’t who he says he is.
The sniping attraction between them comes as much as a surprise to Seth Tyler, whose need to protect his family (and his own heart) rubs people the wrong way, but there is no denying that Brooke burrows her way quickly underneath that cold, icy exterior before long.
The world of wedding planning is as horrifyingly frou-frou and foreign to me as a language I’ve never been able to master. Ultra feminine, bridezillas and overflowing with tulle – aspects of womanhood even I don’t proclaim to understand.
‘To Have and to Hold’ is an introduction to this world – the business of love, so to speak – through the rose-tinted sheen of romantic comedies, which I found both fascinating and well, so exclusive that I could only get a peek of this fictional world through Lauren Layne’s writing.
But Ms. Layne’s setup was good enough that I was sold on Seth and Brooke whom I thought had their own issues to deal with, although I did feel the conflict was made bigger than it really was for the sake of creating drama and tension.
I couldn’t shake the feeling however, that Brooke was simply making a mountain of a molehill about Seth’s hiring of a P.I., which I found absolutely nothing wrong with. Her behaviour as a consequence, seemed always like an overreaction to Seth’s earnest attempts to keep the people around him happy in the only way he knew how, coloured strongly by her memories of ex-fiancé and transferred unfairly onto Seth.
In spite of Ms. Layne’s persuasion of the readers to feel loads of pity for Brooke’s big wedding write-off, I found myself instead empathising with Seth more than any other character. I thought him short-changed so many times by the people closest to him because all they could see was his controlling nature which was frankly, made a bigger thing than it was. And because Seth was a more than decent character, I didn’t quite like how he was made out to be the only one who’d wronged others, especially when Brooke had actually done more unforgivable things to him – such as comparing him in some way to her ex, which had me flabbergasted.
Even if the core drama surrounding Seth and Brooke turned me off somewhat, I found myself liking the secondary characters a lot and am gratified that the rest of the Wedding Belles would have their own stories. I did wish though, that there’d been more on the conflict between the bride and Seth’s best friend for instance, whose chemistry and hidden story had more to be written about. Given that this is a wedding planning series, we’re somewhat left with a HFN ending at least, which made me grateful that everything wedding-related wasn’t oversold.