Series: The Wedding Belles #2
Published by Pocket Books on August 30th 2016
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When small-town girl Heather Fowler finally gets promoted from assistant to actual wedding planner, she’s determined to make it as one of Manhattan’s elite Wedding Belles. Unfortunately, her first client demands an opulent black-tie affair at the Plaza…in five months’ time. Heather’s days quickly become a flurry of cake tastings, dress-fittings, RSVP cards, and bridal tantrums. But what she’s really losing sleep over is the live music blaring from her playboy neighbor’s apartment all night.
Five years ago, Josh Tanner was an up-and-comer on Wall Street, complete with the penthouse and the migraines. But a grim cancer diagnosis made him realize there is more to life than the corner office. If only he could convince his pretty, workaholic neighbor to let loose, too. As Heather lets down her guard, Josh is surprised when he starts falling for the sweet, vulnerable woman hiding beneath those power suits. Soon, it’s Heather’s turn to convince Josh to take the biggest risk of all: love.
The wedding frills come again and I got the jitters, but it’s hard to pass up any opportunity to read Lauren Layne.
‘For Better or Worse’ is classic Lauren Layne: urbanite and contemporary, with typical character leads that I’ve come to expect – an apparently easy-going manwhore who grins and jokes while hiding his secrets and a steady lady who has her career prioritised above a relationship. The hookup begins casually as they all do, until someone develops feelings and it all goes to pot.
Yet the titular phrase takes on different meaning once we find out that Josh has been battling cancer and is still too afraid to live life to the fullest. In strongest self-denial mode, he thinks he does with the piss-poor excuse of not wanting to let any woman down while he takes up the mantle of an overgrown fratboy who hooks up indiscriminately while chumming it out with his band buddies. In short, he’s drifting and living without purpose, thinking he’s rocking it – literally – but really isn’t.
There’s some sweetness and depth to this because it delves into what life-threatening illness can do, but beneath it, I did find myself getting bored after a while, because it was, well, predictable. I did guess how it was going to go down – the last-minute bail-out, the grovelling and the big ending – and wasn’t at all surprised when Heather and Josh steamrolled down the aisle by the end of it all.
But if I could say Heather was everything I expected her to be, it was more difficult to like Josh, who pretty much acted like he had the excuse to own the world and stomp on others because he thought he had a reason to – after beating Leukaemia. I tried to rationalise his behaviour – maybe to the point of making excuses for him when he was plain disrespectful and childish – as someone’s extreme reaction to having suffered a life-changing disease and is still battling it, but failed miserably at times. For most of the book, he kept Heather at arm’s length and needless to say, this is the main source of their conflict when it all comes to a head and I couldn’t shake the feeling that the relationship was developed mostly on Heather’s side while Josh mostly enjoyed the physical aspects of it. I must admit that I’d hoped for more maturity all around: that perhaps, working a way forward might have been a better idea after some form of disclosure instead of keeping mum and making the arse-executive decision for everyone concerned that Josh was better off alone. He hadn’t even talked to Heather about the reason why Danica broke up with him and his subsequent illness; the latter was something learned from his mother. Consequently, Josh’s proposal after the pep talk by his twin felt sudden and abrupt and in some ways, a way of making amends because he’d let Heather down. There’s this sobering sense each time a lead character battles major illness, but my sympathy can only extend so far when that sort of character growth spurt happens only in the last 3 chapters.
I didn’t have a hard time getting into the book though; Layne has always been easy reading with a style that makes the pages fly by. I did like the set-up of Alexis and Logan and the camaraderie between the Belles – these seem like minor points however – and would definitely want to know how Alexis/Logan’s story pans out.