Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Runaway Groom by Lauren Layne

Runaway Groom by Lauren LayneRunaway Groom by Lauren Layne
Series: I Do, I Don't #2
Published by Random House Publishing Group on January 30th 2018
Pages: 240
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four-stars

For one charming playboy, getting cast on a Bachelor-esque reality TV show is the shock of a lifetime—until he finds love where he least expects it. And now the chase is on!

Gage Barrett’s reputation as a ladies’ man has been greatly exaggerated, but none of that matters after a drunken bet lands him on Jilted, a reality TV show that matches runaway grooms with wannabe brides. Now he’s stuck at a Hawaiian resort with nineteen women competing to drag him back to the altar—and one contestant who’s even more miserable than he is. Gage has no idea how feisty, independent Ellie Wright wound up in the cast, but it’s obvious she hates his guts. And if there’s one thing Gage likes, it’s a challenge. . . .

Ellie can’t believe she let her best friend talk her into exchanging her dignity for a glorified bikini contest. Still, she could use the exposure—her business is struggling—and she’ll probably be one of the first to get eliminated anyway. But Gage isn’t the shallow jerk Ellie anticipated—and he’s in no rush to send her home. As stolen kisses turn into secret trysts, she finds herself losing track of what’s real and what’s for the camera. With the wedding finale looming, this runaway groom is tempting Ellie to start believing in storybook endings.

As the kind who scoffs at reality-tv series like The Bachelor/The Bachelorette, I surprised myself even by jumping into Lauren Layne’s ‘Runaway Groom’, then spent all night reading it, at the expense of sleep. Needless to say, it was engaging enough where I found myself saying ‘just one more chapter’, though that went on and on until I hit the sugary sweet epilogue.

Avid fans of this type of reality shows probably need no introduction to the plot at all—which I don’t need to go into here—but it’s safe to say that Ellie and Gage don’t start off on the right footing and even get into some verbal scuffles before the attraction starts to bubble over. Layne makes sure that it all does not go according to script as well, because, where would be the fun in that, if it ends the way many people think it does? A famous actor, lured into the reality show because of a bet and the typical businesswoman struggling to advertise for her own company, are already an unlikely pair, but Layne writes believable chemistry between them that I could get on with.

With Lauren Layne’s combination of wit and insight, ‘Runaway Groom’ is largely, an easy, breezy read to go through. A rather cheesy ending rears its head here however, despite the unexpected twists and turns, so grit your teeth (or smile stupidly) and enjoy the Hollywood ending.

four-stars

Ready to Run by Lauren Layne

Ready to Run by Lauren LayneReady to Run by Lauren Layne
Series: I Do, I Don't #1
Published by Loveswept, Random House Publishing Group on August 22nd 2017
Pages: 175
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three-stars

Jordan Carpenter thinks she’s finally found the perfect candidate for Jilted, a new dating show about runaway grooms: Luke Elliott, a playboy firefighter who’s left not one but three brides at the altar. The only problem? Luke refuses to answer Jordan’s emails or return her calls. Which is how she ends up on a flight to Montana to recruit him in person. It’s not Manhattan but at least the locals in Lucky Hollow seem friendly . . . except for Luke, who’s more intense—and way hotter—than the slick womanizer Jordan expected.
Eager to put the past behind him, Luke has zero intention of following this gorgeous, fast-talking city girl back to New York. But before he can send her packing, Jordan’s everywhere: at his favorite bar, the county fair, even his exes’ book club. Annoyingly, everyone in Lucky Hollow seems to like her—and deep down, she’s starting to grow on him too. But the more he fights her constant pestering, the more Luke finds himself wishing that Jordan would kick off her high heels and make herself comfortable in his arms.

‘Ready to Run’ is sort of a spinoff take on The Bachelor/The Bachelorette, only that it ups the stakes for the guy in question in a new reality tv series that is touted to get the whole world talking. He has to be a runaway groom (which, by extension, means he’s probably a playboy who truly sweats at commitment) who’s going to find his true love on screen and be tied down as millions of eyes watch.

In this case, Luke Elliott is Jordan Carpenter’s target, and he’s so elusive that she has to fly all the way to a small town in Montana just to pitch her case. It’s a difficult return to small town life for her, though it’s way harder for Luke, whose 3 ‘failed’ altar runs aren’t exactly what they seem at all.

I’ll admit that from the beginning, Lauren Layne’s premise of this particular reality show was, well, a distasteful one to begin with – at least in the way I think of the trashy series that just goes on and on. It’s a shallow, mocking spectacle out of relationships, catering (mostly) to people who want their 15 seconds of fame and aren’t afraid to do anything to get it. But I am sort of at the point where I’ll pick up some books of Layne’s just so I can read the banter as well as some surprisingly heart-stopping moments that she’s known to write.

Consequently, there were parts I liked, and others that I didn’t as I struggled through several scenes. Characterisation was unfortunately, one of those. Luke’s nuanced backstory and his standup nature became clear as the story went on (and as I’d suspected, there was a lot more to those 3 altar failures than met the eye) and it was easy to root for Luke’s HEA, though the town’s methods of going about it were questionable and annoying. That he didn’t want to give an inch to Jordan was, frankly, his right and prerogative and I was glad to see that he stood by his own principles as much as he could.

On the other hand, I found Jordan extremely dislikable, and her intent to sell out Luke’s personal plight made her embodiment of reality tv in all its ugly glory as she canvassed the whole town for his back story when it was clear he didn’t want a thing to do with the show at all. The lack of respect she refused to give Luke as she relentlessly pried into his life was abominable and the many insulating layers that she’d put between herself and Luke made it difficult to think that the ‘connection’ between them was anything but skin deep.

The long and short of it really, is that ‘Ready to Run’ has been a mixed bag for me. Despite my qualms about Jordan, Layne quite nicely wraps up the whole ugly scenario without shortchanging either protagonist in a way that leaves you unsatisfied. That Luke and Jordan can walk into their sunset by the time the epilogue rolls around is quite the restoration of my tentative faith in this series, which I hope can only get better.

three-stars

Catch and Release by Laura Drewry

Catch and Release by Laura DrewryCatch and Release by Laura Drewry
Series: Fishing for Trouble #3
Published by Random House Publishing Group on February 28th 2017
Pages: 198
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three-stars

Hope Seaver is an up-and-coming TV producer tackling the hardest gig of her career: a reality show set at the Buoys, a scenic fishing destination owned by three handsome, stubborn brothers. Liam and Finn O’Donnell are willing to tolerate her crew for the sake of the business, but Ronan would rather chew off a limb than open up on camera. Somehow Hope has to convince him of her good intentions—and stop herself from swooning every time Ronan walks into the frame.

Ronan knows that he’s the reason his brothers gave up their old lives to run the Buoys, and he needs to make it worth their while. So if this out-of-towner with the kind eyes and dazzling smile wants to give them the free publicity they desperately need, Ronan can’t say no. He just won’t let himself get burned again by a double-dealing woman. But what if Hope’s good-girl routine isn’t an act? When Ronan lets his guard down long enough to catch a glimpse of the real Hope, he likes what he sees—enough to give love another shot.

‘Catch and Release’ is Ronan O’Donnell’s motto when it comes to women as much as it is the title of what is the last of Laura Drewry’s ‘Fishing for Trouble’ series; that much is the oldest of the brothers still struggling with mummy/women-abandonment issues to the point where it has made him gun-shy with everything of the opposite gender.

Hope Seaver is as much of a klutz as she seems to be a babbler of trivia and somehow acts in a way that makes it a little hard to believe she’s a 30-ish year old producer in command of her faculties. But meet she and Ronan do—as an unlikely pair—when the O’Donnells move into reality TV as family drama abounds in this very, very slow-burn romance that bumps along huge potholes when it becomes evident that the boys (especially Ro) haven’t quite yet faced their abandonment crisis head on. The appearance of their achilles’s heel at the end does make for a surprising climax but not an unexpected one, particularly if it’s the only loose end that needs tying up for the series’s resolution.

Drewry’s writing is charming as always and her books are always easy to read; I didn’t find myself as engrossed as I was in the previous 2 books, but this is nonetheless a solid offering and a pretty good closure for an unusual series.

three-stars