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I Knew You Were Trouble by Lauren Layne

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 10th May 2017
I Knew You Were Trouble by Lauren LayneI Knew You Were Trouble by Lauren Layne
Series: Oxford #4
Published by Loveswept on June 13th 2017
Pages: 193
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three-stars

Taylor Carr has it all—a sleek job in advertising, a stunning Manhattan apartment, and the perfect man to share it with: Bradley Calloway. Even after Bradley dumps her for a co-worker on move-in day, Taylor isn’t worried. She’ll get her man eventually. In the meantime, she needs a new roommate. Enter Nick Ballantine, career bartender, freelance writer—and longtime pain in Taylor’s ass. Sexy in a permanent five-o’clock-shadow kind of way, Nick knows how to push Taylor’s buttons, as if he could see right through to the real her.
Nick’s always trying to fix people, and nobody could use a good fixing more than Taylor. Sure, she’s gorgeous, with mesmerizing silver eyes, but it’s her vulnerability that kills him. Now that they’re shacking up together, the chemistry is out of control. Soon they’re putting every part of their two-bedroom apartment to good use. Then Taylor’s ex comes crawling back to her, and Nick figures she’ll jump at the chance to go back to her old life—unless he fights for the best thing that ever happened to him.

Lauren Layne takes on the enemies-to-lovers trope in the latest installment of the Oxford series, and after Lincoln’s heartbreaking story in the last one, the tone and setting of “I knew you were trouble” does come as a bit of a shock. Layne pits Nick Ballantine against Taylor Carr whom we saw in the last book as characters who hate each other for unexplained reasons but finally makes it clear here it’s not as simple as hating each other’s guts from the start. It’s instead, something that has festered over a period of a year as Nick and Taylor grew into their dislike for each other. Bad timing, lost chances and poor choices with far-reaching consequences merely exacerbated what could have been a much less antagonistic relationship as I wondered if they could ever resolve things between them despite the mutual attraction both had for each other.

I found my sympathies between Nick and Taylor shifting so frequently that it was difficult to decide whether I could really go for them as a couple. For a fair bit of the story, they used each other’s weaknesses against each other and that made it difficult to separate the fine line between love and hate simply because they couldn’t plainly say what they wanted without being snippy about it. There were times I was horrified that Nick used his words to eviscerate Taylor when she was hurting, just as much as I couldn’t understand why Taylor allowed the brief rejection from Nick to turn into unmitigated loathing as she held fast to the mantra of never appearing weak to anyone. Their own personal histories have left deep scars on them and as Layne typically writes it, these are the very aspects of themselves that they’ve used to hit each other with the hardest in the final, catastrophic fight before the resolution arrives.

In the end, the games Nick and Taylor played—whether accidentally hostile or not—felt like it simply came down to their inability to communicate plainly and their unwillingness to give themselves the chance that things could turn out both different and better. Throw some respective ex-es (rebound or not) that came into the picture and all I could think was that there was a huge, hot mess that surely had to take more than a peace treaty to untangle.

As far the Oxford series goes, “I knew you were trouble” is the most volatile one that I’ve ever been through. Somehow I emerged from this whole reading experience feeling dazed and whiplashed, still sore from the barbs and the potshots Nick/Taylor had taken at each other, but grateful nonetheless that Lauren Layne always writes an uncompromising HEA.

three-stars

Someone like you by Lauren Layne

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 24th November 2016
Someone like you by Lauren LayneSomeone like You by Lauren Layne
Series: Oxford #3
Published by Loveswept on December 6th 2016
Pages: 228
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four-stars

Lincoln Mathis doesn’t hide his reputation as Manhattan’s ultimate playboy. In fact, he cultivates it. But behind every flirtatious smile, each provocative quip, there’s a secret that Lincoln’s hiding from even his closest friends—a tragedy from his past that holds his heart quietly captive. Lincoln knows what he wants: someone like Daisy Sinclair, the sassy, off-limits bridesmaid he can’t take his eyes off at his best friend’s wedding. He also knows that she’s everything he can never have.
After a devastating divorce, Daisy doesn’t need anyone to warn her off the charming best man at her sister’s wedding. One look at the breathtakingly hot Lincoln Mathis and she knows that he’s exactly the type of man she should avoid. But when Daisy stumbles upon Lincoln’s secret, she realizes there’s more to the charming playboy than meets the eye. And suddenly Daisy and Lincoln find their lives helplessly entwined in a journey that will either heal their damaged souls . . . or destroy them forever.

The premier player of New York hides a painful secret that no one knows. The only friend who seems to understand Lincoln Mathis however, is the unlikeliest of people: the twin of two good friends, who is dealing with her own hurt and fears because her walls and pain parallel his.

Told in an episodic series of parts, ‘Someone like you’ feels like an account of unfolding grief and the unsteady steps taken back into a world that’s suddenly too bright and stunning to take in. It is however, a lot more heart-wrenching and sombre than the rest of Lauren Layne’s Oxford and Stiletto series and I do think it’s all the better for it actually, because the light-hearted banter would have probably been out of place given the weightier subject matters brought up here.

I’m glad for this chance to know what Lincoln and Daisy had been facing all along, although I had a pretty good guess from the hints already dropped in the previous books. But having some kind of plot premonition doesn’t make the story any easier to read as Lincoln’s uncertainty over his past kept its tight rein on a present that he couldn’t actually quite yet accept. It’s only in the last quarter of the book that the romantic drama really begins and where the attraction and the connection that both Lincoln and Daisy have forged finally kick in. But from here, the journey onwards is rather predictable and somewhat rushed: the usual cut-and-run part which becomes the status quo until someone breaks…and the grovelling begins up until the HEA that’s a mixture of cheesy and sweet.

I liked that their attraction played out over time—through months of grief which slowly but surely turned into attraction and longing—as well as the revelation that Lincoln really isn’t what he seems. In fact, his deep loyalties do make him out to be one of the more prominent (and unusual) romantic leading heroes who acts opposite of the reputation he cultivates in a way that assists him in remaining unavailable. Daisy Sinclair might be his worthy heroine however, although I do in some way, mourn Layne’s original choice of heroine in the form of a mousy copywriter in the first draft of the story. Still, I was absorbed as their stories came together, stuttered to a halt and then came together again in a journey that moved slowly from hopelessness to redemption. With Layne’s very sly insertion of the next pairing as a prelude of things to come, I turned the last page of ‘Someone like You’ already looking out for the next installment in the Oxford series.

four-stars

I Wish You Were Mine by Lauren Layne

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 1st December 2015
I Wish You Were Mine by Lauren LayneI Wish You Were Mine by Lauren Layne
Series: Oxford, #2
Published by Loveswept on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 260
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three-stars

A year ago, Jackson Burke was married to the love of his life and playing quarterback for the Texas Redhawks. Now he’s retired, courtesy of the car accident that ruined his career—and single, after a nasty scandal torpedoed his marriage. Just as he’s starting to get used to his new life as a health and fitness columnist for Oxford magazine, his unpredictable ex shows up on his doorstep in Manhattan. Jackson should be thrilled. But he can’t stop thinking about the one person who’s always been there for him, the one girl he could never have: her younger sister.
Mollie Carrington can’t say no to Madison. After all, her older sister practically raised her. So when Madison begs for help in winning her ex-husband back, Mollie’s just glad she got over her own crush on Jackson ages ago—or so she thought. Because as Mollie reconnects with Jackson, she quickly forgets all her reasons to stay loyal to her sister. Tempted by Jackson’s mellow drawl and cowboy good looks, Mollie is sick and tired of coming in second place. But she can’t win if she doesn’t play the game.

Jackson Burke is not right in the head – that much we know from the teaser in the last Oxford book – and the person who helps him, as always, to sort it out is Mollie Carrington, the sister of his cheating, malicious ex-wife. The new life that he’s been dragged into at Oxford magazine isn’t working out too well and still, he yearns for a return to football in any way he can take it. Confronting Mollie as a single man however, makes their recent encounters charged with something else that he can’t seem to put his finger on. Throw in a scheming ex-wife however, and both Mollie and Jackson have their work cut out for them.

I’ll be the first to say that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the the vaguely incestuous strain running through as Jackson Burke falls for his ex-sister-in-law, who has been his rock and his confidante for the past 8 years. Throw in her unrequited love for him and what becomes evident here is a romantic mess that can only take superb, nuanced writing to sort out. The problem is, I’m not too sure if Ms. Layne succeeded here, even with her more than decent exposition of both Mollie’s and Jackson’s internal processes.

But where Irresistibly Yours was well, irresistible, I’m purely on the fence with ‘I wish you were mine’ and that has more to do with the characters themselves than the circumstances they find themselves in.

Is Jackson Burke hero-material? Perhaps.

But he isn’t a nice, likeable one as he constantly lashes out at everything and everyone. The womanising aspect – which Layne seems to trumpet as the core of her series – of men and the disposable way they treat women, apart from the core group of characters, bothers me a lot and if it’s something I barely overlook in her other books, it’s getting harder and harder to do so now. Jackson’s careless manner about his flings post divorce is distasteful and his willingness to string Mollie along makes him more of an arse than a character I wanted to get behind. Mollie’s own refusal to pull the wool from her eyes when it comes to her sister frustrated me as much as Jackson’s behaviour did. Her insistence in keeping Madison as a third party seems to indicate a lack of a spine – even if it’s unintentional – but I could at least, appreciate that it felt like the best she could do considering the circumstances.

Could I get behind this pairing? I wish.

Despite the disappointment I felt about this book, I adored the team dynamics that lifted the story past the Jackson/Mollie fracas and makes the book worth going through for it. They were scene-stealers for me (especially the blunt ones with Riley) and the most memorable of the lot. And of course, the slight peek behind the sleaziness of Lincoln’s ‘manufactured’ behaviour is probably going to make the womenfolk swoon even harder.

three-stars

Irresistibly Yours by Lauren Layne

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 14th August 2015
Irresistibly Yours by Lauren LayneIrresistibly Yours by Lauren Layne
Series: Oxford #1
Published by Loveswept on October 6th 2015
Pages: 236
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four-stars

Hotshot sports editor Cole Sharpe has been freelancing for Oxford for years, so when he hears about a staff position opening up, he figures he’s got the inside track. Then his boss drops a bombshell: Cole has competition. Female competition, in the form of a fresh-faced tomboy who can hang with the dudes—and write circles around them, too. Cole usually likes his women flirty and curvy, but he takes a special interest in his skinny, sassy rival, if only to keep an eye on her. And soon, he can’t take his eyes off her.   Penelope Pope knows all too well that she comes off as just one of the guys. Since she’s learned that wanting more usually leads to disappointment, Penelope’s resigned to sitting on the sidelines when it comes to love. So why does Cole make her want to get back in the game? The man is as arrogant as he is handsome. He probably sees her as nothing more than a barrier to his dream job. But when an unexpected kiss turns into a night of irresistible passion, Penelope has to figure out whether they’re just fooling around—or starting something real.

My first foray into Lauren Layne’s chick-lit writing was a pleasant surprise, even though I have the sinking feeling that what I’m going to get in this series is a string of womanising men (to the point where it gets nearly unreal) and gorgeous women who finally get them to change their ways through differing circumstances that revolve around magazine publication in New York.

The good?
‘Irresistibly Yours’ is funny, sharp and fun, ultimately proving to be irresistible because of the guileless and very refreshing heroine whose boyish figure and no-games nature carried the story from start to end. Finally, a geek chick with no pretenses or overly dramatic awkwardness! I didn’t know who Cole was at all because I didn’t read Ms. Layne’s previous books; neither was I armed with the back-stories of the rest of the characters (though I could guess what their personalities and stories would have been like) but this was an easy book to go through because I found myself rooting for Pen the whole way, even if her willingness to let Cole’s appalling behaviour off the hook so easily seemed to cheapen her strength of character.

The bad?
I’d hoped to see more varied characters really, rather than read about differing reasons for why a particular behaviour (womanising in this case) exists, to the extent where Jake and Cole simply looked like peas in a pod lining up on a factory conveyor belt for their own HEA sunsets.

four-stars
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