Updated: Jan 17
I Knew You Were Trouble
by Lauren Layne
Published by Loveswept
Book #4 in the Oxford Series
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.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy #ContemporaryRomance Feel Good
I Knew You Were Trouble by Lauren Layne is the fourth book in the Oxford Series, and deviates away from our usual Stiletto/Oxford crew, and centers around some newer characters, Nick Ballantine, and Taylor Carr. But don't worry ... we still see our original favorites from time to time.
I will admit being put off the change at first. I love the Oxford/Stiletto crew. While this IS an Oxford book, it feels different, because the characters work more in the development side of the magazine, and therefore, not as chummy with the editorial crew. The characters drew me in though. Nick is one of those make protagonists that has a weak spot for being a hero, which has gotten him into some trouble. His offer to let a girl crash with him for a couple of days turned into her moving in with him, and even after breaking up, not leaving his place. Then Taylor, his arch-nemesis, is in desperate need of a roommate after her boyfriend - now ex - leaves her the day they were supposed to move in together. So he volunteers. It helps him get away from his ex, helps Taylor, and it pisses off her ex, who Nick really dislikes. He is also witty, sarcastic, and kind. I like that he isn't like the usual Oxford crew. He is a writer, but he stays true to himself by doing freelance work for Oxford, while writing fiction. He also bar-tends part-time, not because he has to, but because he enjoys it and it helps stimulate his writing.
Taylor is a difficult character, but not unlikable. At first, I couldn't imagine why she would be heartbroken over a guy who broke up with her in a letter, on the day they were to move in together. And sure, she's prickly ... but she was raised to not give in to her emotions. Be logical. Be smart. Don't cry. She had a very unconventional childhood, being orphaned young by absentee parents, and left to her aunt, who at best could be described as cold. It was kind of heartbreaking how much of an impact her aunt had on her. She is sure she doesn't want kids, because her aunt never had them, or shown her maternal love. But her time with the baby Nick once thought of as his shows she wants that. I love that we learn, right along with Nick, that she is not at all how she projects herself to be. She is kind. She grows quite a bit in her time with Nick.
The actual story is rather great. Sure, at first it seems like your typical enemy-to-lover stories, but Lauren Layne adds a twist in there that I wasn't expecting. Taylor ends up pregnant. It is so atypical compared to her other works, so I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, the past speaks louder Nick, and when he finds out about the pregnancy in ... well, not the best way ... he lets his bad experience with an ex control his reaction. Sadly, its a trauma many men face, falling into the role of father to a child they believe their's, and come to find out, it isn't, and the biological father wants to step in. It makes since that Nick is wary, but it takes him too long (a week!) to figure out that Taylor and his ex were two different women. His ex was willing to let him believe the lies to avoid confrontation. Taylor would have been upfront if there was any question to paternity. The ending was sweet. The fact that he bought an engagement ring before finding out about the pregnancy goes to show that it wasn't a relationship forced because of an unexpected baby, but because they really love one another. And when the baby is born, and they have their son, its a beautiful moment to read about. Especially if you have been lucky enough to be in that spot, and gush over your child with your partner by your side.
While typically this type of enemy to lover story could be deemed unoriginal, the minor twists of the protagonists moving in together, forced to get to know each other, and eventually falling in love, and getting pregnant adds a uniqueness to the story. The characters are well written. Both are great, but both are flawed, and therefore more relate-able. The book has a great flow, doesn't slow down, and we get the added bonus of seeing our favorite oxford characters. I totally, and wholeheartedly recommend.
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Brit: "He's go this crazy skill for knowing exactly what drink each person will love."
Taylor: "By God, give the man a Nobel Prize."
Nick: "Some days I think I'll figure out just what the hell made you so damn bitchy, but then I remember I don't give a shit."
Taylor: "You checking me out, Ballentine?"
Nick: "Always. Your body's the best thing about you."
Taylor: "I already have enough going on in my life without adding in the effort of not getting arrested for killing you."
Nick: "Come on, Carr. Scared?"
Taylor: "Of what?"
Nick: "You, me, all that close proximity. Might be hard to resist me."
Taylor: "I think I can handle it."
Nick: "Not going to lie - I don't mind the view, Carr."
Taylor: "So this is how we're going to do this? You checking me out constantly?"
Nick: "Well. Guess that depends. How often are you going to wear the skintight pants?"
Taylor: "They're yoga pants."
Nick: "And I'm sure you have no idea what they do for your ass, right?"
As a matter of fact, Taylor knew exactly what wonders yoga pants did for the female posterior. All women did. But to punish him for saying it aloud, she turned around and bent over the couch once more, a little slower this time, wanting to torture him. The sound of a sharp smack on her butt registered just a split second before the sting of it.
Taylor: "Ouch!" she yelped, instinctively covering the spot he just swatted.
Taylor: "Since I don't like you anyway, feel free to tell me the truth. IS the ridiculous size of that TV compensating for something?"
Nick: "Not liking me doesn't preclude you finding out for yourself."
Taylor: "So you never really told me why you decided to make my life a living hell by moving in."
Nick: "Combination of things."
Taylor: "Give me the top three."
Nick: "Pissing off Calloway, getting in your pants, and putting some distance between me and a crazy ex."
Nick: "I'm just saying you could do better. Or at least you could if you weren't such a bitch."
Taylor: "I really hate you."
Nick: "If you really think there's a chance Calloway might come around, you should definitely keep displaying your ass in those pants. The body's almost good enough that he might overlook the personality."
Taylor leaves to go to her room, and slams the door.
Nick: "Careful of the original architecture!"
Taylor snorted out a laugh. She really did hate him.
Taylor: "What did you think I did in my spare time, killed cats?"
Nick: "Nah. Men."
Taylor: "I've thought about it."
Taylor: "When? How can you be a bartender, a journalist, and an author, and still find all that time to drive me crazy?"
Nick: "You coming or going?"
Brit: "Just leaving."
Nick: "Understood. The stink of mourning in this place can get oppressive."
Taylor: "Oh, for God's sake, I'm right here."
Nick: "What brings you my way at barely four o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon?"
Hunter: "I walked in on Cassidy making out with his wife in his office. Needed alcohol pronto to erase the visual, and these two kindly obliged."
Nick: "You going to bust my balls if it's not pink, frothy, or has a sugar rim?"
Lincoln: "My reputation precedes me. I've never even been in here, and you know my drink preferences."
Nick: "Word's gotten around."
Lincoln grins wider and leans across the bar.
Nick; "If you're asking me is your girl was in here bashing your manhood, telling me I was the much better guy for her ... maybe."
Lincoln: "Bastard. Make me whatever you're making them. I can handle it."
Hunter: "You're the one with the news."
Nick: "Am I?"
Hunter: "Dude. You moved in with Taylor Carr."
Lincoln: "Hot damn. Really? How did I not know this?"
Jackson: "Because your face is always buried in Daisy's - Flower."
Nick: "Do I know you from somewhere?"
Taylor: "Nice line, Ballentine. No wonder you're single."
Nick: "I'm single because my roommate's cramping my style."
Taylor: "She sounds like a real bitch."
Nick: "She can be."
Taylor: "She doesn't mean to be."
Nick: "I suspect she's got her reasons."
Taylor: "Seduce him? Like what - trench coat, no clothes underneath?"
Daisy: "I've always wanted to do that."
Brit: "You should! It's very freeing. I mean, assuming of course that it's not cold and windy outside and you don't get drafts up your hoo-hah."
The server chose that moment to bring them their lunch, and the way his hand faltered as he set the plate on the table said he'd clearly heard.
Brit: "Thank you. The tuna roll looks delicious."
Waiter hurries away.
Daisy: "Oh my God. He's going to think you were making some sort of reference to your tuna roll."
Taylor: "And that I want to use his chopstick."
Daisy: "If we're going to have this conversation, I want to get back to how Nick's chopstick is going to find its way to Taylor's tuna roll."
Taylor: "Nope. No way. We're dropping this whole disgusting metaphor immediately, never to be referenced again for fear of ruining my love of sushi. Everyone agreed?"
Brit and Daisy: "Agreed."
Taylor: "Well. I've been thinking."
Nick: "Always dangerous."
Nick: "Feeling pretty smug, aren't you?"
Nick: "There'll be no living with you after this."
Taylor: "I would never gloat over oral sex, Ballantine. It's unbecoming of a lady."
Nick: "Are you lying?"
Taylor: "A little"
Nick: "Thought so."
Nick pulls back the shower curtain and Taylor screams.
Taylor: "Jesus, Ballantine. Psycho much?"
Nick grins, takes off his boxers, and steps into the shower.
Taylor: "Really? You won't sleep with me, but you'll shower with me?"
Nick: "I slept with you. All night."
Taylor: "You know what I mean."
Nick: "I do. You're sulking because I won't yet make a woman out of you."
Taylor: *laughs* Whatever.
Nick: "Don't these little chats usually happen in Cassidy's office, what with Cassidy being the boss and all?"
Lincoln: "He was boning Emma in there again. I refused to enter and expose myself to the sex vibes."
Cassidy: "Convinced as I am that you have fooled around with Daisy in this very office, thus making you a hypocrite, lingering on that though would also mean accepting that you've seen my sister-in-law naked. So I'll refrain."
Lincoln: "So you and Taylor. Really a thing, then?"
Nick: "If I knew what the hell Taylor and I were, I wouldn't be in here talking to you two."
Cassidy: "Well, you're living together."
Cassidy: "And sleeping together?"
Cassidy: "Well now, I don't know. What does that sound like to you, Mathis?"
Lincoln: "Sounds an awful lot like what Daisy and I are doing."
Nick: "It's different."
Nick: "Because Daisy's ..."
Cassidy: "Taylor's complicated?"
Nick: "Hell yes."
Cassidy: "So, let me see if I can sum this up. She likes you. But she loved Bradley. You won't even tell us how you feel about her. Nor do you have a name for what you guys are. And you want us to help you with ...?"
Lincoln throws a paperclip at Cassidy
Lincoln: "Shut it, Cassidy. I don't seem to remember you having all your shit figured out with Emma."
Cassidy: "I wasn't this bad."
Lincoln: "really? It only took you, what, eight years to lock that down?"
Cassidy threw the paper clip back. Hard.
Taylor: "So. I got a dog."
Nick: "You got a dog."
Nick lowers to a crouch. Twinkie gives him an enthusiastic kiss on the face, and Nick pets her head.
Nick: "Hey, buddy. I'm guessing from the pink color you're a girl?"
Taylor: "Nick, meeting Twinkie."
Nick: "Oh, hell no. Twinkie? The pink collar is one thing. Let her have some dignity."
Taylor: "Wasn't my idea. I had another name picked out, but then they told me she was five, and I couldn't bring myself to change her identity on her."
Nick: "What did you want to call her?"
Nick: *laughs* No. Seriously."
Nick: *stage-whispered to Twinkie* You lucked out."
Nick: "You should come with a warning label. Or at least an instruction manual. I'm not seeing anyone else, Taylor. I couldn't even if I wanted to. You consume me."
Nick: "Yeah. Taylor?"
Nick: "Let's do this for real. Girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever."
Taylor: "More than roommates who sleep together?"
Nick: "Yes. More than that."
Taylor: "Never though I'd be going steady with Nick Ballantine. Or that we'd have a dog together."
Nick: *snorts* "You managed to twist that fast."
Jess: "I have another question, totally not my business."
Taylor: "We've slept with the same guy, practically back to back. I vote we get all up in each other's business."
Hunter: "I'm fluent in the language of lady tears."
Taylor: "That sounds gross."
Taylor talking to Twinkie
Taylor: "It'll pass, right? I'll get over him?"
Nick: "I hope not."
Nick pulled her to her feet, hauling her body against his. He held her. He held her as she cried big sobs over ... she didn't even know what. Him. The baby. The family unit that would never be because he'd hurt her. He's hurt her so bad.
Nick: "I know. I know, and I'm so fucking sorry."
Nick: "Can't do that."
Taylor: "Well, you don't get to do this. You don't get to accuse me of cheating on you, of trying to pass off someone else's baby as yours, and then walk out the door. You don't get to do all that and come back and build a dresser and act like it didn't happen. Like you didn't break my heart."
Nick: "Tell me what I can do to make it better. To make you mine again."
Taylor: "I don't want to be yours."
Nick: "You think I don't know that I don't deserve you? You think I don't know that I was a fucking idiot? That the baby you're carrying is mine? I know all of that, Taylor, but here's what I need you to know. I need you to know that I want that babu so much, but I want you more."
Taylor: "Oh, I get it. Your dreams of being a dad are finally coming true, and you've decided I'm as good a vessel for your progeny as any?"
Nick: "Progeny? Vessel? What? No. No. This isn't about the baby. This is about the fact that I love you."
Taylor: "Don't say that. Don'y say that! Do you know how long I've waited for someone to say that and mean it? Hardly anybody says it, and nobody means it. Nobody means that when they say it to me."
Nick: "I do. I mean it."
Taylor: "No. I'm not doing this. We'll get your paternity test, see that they baby is yours, and then we'll work out custody, but -"
Nick: "Fuck the paternity test. I know the baby is mine, but it could be Calloway's or George Clooney's or Indiana Jone's and I'd still be right here. I'd still be doing this."
Nick pulls something out of this pocket and dropped to one knee.
Nick: "I'd still be asking you to be my wife, Taylor Carr, because I want to marry you. Baby or no baby, you're the love of my life. And you can say no, and I'll be annoyed, but then you'll be annoyed too, because I'm not going to stop asking. Not ever."
Taylor: "This is so cliched. The post-pregnancy-announcement proposal."
Nick: "Got the right before that."
Taylor: "You did not."
Nick: "When I was in Oregon. My mom helped me pick it out and was bossy as shit. That's going to be one more reason I'll be annoyed if you say no, because I did not endure that process for nothing."
Taylor: "You wanted to marry me before you knew I was pregnant?"
Nick: "Very much. What's it going to be, Carr? You can say yes now, or tomorrow, or next year, but you will say yes. And by the way, I'm still paying rent for this placem and it'll take you time to evict me, and every day you try will be another day I propose, and -"
Taylor's heart was bursting. There was no choice, really. She snatched the ring out of the box, but he snatched it right back, standing up and tossing the box aside so he could grab her left hand.
Nick: "Please let me do this. I've been dreaming about it for weeks."
Taylor: "You're a sap."
But then she was a sap too, because when he slipped the ring onto her fourth finger, she started crying. Again.
Nick: "Is this your new thing? Crying all the time?"
Taylor: "Having second thoughts?"
Nick: "Never. I love every version of your, even the soggy one."
Taylor: "I love every version of you too. Even the idiotic one."
Nick: "Do we know if it's a girl or boy yet?"
Taylor: "No. But if it's a girl, I'm thinking Taylor Junior. If it's a boy ... Bradley, obviously."
Brit: "I suppose the fact that they called to let me know she went into labor makes up for the fact that I didn't get to be a bridesmaid. Almost."
Hunter: "We're all glad to hear it, Brit. Since today's most definitely about you."
Daisy: "I didn't get to be a bridesmaid either. They eloped."
Brit: "Yeah, well, I'm not feeling quite so bad for you, because last year you were the maid of honor at your sister's wedding, where you met this one. *Points to Lincoln* I want to meet my Lincoln. A wedding would be a good place to start."
Lincoln: "Sorry, doll. I'm one of a kind, and a one-woman man."
Lincoln rests his hand on Daisy's knee, and Hunter shuts his laptop and sighs.
Hunter: "Must you? You're ruining the reputation of men everywhere, giving women the impression we'll all be as whipped as you."
Check out the rest of the Stiletto and Oxford series below!