Updated: Jan 17
Marriage on Madison Avenue
by Lauren Layne
Published by Gallery Books
Book #3 in The Central Park Pact
Can guys and girls ever be just friends?
According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey. But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?
RATED: 14+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
#ContemporaryRomance Feel Good
Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne is the third and final book in the Central Park Pact series, and is centered around our last member of the pact that is single, Audrey Tate, and her childhood best friend, Clarke West. While I am so sad that this series is done, I was so excited to read their story. I have a soft spot for best friends turn lovers romances, and I wasn't disappointed at all!
Marriage on Madison Ave is a combination of a fake romance story, and best friends fall in love story, but Lauren Layne gives it a settle twist, by having them continue the rouse of a fake engagement, only for it to turn real, when they convince themselves that as best friends, they can marry for the companionship. The story, right from the start, draws you in.. Clarke and Audrey's chemistry has always been there in the last two novels, but it leaps off the pages in this one. In this PG-13 type romance, Lauren Layne has an amazing ability to make settle looks, and touches feel hot, and I found myself not missing the steamy details, like I do in other novels.
Audrey and Clarke's friendship, slowly turning to their romance was flawlessly written. Their first kiss at their engagement party, and that steamy kiss at the ski-lodge was all kinds of hot, and Lauren Layne did a great job showing us just how confused Audrey and Clarke were about each other. And while it wasn't insta-love, which is probably my biggest pet peeve in romances, I think its obvious they loved each other the whole time, and more than they thought. What twelve year old boy would glue multiple wedding cake pictures in a scrapbook because his best friend asked him to? For hours?
Clarke's parents added an interesting element to the story, with his mother trying to mettle in his life by setting him up with Elizabeth, an ex of his, and his father offering to make him CEO of the family company, IF he marries Audrey (which I predicted Audrey would find out about, and be justifiably upset.) While we learn his mother actually realized Elizabeth wasn't a match for him, and she was actually going along with the pretend engagement, not to call her son on it, but because she was pushing him to go through with it, and his father meant well, it kinda sucks a great guy like Clarke doesn't have the greatest example of love at home. And Elizabeth was an annoying character, right up till she walks in on that steamy kiss at the ski-lodge, and she realizes that while Clarke and Audrey might not know it yet, they obviously love one another.
I was really surprised how this book ended. The whole book is the buildup to the wedding, and we get that ... but even the epilogue isn't set in the future. Its literally hours after the wedding, where the three women are toasting each other on the same park bench in Central Park they met, and making a new pact, while their husbands and fiance smoke cigars and watch. Its a great come around from the first of the series, where three women, heartbroken (except for Naomi) and angry that the man that was in their lives (who dies after falling off his yacht, drunk), led a secret life, and while married to Claire, was dating Audrey and Naomi on the side.), end off on the same bench, moved on with the right men. I just wish we had a little bit more. But I guess that's the way with every series when it ends.
Lucky for us, Lauren Layne's stories all seem to be in the same world, and we sometimes get a glimpse of a character in a different book (like Alexis from the Wedding Belles, who has at this point, married Logan, is Audrey and Clarke's wedding planner, and Georgie in the 21 Wall Street series), so maybe we will get a glimpse into these three couples futures.
Marriage in Madison Avenue was a short and sweet love story, that once I started, I honestly couldn't put down. Literally, my eyes were burning, but once I got half way through, I had to finish. Audrey and Clarke's obvious love for one another, respect, history, and chemistry was a delight to read, and was written in a way that made me not miss the detailed sex that Lauren Layne is great at writing. I promise, you don't need the dirty details to enjoy this book, or series!
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Naomi: "Now if only we'd made a pact where the two of us could have told you that Randy was shit ... oh wait..."
Clarke: "Strategic amount of stubble. What, you think we men can train our facial hair to grow just so?"
Audrey: "Well, gosh, I don't know. Maybe I'll find out after we're married."
Clarke: "Ah. That."
Audrey: "Yeah. That. Again?"
Clarke: "Have I told you you're the best friend in the whole world?"
Audrey: "I already know."
Clarke: "Lay on my back."
Clarke: "Come on. Like we used to, when regular push-ups got too easy."
Audrey: "First of all, nobody likes people who say things like 'regular push-ups got too easy.' Second of all, that was in high school."
Clarke: "I can wait all day, Dree. Just remember, the sooner I finish this workout, the sooner you don't have to marry me."
Audrey: "You'll get me all sweaty."
Clarke: "Good. If you ask me, it's been way too long since you've had contact with a man's sweat."
Audrey: "I don't remember this being so hard when I was fifteen."
Clarke: "Yeah, you really have the hard part. Maybe we need to talk about your chocolate addiction."
Audrey: "A gentleman never comments on a lady's weight."
Clarke: "Is this what this is, a lady's weight?"
Audrey: "I thought I wanted to be single, but ... it's starting to get a little embarrassing. It's also not like guys have been banging down the door trying to woo me."
Clarke: "Maybe it's because you use words like woo."
Audrey: "You're the worst fake husband ever."
Audrey: "Half of them think I'm a closeted lesbian, and I'm okay with that. But the other half are speculating I'm some sort of relationship pariah. One theorized that I had shark teeth for a vagina."
Clarke: "Oh God. What I wouldn't give to unhear that."
Audrey: "Please? It's just a few days you'll have to keep it zipped up and pretend to be wildly in love with me, and then you can go back to sowing wild oats."
Audrey: "Sleeping with every woman in Manhattan."
Clarke points to his heart
Audrey: "I'm not judging. I have full respect for your bachelor brand. I just need your help. Just for a week or so? People think my vagina is made of teeth, Clarke."
Clarke: "Get up. First we need some ground rules. If we do this, the word vagina is officially banned."
Audrey: "Wait, you'll do it?"
Clarke: "I'm going to take a quick shower, then we'll head out."
Audrey: "Head out where?"
Clarke: "Gotta go shop for a big-ass diamond ring for my wife-to-be."
Audrey: "I forgot how scary your parents' house is. Is that a lion? With its mouth open?"
Clarke: "Don't be ridiculous, Audrey. That's not a lion. It's clearly the spitting image of my mother."
Clarke: "Hoping to get a look at the goods before you purchase?"
Clarke: "It's very wifely. You creeping on me in the bathroom."
Audrey: "Well, congratulations. You've made it an entire week without sex."
Clarke: "Thank you for noting my sacrifice."
Audrey: "Clarke -"
Clarke: "Brace yourself."
His lips closed over hers.
Clarke: "Turns out I care about you more than I do sex."
Audrey: "You do?"
Clarke: "Eh. Mostly."
Richard: "In my day, matrimony was taken very seriously between two people who were committed to each other."
Audrey: "Can it, Richard. You and I got married because I was pregnant with Anderson."
Audrey: "Hush. Look in love."
Clarke: "Easy to do when you're so bossy."
Clarke: "Put your phone away. Slowly, indifferently, like whatever's happening on your phone doesn't matter one way or another to you."
She does as he instructed, leaning down and dropping the phone into her bag.
Clarke: "Good. Now give me your other hand."
His right hand still holding hers, he set his left palm up on the table. She hesitated only briefly before setting her right hand lightly on top of his.
Clarke: "Smile. No, not a big grin, just a little private smile, like we're having a nice conversation."
Audrey: "But we're not having a nice conversation. You're being bossy."
Naomi: "Oh, there's more. Did he touch your boob?"
Audrey: "Boob? How old are you? And no. He just ... we held hands."
Alton: "Elizabeth reminds me of your mother in many ways."
Clarke: "Probably why Mom likes her so much."
Alton: "Yes. Probably. And your mother in many ways reminds me of my mother."
Clarke: "Jesus, Dad. You've got to warn a guy before you go all Oedipus complex."
Scott: "I do not agree to that. If your ceiling's about to cave, I'll tell you. Which, by the way, is a compliment. It means I count you as a friend."
Clarke: "What if I weren't a friend? You'd let me be crushed by shoddy house construction?"
Oliver: "Bullshit. You're a good guy."
Clarke: "I know. But I'm also sort of a man whore."
Scott: "We're all man whores until we're not."
Audrey: "Well, congratulations, Clarke. Hell of a show you put on. I'm sure Elizabeth definitely got the message this time. Actually, just so I'm clear, what is the message you're trying to convey? What role am I playing here?"
Clarke: "I don't know, Dree. I don't fucking know."
Audrey: "Right, well. Let me know when you find out."
Clarke: "I am really sorry. You know that, right?"
Audrey: "I know. It's okay."
Clarke: "You shouldn't make it so easy for a man. You deserve groveling."
Audrey: "When did he get so hot?"
Naomi: "He has always been hot."
Audrey: "What is with you?"
Clarke: "What do you mean?"
Audrey: "You know exactly what I mean. You look like you're about to be violently ill on that table of very expensive panties."
Clarke: "You know how when we started this, I banned you from using the word vagina?"
Audrey: "Sure. Rather immature, but I've honored it."
Clarke: "I'm adding panties to the list."
Elizabeth: "I just came here because I needed to apologize. And tell you how I never would have pursued Clarke like I did if I'd known how you really felt about him." So I'm sorry. Really sorry."
Audrey: "But you've always known I've loved Clarke. We've been best friends forever."
Elizabeth: "Oh, I know. I'm just sorry I didn't realize sooner that you were in love with him. But how could you not be. He's Clarke, right?"
Naomi: "Oh my God. You boned Clarke. Finally!"
Claire: "She's so romantic."
Audrey: "We didn't bone. We just ... okay fine, we boned."
Audrey: "I think I'm in love with Clarke."
Naomi: "Oh, sweetheart. Of course you are."
Clarke: "How did you know? How did you know before I knew?"
Linda: "That you're in love with her?"
He nodded. He was in love with Audrey. It was both the most momentous and yet somehow the most blindly obvious realization of his life.
Linda: "Oh, Clarke. A mother always knows."
Audrey: "I was looking for you last night, at the party. You were talking to your dad."
Clarke: "I know what you heard, Dree. And I'm not going to tell you that my dad didn't offer me the job if I married you. I'm not going to pretend that my parents aren't completely messed up or that my mom didn't have one up on all of us the entire time, but that's not important right now. What is important is that the damned company had nothing to do why I proposed to you that day in the Plaza. And it has nothing to do with the reasons I'm proposing to you right now."
Audrey's lips parted in shock as Clarke slowly lowered to one knee in front of her and clasped his hands around hers, his eyes gleaming with unshed tears.
Clarke: "Marry me, Audrey. Marry me today, marry me next week, a year from now, ten years from now. I don't care, just promise me someday. I need you, Dree. I need you with every fiber of my being. I've needed you from that very first day on the playground. I know the way you tell the story is that I saved you from a bully, but the truth is you save me from myself every damn day. Marry me because I love you, not in the way a boy loves a girl, not in the way a friend loves his friend, but in the way a man loves a woman. Forever. Marry me because I just quit my job, and now I need a beautiful Instagram influencer to support my unemployed ass -"
It was a good speech. A fairy-tale speech. Too bad she had to cut it off with a fairy-tale kiss.
Check out the first two books from the Central Park Pact below!