Updated: Aug 15
Passion on Park Avenue
by Lauren Layne
Published by Gallery Books
Book #1 in The Central Park Pact Series
For as long as she can remember,
Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strong minded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.
The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them.
Spoilers ahead friends! Don't complain. You've been warned.
This is how I picture Naomi
RATED: 13+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Some Steaminess Romance Feel Good
Passion on Park Avenue is the first book in The Central Park Pact Series, and right in the first chapter, we learn what the pact is, and why three women, who do not know each other, make it in the first place. One is married, one is the long time girlfriend, and the other is a fling of the same man.
This first book is centered around our main protagonist, Naomi Powell. She is the very definition of a rags to riches success story. Born in the Bronx, to a not very stable mother, she grew up from a troubled childhood, and started her mail subscription accessory business, and has become one of the country's richest women.
Despite this, she still is traumatized by a specific period of time in her life. Her mother, a housekeeper at the elite building 517 Park Avenue, was a housekeeper for the Cunningham's. Naomi wanted to belong, but never did. She was forced to spend time with Olivier Cunningham, a boy a year older than her. He bullied her. One day, when they were sent to the park, and Olivier broke her glasses, they both came home and caught her mother and Olivier's father, Walter, having an affair. When it all came out, and Walter denied it, Olivier covered for his dad, and Naomi and her mother were thrown out and called trash. This event leads to living in homeless shelters, and gross motels. Her mother, angry and bitter, gives up.
This story really picks up after she gets a call to interview about an opening at 517 Park Ave, a place she didn't like to think about, let alone apply to live in. When she shows up to the interview, she notices her mother was the one who applied on her behalf ... with the main reasoning, to show The Cunningham's that she was not trash.
Of course, it doesn't end up working out that way. Which leads to one of the things I like about this book, and what I dislike.
I am not crazy about this whole "revenge" plan. Naomi has come a long way since being thrown out of Park Ave. She is an insanely successful business woman. She has great friends, and the world is her oyster. What the hell is she doing wallowing in the past? Yeah ... that whole thing sucked. But her mother was also at fault. Did The Cunningham's have to call them trash? No. That's awful. But her mother was sleeping with a married man, and her boss. It does lead to consequences.
What I do love, is that Naomi learns to accept her past, and finds closure. Not through rubbing her success in the Cunningham's faces, but by learning that just as she has changed, so have they.
Well, Walter would probably have still been an ass. Him being diagnosed with Alzheimer's puts things in perspective for Naomi, and she feels genuine compassion, and eventually, friendship for the man.
I love Oliver's character. I love that he does puzzles. I love that he puts his life on hold so he could care for the only family he has left, even if they didn't see eye to eye. I love that he decides to become a better person, and becomes the opposite of his father. He chases his own dreams. He is an all around decent, loving, kind man. Despite being hurt by his ex-fiance, he lets Naomi into his very private world, and falls in love with her. When he finally learns of Naomi's true identity, he is rightfully pissed. He fell in love with her, and she was lying to him about who she was. He let her into his life and home, had her spend time with his sick father, and she hated them (in his eyes. She grew to love them both in different ways). He admits he was a shit back then, and he was sorry that him covering for his Dad led to shitty consequences for Naomi, but it happened 20 years ago. Grow up Naomi!
I loved the ending. I LOVED that Naomi continues to visit Walter after he is put into a home. I love that Oliver listens to her read Anne of Green Gables to his father. I love how after some time, Oliver comes to accept that maybe in the time they spent together, Naomi did grow up, and actually did have feelings for him. I also love that when he comes to her to get her back, he calls her by the nickname she used to hate, "Carrots", because Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables called Anne that, and eventually, they fell in love. It was such a sweet tie in.
I'm rambling. I know.
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I will admit, I was a little thrown off, because it isn't like Lauren Layne's typical romances. We are aware that Oliver and Naomi have sex, but it's not descriptive like her other books. I missed that (my husband thinks I am a perv because I wanted descriptive ex, haha). The story is original, and doesn't just focus on the romance. It focuses on blossoming friendships, that in normal circumstances, wouldn't have happened. It brings up issues with class, and how being put into a specific box changes you. The characters are well thought out, and grow as the book moves along. I give Passion on Park Avenue a 4.5/5.
Top 3 Favorite Moments
1. Oliver reading the entire Anne of Green Gables series and declaring his love to Naomi.
2. Naomi visiting Walter at the private care home.
3. The morning after they have sex the first time, and she brings brunch to Oliver and Walter, because Oliver is not in a position to go out with her. She is accepting his circumstances, and wants to be with him despite them.
Where to Buy:
Naomi: "I'm Naomi Powell. The other, other woman."
Naomi: "Your husband was putting his pickle into one too many sandwiches. Well, two too many if you count her."
Oliver stared in irritated puzzlement at the redhead currently glaring across the desk like she was trying to crush his windpipe Dark Vadar-style. - Oliver
Oliver: "Two miles is a lot in Manhattan."
Naomi: "Too true. Two miles in this city can mean the difference between real people and pretension."
Naomi: "Trust me, I'm really not cool. I can name just about every Star Trek character, ever, and that includes the much-maligned Enterprise series."
Naomi: "Even in the best of circumstances, boys and girls don't get along at that age, and these were not good circumstances. I mean, he called me Carrots."
Claire: "Oh, how very Anne of Green Gables!"
Naomi: "No. I assure you, this is no Gilbert Blythe scenario."
Oliver: "I'm Oliver Cunningham. I live next door and was not having sex with Brayden Hayes."
Audrey: "Well, that makes you the only one in the room."
Oliver: "Fine. It's been a few years since I've had an immature nemesis, but I can get on board. Just so I know the rules, is this a cold war, prank war, noise war ... do I just launch spitballs at you in the mail room?"
I didn't spit in the champagne. Probably. - N - Naomi
Oliver: "Ah, now see? We do have a thing."
Naomi: "Quit making it weird."
Oliver: "It's hard for you, huh?"
Oliver: "Dealing with your attraction to me."
Naomi: "Did you ever watch Anne of Green Gables?"
Oliver: "Sure, all the time. I used to have the guys over to my dorm room in college, and we'd just watch the hell out of it."
Audrey: "You fed him? Oh my gosh. You like him."
Naomi: "Are you?"
Oliver: "Not even a little bit."
Oliver: "Anyway, Naomi's my neighbor, and she's ..."
Oliver: "Hot. Frustrating. A complete pain in my ass."
Scott: "Sounds like a real dream come true. Any good qualities beyond she's hot?"
Oliver: "She's good with Dad."
Scott: "My work here is done."
Oliver: "Like hell it is. You've merely insulted me and given me literally zero advice."
Oliver: "I feel like this conversation just turned weird."
Scott: "Says the man doodling penises."
Oliver: "Sexy gloves though."
Naomi: "You like these, baby?"
Oliver: "Stop. Don't tease."
Naomi: "I can't believe I'm sitting on the bed where you did it with my ex-boyfriend."
Naomi: "Come to think of it, I don't know why I stuck with him so long. Her just seemed like the right kind of guy, you know? Nice. Pulled out chairs. Educated. Polite."
Claire: "Yes, I'm aware. I married him."
Oliver: "But, I've found another one of your corner pieces, Naomi. This one shows you're dishonest and maybe a little revenge-hungry."