Updated: Jan 17
The Trouble With Love
by Lauren Layne
Published by Loveswept
Book #4 in the Sex, Love, & Stiletto Series
As Stiletto magazine’s authority on all things breakup-and-heartache,
Emma Sinclair writes from personal experience. Five years ago, Emma was Charlotte, North Carolina’s darling debutante and a blushing bride-to-be. Now she’s the ice queen of the Manhattan dating scene. Emma left her sultry Southern drawl behind, but not even her closest friends know that with it she left her heart. Now Emma’s latest article forces her to face her demons—namely, the devilishly sexy guy who ditched her at the altar.
After giving up everything for a pro-soccer career, Alex Cassidy watches his dreams crumble as a knee injury sidelines him for good. Now he’s hanging up his cleats and giving journalism a shot. It’s just a coincidence that he happens to pick a job in the same field, and the same city, as his former fiancée . . . right? But when Emma moves in next door, it’s no accident. It’s research. And Alex can’t help wondering what might have been. Unlike the innocent girl he remembers, this Emma is chic, sophisticated, and assertive—and she wants absolutely nothing to do with him. The trouble is, Alex has never wanted her more.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy #ContemporaryRomance Feel Good
The Trouble With Love is the fourth, and final book in the Sex, Love, and Stiletto series by Lauren Layne, and centers around the newest writer in the relationship section, Emma Sinclair, and her ex-fiance, and editor-in-chief of Oxford magazine, Alex Cassidy. I have to admit, this is my favorite of the series, which is a little funny, considering Lauren Layne almost didn't write it. The difference between this book, compared to the last three, is obvious. Emma and Cassidy had been in love. They were engaged. Literally up to the night before their wedding, they had very much been in love. Then it all went to shit. It took six years apart, and a year of purposely ignoring one another sharing a friends circle for them to finally deal with their issues ... with some not so subtle moves on Cassidy's side.
So perhaps the premise of the story is not very original. There are thousands of books out there, about two past lovers reconnecting years later. But because this is a Stiletto book, it adds that extra journalistic twist to make it interesting. Camille, Stiletto editor-in-chief can take some credit for the articles she pushed Julie, Grace (although she volunteered), and Riley's to write, in turn, helping the three women finally find love, her interfering is actually completely different. When Emma's apartment floods, ruining everything she owns, and making the place unlivable, Camille offers her her high-rise, swanky apartment while she is away for three months with her new boyfriend, exploring Australia. Unknown to Emma, who gladly accepts, her new neighbor will be her ex, Cassidy. Camille's mischievous joy when Emma accepts the apartment makes me wonder if she paid off her upstairs neighbor to cause a massive flood. Camille leaves Stiletto's in Cassidy's hands as well, as he already knows how to do the job (even if he has no interest in the topics covered). Cassidy, who is already annoyed to be in such close proximity to the woman who broke his heart, is encouraged by Cole, one of the freelance writers for Oxford, to use his new position to get some dirt on Emma ... and her article assignment was born. The 12 exes of Christmas.
I love the story here. Cassidy and Emma's tension with one another has been an interesting sideline in the past books. All we knew was that they were previously engaged. Its not till this book that we find out how bad it truly ended. The night before their wedding, at the rehersal dinner of all places, her drunk father went up to make a speech. Instead, he tells the crowd about how Alex was a finalist for a job at his company, and he told him he would get it if he asked his daughter on a date. Fun fact ... Alex didn't know Emma existed. He did, however, know Daisy, Emma's identical twin sister. And he had a little crush on her. So he was all too eager. Finding out about Emma didn't stop him ... he still asked her out. Then he says that the day after he told Cassidy that he would never pass on his business to someone who wasn't family, he proposed to Emma. I can see why Emma was hurt. Always in her sisters shadow, she felt hurt that Cassidy had liked her sister. Hurt that he was bribed to ask her out. Tainting her memories of their connection when they first met. But the engagement ... ouch. I can see why she threw the ring at him and said she didn't want to marry him. What sucks ... Cassidy may have been bribed to ask Emma out ... but the connection was real. Cassidy really liked her. And he planned to propose to her weeks before her father said that to him. His love for her was true. So I get why he was hurt and angry that she didn't trust him enough.
He threw his phone out his car window while speeding away.
He never heard Emma's voicemails or read her texts, apologizing.
He didn't call her. Or anyone.
So when Emma woke up the next day, convinced Alex would get her messages and come to the church, she got ready for her wedding. She stood in the church until her sister dragged her out an hour after the ceremony would have ended.
Seven years later, after being forced to interact with one another through their friends parties and weddings, and for work, they find themselves in situations where they are forced to talk things out. To see, that they never stopped loving each other. The end was my favorite. Cassidy had proof in his hands that he bought her engagement ring well before her father made his comment, and she chooses not to look at it. Burns it. She chooses to trust him. And he gives her back her ring. The one she threw at him, and he couldn't bring himself to get rid of. My. Freaking. Heart.
Another thing I loved about this book was Emma and Cassidy themselves. I find their quiet, bookish personalities relate-able. Their both introverts after my own heart. And like every introvert I know, including myself, while they are mostly quiet and contained, they are very passionate people. Most of the time, they kept their walls up with each other, but when they came down? Woah. Passion. Anger. Love. Grief. Usually in these books I think to myself that one of the characters is being a dick ... but in this case, I think they were both victims of coincidence. And that sucks. They lost 7 years together.
In the end, I totally recommend this book. Of course I do! I recommended the last three, why not suggest you read my favorite of the bunch? Read the whole series! It's great! And it leads to the Oxford series ... which I LOVE even more. Not often I can say I love a spin-off series more than the original, but its the case here. :)
Where to Buy:
Julie: "You know, it's a good dress, if a bit out of place for work. Sexy. A little slutty even. Go you!"
Emma: "That's great, Jules. Slutty was just what I was going for on a random Wednesday morning at the office."
Riley: "No. A boy?!"
Grace: "I saw him without his shirt once. He's not a boy."
Emma: "I saw him without his shirt once, too. Boy's actually not so far off. He's a little scrawny, and the lower half ... eek."
Emma: "And don't touch my edits. I know it was one of you that tried to sneak the word penis into my last headline."
Riley: "Um, yeah. Because you need some penis in your life."
Riley: "Do you think Camille and Kenny did it on this couch?
Grace: "Eew, Why are you so okay sitting there?"
Riley: "You guys have all sat on my couch, and Sam and I-"
Emma: "No. Don't finish that sentence. Let's all live in a happy, ignorant world where nobody does it on couches where their friends sit."
Cassidy: "Do you know what this is?"
Cole: "Your diary?"
Cassidy: "Stiletto articles. Page after page about exfoliates and multiple orgasms and lipstick."
Cole: "Lemme see the orgasm bit."
Cassidy: "This one is two thousand words about push-up bras. About the brands, and the way they should fit, and listen to this: 'The trick with the appeal of push-up bras is to know what kind of guy you're dealing with. Is he visual? If so, he's not going to mind that you had a little help to achieve that fantastic cleavage. But if he's more tactile, you might want to consider skipping all that padding ... He wants to feel the real you.' I just ... I can't even."
Cole: "They've got it all wrong. We're visual and tactile. Do you have a red pen? Write that down in the margins."
Julie: "You guys have always been so civil about your dirty, dirty past."
Emma: "Sure, if by civil, you mean barely speaking."
Julie: "I hope you smashed his balls when he told you. No. Lit them on fire."
Emma: "Yes, because that's totally something I would do. Light a man's testicles on fire."
Julie: "Ooh, do that last one with Cassidy. I bet he's awesome in bed."
Emma: "I'm sure Mitchell would love to hear that."
Julie: "Eh, he's not here."
Emma: "Very ... you."
Cassidy: "You know what I like about you, Emma? How you manage so much insult into just two words."
Emma winks at him.
Cassidy: "Trust me, Em, you've made it perfectly clear that I'm all but dead to you."
Emma: "I should be going. You hardly look devastated over your breakup, so there goes all of my plans of making you cry yourself to sleep."
Emma: "I know you hightailed it out of North Carolina before the wedding cake went stale. Where'd you go?"
Cassidy: "You didn't look me up even once?"
Emma: "It hurt too much."
Emma: "Do you ever think we broke each other? Because sometimes ... it's like both of us are unable to feel."
Cassidy: "Yeah, Emma. I think that all the damn time."
Emma: "I've got a feeling this story is going to reveal a lot more about me than it will about any of you."
Clint: "Maybe. Or maybe it's about you ... and one of the guys."
Emma: "What do you mean?"
Clint: "Just that I figure at some point, some guy must have been able to make you smile. And I always wondered if it was the same guy who made you stop."
Emma: "You might have mentioned that your 'casual dinner thing' was actually a planned party for eight."
Julie: "I didn't mention it?"
Emma: "Nope. Must have slipped your mind."
Julie: "Must have!"
Emma: "Don't even. I'm sure that pretty smile works just fine on Mitchell here, but I remain unmoved."
Julie: "Does this smile work on you, honey?"
Mitchell: "Works better when you're naked, but this isn't so bad."
Emma: "Alex and Alexa? That's cute."
Cassidy: "I dumped her because I thought the personalized towels would be too awkward when we got married."
Emma: "So true. Although it must have made it handy during sex. That way, when you screamed your own name, she'd think, wrongly, that you were interested in her pleasure-"
Cassidy watching her with an almost-smirk.
Cassidy: "You think about us in bed."
Emma's mouth drops.
Cassidy: "You do. You think about the two of us together. How we were."
Emma: "I can assure you-"
Cassidy: "Don't bother denying it, Sinclair.
Walks away, then turns back around.
Cassidy: "I think about it, too."
Julie: "Well, Mitchell here has, like, zero friends, because he's antisocial."
Mitchell: "Introverted. The word you're looking for is introverted, and we introverts have small, selective circles of friends."
Cassidy: "I do own a tux, actually."
Jake: "You own one? What the hell for?"
Mitchell: "Hey, I own one."
Jake: "You have season tickets to the opera. You probably own two."
Cassidy: "I've had it for awhile. I'll need to make sure it still fits, but it did last year when I wore it to my cousin's wedding, so I should be good."
Grace: "You men don't understand how easy you have it. You buy one good tux in your life, and it never goes out of style. Can you imagine if we wore a dress from ... Cassidy, how old is your tux?"
Riley: "It's your wedding tux, isn't it?"
Cassidy: "What was I supposed to do, burn it?"
Riley: "Actually, yes. It would serve you right for ditching our girl on your wedding day."
Emma: "No, it's okay."
Riley: "You did abandon her on her wedding day, right?"
Cassidy: "She mentioned that bit, did she?"
Emma: "Because it happened."
Cassidy: "It did. Did Emma also mentioned that the night before her wedding, she threw her engagement ring at my head?"
Emma: "I assure you, it was well deserved."
Cassidy: "Tell me something, Jake, since you're the only married guy."
Jake: "I am not here. I can't see you, I can't hear you ... Please for the love of God leave me out of this."
Emma: "Don't be an ass, Cassidy. You said if I wrote this idiotic story you'd stay out of my business."
Cassidy: "If all your ex-boyfriends are as dull as this one, there won't be a story."
Emma: "Don't worry, they're not all dull. In fact, there's a real asshole in the bunch, and I'm still debating whether he's worthy of mentioning-"
Emma: "Jason was the fifth one so far. And, yeah, they're all pretty much the same. Some innocuous memory. A tepid breakup. And the pronouncement that I'd apparently been a humorless bore the entire damn relationship."
Emma: "Every guy has said the same thing about me not smiling. I smile. Don't I?"
Cassidy: "Eh, right now you're not."
Emma: "Well, of course not, it's you."
Cassidy: "The whole not-getting-married thing that Jason mentioned ... did I do that to you?"
Emma: "Do you want to get married someday?"
Cassidy: "Haven't done much thinking about it, but ... no. Not really part of my game plan."
Emma: "Well, then, there you go. I'd say we did this to each other, don't you think?"
Cole: "Whose meeting am I crashing this time?"
Cassidy: "Grace Malone. And don't even tell me she snuck into the stairwell with Jake. Do those two just wait until they're supposed to meet with me to go get it on?"
Cole: "Maybe thinking of you makes them horny."
Jake: "I assure you, that is not the case."
Cassidy: "What's this?"
Jake: "Grace's notes for her story."
Cassidy: "Why didn't she give them to me herself? We're supposed to have a meeting."
Jake: "I'm hijacking her time. Trust me. Her story's fine. She doesn't need a babysitter. And whatever you think you know about blow jobs, I assure you, Grace knows more."
Cassidy: "What now? Is the new copy editor not working out?"
Cole: "She's working out just fine. She's cute."
Cassidy: "Don't be that gross guy."
Cassidy: "So what's the problem?"
Jake: "You've been ... oh, what's the word I'm looking for, Cole?"
Jake: "Yes. Grumpy."
Cole: "Irritable? Grouchy? No, I've got it. Cantankerous."
Jake: "Yes! You are cantankerous."
Cassidy: "This is what I get for working with a bunch of journalists. Fifty synonyms for my irritation about people interrupting my workday."
Lincoln: "Dude, Jake and Cole are right. You need this."
Cassidy: "Need what?"
Lincoln: "To get laid."
Cassidy: "That's what this is about? Your think I'm curt-"
Cassidy: "Because I'm horny?"
Cole wouldn't really go on a date with Emma. Would he? Cole was a friend, and it violated every sort of bro code. Except ... Alex had been going out of his way for years to show that his and Emma's past was only in the past, so could he blame Cole for thinking she was fair game? Yes. Yes, he could absolutely blame Cole. And yet ... there was absolutely nothing he could so about it. Nothing he should want to do about it. Emma wasn't his. Not anymore. And if the thought of Cole touching her made him want to jab his pen into his femoral artery, surely that was completely understandable and normal. - Alex
Cassidy: "It was a setup."
Emma: "By whom?"
Cassidy: "Guys at the office. She was on Lincoln Mathis's to-do list, but he finally gave me first shot."
Emma: "Wish I could get a spot on Lincoln Mathis's to-do list."
Cassidy gave her a dark look.
Emma: "What? Your star reporter is hot."
Cassidy: "Sometimes I think prefer you hate me. At least then you'd notice me."
Riley: "Well, since you wouldn't let me do 'Logistics of Sex Under the Christmas Tree,' I'm going with 'Festive Lingerie.' Found a bra with little gingerbread men on the nipples."
Emma: "There's a how-to on under-the-tree sex? Don't you just do it?"
Riley: "Five words: pine needles up the ass."
Cassidy: "When are we finishing this, Emma?"
Emma: "You already know the three questions I ask every guy. Can't you just like ... email them to me or something?
Cassidy: "Scared, sweetie?"
Cassidy: "I don't think so. There's a reason you scurry away from any discussion of our past the second things start to get interesting. You're terrified."
Emma: "You're not exactly pushing the topic, either."
Cassidy: "Which is exactly why we need to have this conversation. The twelve days of exes ... how many have you interviewed?"
Emma: "Ten. Number eleven is coming over tonight."
Cassidy: "Perfect. Then number twelve will be there tomorrow night."
Emma: "Bring wine. Something good. God knows we're going to need it."
Emma: "You're so annoying."
Cassidy: "Is that any way to talk to the guy who brought you wine?"
Emma: "I have plenty of my own wine."
Cassidy: "Yes, but this is better. So why am I annoying?"
Emma: "Just ... too good looking."
Cassidy: "Camille having naked time? You had to throw that out there? You hate me that much?
Cassidy: "You want to know what I remember. I remember everything. I remember every damned thing. I remember how I thought you were so shy up until our first date when I realized you had a bawdy, brash sense of humor. I still remember the jolt I got when you first touched my hand. I remember our first kiss, our first fight. I remember our last kiss, our last fight."
Emma: "You hurt me! You hurt me Cassidy!"
Cassidy: "You hurt me, too, Emma! You think it's easy, seeing the woman who once tore me in two on a daily basis? You think it's easy sitting across from you at the conference room table, or riding the same elevator or sharing a damned cheeseburger with you? Somehow you're managing to pull me closer even as we're further apart than ever, and I'm fucking tired of it, Emma."
Cassidy: "To moving on. To fucking distance."
Cassidy: "Why did we break up? I'll tell you why ... The girl I loved - yes, loved, Emma - told me she didn't want to marry me. In fact, she threw the engagement ring I spent four weeks picking out at my head. I'm sure you've got your version of what happened, but my version? My version ends with the girl who'd claimed to love me not even listening to me. I made a mistake. Yes. Mistakes. But you left me, Emma. Be sure you get that part right in your story."
Emma: "You were right, you know. The other night, when you put your hand on my back ... you said I'd liked it when you touched me there. I did. I still do."
Cassidy: "I know."
Cassidy: "For a second there I thought you'd walk into your apartment, and me into mine. I didn't care for the feeling."
Emma: "Such enthusiastic words, Cassidy."
Cassidy: "I'll show you my enthusiasm in other ways."
Cassidy: "What did we just do?"
Emma: "I don't know. It was probably a mistake."
Cassidy: "Probably. Want to make the same mistake again?"
Emma: "Agree to disagree?"
Cassidy: "Sure. If you're okay being wrong."
Cassidy: "Come on. You owe me for making me stare at that blue blob for thirty minutes and then having another thirty-minute conversation over whether it was inspired by the artist's dead wife or his morning dump."
Emma: "Um, that was your assessment, not mine. If you would have read the placard, it clearly said-"
Cassidy: "Creepy art time is over. No, what I propose is a little less hoity-toity, but a lot more fun."
Cassidy: "I like where your head's at, Sinclair, I do, but I was thinking more along the lines of gelato at Eataly."
Emma: "Gelato? We just ate breakfast."
Cassidy: "Good point. We'll go with your idea. Sex it is. My place or yours? Scratch that ... my place. Because your place is actually Camille's place, and my package refuses to be exposed to that environment."
Emma: "Your package isn't going to be exposed at ll. We agreed that last night was a onetime thing. Remember?"
Cassidy: "Sure. But that was before."
Emma: "Before what?"
Cassidy: "Pancakes, Emma. Clearly. Why, what were you thinking?"
Cole: "Miss Sinclair, what brings you up to the forbidden man cave this morning?"
Emma: "The man cave? Is that what you call it? Because it looks an awful lot like the Stiletto floor except with sports paraphernalia instead of cosmetic samples."
Cole: "Nope, it's definitely a man cave. You're just blind to it on account of your ovaries. You can't help it."
Emma: "Do. Not. Don't even think about it."
Cole: "I was just going to ask you if you were headed into the boss's office, and if so, if you could tell him that I took off for the day."
Cole: "Annnnnnnnd to say thank you on behalf of the entire Oxford staff for the boss's really good mood this morning."
Cassidy: "I'm trying really hard to remember that I'm technically your boss."
Cassidy: "But I really want to bend you over this desk, pull up your skirt, and fuck you."
Emma: "You came prepared."
Cassidy: "Hopeful. I came hopeful."
Cassidy: "What's wrong, Em? Worried someone might walk in and see you sitting on my desk, legs spread?"
Pulls her closer to his face
Cassidy: "Just lay back and imagine, baby?"
Emma: "Imagine what?"
Cassidy: "Imagine what we must look like with my face buried between your thighs."
Emma: "How obvious do I look?"
Cassidy: "Don't ask me. I can still taste you. So to me, you look properly fucked."
Riley: "Jules, tell your ball and chain to shut his trap."
Grace: "Hey, Cassidy, is it true that you're hiring a sports editor?"
Cassidy: "Where'd you hear that?"
Grace looks at Jake. Cassidy gives Jake an annoyed look.
Jake: "Okay, look, it's like this. I may have been in your office earlier today, and I may have seen something on your desk that I shouldn't have. And I may have mentioned it to my pretty wife."
Cassidy: "I don't even know where to start."
Sam: "Oh, I do! I got this. Mr. Malone, son, why were you in Mr. Cassidy's office?"
Jake: "Are you trying to do a principal impersonation? You're good at it. Okay, um, I was in Cassidy's office because I was looking for something."
Sam: "Looking for ..."
Sam: "You were seeking contraceptives."
Jake: "Yes, to, um, fornicate with my wife."
Emma: "Actually, one can't fornicate with one's wife. Fornication by definition is sexual intercourse with someone you're not married to."
Jake: "How does she know that?"
Cassidy: "Don't ask me. I didn't marry her, remember?"
Emma gives him the finger
Mitchell: "Emma's quite right on the definition. But let's get to the heart of the story. Jake, did you find the condoms?"
Cassidy: "That is not the heart of the story. My entire point was-"
Jake: "I did find condoms. A box actually. A box that had been opened and whose supply had been greatly depleted."
Cassidy takes sip of whiskey, and Julie pokes Emma.
Julie: "Office sex. Nice."
Cassidy: "Yes, I'm hiring a sports editor. It just got approved this afternoon. Everyone happy now?"
Riley: "Not hardly. I was to go back to how exactly you used all those condoms. How empty was the box, Jake?"
Julie: "Maybe your boss will let us come in late tomorrow." *Flutters eyelashes at Cassidy.**
Riley: "That's not going to do it. Emma, take your shirt off. Then you ask him."
Emma: "You can't prove that."
Cassidy: "I shouldn't have to, Emma! Goddamn it, I shouldn't have had to prove to the woman I was about to marry that I loved her. You were supposed to believe me. You were supposed to know."
Cassidy: "Okay, fuck it. I'm just going to talk. That day when you came into my office and told me that I wasn't a part of your article ... I was hurt."
Emma: "But you said-"
Cassidy: "I know what I said. And I meant it. As your boss, I absolutely did not want to pressure you into writing about something you didn't want to write about. But as a man ... as a man, I wanted to matter enough for you to write about me."
Emma: "Cassidy, that's not why I didn't-"
Cassidy: "Emma, sweetie, you have to shut up, just for a second? Okay? But I've been thinking about it. A lot. And I'm damn glad that I'm not mentioned in those pages. I don't want to be in those pages, because those pages are about your exes. Those pages are about your past. I don't want to be your ex, Emma. And I don't want to be a part of your past. At least, not just your past."
Cassidy: "Not done. And see, the thing is, Emma, I don't think you wanted me to be labeled as an ex, either. I think that's why you couldn't write about me. I don't think 'ex' was the box you wanted to put me in. I love you, Emma. And you should know that I've completely veered off script from the grand plan the guys devised to win you back, but I'm just going with my guy here. I love you. I love you, and I want that to be enough, because my love is so much stronger than the fire display or the poem that Sam wanted me to write or the song that Jake thought I should sing... Wait, there's more. The night of our rehearsal dinner when you told me you didn't want to marry me ... you destroyed me, Emma. Not just in the 'we're in a fight' kind of way, but in the heartbreak kind of way. Real heartbreak. I wasn't thinking clearly, and I ... I threw my phone away. Actually, I threw it out the window going about eighty miles per hour on the freeway. Emma. If I'd known you wanted to marry me ... that you'd changed your mind ... If I'd gotten even one of your phone calls, I would have moved heaven and earth to be there that day. I wanted to be your husband more than anything, Emma.
Emma: "You didn't know that I'd called."
Cassidy: "I went off the grid completely. I fled to San Francisco and didn't look back. And that's not an excuse. I'm not letting myself off the hook, because I still should have come home to fight for you, even without knowing you called. But I swear to you I never got your messages. I didn't know you were waiting for me."
Emma: "I know. I know. And I'm sorry for my part. I'm so sorry. You said it the other day, but we were immature. Horribly so. And I'm not sure we've gotten any better, because if we'd just talked to each other like rational adults ..."
Cassidy: "There's nothing rational about love."
Cassidy: "I was simply a boy who asked the girl he loved to spend the rest of her life with him."
Emma reaches for her engagement ring, and he pulls it back.
Cassidy: "Nope. You don't get something for nothing."
Emma: "What do you mean? What do you want?"
Cassidy: "Love me?"
Emma: "Okay, I have to ask. Whose idea was the trash can?"
Cassidy: "Was it really bad?"
Emma: "So bad."
Cassidy: "I was hoping you'd say that. That, my love, was your boy-crush Lincoln Mathis. Jake thought we should bring his legendary ways with women in on the discussion, and this is what he came up with."
Emma: "huh. Good thing he's pretty."
Cassidy: "Keep it up, and I'll fire him."
Check out the rest of the Stiletto and Oxford Series below!