Updated: Jan 17
The Have and To Hold
by Lauren Layne
Published by Pocket Books
Book #1 in The Wedding Belles Series
Discovering her fiance is an international con man just moments before they exchange vows devastates celebrity wedding planner Brooke Baldwin's business—and breaks her heart. Now a pariah in Los Angeles, she seeks a fresh start in New York City and thinks she’s found it with her first bridal client, a sweet—if slightly spoiled—hotel heiress. Then she meets the uptight businessman who’s holding the purse strings.
Seth Tyler wishes he could write a blank check and be done with his sister Maya's fancy-pants wedding. Unfortunately, micromanaging the event is his only chance at proving Maya’s fiance is a liar. Standing directly in his way is the stunning blonde wedding planner whose practiced smiles and sassy comebacks both irritate and arouse him. He needs Brooke’s help. But can he persuade a wedding planner on a comeback mission to unplan a wedding? And more importantly, how will he convince her that the wedding she should be planning... is theirs?
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Some Steaminess Contemporary Romance Feel Good
Honesty time, I would have never read The Wedding Belle's series if it wasn't for the fact that it's written by one of my favorite romance authors, Lauren Layne. Something cheesy about weddings I guess.
Yes. I'm married. In case you were wondering.
To Have and To Hold is the first of The Wedding Belles series, and centers around Brooke Baldwin, newest wedding planner that works at the Wedding Belle's, an exclusive wedding planning service in NYC. She is adjusting to a new start in her life. From California, originally, and a former business owner, she left after becoming headline news, when her fiance was arrested at the alter, before they were about to exchange vows, and learned the day she was supposed to marry the love of her life that he was a famous con man.
The other "Belle's" seem to be fun, and quickly become friends and confidante's with Brooke. Alexis, the owner, seems very refined and modern. Maybe sometimes cold, but she obviously cares about her business, employee's, and clients. Heather is fun and bold. Jesse is the classic, fun receptionist. As fate would have it, Alexis and Heather are dealing with a wedding crisis, so Brooke's first clients is Maya Tyler and her fiance Neil.
Enter the Tylers! Seth Tyler, the brides brother, is horrified about his sisters very fast engagement, and feels in his guy that there is something off about Neil. As the only family Maya has, and in typical big brother fashion, he tags along to Maya's first meeting with Brooke, to actually meet Neil, but also to learn anything he can about him. Seth is a bit of a control freak, and from what I can tell, a bit of an introvert, so he doesn't handle situations where he has no control very well, meaning ... well, sometimes he acts like an asshole. Maya is bubbly, kind, and a romantic. Neil is ... well. Eh. He wanted press at his wedding. Gross.
So Seth and Brooke meet, and it doesn't go well. It also leads to one of the things that bothers me in this book: I call it insta-lust. I get it's normal for people to be attracted to one another, but Seth and Brooke, despite not getting along at first, take it to a whole new level. It makes me cringe a bit when automatically there is a connection described between two characters that seems unrealistic for two people who literally just met.
After a couple wedding planning sessions of Seth tagging a long and bringing Maya's excitement level way down, Brooke makes a deal with him: she will update him daily with anything wedding related, and any observations about Neil, if he will back off. He will only agree if there is a weekly dinner. Despite her reservations of having dinner with a clients brother, she agrees.
Gotta say, that first dinner they have, I gotta love the sexual tension. For such an introverted guy, Seth does have some moves. Brooke is horrified to have crossed a line with a client (a kiss), but Alexis, told her to just go with it, which leads to Brooke and Seth getting together.
They are happy for a time. They are obviously falling for each other. Opening up. Healing from past scars. It all gets blown to shit when Maya and Neil decide to rush the wedding. Seth hires a PI to investigate Neil, and make sure his sister isn't marrying someone who is only out for her money. After learning that Brooke's ex fiance took a plea deal and will not go to jail, he also asks the PI to look into him, mostly to make sure he doesn't contact Brooke, who told Seth she is scared he would.
This leads to the second thing I disliked about this book.
Seth gets shit on for hiring the PI.
So I get it. Somewhat. People would feel like their privacy was invaded. As Grant, Seth's best friend, and the man who is in love with Maya says, not trusting those you care about and their decisions, isn't love. I get it.
But what the actual hell? He hires a guy to make sure that his sister isn't taken advantage of. Even if he doesn't realize he loves Brooke yet, he wanted to make sure she was safe and happy away from the ex she wanted no contact from. His heart was in the right place.
In the end it didn't really matter. Maya calls off the wedding for two reasons: one, she hired her own PI after having some doubts, and turns out, Neil was nearly a million in debt and was going to use her to pay his gambling debts. Second of all, she realized she was in love with Grant. Happy Dance!
Brooke's ex is on house arrest, and probation, so he couldn't leave the state if he wanted to. And he didn't want to. He quickly marries a woman who visited him in jail.
But Brooke is hurt, and Seth and her break up. Seth realizes he is in love with Brooke, and it takes two months, but sets a plan in motion to win her back. Using the staff at Wedding Belle's, they all conspire to get Brooke to go to the Hamilton House, where Maya's wedding reception was going to be held, to see if with a new bride. When she gets up to the top floor, it's no longer a large reception space, but the start of a penthouse. Where Seth is. He buys Brooke's favorite location, turns it to a home, and tells her he loves her and wants marriage and babies ... its sweet and romantic. He apologizes for his faults, and promises he is trying to get better, but admits he will always be a bit controlling, because that's his way to show he cares.
To Have and to Hold is a cute romance, but I wouldn't say its the strongest story to start off a series. It didn't stop me from reading the rest of the books though, so it's still pretty good. The story itself was original, and interesting. I found the characters were not really fleshed out well. They each have their own personality traits, all are very beautiful and successful ... and we know just enough of their past that makes them who they are today. Maybe I needed just a BIT more of Brooke's thoughts and feelings on her failed engagement with a con man. Just a LITTLE more of how hurt Seth was when his ex refused his marriage proposal, and why he feels like control is the only way to keep people from leaving him. I liked the story enough that I am recommending it to you, but about 50% of the reason I am, is because the next two books in the series are great, and this is an introduction to the Belle's.
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Seth: "You should know that I never do anything I don't want to."
Seth: "You sound like a douche."
Grant: "Impossible. You've always cornered the market on douche bag. I can't bear to take it away from you."
Seth: "Such Loyalty."
Brooke: "Do these moves usually work for you? Does threatening to manhandle women turn them on?"
Seth: "Sometimes. Only when they like to be handled."
Grant: "Brooke Baldwin, would you like to have a drink with me?"
Brooke: "Ah - "
Grant: "No funny business. Just two people in need of a drink. I'll buy."
Brooke: "I'd like to. But there's something I need to take care of first."
Grant: "If it's giving Seth the dressing-down I'm sure the bastard deserves, can I be there to watch?"
Brooke: "I thought you two were friends."
Grant: "Oh, we are. Best friends. Which is why I can't wait to see his face when he see's us having a drink together."
Seth: "What? What do you hope?"
Brooke: "That someone good will love us."
Maya: "Does my brother know."
Brooke: "No. And I'd really appreciate it if you kept this between us girls."
Maya: "Happy to. Plus, it'll be much more fun this way. You'll be like a sexy puzzle he'll want to solve himself."
Maya: "Poor Brooke. I don't think you realize just how much trouble you're in."
Brooke: "How so?"
Maya: "Let's just say when my brother wants something, he gets it. Always."
Etta: "Think back to how it was before you and your girl got together. Did you face look an awful lot like this?"
Jared: "Ah, yes, ma'am. I'd say I did have that look."
Seth: "What look?"
Etta: "That special mix of blue balls and puppy eyes.
Seth: "That's not what's going on here."
Etta: "Oh, honey. I know you're in trouble when you start using words like nuptials."
Seth points to door.
Etta: "It's good to see you like this."
Seth: "Like what? Irritated?"
Etta: "You're always irritated. No, what I mean is, it's nice to see you alive."
Seth: "What I am about to ask might be construed as prying, so you can absolutely tell me to go to the devil."
Brooke: "Who I'm pretty sure is a friend of yours."
Brooke: "Where does she keep you, chained up in the basement with one of those old-school visors?"
Logan: "Please don't tell her I've escaped. I just wanted a bit of sunlight."
Brooke: "And a sticky pad, apparently."
Logan: "So I can write my SOS message."
Brooke: "No! Not Oreos. What's next? Cocaine?"
Maya: "Don't try to take this away from me just because you have blue balls."
Seth: "I don't have blue balls. Also, I'm pretty sure that phrase goes against every sibling conversational code."
Seth: "Take me home, Baldwin."
Brooke: "You know, for such a rich, savvy guy, you can be a total dork."
Alexis: "Are you blushing?"
Jessie: "No, that's just good ol'fashioned overheating. Her mind's gone to The Gutter."
True. Super True. - Brooke
Jessie: "Now look what you've done. You stole her happy!"
Etta: "You know, with a girlfriend as cute as yours, you'd think you'd smile a bit more."
Seth: "Well, if my girlfriend were here, I'd smile. But when I have a headache and eight more hours of meetings ahead of me, I scowl."
Grant: "I'm just saying, you'd be a lot less grumpy if you got laid."
Seth: "Great. I'll be sure to call you in the aftermath so that you can reap the benefits of my post-coital glow."
Grant: "Dude. Don't."
Seth: "You don't get to don't me. You're sleeping with my sister."
Grant: "Hell yes, I am. And it's -"
Seth: "No. No fucking way. Don't finish that sentence. For Chrissake, get me a beer. No, never mind, I need whiskey."
Seth: "Anyway, I know I'm being controlling. I know that it's a problem of mine, and it will probably always be a problem of mine, but I'm working on it. I swear that I am. If you want to walk away right now, I'll let you, but I had to try. You see that, right? I had to try to be more, because you make me want to be more. More than a scared little boy who tried too desperately to direct all the pieces and people of his life because he was terrified of losing them."
Brooke: "Then what are you asking?"
Seth: "Anything. I'll take whatever you're giving. A drink. Dinner. A walk. Maybe a movie. Joint custody of the dog. Keys to the same home - this home. A wedding. Babies. Things like that."
Brooke: "I want a relationship that might be hard sometimes but is worth it. And you, Seth Tyler, are most definitely worth it."
Brooke: "There are some things I'll need to consider, first."
Brooke: "Like how ugly that bookshelf is if and when you ever finish it."
Seth: "What else?"
Brooke: "Like exactly how long we're supposed to wait before you let me move in with you."
Seth: "Five minutes. Next?"
Brooke: "Just one more thing ... I'll need to consider how much I love you."
Seth: "Yeah? How much are you thinking?"
Brooke: "All the way, Mr. Tyler. I'm thinking I love you all the way."
Check out the rest of the Wedding Belles Series below!