Lauren Layne’s latest novel about the healing power of redemption tells the story of a crush gone wickedly wrong, proving that what you want isn’t always what you need.Growing up in New York, Michael St. Claire never expected to spend his twenties wearing cowboy boots. But that was before he learned about his real father, a total stranger with a family in Cedar Grove, Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, Michael meets Kristin Bellamy, who is exquisitely refined and everything Michael always thought he wanted in a woman. The only problem is that Kristin is dating Michael’s new half-brother, Devon.Kristin’s mouthy, curvy sister Chloe has always been in love with Devon Patterson. So when Michael offers to help Chloe break up Devon and Kristin, Chloe agrees to a deal that seems too good to be true. Before long, Chloe finally gets her man, only to make a startling discovery: She no longer wants the guy she had to fight for—she wants the one who stood by her side.
After all he and Chloe have been through, Michael swears he’s damaged goods. Can Chloe convince him that love is worth the risk?
I’ve been in love with Devon Patterson since I was eight.
And I know what you’re thinking . . .
That I didn’t have hormones when I was eight, so it wasn’t real love, or even real attraction.
I love him.
And I know he could love me back, if only he’d look at me.
But ya know? I can’t even blame Devon for not seeing me.
It’s probably hard for him to be aware of his surroundings when my Disney Princess sister has her tongue in his mouth.
I mean, why would you want the funny sidekick when you can have the heroine?
And that’s the type of person Kristin is. Or at least thinks she is. She’s the heroine in every story.
Even other people’s.
As if he reads my mind, Devon slowly pulls back from his reunion kiss to join the land of the living where the actual people do not have eyelashes the size of small bats and a waist the size of a toddler’s.
But, actually, it’s not fair to pick only on Kristin for her blinding good looks.
Of the four of us here on this godforsaken tennis court, I’m the only one that’s not outright beautiful.
Take Devon, for example. Blond. Blue-eyed. Chiseled jaw. Tall, but not too tall, muscular but not bulging. Yummy.
As for the new tennis instructor . . . I don’t even know what to make of him.
My first thought? Beefcake. It’s obvious why he was hired, and it’s not because he can make contact with a tennis ball ten times out of ten.
Nope, it’s definitely the way his biceps strain the requisite Cambridge Country Club polo, and the way his tanned skin contrasts perfectly with the crisp white fabric.
That and the sulky bad-boy gaze that I’m pretty sure he’s aware of. Maybe even practiced.
New guy is definitely gorgeous. And Kristin’s definitely noticed.
I shift my gaze to where Devon is tucking a lock of Kristin’s ever-silky hair behind her ear. We both have curly hair, but Kristin’s is the kind that can be blown out into all kinds of satiny shine. Unlike my corkscrews, where each curl is like its own rebellious teenager.
It’s clear which version Devon prefers.
And Beefcake, too, given the way he was practically undressing Kristin with his eyes when he thought she wasn’t looking.
I liked that about him. The way he didn’t let her know he was looking. He was playing games, but by his own rules.
But, anyway, who cares about tennis boy.
Tall, dark, and brooding isn’t my type.
I like them blond, smiley, and kind.
I like them like Devon Patterson.
Did I mention I love him?
I don’t think it’s about who loves you first. It’s about who loves you best.”
There’s a reason that Lauren Layne has become one of my favorite New Adult authors. There’s just something about her writing and her characters that never fails to reel me in and keep me glued to the pages. It also never fails to give me that warm and fuzzy feelings right in my tummy that I’ve come to adore about New Adult. There’s no insta anything and her characters are far from perfect and watching that progress and develop through the story is the best feeling in the world. I have to admit that I wasn’t too keen on Michael after first meeting him in Isn’t She Lovely. But then right around Broken that changed. My heart hurt for him and I couldn’t wait for the guy that fell in love with his best friend’s girlfriend only to be devastatingly rejected by her in the end to get his HEA.
Michael’s world changed forever right around the time his heart was shattered into a million pieces. First he gets rejected by the girl he’s been in love with for years. A girl that just so happened to be his best friend’s girlfriend at that he cheated with. So in the span of one kiss, he lost the girl AND his best friend. Then his world gets rocked when he finds out that his whole life has been a lie and his father isn’t his father. In the hopes to get to know the man that is his true father, he moves to Texas, but he’s no longer the boy that he was. He’s broody, he’s disenchanted and jaded. He no longer believes in love, but working as a tennis pro for the rich and the bored, he has no problem being the boy toy to the spoiled housewives. But he has ulterior motives to working there. He has his eye on a girl that happens to be his half-brother’s girlfriend. A half-brother that has no idea he exists. And while Michael has his eye on Kristin, the gorgeous and spoiled rich girl, her frumpy sister is in love with Devon.
On a good day I’m curvy. On a bad one, I’m plump.
Most of the days are bad ones.
Chloe is honestly what truly made this book for me. Her ability to laugh at herself and this lighthearted presence she had to her was a breath of fresh air. She’s so fun and quirky and just this girl next door that could be anyone’s best friend. Being the frumpy sister to the perfect skinny one is no easy feat. It’s also twice as hard being in love with her boyfriend for as long as she remembers. But Chloe knows she has no chance. So when Michael offers her a chance to make Devon “notice” her, she may be hesitant at first, but she takes it. What ensues is an unwilling friendship that slowly begins to turn into much more.
Michael might be sick of being “second choice.” But the rejected-woman part of me?
SHE’S tired of being the platonic sidekick.
These two were polar opposites but yet made perfect sense together. And the banter between them? Absolute perfection.
So, what’s the problem?” he asks.
“I just…it’s never like it is in the movies.”
Michael makes a strangled noise and turns toward my nightstand, opening a drawer.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Looking for a gun,” he mutters, before shutting it again. “Are you fucking kidding me? You’re one of those girls waiting for the movie kiss?”
I scrunch my nose at his disbelieving face. “They do exist.”
But then somewhere between the personal training and just hanging out together, their plans shift and it begins to turn into something much more.
With Chloe, it’s easy to forget that I’m nobody. Because she makes me feel like somebody.
I loved the slow burn element to the story. It’s truly brilliant when the reader discovers things right along with the characters. Chloe and Michael didn’t lust for each other at first sight, and that was evident. But somewhere along the way their feelings shift, and you get to experience that with them.
It was perfection.
It’s not often that this self proclaimed smut slut enjoyed a story that basically has zero sex this much. But to be honest, anything more would have been plain filler. The one and only scene is filled with so much feeling that it’s satisfying all on it’s own. Immensely so.
Did I also happen to mention the fantastic banter?
…at the lesson, the other day, she was…forward.”
“FORWARD? I swear to God, Beefcake, every now and then you slip in a word that makes me think you’re a nineteenth-century butler.”
“Yeah? You like? What if I slip a British accent in there?”
“Don’t you dare. I’ll swoon. I mean it.”
I adored this book. My only quibble was the somewhat cheesy-ish reunion at the very end, but then at the same time I was hoping for one, so I can’t complain much.
If you’re a fan of New Adult that has a witty heroine, a broody hero, a slow burn romance and incredible writing, this book is simply a must read!
Lauren Layne is the USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance.