October 18, 2016

To Love and to Cherish

A Wedding Belles Novel, Volume III

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Hey guys, Lauren Layne here!

Happy Book Birthday to ME!

To Love and to Cherish is now available! 

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True story, now that I'm no longer twenty-something with killer metabolism, my actual birthdays are sort of like, "Oh BALLS, another one?! Where's the wine???" 

My book birthdays though? They're more like, "Another one?!??!?!?! HELL YES. Where's the wine!!!"

You see the difference? Subtle, but crucial.

So anyway, wine is what I'm doing today. As for what you'll be doing? Reading To Love and to Cherish. Right? RIGHT?!

Read on for an excerpt, the official book trailer, why I have major butterflies and am sort of freaking out, and of course, buy links ;-) 

xoxo,

 

About the Book

So, I've included the official publisher-provided description of To Love and to Cherish below, and it's all fine and good, but the truth is, ask an editor/publicist what a book's about, and then ask the person who wrote it? You're going to get different descriptions.

Now, the official version is wonderfully free of, "and, like, and then ..." and "oh-em-gee."

But I still like to ask the author for their messy "gut reaction" description of what their book's about, because you get right at where their heart was when they wrote it, you get the book's essence in a way you simply can't from the pretty marketing copy.

So okay, here we go.

Unofficial, author-description of To Love and to Cherish

This is a "he loved her all along" romance about a British guy named Logan who comes to the States for college and business school, fully intending to return to London to run the family business after graduation. Then he meets a GIRL in a bar, an aspiring wedding planner named Alexis, with a hell of a dream, and he falls hard, but he's smart enough to know she's skittish and needs to be convinced of their soul-mate status nice and slow-like. 

8 years later ...

Logan and Alexis are business partners, friends, he's her freaking accountant (the charming, devastatingly sexy variety)  and ... he's getting damned impatient with his stubborn, oblivious lady-love. 

But then. Then they each get a fateful phone call. Her with a ghost from her past that has her rethinking her entire life trajectory (spoiler alert: she's been on a bad one), him from his father saying, "Enough already, son. It's past time you returned home to London and run the family business." (Note: you simply must imagine that last line said with a proper English accent or the book just won't be the same as it is in my head.) 

Now Alexis is finally opening her eyes to what's right in front of her, just as he's packing his boxes, and Logan figures he's got one last chance. One month to make her feel the same. It's cheerio to patient Clark Kent and good day to one demanding, possessive, claim-his-woman alpha (but still with delicious manners).

Poor Alexis. She doesn't stand a chance.

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Official description of To Love and to Cherish

Sex and the City meets The Wedding Planner in The Wedding Belles, a contemporary and witty romance series about three high-powered New York City women who can plan any wedding—but their own.

Alexis Morgan has spent the past eight years devoted to turning her tiny start-up into Manhattan’s premiere wedding planning company, The Wedding Belles. Now that her business is thriving, it’s time to turn towards her much neglected personal life, and Alexis approaches her relationships like she does everything else: with a plan. Not a part of that plan is Logan Harris, the silent partner in the Belles, and the one person who’s been there for her since the very beginning. But Alexis needs someone fun, and Logan’s all business, all the time—except when a late night at the office ends with an unexpected kiss that leaves the usually cool and together Alexis reeling.

Logan has lusted after Alexis since the day he walked into the tiny Harlem apartment that used to double as her office. But the ambitious wedding planner has always been untouchable...until now. Alexis has made it clear that she’s on the dating market—and equally clear that he’s not in the running. But when Alexis finds herself in need of a date for her sister’s last minute wedding in Florida, Logan knows it’s the perfect time to show Alexis that there’s more to him than numbers and spreadsheets—and beneath the pinstripes and glasses lies a hot-blooded heartthrob. As Florida’s sultry days turn into even hotter nights, Logan’s out to convince Alexis that the fling of a lifetime could just maybe turn into forever... 

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The Trailer

And for any of you who prefer visuals instead of descriptions, here's the trailer for the book in case you have two-minutes to spare! 


Author Real Talk & All The Gifs

AKA: those things I'm probably not supposed to say out loud, but ...

I mentioned above that I'm excited about release day. This is my fifth book this year, and you'd think I'd be used it it. NOPE. No matter how many times I do this, it never gets old. It always feels a bit like a holiday where even when you're not consciously thinking about it, your buzzing, just a little bit, all day.

But I've also got ... butterflies.

For the most part, I've gotten pretty good about keeping release days in perspective. When I first started out, I would spend all day frantically checking my sales rank on Amazon and iBooks and Barnes and Noble, turning myself into a nervous wreck as I compared this release to past releases, and worse ... to other people's releases.

I mostly don't do that anymore. I'm mostly Zen about the fact that I've already done everything I can do by writing the best possible book I can, and it's now in the hands of readers to determine the book's success.

In fact, a couple weeks ago, one of my author best friends was having a stressful release day, and I was one hell of a coach. I talked her down, I forbid her from doing the frantic refresh of the Amazon page to check review numbers and sales rank. I reminded her that she'd written an amazing book and nothing could take that away from her. I instructed her to shut the laptop, put the phone away, and have a glass of wine and spend the day reading. 

It was a damn good speech, guys!  

But today, I'm in her shoes, and ... I'm struggling to take my own advice. This release has gotten in a head in a way that hasn't happened in years. 

Here's where my head's at:

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- It's common knowledge in the publishing world that the last book in a series often doesn't sell as well as the first book (unless you're JK Rowling), and okay, WHYWHHHHYYYYYYYYYYY IS THIS SO?! And even though I know this, even as I'm prepared for it, my heart still breaks that this story might be destined to make it into fewer readers' hands simply because it says #3 instead of #1. Here's hoping that trend doesn't apply to The Wedding Belles.

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- There are some big releases today from big, amazing authors. I try really hard not to compare myself to other authors' success. I do. But let me just say, I'm human, and sometimes my usual badass self-confidence falls flat on its face, and I feel kind of ... scared. I know that's SO SO SO silly, but  ... there it is. I also have this weird zit on the side of my nose like I'm 14 again, and I'M VULNERABLE RIGHT NOW, GUYS.

- While I've stayed firm to my rule of not reading reviews, I am aware of the number of reviews, and as I write this there are only five on Amazon. I usually have 25+ by this point. Anyone who got an ARC of this book in exchange for a review ... I need you!!! 

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Okay. Okay.

Thanks for listening.

Here's my promise to you guys, because you need me sane so that I can write more books, right?! This whole relationship won't work if I'm rocking in the corner, hitting "refresh" on Amazon.

So, my promise: After I send out my newsletter and do my release day social media blast, I'm going to take a huge breath and just ... enjoy being a published author. 

I'm going to work on my work in progress (Walk of Shame, SO FUN), I'm going to maybe do some fun website updates, because that's my favorite thing in the world (I never pretended to be cool, guys).

Then I'm going to have a glass of wine, probably at 2pm, don't judge, and I'm going to read Royally Screwed by Emma Chase because I've been obsessed with that book for months, anxiously awaiting it. And you guys can read that one too, or any of the other AMAZING releases that are out this month, because there are a ton. 

Or, you know, you can buy and then tell your Facebook friends about To Love and to Cherish

 

If you want. Doesn't matter to me either way, because I'm over here being Zen, remember?!

 

Lastly, a thank you ... a thank you to everyone who pre-orders my books, who writes me emails, who leaves comments on Facebook, and retweets my book news, and who leaves reviews first thing, who wish me a happy release day, and just ... ALL of you who have my freaking back. It's YOU guys that bring me out of the OMG freak out moments and reminds me that this is the BEST career ever.  Bring it in. Group hug.

And now ...


The Playlist

 

Excerpt

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Alexis glared down at the YouTube video on her iPad. Brooke had insisted that all Alexis would have to do was follow the vlogger’s instructions on how to curl her hair to recreate the soft, voluptuous waves Brooke had created out of thin air the other night.

Yeah, not so much.

The twentysomething vlogger did indeed have a head full of bouncy, volumized curls. Alexis, on the other hand, still had her usual flat head of fine, straight hair, except now the ends looked sort of crimped and fried for her efforts.

Alexis took a scrutinizing look in the mirror. At least her makeup was on point. Cosmetics were easier than hair. You didn’t have to worry about things like straight-hair genes getting in the way of your goals. Makeup was all about the right product and lots of practice. And in the week since her makeover session at Brooke’s house, Alexis had gotten in lots of practice.

Not for work, of course. By day she still did her usual understated look. The bun, the brown liner, the swipe of neutral lipstick. But every night, Alexis had come upstairs to her little apartment, poured a glass of wine, and experimented with the makeup haul she’d purchased herself from Bergdorf’s.

She wasn’t quite ready to start her own beauty blog or anything, but the results were better than good, if she did say so herself. Tonight, for her first Tinder date (wow, so that was happening), Alexis had gone for a classic smoky-eye look and pale lip. Not too smoky as to cross the eye into edgy rocker , but just enough blend of dark colors to make her feel a little mysterious.

The makeup update even made her dress feel different. The basic Chanel sheath was one Alexis had worn dozens of times before. Usually it signaled “timeless classic,” and it still did tonight, but paired with the pink stilettos and amped-up cosmetics, it now looked downright sexy.

That hair though . . .

Alexis sighed and reached for a hair band and bobby pins. Here was hoping Todd McDowell liked a nice chignon.

She was just about to go about her usual business of pulling her hair back when the intercom buzzed.

Her gaze widened. Crap. Todd was early. Or was she late? A quick glance at the clock showed that he was indeed fifteen minutes early. She tried to tamp down the surge of irritation. One of her pet peeves was people who thought the earlier the better when it came to social calls. If it was work-related, by all means get there an hour early. But to Alexis’s way of thinking, it was the ultimate faux pas to show up more than five minutes before the agreed-upon time for social events.

“Be open-minded,” Alexis muttered to herself as she trekked down the stairs to let him in. Hadn’t Heather been reminding her of that all day? She repeated her friend’s words in her head. Promise me you’ll give the guy a chance. Unless he screams serial killer or has a toupee, you must make it through the entire date.

Still, the guy would just have to wait downstairs until she was ready. No way was she letting up control this early in the game.

Alexis paused before opening the door, rolling her shoulders and pasting what she hoped was a relaxed, friendly smile on her face.

It wasn’t Todd.

She slumped just the tiniest bit in relief, her smile relaxing.

“Oh,” she said, stepping aside just as Logan entered. “Hi. What are you doing here?”

He stepped into the reception area like he had hundreds of times before, and as his arm brushed hers just slightly, Alexis registered that though he was wearing his usual Burberry trench (a Brit all the way, this one), there was no sign of the usual suit. Instead he was wearing a long-sleeve black shirt and gray slacks.

“You look nice,” he said in his usual polite, semi-disinterested tone.

Alexis felt a strange flicker of disappointment. She wanted to look better than nice. She wanted to look beautiful.

“I have a date,” she said, lifting a hand to her hair with a nervous laugh she barely recognized. Alexis didn’t do nervous.

“Oh yeah?” he asked, tilting his head slightly.

Belatedly, Alexis realized she’d seen Logan a couple of times since hatching her dating plan but hadn’t mentioned it to him. She’d been trying to tell herself that it had been an oversight—that it simply hadn’t come up.

But seeing him now, Alexis knew that she’d withheld the information deliberately. Which didn’t make sense. Logan was a friend. She shared nearly as much with him as she did Heather, sometimes even more so.

But telling him that she was dating had seemed . . . wrong, somehow.

Clearly Heather and Brooke’s insistence that there was something between Alexis and Logan was getting to her head. Not that she wanted them to be right. And from the disinterested look on his face now, it was obvious the other Belles couldn’t have been more wrong.

Which was a good thing, she insisted to herself. A very good thing.

Logan lifted a hand, pointed upward . “I think I forgot one of my client folders here the other day. You care if I run up and check?”

“No, of course not.” Alexis waved distractedly toward the stairs.

Too late she realized that these few moments spent talking with Logan meant she wouldn’t have time to fix her hair.

She’d just have to bank on the fact that all the women’s magazines were right when they said that guys really didn’t notice your hair so long as your other, um, assets were attracting the proper kinds of attention.

A glance at her watch showed she had just enough time to fix her hair, grab her purse and be back down here to wait for Todd.

Alexis was just coming back down the stairs from her apartment, hair pulled into a hasty low bun, as Logan came out of Brooke’s office. “Found it under a pile of Brooke’s stuff. She’s not nearly as tidy as you. But then, most people aren’t.”

“You are,” Alexis said, as she paused at the stop of the stairs and waited for him.

“True. Perhaps that’s how we’ve survived each other all these years.”

“Is that what we’ve been doing?” Alexis said with a little laugh. “Surviving?”

“What would you call it?”

Alexis had started to take a step down but paused at the unexpected question. “What do you mean?”

Logan wasn’t smiling back. “Our relationship. How do you define it?”

“We’re business partners,” she said. “And friends. Of course.”

“Of course,” he murmured.

Alexis narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re being odd. What’s going on?”

This time he did smile. “No, I’m just not saying what you think I’m going to say. I’m being unexpected, and you’ve always hated that.”

Her eyes narrowed even further. She did hate that, but she didn’t appreciate being called out on it.

“What are your plans tonight?” she asked, deciding to ignore his weirdness altogether, heading back down to the ground level to wait for her date.

“Nothing major.”

“No date?”

He gave her a curious look over her shoulder, and she realized what her words had betrayed.

“No,” he said. “No date.

His voice was light and easy, and Alexis searched his face for censure, but his expression was unreadable to her. Guarded, even.

Since when was Logan Mr. Mysterious?

He was just Logan.

He glanced at his watch. “This chap you’re dating. He’s picking you up here?”

“Yes. At six.”

He lifted his eyebrows. “Mighty old-fashioned for a first date.”

“How do you know it’s a first date?”

He gave a slight smile. “Isn’t it?”

“Yes,” she admitted. And then, even beneath all the oddness and very slight tension between them, he was still her friend, and she needed a friend right now. “I’m nervous.”

His expression softened just slightly. “Yeah? Why?”

“I don’t know.” She licked her lips nervously, tasting the unfamiliar pale pink gloss. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done this.”

“What triggered the change?” he asked, his expression going slightly more intent.

Alexis looked away. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to confide in Logan; it was just that she felt so silly. It felt ridiculous to say out loud that your reason for going out on a dinner date with a total stranger was because your younger sister might be pregnant and you didn’t want to be left behind, that you didn’t want to be single when that bomb dropped.

“Okay then, Alexis,” he said quietly, resignedly, when she didn’t respond. “Enjoy your evening.”

He turned and took a step away.

“Wait, Logan—”

He turned back around , his gaze sharp, but before she could beg him not to be frustrated with her, there was a knock at the door.

Neither moved for a moment, and finally he tilted his head toward the door. “You going to get that?”

“Yes. Of course.” She took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders, and opened the door.

Todd McDowell looked exactly like his picture, which was both a relief and also . . . underwhelming.

Todd was thirty-nine and divorced, a consultant who traveled frequently. According to their message exchange, it was his travel schedule that had led to the dissolution of his marriage.

He also had a wide, easy smile, a friendly gaze that promised a skeleton-free closet.

Todd McDowell was exactly as he’d seemed to be, and exactly what she wanted.

So what if there wasn’t any belly flip or catching of her breath when their eyes met? She was out of practice. Maybe the spark was just out of practice, too.

“Hi, so nice to meet you,” Alexis said, stepping forward and extending her hand.

“Likewise,” he said, shaking her hand.

Darn. No spark there, either.

Todd’s gaze shifted curiously to her right, and Alexis realized how strange it must seem that there was a man in her home when her date came to pick her up. “Todd, this is Logan, my accountant.”

“Ah,” Todd said, extending his hand to Logan.

“A pleasure,” Logan said.

Alexis felt a strange sort of pang at seeing the man she was about to go on a date with shake the hand of the man she  . . . cared for.

“Ah, you’re English!” Todd said.

Alexis almost winced. People who pointed out the obvious were one of her pet peeves.

Give him a chance.

“I am,” Logan said evenly.

“How long you been in the States?” Todd asked, making polite conversation.

“Since I was eighteen.”

“Here to stay, then.”

“It would seem so, although my family’s still in London, so never say never.”

Alexis gave him a startled look. Logan had considered moving back to England? That was new. And . . . wrong.

Perhaps she wasn’t the only one keeping secrets.

“Well, I’ll let you two get to it,” Logan said with a slight smile, stepping aside so that Todd could enter.

Alexis felt panic claw at her throat. This was a mistake. The thought of Logan walking out of her life so that a stranger could walk into it . . .

Calm down—it’s just one date.

“Bye, Logan,” she blurted out, taking an unintentional step forward as he stepped onto the porch.

He turned back and she saw understanding in those brown eyes, as though he could see right through her.

“Alexis,” he said with a perfunctory nod. Then he stepped back toward her, bending his head and softly kissing her cheek.

From the outside, it would seem like a formal good-bye from a formal Brit, but he lingered just for a second.

“Don’t be nervous,” he whispered directly in her ear. “You look beautiful.”

Beautiful. Not nice. Beautiful.

Logan stepped back, nodded politely to Todd, and then walked away, leaving Alexis with the strangest urge to call him back, to ask him to stay.

“I’m really looking forward to our dinner,” Todd said politely.

“Me, too,” she said automatically, gathering her purse and her keys giving her brightest, glossiest fakest smile.

But her eyes were locked on Logan’s retreating back as she said it.

----

Buy:

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That's all until the LL Weekly on Thursday guys! Thanks for celebrating today with me!