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Back to the Phonics Challenge:

N for name — Read a romance where the heroine and/or hero’s first or last name begins with the letter S (the 19th letter of the alphabet).

For this part of the challenge, I picked up Lauren Layne’s To Have and To Hold, published in 2016. This book is the first in a series of three, titled The Wedding Belles series, focusing on a group of women in New York City running a successful wedding planning business.

This first book of the series centers on wedding planner, Brooke Baldwin. Brooke had been running her own growing wedding planning business in California. She also was orchestrating her own spectacular wedding to a man who turned out to be a huge con artist who was arrested at their bridal altar. After that incredibly heartbreaking and enormously embarrassment incident, Brooke takes off to New York City to work with the Wedding Belles and start a new life. Brooke’s first assignment is to plan the wedding of Maya Tyler, a young lady from an extremely wealthy hotel family — think the Hiltons. Standing in the way of all her plans is the man paying the bills, Maya’s overbearing big brother Seth Tyler, CEO of the Tyler hotel group. Seth and Maya’s beloved father had recently passed away from an illness he had kept from his son because he knew Seth would try and move heaven and earth to save his father’s life. Still feeling bitter over being kept in the dark, Seth’s need to make things right for the people he loves leads him to get involved in the details of Maya’s wedding plans — not because he wants the wedding to be perfect but because he suspects the groom is far more interested in Maya’s inheritance than in her. Subsequently, Seth confides in Brooke and asks her to keep an eye on the groom’s behavior. Of course, considering the reasons behind Brooke’s own aborted wedding, she has complicated emotions over Seth’s demands. Still broken hearted, she wants to believe in Maya’s happily ever after, but her immediate attraction to Seth, makes it difficult for her to ignore Seth’s concerns. As for Seth, since he’s well aware of the very public ending to Brooke’s wedding, it seems like she would be sympathetic to his concerns. However, he’s surprised that Brooke continues to believe in love and doesn’t agree with his interference. Additionally, Seth is starting to feel something for Brooke and soon wants to protect her as well.

This story turned out to be kind of … average. I loved the NYC setting, but I didn’t feel the essence of the city in the story. I loved the hero because, in spite of his overbearing ways, it came from a good and understandable place. He had depth and was a more complicated, even tortured, character. Brooke, on the other hand, was a little more difficult to connect with. I wish we had an opportunity to see more of her backstory instead of being told about it because I had a hard time understanding her attitude towards love and marriage after being so burned. Everything was rather superficial with her. She was a bit of a Barbie doll, and the constant references to Sex in the City, which might have been okay three years ago, seemed a little dated. I’d give this a B-.


The Alphabet Variation Challenge – 10 down, 9 to go (A, D, E, G, H, I, K, L, M, S …)

The Phonics Challenge – 2 down, 17 to go