Matt Cannon and Sabrina Cross are delightfully, deliciously combustible. When I first encountered them in Lauren Layne’s Hot Asset, I knew that despite the digs they were throwing at each other’s expense, their romance was coming and it was going to be glorious. I was right, people, and now I have the urge to pull an Oprah and declare us all winners because everything about their romance in Hard Sell is. so. good.
I’m a Lauren Layne devotee, and here’s why: she knows how to write a really, really great HEA. Imagine you get a present, and it’s covered in really expensive wrapping paper and tied in twine with a sprig or two of a plant tucked inside for good measure. Holding it makes you feel happy because someone took the time to give you something beautiful.
That’s how I feel reading a Lauren Layne book. Everything’s there: the solid characterization, the deftly explored conflict, the wondrous ending, and it’s all packaged in a marvelous way and topped with extras like banter, weekend brunch, and beloved friends who help the romance along by intervening and keeping their mouths shut when necessary.
Take Hard Sell, which is one of my favorite Layne books already. Matt Cannon, a Wall Street wunderkind, faces losing his job after a Wall Street Journal reporter writes about a wild bachelorette party he attended in Vegas. He didn’t do anything illegal but members of his party did, and as his bosses point out, what people think matters. Their solution is for him to give the appearance of settling down, and the easiest way to do that is to find a temporary girlfriend.
Matt’s solution is to hire Sabrina Cross, a fixer and best friend to his best friend. They’ve known each other—and pretty much despised each other—for four years. But for all that, they’re also blisteringly attracted to one another. Sabrina could say no to Matt’s question—after all, she’s not sure that it’s a good idea for two such combustible people to play pretend romance. But for all their fighting and arguing, they’re not complete enemies. He needs her help, she’ll get paid for her services, and she thinks that maybe, just maybe, pretending will allow them to get over the attraction and also resentment.
Good luck with that.
Layne always does an excellent job of making you feel like you know her characters, but in this book, she’s truly exceptional. Matt and Sabrina are both smooth-talking sophisticates—they know how to make friends and work a room—but Layne subtly shows us their vulnerabilities and deepest longings and how those might be at odds with what they so easily say. Most precious of all is when these characters open up to one another...but even if they do start to get along, is that enough for them to risk it all and try commitment?
Layne is at the top of her game with this one. (That’s the extent of my sports analogies, I’m afraid). If you’re looking for a book to give you the happy sighs and the feeling that love triumphs all, check this one out. It will not disappoint.
Like this one? The Naptime Writer also recommends: any other Lauren Layne book. You can go back to Hot Asset, the first in the 21 Wall Street series, or read Layne's much loved Walk of Shame (a standalone). Other options include Kate Meader’s Down with Love and Christina Lauren's Beautiful Player, for more smooth-talking sophisticates.
**I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley but all opinions included are my own.
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