I’m over 10 days late for this month’s TBR challenge having completely missed posting for March and April’s TBR. The May topic being Fairytale/Folktale and my connection to the theme is a bit of a tenuous stretch and only mentioned briefly towards the end of this post. As for how long this book has been on my TBR, I’m just going to say that I have borrowed it three times, with a three month loan period (inclusive of renewals), and I only managed to read it at the tail end of this latest loan.
Book: Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne (the third in the ˆ series)
The Blurb: Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.
But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realise that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?
This is the final instalment to the Central Park Pact series.
How did I find this book: Lauren Layne has become an auto-read author for me since Dr Jayashree Kamblé recommended her novel Walk of Shame to me several years ago.
Meet Cute: A bit of series backgrounding first: this is a trilogy with the protagonists of each book, Audrey, Claire and Naomi having dubiously met at the funeral of their (yes – plural THEIR) dead boyfriend a couple of years earlier, having discovered that they had all been duped (ahem sleeping with) the same man. On the day of his funeral (no – they didn’t kill him), the three discover that they weren’t his only girlfriend/wife. Though horrified by their own role in being “the other woman”, they forge an unlikely friendship where they look after each other – especially when it comes to finding their true love as they all now, understandably, have trust issues. Claire and Naomi in this book are already paired up which leaves Audrey to find her love match.
As the blurb tells you, Audrey and Clarke are childhood best friends which is kinda kids meeting when they are little which is sweet but really, their meet cute is a metaphorical moment-where-their-friendship-story-starts-to-shift-to-finally-falling-in-love-moment which occurs about a fifth of the way into the book. The book starts out with Audrey visiting her friend Clarke where you get to see them as relaxed BFFs chatting about their lives just as all relaxed BFFs do. Audrey accompanies Clarke to dinner with his uptight and slightly controlling parents’ who have invited along his high-powered lawyer ex-girlfriend. This friends-to-lovers story has Clarke and Audrey, due to being each other’s long time confidants and deeply friendship-loving each other, protecting each other when Clarke’s mother is trying to reunite him with his ex-girlfriend and Audrey’s online reputation as a lifestyle influencer is being maliciously targeted by an elite gossip columnist. Clarke and Audrey decide to be fake-engaged because they are the lengths that BFFs will take to support each other. Audrey and Clarke both get a win out of their fake engagement. But then, it is at their fake engagement party being thrown by Clarke’s mother that the two are cheered into sharing a kiss – a first for the two of them and it is that exact moment that their friendship love shifts and the romance arc gets interesting.
They both get caught up in the benefits of the pretence of planning for a wedding. For Clarke, it means his mother stops pushing him towards his former girlfriend (in a way) though she continues to meddle in Audrey and Clarke’s lives. For Audrey, the win is that she gets caught up in the Instagrammable, wedding influencer, high profile, pushing the fairytale (ka-ching! TBR theme) of a dream wedding. It is the public performance of pretending to be in love that moves them to their own private realisations that they are in love with each other, to finally revealing it to each other in a way that rejected the online “magic” moment. Surely a “true love” sign in this age of social media.
Will they last: I’m going with a resounding Yes for these two. I think that best friends to lovers is particularly strong for a lasting relationship as there is a very firm foundation of love and friendship that anchors a couple. I think it is that moment of transition that the risk is highest for a break up. That Audrey and Clarke are committed to each other is a given throughout the book, and in someway makes this novel a pleasant and perhaps uneventful read as I didn’t feel there was any possibility that either of them would betray the other. Instead, their story showed them negotiating the intimacy of a relationship differing from the intimacy of friendship, the love being realised in a completely new way.
Feelings: Lauren Layne’s Marriage on Madison Avenue hits all the right romance notes for me as she always manages to bring unexpected depth and warmth to her characters and stories. For me, I have a deep disinterest in the socialite, social media influencer crowd combined with bridezilla craze let alone their romance stories. And yet, Lauren Layne writes these types of characters who I end up thoroughly enjoying and maybe just liking them too, and I end up being just that tiny bit more forgiving of the real life influencer caught up in that crazy world. If the fictional flawed character can have depths, maybe the living, breathing, flawed person can too. Layne also inflects such light and humorous moments in her stories such as when Audrey upon seeing that Clarke has a waxed and hairless chest, signals her preference for hairy men saying “chest hair is our first irreconcilable difference”. This made me giggle and reminded me of one of my early blog posts written ten years ago where I too discussed chest hair thus being a topic that continues to have relevance.
This book was light and fun, perfect for a sick day read, a day in the sun read, a travel to work day read, and any other excuse for a day when need to read.
This book was borrowed (thrice!) from a NSW public library. Unfortunately, none of the library systems I borrow from have any copies of the first two books from the series. The age old gripe of incomplete series in libraries persists.