Love the One You're With (Sex, Love, and Stiletto #1) by Lauren Layne
Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: December 9, 2013
Pages: 271 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Twenty-nine-year-old Grace Brighton recently broke up with her boyfriend of nine years, when she caught him cheating on her. As a result of the breakup, she lost not only her faith in men, but a much more comfy lifestyle in hyper-expensive New York City than she can afford on her salary alone as an editor for the women's magazine, Stiletto. Not that Grace actually has to live only on what she herself can earn, since she comes from a very wealthy family, but Grace is a self-sufficient woman who prefers to make her own way.
On her first day returning to work after an extended leave of absence to lick her wounds, Grace is running late and is forced to take a cab to work instead of the subway. A gorgeous man, obviously making the walk of shame after an overnight sexual adventure, is flagging down a cab at the same time as Grace and gallantly offers the cab to her--or so she thinks, until he climbs in after her. The two of them immediately begin a verbal sparring match, and the attraction between them is instant and obviously mutual, but Grace leaps out of the cab before any phone numbers can be exchanged, determined to keep to her vow to avoid dating for at least six months and turn all her attention to her job.
Unfortunately, Grace's no-men vow is immediately tossed overboard by her very first assignment. Her editor has accepted an offer from the new owner of Oxford, a men's magazine along the lines of GQ, to create a series of "he said, she said" stories written by Grace, as the dating expert from Stiletto, and her male counterpart at Oxford. Each will write his/her version of events occurring during a series of pre-arranged dates between the two of them. The dates themselves, and the write-ups afterward, are to be pursued as a competition to determine which of the two of them is best at the game of dating. Grace's dislike of the assignment turns to dismay when the journalist assigned to partner with her, against all odds, is revealed to be the impudent hunk she met that very morning in her cab.
Jake Malone is in his early thirties and has worked at Oxford for six years. He never thought he'd stay in one place this long, and he is extremely restless. Prior to the current owner taking charge, it was understood by arrangement with his former boss that he was to become Oxford's travel editor. Aggravatingly, the new owner is only willing to conditionally keep that promise. Jake first must take one for the home team and successfully demonstrate that the Oxford editors are not the insensitive, sexist clods that women believe them to be by proving himself to understand women far better than the female editor from Stiletto understands men. Jake thinks the whole idea of the competition is ridiculous, but he does love the company of women and considers himself something of an expert on them, so he believes winning this competition is in the bag for him, and if it will guarantee him the job he wants, he agrees to cooperate with his editor's stunt. But Jake's initial reluctance turns to excited interest when the beautiful woman he recently, and extremely memorably, encountered in a cab shows up at the first date, dressed like a high-class hooker, and even more filled with snappy comebacks than she was when he connected with her the first time.
I had not read the initial book in this series before reading this one, but this book quite comfortably stands on its own, and I did not feel as if I were missing any important context necessary to follow the story. I did, however, enjoy this book so much that I have since sought out not only book one in this series but everything else this extremely talented author has written.
Grace is a highly sympathetic heroine, and Jake is a terrific hero. Both are strong, independent, and very verbally adept. I am a huge fan of romantic comedy, and my absolute favorite aspect of it is when the hero and heroine trade witty barbs, as occurs so entertainingly in this book. I also love relationship-of-convenience stories, and this is a particularly well done one.
As is common in traditional, "happily ever after," adult, romantic fiction (as opposed to young-adult romance), we get to experience both the hero and heroine's point of view. This allows us to get to know both of them really well. Underneath each of their crusty exteriors, they have a lot in common, such as intelligence, compassion and loyalty, and they are equally ambitious in their careers. The sexual chemistry between them is explosive, and the development of their relationship from antagonists to friends and then to lovers is extremely well done.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book through NetGalley.