REVIEW: The Central Park Pact Series by Lauren Layne 🎧

As a longtime fan of Lauren Layne, I’ve read nearly everything book she’s written in the last few years. Her writing is just so easy to get drawn into, flying by until you realize you’ve devoured the whole thing (case in point: I started her latest, Marriage on Madison Avenue, after lunch yesterday and didn’t sleep until I had turned the final page).

I’ll openly admit that the price point on her Central Park series was initially a deterrent, and that’s why it took me so long to read the first two books. However, the Kindle editions occasionally go on sale and the audiobooks were the perfect thing to use my monthly Audible credit on, so it ended up being a non-issue (don’t hesitate to download a sample or use the Look Inside feature on Amazon to see if the series is right for you).

The release of Marriage on Madison Avenue is almost upon us (January 28th, which may just be the best day for romance in 2020 with new releases by an embarrassingly outstanding group of authors). For that reason, I thought I’d share my reviews of the first two books and give you a little tease about the final installment (hint: it was an EASY 5-star rating for me and likely to show up on my Best of January list). This series got better with every book, culminating in a fantastic friends to lovers romance that’s 100% Layne’s style. They do all stand alone (especially this final book), so if you want to jump ahead it’s not an issue but the series connects together perfectly.

If you’re not familiar with the premise behind the series, it’s a completely original one – three women meet and form a bond after discovering that they were all sleeping with the same man. Each woman played a different role in his life – the wife, the mistress, and the fling – so they each have their own regrets about how things played out. They form a pact and agree to help each other steer clear of that kind of guy in the future, and wind up being great friends. It’s got a distinctly high end feel and the NYC vibe that’s prevalent in Layne’s work, just taken up another notch.

🎧 Audiobook note: The perfect kind of romance novel to listen to at work, there’s no explicit content (just a few kissing scenes and then closed door sex). The narrator has a Manhattan socialite vibe, which works extremely well for the characters but also made it more difficult to connect to them. I read the Kindle edition of the final book, and had a much easier time connecting to the characters, but I also think that had just as much to do with the storyline itself. They’re very well done audiobooks, you just might want to listen to a sample first to see if the narrator will work for you.


Passion on Park Avenue ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Unlike any Lauren Layne book before it, this is cleaner, heavier, and a little deeper than her usual romances. It took a bit for me to settle into this one – our heroine is not the most relatable woman – but once I did, I really enjoyed this story. The writing is so well done, and the concept of three women bonding over the fact that they were unknowingly sleeping with the same guy (the wife, the girlfriend, and the fling) is such a unique one. If you’re looking for a heartfelt, slow burn romance with no explicit scenes, this is well worth a read – just don’t expect it to be anything like Layne’s previous works.

The story follows Naomi, a woman who only found out that the guy she was sleeping with was married after his death. When she meets his wife and girlfriend, they form an unexpected bond and agree to look out for each other as they navigate dating after being deceived. Naomi hasn’t had the easiest life, but she’s gone from rags to riches and become a fashion mogul. She’s feisty, confident in most areas of her life, and commitment-phobic. Her past comes crashing in when she comes face-to-face with Oliver, the spoiled rich boy who ruined her mother’s life with a lie. Convinced that he’s the same entitled brat that he was in his youth, Naomi wants nothing to do with Oliver, despite the chemistry that seems to spark between them. But avoiding him seems to be impossible, and Naomi will have to confront her past at some point.

I found it difficult to relate to Naomi at first, but once I got to know her a little better it was much easier to get into the story. Oliver, on the other hand, is such a great guy and I had zero problems with him – he really made this story what it is. It’s an exceedingly slow burn with no explicit scenes, so if you’re thinking this will be like Layne’s other books then you’ll be disappointed in that regard. I had no issues with it, but I would’ve liked some secrets to be out in the open much sooner than they were. The secret led to the ending being much less satisfying than it could’ve been, but I enjoyed the vast majority of the book so I can’t complain too much. Looking forward to seeing what happens next for this circle of friends.


Blurb:

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Stiletto and Oxford series, the first in a sizzling new series following the unlikely friendship of three Upper East Side women as they struggle to achieve their dreams and find true love and happiness in the city that never sleeps. 

For as long as she can remember, Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strongminded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.

The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them…

Filled with charm and heart and plenty of sex and snark, this entertaining series will hook you from the very first page.

Amazon | GoodReads


Love on Lexington Avenue ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A beautiful story about finding love after loss, Love on Lexington Avenue is a little heavier than Lauren Layne’s typical style, but a really fulfilling read. Readers were introduced to Claire in the previous book in the series, and while it’s not necessary to read that first, it definitely enhances the story. It’s well written, emotional, frustrating at times, and will leave you believing in second chances.

The story follows Claire, a recent widow who only discovered that her husband was cheating after his death. While she grieves the man she loved and lost, she’s also struggling with her self-worth and isn’t sure who she really is anymore. Claire has spent the last several years living a very vanilla, trophy wife life and she’s not sure that’s who she wants to be anymore. When she begins renovations on her townhouse and meets the brash, outspoken and surprisingly sexy contractor her friend recommended, the two clash until they realize that they’re both hurting in their own way. Scott closed himself off to love and commitments after his fiancée cheated years ago, and Claire begins to consider him to be a mentor of sorts, helping her navigate how to find casual sex without getting emotions involved. Along the way, these two bond and are tempted to abandon their plans to lead a loveless life.

I’ve been a Lauren Layne fan for a long time, and this series is a lot different than what she’s been writing recently. Not only is there no explicit sex, but it’s also got a more serious tone and the characters have lifestyles that are more difficult for the average reader to find relatable. I enjoyed this book quite a bit, though I definitely got frustrated at times. Since Scott is acting as Claire’s wingman, there’s a lot of OM/OW drama that continues much later in the story than I’d like (no cheating though), and Scott is seriously commitment-phobic. That being said, it’s such a nuanced story about self-discovery and the slow build into love. I connected with Claire much more than I expected to by the end of the book, and now I’m looking forward to reading what’s next for this group of friends.


Blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes the second delightfully charming installment in the Central Park Pact series, following a young widow whose newfound cynicism about love is challenged by a sexy, rough-around-the-edges contractor.

There are no good men left in New York City. At least that’s Claire Hayes’s conviction after finding out her late husband was not the man she thought he was. Determined to rid her home of anything that reminds her of her cheating husband, Claire sets out to redesign her boring, beige Upper East Side brownstone and make it something all her own. But what starts out as a simple renovation becomes a lot more complicated when she meets her bad-tempered and rough-around-the-edges contractor Scott Turner.

Scott bluntly makes it known to Claire that he only took on her house for a change of pace from the corporate offices and swanky hotels he’s been building lately, and he doesn’t hesitate to add that he has no patience for a pampered, damaged princess with a penchant for pink. But when long workdays turn into even longer nights, their mutual wariness morphs into something more complicated—a grudging respect, and maybe even attraction…

Amazon | GoodReads


Marriage on Madison Avenue ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ll share the full review closer to the book’s release, but here’s a tease to hold you over:

I love Layne’s books because they’re consistently solid reads, but this is truly the best in the series. It’s a friends to lovers / fake relationship story told from both perspectives, which gave insight into this complex relationship and made it easier to follow along with how they were each feeling as things progressed. Since these two are already lifelong friends, the intimacy they share is palpable and continues to grow as they get closer. The banter is so fun to read and the chemistry jumps off the page. It’s a relationship with depth that far exceeds that of many you’ll find in other romance novels. I loved it from start to finish.


Blurb:

“The word charm is pretty much synonymous with Lauren Layne.” —Hypable

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne, the “queen of witty dialogue” (Rachel Van Dyken, New York Times bestselling author), comes the final installment of the Central Park Pact series, a heartfelt and laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that’s perfect for fans of Sally Thorne and Christina Lauren.

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 realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?

Amazon | GoodReads

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