January 28, 2020

Marriage on Madison Avenue

By Lauren Layne
Review by

Warm and heartfelt, this is a story that truly cares about its characters, showing how they help each overcome their pasts and build toward a beautifully messy, perfectly imperfect future.

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Audrey Tate has the perfect life. Just ask any of the subscribers to her wildly popular online platform. A professional influencer with a glamorous, successful lifestyle in the most posh parts of Manhattan, Audrey always knows how to look, sound and be just right for any situation. Except when it comes to romance. Her heart was broken a year and a half ago with the reveal that she was one of three women involved with her boyfriend—including his wife. While she and the other women scorned have become devoted friends, she still carries wounds from the ordeal. And it taught her a lesson: Prince Charmings are for other women. Not her. She can have the perfect townhouse, the perfect dress, the perfect smile or quip or hashtag for any situation. But she can’t have the perfect man, unless she’s willing to play along with the perfect lie.

Clarke West, her best friend since childhood, has always been there to love her, tease her, support her, aggravate her and occasionally use her as a shield when his flings get too clingy, or his controlling mother gets too difficult. But when he pretends (yet again) that they’re engaged to dissuade a persistent ex, right when Audrey’s love life takes another embarrassing turn, a plan is formed. Why not keep the fake engagement going? It will aggravate his mother, ward off his ex and restore Audrey’s reputation after vicious attacks from an internet troll. Win, win, win. Except for the part where lines start blurring and staged kisses start to feel a little too real. Audrey and Clarke’s “safe” choice to be together becomes more and more risky when their hearts end up on the line.

This novel concludes the Central Park Pact trilogy, bringing a happy ending to all three of the women burned by the same deceitful ex. Of the three, Audrey’s story might have the most bitterly ironic twist, in that the woman who makes a living putting everything on display was fooled by a man hiding behind his lies. While the story’s high-society setting and rom-com premise embue it with plenty of frothy fun, Audrey’s sadness and self-doubt, along with Clarke’s own insecurities as the child of parents who don’t quite seem to know how to show love to anyone, give it depth. Thankfully, they have each other, and the strength of their friendship helps them heal enough to realize not just that they’ve been in love all along, but that they deserve the happiness they’ve found together. Warm and heartfelt, this story conveys author Lauren Layne’s real affection for her characters as they overcome the past and build a beautifully messy, perfectly imperfect future.

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