Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive! – Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17.
Crushed: A Redemption Novel
SYNOPSIS – Growing up in New York, Michael St. Claire never expected to spend his twenties wearing cowboy boots. But that was before he learned about his real father, a total stranger with a family in Cedar Grove, Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, Michael meets Kristin Bellamy, who is exquisitely refined and everything Michael always thought he wanted in a woman. The only problem is that Kristin is dating Michael’s new half brother, Devon.
Kristin’s mouthy, curvy sister Chloe has always been in love with Devon Patterson. So when Michael offers to help Chloe break up Devon and Kristin, Chloe agrees to a deal that seems too good to be true. Before long, Chloe finally gets her man, only to make a startling discovery: She no longer wants the guy she had to fight for—she wants the one who stood by her side.
Isn’t She Lovely was the first Lauren Layne that I read, suffice it to say that I loved it. While the author loosely touched on some of the themes common to New Adult writing I loved the fact that her protagonist was not a stereotypical tattooed bad boy with a heart of gold living on the wrong side of the tracks instead Ethan Price was decidedly a “good guy” with a more than healthy bank account. Though apparently the rich and beautiful are not without their problems too, Ethan had the very great misfortune of walking in on his best friend and girlfriend in flagrante delicto. This obviously brought both relationships to a very abrupt end. The second novel Broken told Olivia’s story, Ethan’s ex-girlfriend and in Crushed Layne has definitely saved the best for last.
Michael St. Claire’s life as he knew it has been destroyed, worse because largely it was by his own hand. He lost the two most important people in his life, his best friend and the girl he loved, his best friend’s girlfriend. If the guilt of this was not enough he discovers that the life he has been living is not his own. He is not in fact a St. Claire at all but the result of an extramarital affair his mother had. Michael abandons his life in Manhattan to search out the father that he has never met and in the process discovers that everything he ever thought he wanted wasn’t what he needed.
While I praised the originality of Layne’s good guy character Ethan in the first of the series, Crushed is definitely a darker story as Michael’s intentions are far from pure throughout most of the book. However the exploration of the third character in the dysfunctional triangle introduced in Isn’t She Lovely was by far the most satisfying. In Crushed, the reader is treated to something that one would think every romance would have but sadly doesn’t, a true “love story”. The boy and girl do not lay eyes on one another and know immediately that they are meant to be together *gag* instead they don’t even particularly like each other when they meet.
In Chloe, Michael recognizes a kindred spirit and immediately strives to take advantage of her infatuation with her older sister’s boyfriend. Instead these two characters slowly over the course of the book get to know each other and against their best intentions become friends. I cannot recommend Layne’s stories highly enough if you are in the market for a emotional yet often humorous romance in particular Crushed and in general everything else that she has written. If you have not read the Redemption series I would highly recommend reading them all starting with Isn’t She Lovely. I know I will be re-reading them in short order myself.
Lauren Layne graduated from Santa Clara University with a B.S. in political science that she has yet to put to good use. After dabbling in an e-commerce career in Seattle and Southern California, Layne moved to New York City, where she now writes full-time. She lives with her husband and their plus-size Pomeranian in a tiny Manhattan studio.