Release Date: Feb 14, 2017
Publisher: Random House
Series: Love Unexpectedly
Heat Level: Hot
Who on earth names a car “Horny”?
Lucy Hawkins’ brother that’s who. I can’t believe I just read a book with a car by that name. Our hero Reece Sullivan isn’t crazy about the name either.
I’ve never hated the nickname of this stupid car so much as I do right now, on the verge of a full-blown (no pun intended) erection, in front of my pseudo-parents, all from a memory of a girl I don’t even like.
And this is before either of our romantic leads step a foot in the car for their two-week, cross-country adventure. This is going to be fun, right?
So Lucy and Reece have a bit of a history. He was her first. Too bad everything went downhill from then. Six years later, they find themselves carpooling to California to start new jobs, both in the Sonoma area. You see, working in California wine country has always been Lucy’s dream and after the death of his father, Reece is more than ready to make a fresh start far away from his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.
The sexual tension masked by their overt animosity toward each other is evident from the start. Even before they actually see each other in the first scene of the book. My favorite kind of romance. I love a good fight with all that simmering heat and lust in the mix. Their exchanges are sharp and filled with many hurtful and hurt-filled jabs and digs. That they both appear to be equally upset with each other is a head scratcher at first. To me, it was clear who was at fault for their unceremonious breakup—who the villain of the piece was.
“What’s in Wilmington?” he asks, after a few more tense moments of silence. “Another boyfriend?”
“Yes, another boyfriend,” I reply snidely. “Didn’t I mention it? I have four.”
He changes lanes. “Hard to juggle?”
“Not at all,” I say sweetly. “See, I just watched the way you attempted to juggle multiple girlfriends and failed, and then did the exact opposite.”
He glances at me then, a mocking smile on his face. “Oh, sweetheart. When did I ever claim you as my girlfriend?”
As you can see, Reece can be cruel when he wants. But as time went on, I began to wonder and second guess myself. What really happened between them? It’s obvious they were both hurt. What’s also clear is that they’re still really hot for each other, their love scenes sizzling, their emotional connection strong. I wondered how they managed to get through those six years without tearing each other’s clothes off.
I would say they’re both stubborn, but more than anything else, they’re human, both possessed with all the flaws, insecurities, jealousies (ex-girlfriends and current boyfriends) and frailties that come with the human condition. And when they first got together, they are so young. Teenagers. Better to make “relationship” mistakes then.
I thoroughly enjoyed Lucy and Reece’s journey—literally and figuratively. If any two people were meant to be together, these two are. If I had to gripe about anything, the one thing I found a little distracting were the flashbacks. Constant flashbacks have never been a favorite of mine but it’s the fact that they don’t appear in chronological order that had my mind see-sawing a bit. They are sixteen and seventeen in one place, then later on, they are eight and nine. Of course these aren’t deal breakers for me, but it’s the reason I probably didn’t give this one a Top Pick. Regardless, Love Story, like the vast majority of Ms. Layne’s books, come with a high recommendation, one I’d read again in a New York minute.
As for now, I impatiently await her next release Walk of Shame in April. It’s tops on my must-read upcoming releases list.
“Spock, we’re giving you Horny!” my mom blurts out, apparently fed up with my denseness.
Her utterance is too much for my siblings to handle and they both burst out laughing, retreating into the kitchen to rejoin the party where there’s wine.
Oh what I wouldn’t give for wine right now.
“I, um . . . you’re giving me the car?” I ask.
“Because yours broke down,” my dad explains, walking forward to thump Horny’s dented hood.
“And this one’s . . . not broken down?” I ask skeptically.
Look, it’s not that I’m not grateful. My parents are trying to give me a car, I appreciate the sweetness of the gesture, it’s just . . .
Here’s the thing about Horny: he barely got us three kids through high school. I mean, Horny is the car that sputtered and shook making it the 3.2 miles to Jefferson High, no matter who was behind the wheel.
I’m even going to come all the way clean here and say that early on in my freshmen year, I was embarrassed showing up in Horny. Then I realized I was lucky to have a car at all, and well . . . I dunno, I guess Horny became a part of us Hawkins kids’ charm, because the station wagon was practically an institution from Craig’s high school reign all the way through Brandi’s.
But poor Horny quit working years ago. Much to Brandi’s chagrin, he gave up the ghost a mere two months before her high school graduation, and I spent the last bit of her senior year being picked up by my parents.
“He’s going to take you to California,” Dad says, giving the car another thump.
“Really?” I step forward and run a tentative finger along the familiar panel. He’s had a bath, so at least that’s something. “Because last I knew, he wouldn’t even make it out of the garage.”
“Yeah, well, we neglected him for a while, but he’s right as rain now,” Dad says, puffing out his chest as though Horny’s a fourth child.
“Like, as in he actually starts?”
“Purrs like a kitten,” my mom says with an emphatic nod, even though I know she doesn’t even like cats. “We didn’t believe it, but we took him to church on Sunday and there were no issues.”
I literally bite my tongue to keep from pointing out that this is hardly a feat. Sacred Presbyterian is 0.8 miles away from the house.
“You took Horny into a shop?” I ask, starting to warm to the idea of having a car again. I’m a little touched, actually. Money is tight for my parents. Dad’s a PE teacher, and Mom gives a mean winery tour, but the gig’s never paid much.
“Not exactly, it was more of a bartering situation,” Mom says.
“Yeah?” I say, going around to the driver’s seat, already giddy with the prospect of telling Oscar I’ll be able to come see him in Miami after all, even if I won’t exactly be riding in style.
“Reece agreed to fix him up.”
I’m lowering myself into the car as my dad says this, but I reverse so quickly I hit my head. My skull doesn’t even register the pain, because I’m too busy registering the hurt in my heart at the familiar name. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Reece,” my mom says, giving me a bemused look. “He’s always been handy with cars.”
“He fixed up the car in exchange for what?”
And then I feel—I actually feel—the air change around me as the side door to the garage opens, and a new presence sucks all the air out of the space.
I don’t turn around. I don’t move. But I feel his eyes on me. Over me.
“Reece is headed out to California too,” my oblivious mother chatters on. “It worked out perfectly actually. Now you two can ride together, and your dad and I don’t have to worry about you alone in the middle of nowhere with a twenty-something-year-old car.
They think the car is going to be the problem here? It’s not the car that’s toxic to me. It’s him.
Reece Sullivan. My brother’s best friend. My parents’ “other son.”
Slowly I force myself to turn, and even though I’m prepped, the force of that ice-blue gaze still does something dangerous to me.
He winks, quick and cocky, and I suck in a breath, and I have to wonder . . .
I wonder if my parents would feel differently about their little plan if they knew that their makeshift mechanic is the same guy that popped my cherry six years earlier under their very roof.
And then broke my heart twenty-four hours later.
Lauren Layne is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen romantic comedies.
A former e-commerce and web marketing manager from Seattle, Lauren relocated to New York City in 2011 to pursue a full-time writing career.
She lives in midtown Manhattan with her high-school sweetheart, where she writes smart romantic comedies with just enough sexy-times to make your mother blush. In LL’s ideal world, every stiletto-wearing, Kate Spade wielding woman would carry a Kindle stocked with Lauren Layne books.