Series: Oxford #2
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Source: ARC, NetGalley
Also by this author: Steal Me, Cuff Me, Hot Asset, I Think I Love You, Hard Sell
Perfect for fans of Alice Clayton and Emma Chase, Lauren Layne’s Oxford series heats up in this story of forbidden desire as a brooding jock hoping for a comeback falls for a woman who’s strictly off-limits.
A year ago, Jackson Burke was married to the love of his life and playing quarterback for the Texas Redhawks. Now he’s retired, courtesy of the car accident that ruined his career—and single, after a nasty scandal torpedoed his marriage. Just as he’s starting to get used to his new life as a health and fitness columnist for Oxford magazine, his unpredictable ex shows up on his doorstep in Manhattan. Jackson should be thrilled. But he can’t stop thinking about the one person who’s always been there for him, the one girl he could never have: her younger sister.
Mollie Carrington can’t say no to Madison. After all, her older sister practically raised her. So when Madison begs for help in winning her ex-husband back, Mollie’s just glad she got over her own crush on Jackson ages ago—or so she thought. Because as Mollie reconnects with Jackson, she quickly forgets all her reasons to stay loyal to her sister. Tempted by Jackson’s mellow drawl and cowboy good looks, Mollie is sick and tired of coming in second place. But she can’t win if she doesn’t play the game.
I Wish You Were Mine
I Wish You Were Mine started off slow for me. First, I loathe love triangles. Aside from cheating, they are one of my automatic no-go’s in books. But, its Lauren Layne, and I trust her. I will say for the first 35-45% of the book, I was losing faith fast. It was slow. I felt like knocking the characters heads together. I actual got to the point when I was like “Yo, Mollie is a great girl and if you are too dumb to give it a shot, she deserves better anyway”. I actually wanted to write a character that would come in and totally sweep Mollie off her feet and away from this angsty crap. And while you realize that Madison, the ex wife/sister, is no saint, I still struggled with the fact that Jackson was married to Mollie’s sister. I don’t know if I would be okay with that if I were Mollie (just thinking about having sex with someone my sister had sex with creeps me out…). This book was heavy on the angst too, which I didn’t expect since its not an NA book. But, what made it work for me? The office bromance! I loved getting peeks at other Oxford men!
Overall, I wanted better for Mollie than Jackson. Maybe if Jackson put more into fighting for Mollie? I’m not sure but I wanted him to do more. Perhaps I have my expectations of fictional men set too high? Its totally possible, but I think Mollie deserves better.
- POV: 3rd person
- Tears: of frustration
- Trope: Forbidden love, Football, Famous
- Triggers: not unless whiny exes give you PTSD flashbacks
- Cliffhanger: No
- HEA: View Spoiler »For Jackson and Mollie-yes. Personally, I don’t think its HEA at all because she deserves someone better. « Hide Spoiler
Off Campus Series by Elle Kennedy, Pucked by Helena Hunting, Cold Fury series by Sawyer Bennett…then you will probably like I Wish You Were Mine.
Lauren Layne is the USA Today Bestselling author of more than a dozen contemporary romance novels.
Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. A year after moving from Seattle to NYC to pursue a writing career, she had a fabulous agent and multiple New York publishing deals.
Lauren currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and plus-sized Pomeranian. When not writing, you’ll likely find her running (rarely), reading (sometimes), or at happy hour (often).
From I Wish You Were Mine:
“I thought I might find you out here,” he said quietly as he took a sip of his own champagne.
Mollie snuck a look out of the corner of her eye. He’d come looking for her? She hadn’t thought anyone had noticed she’d slipped away.
“I messed up the toast,” she said quietly.
“Nah,” he said, stretching his long legs out in front of him and slouching down a bit to get comfortable. “Just think how many people you educated on the mating ritual of parasitic worms. They should be thanking you.”
Mollie groaned. “It was supposed to be romantic. I did a paper about them for my systematics and biotics diversity final. They’re unusual because they’re bonded for life. Most organisms sleep around or, you know, the male dies after mating—”
Jackson winced, and Mollie wished she could wither and die just like a male bee.
Mollie knew she had lots of useless trivia in her head, but she didn’t normally go spouting it out like this. Not that she was a smooth talker or anything, but she was usually pretty quiet and normal, if a bit nerdy.
But tonight she felt . . . off. Starting with the fact that the dress Madison had picked for her was the exact color of Mollie’s complexion, so she looked like a mole rat. And then there was the fact that she’d tripped a bit as she’d been going down the aisle, courtesy of the five-inch stilettos her sister had insisted on.
Add in an awkward maid-of-honor speech where she’d gone on for a good five minutes about Schistosoma mansoni worms and how they mated for life, just like the bride and groom, and . . . oh God. Why had nobody stopped her?
Mollie scrunched down on the bench with a moan as she took a sip of champagne. “Madison’s going to kill me.”
Madison was in a mood anyway. She’d been a bridezilla from the moment Jackson had put a ring on it, but Mollie had figured when the actual day came around, her sister would relax.
She’d been pissed about the flowers being ivory instead of true white to match her dress. Had bitched about the fact that Lily, one of her bridesmaids, had styled her hair in a way that was too close to the bride’s style.
Then Madison had vented about how the bracelet Jackson’s mother had shyly presented as Maddie’s “something old” was dumpy.
That one had gotten under Mollie’s skin. Mrs. Burke was the closest thing to a mother that either of them had. Their own mother had died of an overdose years ago, and Mollie would have given a kidney to have a surrogate as lovely and kind as Jackson’s mom.
“Maddie won’t kill you,” Jackson said, putting an arm around the back of the park bench and smiling down at her. “She loves you, even if she doesn’t get your whole triple-major, science-camp vibe.”
Mollie withheld a snort. That was an understatement. She loved her sister, but the closest Madison ever got to science was her monthly chemical peel.
Still, Mollie felt a fierce need to make sure that Jackson Burke knew she was an adult. “I’m twenty. I do not go to science camp.”
He lifted an eyebrow, and Mollie pointed her champagne flute at him. “Okay, I used to go to science camp. But I’m not the one who used the word ‘lactation’ in relation to a mermaid.”
“Hey, you’re not the only one who took bio in college.”
“But you were a communications major. Journalism,” she said.
He gave her a surprised look, and Mollie looked away, mentally kicking herself. That was exactly what Jackson Burke didn’t need—another groupie stalker.
She snuck another glance and saw that he’d slumped even farther, matching her own crappy posture, and Mollie was surprised to see that he looked . . . exhausted.
“Are you okay?” she asked. Because she couldn’t not ask. Not after she’d seen the weariness around his eyes, the slight tension in his shoulders.
Jackson turned his head so their eyes locked and he frowned before returning his attention to the mermaid. “Nobody ever asks me that.”
Her heart squeezed at the lost note in his voice. It was strange to think of someone as big and important as Jackson Burke being lonely, but somehow . . . somehow she knew he was. Even here, among all these people, he was somehow alone. Apart.
“Let’s just say that it’s been a long day,” he said quietly. “A long year, really. But yeah—yeah, I’m okay. I’m great.”
He gave her a half grin, and Mollie smiled back even as she got the sense that he was trying to convince himself as much as her. Why else would Jackson Burke be out here with her staring at a mermaid fountain when there were five hundred guests, most of whom were far more interesting than her, waiting for his attention?
“What do you think—should we get back before they miss us?”
“Miss you, you mean.” Mollie frowned down at her nearly empty champagne glass. It was making her feel warm and fuzzy—and making her say things she shouldn’t.
“Hey now.” He moved his knee to the side so it nudged hers. “None of that. I missed you.”
She shook her head. “Yeah, well, I suspect you’re just uncommonly nice.”
He laughed at that. “Mollie, hon, please don’t tell anyone that. You’ll kill my reputation.”
They were quiet a moment longer, both staring at the mermaid and her weird water-spouting nipples. Neither moved.
Mollie knew why she didn’t want the moment to end. But why was he still here?
She ventured another glance. Saw how his eyes locked on the rippling water in that way people had when their bodies were in one place but their minds were far, far away.
Finally he tipped his champagne glass to his lips and finished its contents in one long swallow before standing. He held out an elbow in a gentlemanly manner. “Let me walk you back?”
She looked away. “I’ll be there in a few.”
His arm dropped and he sighed. “You promise?”
Mollie’s smile was fleeting. “I promise.”
“Good. Because I’ll have you know I saw several guys who seemed all too happy about the fact that you didn’t bring a date tonight. I definitely see dancing in your future.”
Mollie rolled her eyes. “You don’t have to do that, you know.”
“Be so nice to me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it. But promise me that when I go back there you’re not going to bribe some young buck to dance with me.”
Jackson tilted his head back and laughed. “Young buck? What is it with you and your animal comparisons?”
This time her smile was genuine. “Let’s just say animals can be more . . . interesting than humans.”
What she’d really wanted to say was that animals could be nicer than humans. From the way his smile dimmed, she suspected that he knew it—maybe even felt sorry for her. And that was terrible.
Mollie tilted back the rest of her champagne. The second she was done, Jackson stepped forward, plucking the flute from her hand. Before she realized what he was about, he’d lifted his huge hand—his huge, game-winning, touchdown-throwing hand—and wrapped it firmly around her elbow, lifting her so that they were chest to chest. Or actually nearly eye to eye, thanks to Mollie’s long legs and high heels.
Slowly he brought his face close to hers, his lips brushing softly at her cheek in what Mollie would long remember as the most perfect moment of her life.
“Someday, Mollie Carrington, men aren’t going to need to be bribed to dance with you. They’re going to fight for the honor.”
Mollie’s lips parted slightly as he took a step back, gave her one last wink, and then turned, walking back toward the party, two empty champagne flutes dangling from one hand as he whistled along with the George Strait song the band had just started playing.
Mollie lifted her fingers to her cheek, still feeling the warmth of his lips, the slight rasp of his five o’clock shadow. She watched him go, his broad shoulders getting smaller and smaller, until he rounded a corner and disappeared from her view.
Mollie dropped down onto the bench with an inelegant thud.
It wasn’t fair. Mollie had spent her entire life trying to do the right thing—going out of her way to do what she was supposed to, even when she wanted to do the exact opposite. But tonight her heart had betrayed her. Tonight her heart had done the wrong thing. No, the absolute worst thing.
Tonight, at her sister’s wedding, Mollie Carrington had gone and fallen head over heels in love.
With the groom.