A college-age spin on The Ugly Duckling
Redemption, Book Three
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+ book summary
Lauren Layne’s latest novel about the healing power of redemption tells the story of a crush gone wickedly wrong, proving that what you want isn’t always what you need.
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.
After all he and Chloe have been through, Michael swears he’s damaged goods. Can Chloe convince him that love is worth the risk?
I do a squat to demonstrate. Generally I do squats with weight—lots of it—but since the most physical exercise Chloe seems accustomed to is running her mouth, I figure I’d better start at the beginning. The very beginning.
“Okay?” I say, doing another since she didn’t mimic my motion the second time.
She watches my movement in the mirror. “One more time,” she says.
I comply, and then mutter a string of curses because Chloe Bellamy has just reached out in the middle of a busy gym and patted my ass.
“Very nice,” she says, sounding surprised.
She shrugs. “You just got so upset when I was ogling that other guy instead of you, so I wanted to make you feel good.”
For a second I want to laugh, and because of that I’m tempted to tell her that this arrangement is over. That she can go back to being her chocolate-munching lazy self, because I don’t laugh.
Chloe’s different, and I hate different.
She’s not like the women who eye me like a piece of meat, nor like the love-struck girls at the bar who act like I’ll settle down once I find the right girl.
And she’s definitely not like her sister Kristin, who knows exactly how gorgeous she is and knows that all she has to do is wait for the guys to come to her.
Chloe is . . .
I don’t even know.
She gives a long sigh. “I’m sorry I fondled you.”
She does a quick half squat. “Okay?”
I hold her wide blue gaze in the mirror, startled to realize that without all that hair distracting from her features, she’s actually quite . . .well, I don’t know what.
I don’t know if pretty’s the word.
“No, not okay,” I snap, annoyed by the train of my thoughts. “You need to go down farther.”
“That’s what she said.” Chloe tries again for another squat, and I keep my hand on her shoulder, gently forcing her to go just a little bit lower.
“But that’s hard,” she protests.
I give a grim laugh. “Yeah. That’s kind of the point.”
Chloe turns her head to face me then, meeting my eyes for real instead of in the mirror.
Awareness flashes across her face, and I jerk my hand away, feeling a little unnerved, because I have the strangest feeling that Chloe Bellamy knows that when I say it’s hard, I’m not talking about the squats.
I’m talking about life.
“I couldn’t stop smiling. I hated that the book had to end! Lauren Layne is a force to be reckoned with, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve next!”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Rachel Van Dyken
“I read Crushed in one sitting because I was utterly unable to put it down. Lauren Layne’s characters are so witty and real. This story warmed my heart and left me feeling good all day. Go Team Curvy Girls!”—New York Times bestselling author Courtney Cole
“Prepare to fall in love. Lauren Layne takes your hand, brings you into her world, and introduces you to a loud, vivacious, very hilarious, and often inappropriate heroine—and the broken hero who never saw her coming.”—Cecy Robson, author of the Shattered Past series
“Filled with humor and heart, Crushed draws you in with an unlikely friendship turned steamy romance as Chloe and Michael turn imperfections into flawless love.”—Renita Pizzitola, author of Just a Little Flirt
“From beginning to end, I was totally engaged in this fantastic read. I enjoyed it so much that I plan to read more of Ms. Layne’s titles ASAP.”—The Romance Reviews
“Honestly, I’m not sure if Layne could write a book I wouldn’t absolutely love. The only bad part about reading Crushed was finishing it and not wanting to read anything else . . . except maybe another Lauren Layne book. Now to try be patient until her next one comes out.”—Amanda’s Daily Grind
“I would recommend this author to anyone looking for a funny and romantic, yet emotional read.”—EscapeNBooks
“Crushed is filled with priceless banter, humor and sexual tension! This is one of those books that you can and will devour in one night. It is a great friends-to-lovers read that will have you rooting for this couple to let go and move forward!”—Rude Girl Book Blog
“I loved this book so much that I reread it immediately.”—Will Read for Feels
“I’ll keep my eyes on any other book by Layne. I really recommend this book to you guys. It’s so good and very fast to read.”—Fairen Reads
“This story was sweet and funny and something I would suggest for people who love friends (enemies) to lover stories.”—Fiction Fangirls
“This series holds a place deep in my heart, and I will likely re-read all three books over and over again until I have them all memorized.”—Star-Crossed Book Blog
“I really, really, really, really enjoyed Crushed and there’s no doubt I would recommend this to anyone and everyone. I was disappointed to see it end.”—The YA Bookshelf
“Believe me people, you want to read this book. It’s just so damn good. Seriously, buy this book!”—Ramblings from This Chick
“I would absolutely recommend this series to anyone who wants to dive into a story with amazing characters, a great storyline and fantastic writing.”—The Book Hookup