December 7, 2013

Tour Stop + Giveaway: Love The One You're With by Lauren Layne

Love The One You're With
Sex, Lies & Stilettos 2
Lauren Layne
Contemporary Romance
December 9, 2013
Lauren Layne’s Sex, Love & Stiletto series simmers to a boil as two high-powered magazine writers find love amid a war of words.

As a leading columnist for Stiletto, Grace Brighton has built a career warning women about rotten, cheating liars. She just never suspected her fiancĂ© would be one of them. After Grace takes a heart-mending hiatus, her first assignment is to go on a couple of dates with a counterpart from the men’s magazine Oxford and report her impressions. Grace 1.0 may have been instantly smitten with the gorgeous correspondent, but Grace 2.0 has sworn off relationships for six months, and she’s not falling for his outstanding bod and trophy-winning kisses . . . or is she?

Jake Malone wants to get back to the fly-by-night, who-knows-what’s-next guy he used to be, and he knows exactly how to do it. Oxford is adding a travel section, and Jake—with no wife and no kids and a willingness to live anywhere, eat anything, do everything—is perfect for the job . . . except that his playboy reputation makes his new editor nervous. To get the gig, he must agree to a fluffy joint article with Stiletto. But after just one date with snooty, sumptuous, sensational Grace Brighton, Jake starts taking this assignment a whole lot more seriously.

We’ve all heard of the mid-life crisis. It’s the aging father who’s spent the past fifteen years working too hard, losing his hair, driving a mini-van, and all of a sudden reaches mid-forties and wonders how the hell he got here. Cue the convertible and the hair dye and the flirtation with the sexy new neighbor. Or maybe it’s the dedicated career woman on the verge of her her fiftieth birthday who realizes that despite a lifetime of not needing anyone, she’s . . . gasp . . . lonely.

Now let’s take the phrase “quarter-life crisis.”

It’s as clear, is it? And yet it’s gaining popularity. It’s similar to the mid-life crisis in that it’s well . . . a crisis. But it’s different in that it generally occurs in your twenties, right as your life is supposed to be really taking off, only you realize that you’ve never felt so lost. You no longer can define yourself a student. You’re supposed to be beyond those early twenties “how will I pay rent?!” freak-outs. But maybe your professional and personal life isn’t where you thought they would be. Or maybe they’re EXACTLY where you thought they’d be, only they’re not making you happy the way you expected.

The quarter-life crisis is that nagging suspicion that life is supposed to be more . . . it’s that bone-deep knowledge that it’s time to change BEFORE you find yourself blowing your 401k on that yellow coverable while trying to pick up a boy toy half your age.

My heroine from LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH is going through exactly this kind of quarter-life crisis. Her boyfriend of almost ten years has left her for another woman. Her confidence in her professional life is wavering. She’s sick of her hair cut, and she’s tired of dieting, and she’s pretty sure the Disney movie happy-ending she’s been seeking is a complete and utter fantasy.

But Grace Brighton isn’t about to let her quarter-life crisis steamroll over her. When the story opens, Grace has just returned from a little R&R at her parents’ beach house, and is ready to take charge of her life . . . even if it’s not the life she thought she’d had. Split ends? Gone. Role as doormat girlfriend? No more. Brand new apartment? Leased. Love of chocolate? Embraced. She’s even invented a new version of herself called 2.0 to lead her on her crusade.

Grace is lucky enough to conquer her crisis, but only because she admitted it in the first place!

How may of us cling to a job or a friendship or a home for too long because we keep telling ourselves that “it’ll get better. probably.” (raises hand). Or maybe this is familiar: Monday mornings suck, Friday afternoons are euphoric, and Sunday evenings are melancholy. Yeah. Been there.

Now, I know what your’e thinking: that’s not just a quarter-life crisis. That’s life. And I will absolutely grant you that these types of feelings are NOT limited to twenty-somethings. But no matter your age, and no matter what you label your crisis, there are ways to banish the “blahs!”

Here are some quick ideas that work for me:

Put together a bucket list, but make it more short-term than a “before I die” list that you’ll probably lose. Try “30 before 30,” or “40 before 40,” or “10 things to do before the end of the year.:” And think outside the box. It doesn’t have to be skydiving or backpacking through Europe. Sometimes something as simple as buying a bold red lipstick can break us out of a rut. Or training for a 5k, or taking water color class . . .

Exercise. I know, right? But seriously? It helps. Science says so.

Every time you start to complain about work, or that annoying lady at PTA meeting, or your husband, write down one thing you can do to fix the situation. Being solution-oriented, even in a tiny way gives a GLORIOUS sense of control over one’s life!

Write down your vacation/weekend day, in detail. Where are you? What are you wearing? What are you doing? From the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, write down everything. Your feelings, your action, your meals . . . Easy, right? It’s vacation! But now do the same thing for your average weekday — it’s harder, but even more important. In a perfect world, how do you feel when you wake up? How much time do you give yourself to enjoy that cup of coffee? What do you do after you drop the kids off from school? Who’s your boss? What did you have for lunch? What’s your occupation? Do you make time to read before bed? . . . it’ll feel like a fantasy at first, but THAT’S OKAY. Most of us are pretty good at identifying what we don’t want, but have a much harder time identifying what we do want. Figuring that out is half the battle!

Curious to see how Grace Brighton conquers her quarter-life crisis? Check out LOVE THE ONE YOU’RE WITH, available Monday, December 9th!

This is one of my favorite guest post this year! Ms. Layne captured my long battle with life crisis! I'm way past "quarter" but not quite mid so I'll just generalize it. 

“Order, order,” Camille bellowed, storming into the conference room, wearing a bright green wrap dress.
Grace hid a small, relieved smile. At least some things hadn’t changed. Camille still started her meetings like a power-tripping Supreme Court justice.
“Welcome back, Grace,” Camille said, not bothering to look up as she pulled a half dozen electronic devices out of her oversized bag, tossing them onto the table.
“Thanks,” Grace murmured, not missing the way that everyone smiled at her in that too-careful way, as though she was likely to break at any second.
But as the meeting settled into its old, familiar rhythm, she started to relax a little.
She could do this. It was just like old times, except she was a little older, a little smarter.
In fact, it was better than old times, because Grace wasn’t ever going to let a guy get the drop on her again.
She half listened as Camille went around the table, asking for department updates. When Camille turned to the Love and Relationships section, Grace sat up a little straighter. She didn’t have any updates on her first day back, but she smiled and nodded at everything Riley and Julie said so that there could be no doubt that she was still a part of this crew. She even kept an approving smile pasted on her face as Emma spoke.
And then Camille dropped those dreaded magazine words that occasionally made the rounds at Stiletto but were almost never associated with the nearly flawless Love and Relationships department.
“. . . there have been some complaints.”
Wait. What? What?
Grace listened in dismay as her boss read letter after letter of complaint.
Riley held up a hand to stop their boss’s flow of words. “I’m sorry—did you just say that some readers think we’re naive?”
Oliver snickered. “As if you could ever be naive.”
Unperturbed, Riley gave him one of her sassy winks. Riley McKenna was anything but naive, at least in the ways of the bedroom. She managed to dazzle all manner of people, from homosexual men to heterosexual women. But her real talent was with heterosexual men, which was a good thing, seeing as she was Stiletto’s number one sex goddess. Riley didn’t just write about sex, she embodied it. Her long black hair had that perpetual just-rolled-out-of-bed look, and her bright blue eyes had a naughty, Marilyn Monroe kind of way about them. Most annoying of all? Riley McKenna could out-eat anyone Grace knew and still wore a size two.
All of which would make Grace hate her if Riley wasn’t just about the best damned friend she could imagine.
Of course, none of this was even remotely relevant to their boss right about now, as Camille was definitely less than pleased with her usual golden trio.
Or golden quad, Grace thought, with a quick glance at Emma.
“There’s just been increasing feedback that we’re not adequately tapped into the male perspective,” Camille said. “That we’re living in a female bubble.”
“Crazy, since this    
female magazine,” Julie muttered.
“Exactly,” Camille said, jabbing her finger on top of her notebook. “Just like Oxford is in a male bubble.
Everyone exchanged a confused glance. What the hell did Oxford have to do with this? Grace was willing to bet most of them had never read it—she certainly hadn’t, beyond occasionally flipping through an issue Greg might have left on the coffee table.
Oxford was to men as Stiletto was to women—and seeing as how most everyone in the room was female,Oxford was about as familiar a reference as, say, jock strap. Only Oliver could pretend to relate, and even he made it clear to anyone who would listen that he preferred talking shoes over cars any day.
“I’ve had several meetings with Alex Cassidy over the past two weeks, and he’s been finding the same trend in letters from his readers,” Camille was saying. “Quite simply, both Oxford and Stiletto are guilty of the same one-sided journalism.”
Grace lifted a hand to get Camille’s attention. “Who’s Alex Cassidy?”
“The new editor in chief of Oxford,” Emma Sinclair volunteered. Grace thought she heard something bitter in that tone, but a quick look at the other woman revealed nothing. Just a calm, nothing-fazes-me expression.
A quick glance around the table showed that Grace was the only one surprised by this news. What the hell had happened to Bill Heiner? He’d been Oxford’s editor in chief since before most people in this room were born. Being out of the loop sucked.
“Got it,” she said quietly.
But Camille apparently had bigger things to worry about than the fact that one of her most tenured columnists was out of the loop, because she was doing that weird hair-tugging thing that generally meant trouble for someone.
“So what’s the solution?” Julie asked. “You want one of us to grow a penis? Maybe throw in a couple token interviews with guys so we can get the man’s perspective and all that?”
“No, we need to address it more head-on than that,” Camille replied.
More head-on than growing a penis? Grace wondered.
“Alex and I have talked about this, and we want to be deliberate. To let the readers know that we’re hearing their concerns. Apparently there are more crossover readers than we realized, and we can’t have male readers hollering about how we misrepresent males. And Oxford doesn’t want female readers lamenting about how Oxford’s way off base.”
This was not sounding good.
“Which is why we’ll be inserting a new special series of stories for the next three issues. A sort of his-and-hers approach to the Love and Relationships section of the magazines.”
“I’ll do it!” Oliver said, his hand shooting in the air.
Camille gave him a look. “With all due respect, Mr. Harrington, aren’t you the one always telling us you relate more to women than men?”
His brow furrowed. “Right. I was thinking I’d write the her perspective.”
God help them, he looked serious.
“Ollie, until you’ve had to suffer the indignity of running into an ex while buying Vagisil or asking a stranger for a tampon, I’m thinking maybe you don’t quite have the proper intel or the proper parts for this,” Julie said kindly.
Oliver gave a shudder and raised his palms as though to say, I’m out.
Exactly, Grace thought. Being a woman was messy business.
“So who’s it going to be?” Camille asked, her eyes flitting among Julie, Riley, Grace, and Emma.
“How about a little more information?” Riley said, sitting back in her chair and playing with a long strand of shiny black hair. “Is this, like, an article swap? Our stuff goes in Oxford, and one of their monkey reporters gets a page in ours?”
“Sort of,” Camille said, tapping her nails against the table. “We’d be very transparent about what we’re up to. Alex and I were thinking that we’d take one of my girls and one of his guys and send you on a couple of dates. Three, at the minimum. Each of you will write an account of what you’re thinking. First impressions, assessment of the otherperson’s first impressions. You’ll analyze how the conversation went, what the other person’s thinking . . . all without actually discussing the article itself.”
“Sounds very natural and non-awkward,” Grace whispered to Riley.
Camille spared her a brief glare before continuing. “Stiletto will more prominently feature the female perspective about the date, but with an inset on what the guy was thinking. Oxford will do the same in reverse.”
“What’s the objective?” Emma asked. She had one of those slightly husky, soothing voices, like a jazz singer or a sexpot, with just a touch of southern. Great. A sexy, smart, composed southern belle.
“Now, here’s the part I think you ladies will like,” Camille said. “Alex and I were thinking of making it a competition of sorts.”
“Go on . . . ,” Riley said, tapping the tips of her fingers together like a cartoon villain.
“Well, the goal here is to show that both Stiletto andOxford aim to provide an accurate representation of what goes on inside the other side’s head. Women readingStiletto want to know that the advice there is actually going to resonate with the guy in their life. Oxford is the same—what’s the point of all their tacky ‘How to Please a Woman’ sex advice if women don’t agree?”
Grace hid her wince. Camille’s words cut a little too close. Wasn’t Grace guilty of this very thing? Of smugly writing article after article like some sort of expert on men, only to be blindsided by her own man?
“I’m not disagreeing that we need to accurately represent the opposite sex,” Julie was saying. “But how is this a competition between Stiletto and Oxford? Who decides who wins?”
“The readers,” Camille said, as though this was completely easy and obvious. “We’ll have the digital team get some sort of poll up on our respective websites. After each his-and-hers article is printed, they can vote for who’s ahead in knowing the opposite sex. For example, if the male columnist writes that the female columnist completely ate up his compliments on her hair color, and she writes that he’s an insincere oaf who was making fun of her roots, the women pull ahead. Similarly, if the woman insists on paying because she thinks he’ll appreciate it, and then hewrites that she was a pushy ball-buster, the guys get the edge. You see? Everyone knows dating is a game. Now we just see who wins.”
Nobody said a word.
It was contrived. A little weird . . .
And yet intriguing.
“Julie’s out,” Camille was saying. “Mitchell will have my head if I put her on a real-life date for a story.”
“And he knows firsthand how that turns out,” Riley said. “He ended up having to buy a ring the size of a baseball.”
“So, Riley, you in?” Camille asked.
Riley blinked her cat shaped blue eyes in surprise. “Me? This? But it’s so . . . tame.”
Grace leaned forward and rested her chin on her hands while smirking at her best friend. “You could just slather the guy with bacon-flavored lube. Sex it up a bit?”
“There will be no lube,” Camille said with a sharp finger jab. “And no sex. This is a dating column, not a prostitution ring.”
Riley faked a big yawn.
“Fine,” Camille snapped. “Emma? You up for it?”
Grace’s spine slowly straightened. Whaaaaat?
She understood why Riley had been Camille’s first choice—this sort of battle-of-the-sexes thing was a perfect fit for Riley’s snarky, bold style. And she understood why Julie was out of the running—an engaged woman doing a first-person dating project wouldn’t work.
But why Emma before Grace? Adding insult to injury, nobody else in the room seemed to think this was strange. Even Riley and Julie didn’t seem fazed by the fact that Grace was apparently freaking invisible.
Oddly, only Emma seemed aware that something was off, and her eyes flicked to Grace as though asking permission. Grace wanted to give her a reassuring smile. To tell Emma to go ahead and take the story because it wasn’t Grace’s thing. She gravitated toward stories that were less edgy, less ballsy . . .
Less interesting.
At least Grace 1.0 gravitated toward stories like that.
Grace 2.0 was screaming that this was their chance to redeem themselves. To expose men as philandering frauds while slowly rebuilding their dignity.
“I’ll do it!” Grace blurted out, her hand shooting in the air like a precocious second grader rushing to beat her classmates to the answer.
Twenty pairs of eyes fell on her.
“Grace . . . ,” Camille said, her voice gentle.
Oh shit. If their take-no-prisoners, half-batshit-crazy boss was going soft, it was worse than she thought.
“You just got back from vacation,” Camille said. “Give yourself a little breather to get back into the swing of things.”
But Grace 2.0 was strapping on battle armor, so Grace forged ahead. “Look, you need someone to go with an open mind into a dating scenario, right? Who better than someone who’s freshly back on the dating scene?”
“But we need—”
Grace held up a finger to stop the objections. “Andwho better to see through a man’s bullshit than someone who just got thrown over by a man? Nobody will be more watchful of a guy’s BS than me.”
“She has a point.”
Grace was a little startled to realize it was Emma who had spoken, but the new columnist looked completely unperturbed by the fact that Grace was trying to steal a prime story from right under her nose.
“Look,” Emma said in her husky voice. “Office water-cooler gossip has made it obvious that Grace is coming out of a nasty relationship. If this is truly a competition—and ifStiletto wants to prove that women read men far better than they read us—then we’ll need someone who has a burning desire to get it right.”
Grace didn’t know why Emma was taking her side, but Emma made an excellent point. Grace did have a burning desire to get it right.
She felt Camille studying her, her boss’s auburn bob barely moving as she tilted her head to the side.
“Okay,” Camille said simply.
Okay? Okay? That was it?
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Julie and Riley give her victorious smiles.
Camille changed the subject to some rant about organic skin care, and Grace sat back in her chair, feeling the best she’d felt in weeks.
Grace 1.0 was biting her nails nervously, and Grace 2.0 was doing victory push-ups.
Operation Reclaim Dignity was officially on track.
And Mr. Oxford better watch his back, because Grace Brighton was fully committed to exposing whatever smarmy, womanizing tricks he had up his sleeve.

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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, she decided to quit talking about writing and actually do it. A Seattle native, Lauren’s also tried on the Bay Area, Orange County, and most recently Manhattan. She’s currently back in the Pacific Northwest, missing the big-city life but also enjoying the cheap price of wine in the burbs. She lives with her husband and badly behaved Pomeranian.

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  1. What a great guest post! I remember those very same feelings, just didn't identify it as a quarter-life crisis.

    I've been seeing great things about Layne's books. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Umm I love that post! As a 24 year old.. well let's just say I know exactly what she is talking about. Definitely going to check out this author now!

    Teresa @ Readers Live A Thousand Lives

  3. Thanks for sharing that guest post! I totally think there's a quarter-life crisis. I've been through lots of those same feelings, etc. I interested in meeting Grace. :)


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