Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“He awoke something inside me that no one else had before.”
Reading a Layla Hagen book is like pulling a blanket over your shoulders while sipping a cup of tea on a cold winter day. You know that you will encounter sweet characters, a storyline that offers a bit of tension but is really more about telling a story of two individuals falling in love, and it will be steamy. Always with You is Hailey Connor’s story. Like the other Connor siblings, her book is that warm blanket on a cold day. It features an independent heroine, a bit of a broody Mr. Darcy-like hero, and a happy ending. And it’s delicious from beginning to end.
To say that I had been looking forward to Hailey’s story is an understatement. “Always the bridesmaid but never the bride,” Hailey has spent much of the Connor stories relegated to little sisterhood. Keeping secrets for her siblings, running interference when necessary, and helping siblings such as Jace through PR situations explains her place in those books. But I knew that her story would be the best, and it was.
Hailey works for one of the preeminent PR firms in Los Angeles. She’s a pro, a top agent in her firm. She receives kudos for the ways she has helped many of their clientele. She is called in to help Reid Davenport, a young wealthy hotelier who has found himself in a PR debacle with an opportunistic, gossip-loving ex-fiancee. Not liking public attention, Reid hopes, if he ignores it, that the bad press will go away, and he can return to his very organized, staid life. Unfortunately, his ex is intent on keeping him in the spotlight. Hailey offers her help, but, initially, Reid is reticent. He is also incredibly attracted to Hailey from their first meeting. When the press begins to affect his family, he decides to allow Hailey to intervene. Very quickly, these two cannot deny their attraction to each other, but there are consequences to it, consequences that could potentially derail Hailey’s bright PR future. Can Reid and Hailey make a “go of it?” Do they find their happy ending? Remember, this is a Layla Hagen book, so happy endings are her currency.
“And the way she looked at me, as if I was the only man in this world for her, slayed me.”
With the last Connor Family book, Jace’s story, I might have mentioned in my review that the trouble in that story felt a bit contrived. I’m always worried when I offer a critique because I am not a writer by trade. In reading Hailey’s book, though, the story was organic. It made sense that Hailey’s career could be put into jeopardy given her relationship with the wealthy hotelier. As her job is to help control and repair the perception of celebrities in the media, dating someone who figures into the media landscape could cause Hailey credibility issues especially when said celebrity/high profile client doesn’t allow his story to be told. Hagen makes this believable throughout the story. When it causes a rift between the two of them, there is true tension that Hagen carefully resolves by the end with the sweetest happy ending for these two.
For all of his broodiness, Reid is the quintessential hero. He’s wealthy, driven, and handsome. What makes him a better hero is his love and interest in Hailey. With the exception of a tiny bit of trouble in their relationship, it’s clear from the start that he only has eyes for Hailey. He seeks to love her in the way she needs. Even more, Hagen uses Reid as a lesson. Reid struggles with dyslexia profoundly. And Hagen, through Reid’s characterization, shows us the challenges of this disability. To handle his disability, Reid creates structure in his life so that he has the time to be prepared for his job. Unfortunately, that structure can be all-consuming creating some of the tension later in the story between the two.
However, it’s Hailey’s zest for life and adventure that allows Reid to become more flexible, more adventurous. She becomes the catalyst for his change. In doing so, she burrows into his heart and soul. Hailey is the sweet to his sour, and Hagen does a superb job of building their “opposites attract” relationship into one that can withstand the challenges of life.
“I loved her confidence, the way her love for life shone in every word. It made me want to change my ways for her, or at least try—it wasn’t in my nature to be flexible, to change.”
Layla Hagen’s stories, while sweet and comfortable, come with lessons. They aren’t meant to be ground-breaking truths. Instead, they are reminders to the reader that life is best lived with love. Always with You is a suggestion that we need to let go, we need to seek out love with the person who feeds our soul and challenges us, and we need to accept them just as they are. The end of this book was bittersweet, as I’m not sure there will be another Connor story, and I know that I will miss this family very much.
“‘We can make everything work,’ she whispered. ‘We will. Because my place is right next to you, Hailey Connor.’”
In love and romance,