Arm Candy by Jessica Lemmon is just the kind of romance you’ll want to pick up if you’re looking for something lighthearted, sexy, and relatively low on angst. I’ve read a few of the author’s books in other series and enjoyed them, so with the cover and synopsis snagging my attention, and knowing she writes standalones in series well, I started in on book two of the Real Love series with high hopes. I am very happy with the result.
Grace Buchanan is a bartender at McGreevy’s pub. She’s well suited to the job, and truth be told isn’t looking for any other kind of career. She loves chatting with the regulars, is good at fending off over-amorous suitors and is happy with her single life. Her divorced parents (both, coincidentally divorce lawyers themselves) have soured her on the idea of happy ever afters so she’s definitely not looking for a relationship – even if one of her patrons keeps catching her eye.
Davis Price is the kind of guy who likes to follow a schedule. He works from home as a stock analyst and even there he sticks to regular hours, wearing his suit and tie and clocking out at 5pm, most often to head to McGreevy’s. He won’t admit that he’s lonely, but he needs some company after spending those working hours all alone. He’s always well dressed, makes Grace turn the TV above the bar to CNN (she usually does it when she sees him anyway), and verbal sparring with the fiery redhead (who changes shades on a surprisingly frequent basis) is undeniably one of the highlights of his day. He can make millions in a few hours (and often does) but the friendly down home atmosphere of the pub is more to his liking than a snobby restaurant. Just like his work schedule, his dating life is organized, too – blondes only, few repeats. Predictability never breeds excitement. Grace, on the other hand, is never predictable.
A discussion between Grace and Davis on the latter’s penchant for petite blondes leads to a discussion about his ‘type’ and then a bet and next thing you know, Grace is reluctantly agreeing to a date with hiim. Like all other things in his life, even his dating life has rules; he offers three packages to a potential partner: The Davis, the Davis Deluxe, and The Platinum Davis. Each has specific options. Sexting for example is only allowed as part of the deluxe package. When Gracie decides she wants the Platinum, Davis is delighted and proceeds to show her the best dating time of her life. Content at the start with a temporary arrangement, what will happen when one of them decides they want more?
Everyone deserves a date with a man like Davis, at least once in their life! He’s almost too good to be true, a gentleman in every sense of the word. He’s got manners, he’s got charm, he’s caring and protective, he’s a generous lover – really, he’s the full package. It’s no wonder that the blondes he meets and treats so well are always after a repeat, a fact that Grace had often noticed at the pub with a twinge of jealousy even before she and Davis made their bet. Now she knows why, and it’s a good thing this agreement with Davis has an end date because it would be really easy to fall for a guy like him, a fact that causes Grace some anxiety when she and Davis start to go beyond the bounds of their initial agreement. The sexual chemistry between them leads to some steamy scenes and the realization for both of them that it’s not going to be so easy to turn that off and go back to just being friends.
The story is told in first person from both points of view. Though I’m more used to that in new adult novels, it really works well here, giving insight into both of their characters. There is a good balance of humorous introspection and banter between Grace and Davis, and as a result, plenty of laugh-out-loud moments for the reader. They are both really likable, which makes their relationship quite fun to watch as it unfolds. Davis and Grace have both been hurt before in their personal lives and have some baggage to contend with that affects how they view this relationship and the choices they make.
Davis’s best friend Vince cautions him against moving too fast and these conversations between the guys are equally delightful as they have that ‘bro-mance’ quality where they can tease each other, and still give serious advice. Family plays an important role too, and we get some scenes with Davis’s grandmother who raised him (she’s a hoot!), and Grace’s estranged father (who has cancer) also makes an appearance. Here the story veers into more emotional territory, and the surprising strength of Davis and Grace’s feelings towards each other in a short time also makes for some teary-eyed moments. Even with these scenes however, the overall tone of the story is light and leans towards the romantic comedy end of the spectrum.
Grace and Davis have ample reasons not to trust that what they are experiencing is the real deal. They have to work through some of their issues – separately and together – in order to get their happy ever after, but it comes with the knowledge that what they’ve found is worth the risks. Arm Candy is a sexy romance that is going on my re-read shelf, with a sigh of envy for Grace having found a partner like Davis.
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