Arm Candy, by Jo Leigh

>> Wednesday, September 01, 2004

99% percent of the times, I don't buy books unless someone's recommended them. The rec can be a review at a place I trust, someone's comment on a message board, anything. I especially follow this rule with category romance, but I made an exception for Arm Candy, by Jo Leigh, basically because I've liked everything I've read by this author.

Marketing whiz Jessica Howell needs some "arm candy"-a deliciously sexy man by her side to keep her married playboy boss in line. Dan Crawford fits the bill-he's handsome, discreet and available. Helping gorgeous Jess with her dilemma is a treat for Dan-and very tempting. Attend a few parties, exchange heated glances, kiss her senseless...pretend to be in love. Tough job? Except there's no pretense after they share one night of sizzling no-holds-barred sex. Dan doesn't want to be kept at arm's length anymore. But will their hot fling lead to the real thing? Or will he always be...Arm Candy?
I really enjoyed Arm Candy. The plot itself was nothing special, but I really liked the characters. Jo Leigh is an author whose young people really do feel like young people, and yes, Jessica and Dan really did feel like people my age. I'd give this a B+.

I completely understood Jessica. I don't share her "money and power are everything and I'll derive happiness solely from this" stance, but I can definitely understand how she'd come to be this way. I very much liked that Leigh didn't completely emasculate her in the end of the book. Jessica doesn't ultimately decide that all she needs is love and she'll give up everything she's always worked for and be happy only with her man's love. Nope, Jessica gets everything! The high powered career she wants, and the supportive partner who loves her to go with it.

Dan was lovely. I really liked his attitude towards life, his boundless, almost childlike curiosity about everything and anything. And Leigh gave him a backstory that made perfect sense and explained how he'd become that way. This curiosity of his played nicely into the story, since the payment he demanded of Jessica was to be able to ask her any question he wanted and she'd have to tell him the truth, however intimate. Leigh got some very provocative scenes from that.

I also loved how Dan was attracted to Jessica's strenght and drive, and that even though his role in their relationship was, at least at first, basically rescuing from a harassing boss, he was always very clear that Jessica wasn't the damsel in distress type, and he actually much prefered this.

The plot was simple, and the whole deal about Jessica having to "hire" someone to keep her boss away from her and not sexually harass her could have felt like an "only in category romance" situation. Only, it worked. It felt natural, not contrived, probably because the characters' reactions to it all were very believable.

There was a secondary storyline, too, but that one as very underwritten. It simply wasn't given enough space, so I never came to care for these people. It also didn't add much to the story, only an example of someone who was taking a different path from the one Jess was planning to take, but I didn't think this was needed to show Jess what she could have. Also, this secondary love story was a bit too sweet for me.

The ending of the book was good. At first, I didn't much like that it felt anticlimactic. No "a-ha!" moment, no final conflict, just Jess gradually seeing what it could be like with Dan. But then I realized that this was exactly what Jess would need to be convinced, actually experiencing the possibilities, and I now think this was the perfect ending for this story.


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