Arm Candy by Jessica Lemmon, narrated by Teddy Hamilton & Erin Mallon

Stubbled, dark-haired white guy in a blue/grey suit and a light blue shirt and a blue tie, standing with his hands in his trouser pockets against a backdrop that looks like a projection of boiled lollies against a white wallWhy I read it:  I had this one on my TBR but hadn’t got around to reading it yet. Teddy Hamilton is a big draw for me on audio so it was a no-brainer.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Last call! At the end of the night, a clean-cut hunk and a rebellious bartender act on their unlikely chemistry in this frisky standalone novel from the author of Eye Candy. Davis: I’ve had my eye on Grace Buchanan for a while now. Unlike the bubbly blondes I usually date, the feisty, flame-haired bartender both intrigues and bewilders me. Something about Grace – the tattoos? The nose ring? – makes every part of me sit up and beg. There’s only one problem: She hates me. Trading insults and one-liners has become our M.O. But when Grace bets me that I can’t get a date with a non-blonde if my life depends on it, I’m determined to prove her wrong by landing the ultimate non-blonde: her.

Grace: I’m used to regulars hitting on me, and I’ve turned them all down except for one: Davis Price. I like giving him a hard time, and he’s kind of cute in his suit and tie – if you’re into that kind of thing. Anyway, I don’t care how many blondes he takes home…until one of them sidles up to him in my bar. Nuh-uh. But after my little bet with Davis backfires, our first date lands us in the sack. So does the second. And the third. Neither of us wants more than the best sex of our lives. The trouble is, it’s not a question of what I want. It’s what I need. And what I need is Davis.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I’ve heard great things about Jessica Lemmon books and I’ve bought a few but not managed to actually read them. (This isn’t uncommon. MOST of the books on my giant TBR will languish unread forever and ever unless I stumble across a time turner and live an extremely long life. And also if they stop publishing new books.) So when I saw Arm Candy in the Audible Romance package it was a nice opportunity to give her a try at little risk. Plus, I’ve recently become enamoured with Teddy Hamilton’s narrations and I was happy to have an excuse to listen to his voice in my ears again. I like Erin Mallon’s narrations too. But Teddy Hamilton’s voice has a sexy drawl which just does it for me.

Davis has been “playing the field” since his fiance jilted him at the altar. She sounds awful to be honest. It’s not so much that she was presented that way (although I admit I’m not super sensitive to some of those cues so I could well be wrong here) but, laughing as one is leaving a wedding when you are the bride and you’re not actually married? That seems particularly harsh. I had trouble understanding how someone could be that cruel which it didn’t appear that Davis had treated her poorly at all. If he had been abusive I could maybe see it but he’s not that guy.

Anyway, he swore of true love and meaningful relationships (and redheads) after this and in the six years since then he has dated blondes only and specifically chosen women he is attracted to physically but doesn’t want to get to know. It did make me roll my eyes when it came up in the book – at first I thought he was joking – but Davis offers “packages” to these women – rather like a spa menu, he gives them options to choose exactly which “treatment” she wants and then he delivers. It was a way for him to keep his emotional distance and also to establish intention and, to some degree, consent. I don’t think it was really suggested that ongoing consent wasn’t needed, but if the woman had asked for the “deluxe” he pretty much knew what was going to happen. He doesn’t sound very attractive really. But he showed the women a good time and they were all consenting adults. He didn’t make promises he didn’t keep so I’m not going to judge. (Well, I am, a little.)

Davis goes to a local bar, McGreevy’s, where Grace Buchanan is an assistant manager and tends the bar. Grace started bar tending to help pay off her student loans and found she liked the work much more than working in an office so she ditched the office job. Her mother is constantly disappointed by this choice but Grace is happy.

Grace and Davis have had a bit of sexy banter going but nothing happens between them until she bets him he won’t date a “non-blonde” and offers extra if the date is a redhead. Guess what colour Grace’s hair is?

Grace chooses a package and both she and Davis think it will be a one-night stand and then they’ll go back to being friends. But one night is not enough. Grace upgrades to the “platinum” which is three dates, by which time she thinks she will have screwed Davis out of her system. But three dates is not enough either.

Davis realises that he’s actually ready to a proper relationship and he enjoys Grace; her intelligence and wit, as well as her body. Grace is far more gun-shy than Davis. Her parents had a messy and ugly divorce. Her dad took off and her mother spent the next decade or more telling Grace that relationships don’t last and divorce/heartbreak is inevitable and don’t trust a man etc etc. She’s never had more than a short-term fling and the feelings she develops for Davis terrify her.

Grace and Davis clearly belong together however. They are incredibly compatible in all of the ways, with scorching hot chemistry. Each of them just have to get over their fears – Davis’s fear that Grace will ditch him like his ex did, Grace’s fear or relationships in general.

Of course there is a HEA – but I’m happy to report that the inevitable black moment doesn’t last long and the reunion is very satisfying.

What else? Both narrators did a great job, with Teddy Hamilton reading Davis’s sections and Erin Mallon doing Grace’s. I mentioned the sexy drawl Teddy Hamilton speaks with; let me just say that his nickname for Grace – “Gracie Lou” is something special. Both of them delivered the tone, tension and emotion of the story well and I raced through the listen.

I’m sure I found Davis more attractive because of the voice he was given by Teddy Hamilton. And I’m sure I was less impatient with Grace’s fears and insecurities because of Erin Mallon’s depiction of her.

A good audiobook brings something extra in the narrative performance and that’s what happened here.

Grade: B

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