Source: we received a copy of the book from the author in exchange of an honest review.
I’ve been a fan of Ms. Grant’s blog for a while now so when I got the opportunity to read one of her books I jumped right into it (and it didn’t hurt that the blurb sounded like it was right up my alley).
Rebecca’s life is in shambles. Her grandmother has dementia, she works two crappy jobs in order to save her house, her ex-boyfriend is pestering and harassing her and she’s recovering from an eating disorder that almost killed her. She has good days and bad days, but she never gives up.
On the other hand we have Xavier. This is a guy who’s been lucky in everything but love. He has a great job, a loving family and an overall sense of stability, he’s Rebecca’s complete opposite. However, his love life is crappy to say the least. His fiancé left him for someone else and he’s just tired of meaningless relationships. After seeing how happy his sisters and coworkers are, he realizes that he’s lonely and needs someone to share his life with.
Xavier is a frequent patron of the café where Rebecca works as a waitress. They are attracted to each other and he tries to pursue her, but Rebecca is weary because she regards Xavier as a shallow and rich womanizer since that’s how her ex was, and she figures he’s the same. And so she just gives him the cold shoulder and the occasional evil-eye. But just like in any romance story fate keeps throwing them together, and the more they learn about one another, the more they feel the connection between them. But whereas Xavier is ready for love and commitment, Rebecca’s life needs fixing before she can embark on a healthy relationship, and there’s a lot to fix, so as I always say, the road to their happy ending won’t be an easy one.
I love damaged heroines and Rebecca fits the bill perfectly. When I started the book and saw everything she was going through, the first thing I thought was that she was in serious trouble. There’s just so much a person can endure before reaching the breaking point and she was right about to get there, or so it seemed. The thing is that once you read about her past you realize that she already reached her breaking point and the place she’s at now is the aftermath of that. So she was an interesting mix of strong and weak, good and bad. At times she was infuriating and at times admirable. My favorite thing about the book was how Ms. Grant deals with Rebecca’s disorder, it wasn’t a gimmick to move the plot forward and it wasn’t glossed over. It wasn’t the main conflict of the book, but it was kept front and center the whole time because it was an essential part of the character and something she was constantly struggling with, and at times it was painful to read, especially when you learn the whole story. By the end of the book you know she will make it, but you also know it’s a work in process. We can all sympathize with a character like that because I think we all deal, or have dealt, with self-image issues, or at least know someone who has.
Xavier was not as well-developed as Rebecca, this is book three in a series and I know he is a recurrent character throughout the books, so perhaps someone familiar with the other stories might have a deeper comprehension of the character, but still I loved him. I’m not usually a fan of books where one of the leads is a wreck and the other perfect, but in this case it works because Xavier represents the stability Rebecca was lacking.
There’s a remarkable cast of secondary characters. The ex-boyfriend was an abusive jerk more crazy than evil, to be honest I was confused by his actions, especially towards the end. But there’s another character that plays a somewhat antagonistic role that I thought was going to be the typical evil woman who breaks havoc in the couple’s relationship, but instead she ended up being layered and even insightful. I wonder if she’s going to get her own book because I see potential there for a very interesting heroine.
The sex scenes are hot and Ms. Grant has a rare gift because she uses the word pussy in a way that didn’t make me cringe, a huge accomplishment since I hate the word, it irks me and I always feel like it cheapens the sex. However, it didn’t bother me here, I didn’t love it, but in a way it works. Lots of hot sex in the story, but there’s an actual courtship first, another rare occurrence.
My main problem with the story is that when a person has so many issues I want them to overcome them on their own, and I felt like Xavier was almost like the knight in shining armor coming to rescue her and make it all better. It makes me uncomfortable when a character finds happiness because they find their better half, a person who happens to be the magical cure to all their problems. I think that regardless of how much you love someone you should never rely only on them. Your life and your well-being should never entirely depend on someone else. This is a personal view and I’m not saying that damaged people shouldn’t have a relationship; I’m saying that the relationship should be part of the solution, but not The solution. So even though Rebecca comes across as independent and a fighter, I felt like she was relying too much on Xavier.
Another issue I had was regarding the house. Rebecca’s grandmother bought this huge mansion hoping to turn it into an inn, a dream Rebecca shared with her. But they lost a lot of money when Rebecca got sick and what was left was used to take care of her grandmother. So now she had this massive house, with a huge mortgage, no dream, lots of bills and two backbreaking jobs that didn’t help much. Yet she was hell-bent on keeping the house. I understand the emotional attachment, but life is hard and we not always get to follow our dreams, and when that happens we make sacrifices and then get new dreams, or revisit the old ones once we have the means to achieve them. This is a romance novel so there’s a HEA and there’s some foreshadowing at one point in the book, so you pretty much can figure out how this ends early on, but even though I was happy for her, I was also annoyed because realistic and bitter-sweet endings can be happy, and you can’t always get what you want
Overall this was a great story about overcoming adversity and healing. A sweet romance that was all about the characters and their internal struggles, with a compelling and relatable heroine and a swoon-worthy hero. If you are like me, and love contemporary romance, I’m sure you will enjoy Xavier’s Loving Arms.
Review by Brie
Xavier Marks has the looks, great job, and more than enough money to throw around. The only thing missing is a woman by his side. He hasn’t had much luck in love since he caught his fiancée’ cheating on him, and isn’t too happy about his current bachelor status. But that may all change when a cute barista from a coffee shop catches his eye. Perhaps she can help him lick his wounds?
Life hasn’t always been too kind to Rebecca Price. She hides a shameful secret that still threatens to destroy her. With a grandmother suffering from dementia, and the threat of foreclosure on her childhood home, she may have no choice but to turn to a possessive ex-boyfriend who won’t settle for anything less than marriage. She’s ready to give up all hope when a suave, yet seemingly kind-hearted man enters her life and comes to her rescue.
Rebecca is wary of placing her trust in Xavier, who wants to be more than a shoulder for her to lean on. But as the two grow close, Rebecca’s guilt over her past continues to haunt her. Xavier wants to show Rebecca that the one place she can feel whole and at peace is in his loving arms.
Decadent Publishing. December 27, 2011.