For months, real estate tycoon, Xavier Marks, has had a crush on the cute barista who works at the coffee shop across the street from his office building. When he spots her working as a waitress at a party he's attending and she appears to be trying to evade a man's unwanted advances, his protective instincts kick in, but when he approaches her to make sure she's all right and then asks her out, she rebuffs him. Not to be deterred, Xavier goes to the coffee shop the next morning to try again. Unbeknownst to him, she's having a terrible day, and when he gallantly offers his handkerchief to dry her tears, she starts to warm up to him. He leaves the handkerchief with her, eliciting a promise that she'll meet with him to return it sometime soon.
When Xavier gave her his handkerchief, Becca Price began to see him in a whole new light, but it wasn't until he rescued her from an awkward social situation at a club and took her out for ice cream that she really started to fall for him. For years, Becca has been battling an eating disorder that has severely skewed her self-image. She has been on a slow road to recovery, but with her house about to be foreclosed on, her grandmother suffering from end-stage Alzheimer's, and her ex-boyfriend trying to blackmail her into marrying him, Becca is struggling mightily with the temptation to return to her old way of handling things. Xavier seems to instinctively understand her and is always ready to lend his support, but will he still believe in her if he finds out the truth about her past?
Xavier's Loving Arms is a tender, emotional romance about a young woman who is trying her best to recover from an eating disorder, but at the same time, the rest of her world seems to be crumbling around her. Luckily, she finds unconditional love in the arms of a wonderful man right when she needs it most. KT Grant confesses in her author's note at the end of the book that she herself has battled an eating disorder, and in my opinion, her first-hand knowledge of the condition definitely shows through in Becca's character. I have to applaud Ms. Grant for her courage not only in tackling a serious topic like this but for putting herself and her experiences out there in hopes of inspiring and/or helping other people.
From the beginning, it was obvious that Becca was a woman who had experienced deep hurts in the past. At first, she tends to cover up those hurts by being a bit prickly. She works hard at two jobs, but still can't make ends meet and is about to lose her house that she has lived in most of her life. It's an old Victorian home that her grandmother had dreamed of converting into a Bed & Breakfast before she fell ill. Becca's grandmother, who is her only living relative, now suffers from a severe case of Alzheimer's. Needless to say, Becca's life is pretty much a three-alarm fire, and she's struggling to "stay on the wagon," and not revert back to her eating disorder to feel in control. The one thing that I predict some romance readers may take issue with though, is Becca's relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Dev. It's pretty clear that he played a big part in her developing an eating disorder in the first place, because she practically worshiped the man when they were dating and he pressured her to lose weight. Their relationship was tumultuous, to say the least, and probably emotionally abusive. Now that Becca is healthier, she knows Dev is bad for her, and yet, she still allows him to keep coming around and trying to weasel his way back into her life. Even though she obviously doesn't like Dev in that way anymore and doesn't welcome his advances, I felt like she was kind of sending him mixed signals by occasionally leaning on him emotionally before her romance with Xavier developed. Becca did try to put her foot down and tell Dev she only wanted to be friends, but he clearly was not getting the message and even started blackmailing her to get her back. Since the man didn't seem to be capable of respecting her boundaries, I thought she should have taken stronger measures, kicked him to the curb, and demanded that he stop coming around. Still, there was a part of me that understood he was a comfortable and familiar person in the midst of her turmoil, and her loneliness and low self-esteem kept her from fully putting him in his place.
Xavier is an absolute dreamboat. I want a Xavier for myself.;-) The man is suave and charming, but despite his wonderful personality, Becca kind of gives him the cold shoulder at first. Even though she refuses to go out with him initially, Xavier is determined to win her over. Also, from the moment they meet, he feels protective toward her and instinctively knows that she has been deeply hurt in the past. All he wants is to be the one to heal her and take care of her, but at the same time, he is willing to give her space when she needs it. He naturally respects her as an individual, and leads her to the resources she needs, so that she feels like she's helping herself rather than him just swooping in to give her everything on a silver platter. Of course, this is something Dev never understood, so I felt like this was an ingenious way to show the contrast between these two men. Xavier has a large, loving, close-knit family, which is something Becca desperately needed in her life too. Xavier is quite simply a sweet, gentle, comforting and supportive man who intuitively knew when Becca was in distress and was always there with a shoulder for her to lean on when she was open to that.
I did worry a little about Xavier and Becca's relationship, because in the beginning, it seemed a little unbalanced and dysfunctional to me. As wonderful as it was to have Xavier playing the knight in shining armor, Becca was in an emotionally needy place in her life. Sometimes their love scenes were born out of her emotional desire to escape her present circumstances, even if only for a short time. It kind of left the scales somewhat out of balance, with Xavier doing all the giving and Becca all the taking, which in the real world isn't usually a good place from which to start a relationship. Despite that, I still understood the dynamics at play and was generally OK with it, especially when Becca finally returned to therapy in the end.
Xavier's Loving Arms is the third book in the Sweet & Sinful series and the first I've read by KT Grant. Normally, I wouldn't read series books out of order, but I didn't realize until after I bought an ebook copy that was part of a series. Since I needed an "X" book for my A-Z title reading challenge and since I rarely buy more than one ebook by an untried author, I decided to take a chance. I'm happy to say it turned out quite well. There are a lot of supporting characters who I suspect played roles in the previous books, but it wasn't too difficult to figure out who they were, even though knowledge of those other books probably would have helped. Xavier was the third point in the love triangle in book #2, The Claiming of Suzy, and the hero and heroine of that book showed up in a couple of scenes.
Overall, Xavier's Loving Arms was a very good read that only had a few small downsides. Maybe it's because I'm an introvert, but the social situations during the early part of the book and the sheer volumes of secondary characters were sometimes a little overwhelming for me. Once it got to the scenes of Xavier and Becca alone together, I found it to be a much more comfortable read. It took a little while to build up to the love scenes which I'm completely fine with, but once they finally did start, there seemed to be a few too many too close together. Granted they were snowed in for the day, but it seemed like page after page of sex with only minimal depictions of other activities in between. I think a little more balance here might have been nice. Also, some of the words used during the love scenes weren't exactly romantic to me, but that's a fairly minor quibble. Otherwise, I really enjoyed the story. Xavier made it more than worth it and made me long to be the one wrapped in his 'loving arms.' I look forward to backtracking and checking out the earlier books in the series as well as KT Grant's other work.
Note: This book contains some frank language that I typically only see in erotic romances. However, I would consider the content of the love scenes to be on par with steamy mainstream romances and not kinky at all, except perhaps the hero and heroine coming up with a creative use for ice pops.;-)
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