By Design by JA ArmstrongBy Design by JA Armstrong is an episodic series following New York State Senator Candace Fletcher and Jameson “J.D.” Reid.

Candace spends most of her time in Washington, DC, but home is her grandparents’ former house in New York state, which she wants to restore to its former grandeur. When she asks for a consultation from friend of a friend and renowned architect J.D. Reid, she doesn’t expect Jameson to be an attractive, impossibly charming woman 20 years her junior.

Flirting over email, phone, and many a dinner of Chinese food, Candace can’t help falling for the younger woman, despite being positive it could never work with such a large age gap between them. Jameson is no less smitten, having found her match in one of the few people in politics who still appears to have integrity on top of a quick wit and beauty.

Will Candace ever get over their age difference? Will Jameson ever realize that Candace is, in fact, not out of her league? Yes! Because there are five installments so far, and I’ve only just outlined the first.

The Characters

The characters, both main and supporting, are the strength of the series. Everyone is believable and the relationships are well developed, whether between Candace and Jameson, or them and their friends and family. New characters are added throughout the series as Candace’s youngest two children enter relationships of their own or friends and extended family are introduced, but the sense of community is always there.

The Writing Style

I’ve seen the occasional complaint that the installments are not long enough, and I firmly disagree. The series is intentionally episodic, so each story within can be read in a sitting or two, but you can also power through all of the episodes that are currently out. None of them can stand alone, but I find them satisfying because I love learning more about these characters and their lives.

The Pros

The character interaction is a delight, and Armstrong writes high quality flirting. The payoff of recurring jokes (bible study!) is satisfying because it makes the reader feel like part of the fabric of the family.

[tweetthis]“I don’t need a cookie to predict your future,” Jameson said. [/tweetthis]

The Cons

I can’t stand the nickname Candy, especially for an intelligent, accomplished woman. There are also more typos than I prefer to see, especially in the first book.

Tara's Favourite Novels reviewed on on TheLesbianReview.comThe Conclusion

J.A. Armstrong has three series going at the moment and By Design is the best, in my opinion. There are five installments out and you should read them all.

Excerpt from By Design by JA Armstrong

“Mom?” Candace made her way to the sound of Michelle’s voice. “There’s a car headed up the driveway.” Candace peered out the window with her daughter. The moment she saw Jameson’s car, she began to smile. Michelle looked at her mother and fought to conceal her knowing smirk. “Let me guess; Jameson?”

Candace nodded and headed for the front door just as Jameson was exiting her car. She stood on the front step, smiling at the approaching architect. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

“Didn’t you request Chinese food?” Jameson held up the bag.

Candace bit her lip gently as Jameson stepped up to her. “You’re a lunatic; you know that?” she asked. Jameson just winked. “You drove all the way back here from Ithaca to deliver Chinese food?”

“Maybe I just missed you,” Jameson said without thinking. Candace stared at the woman before her as her heart rate instantly increased. “Besides, Pearl would never forgive me if you drank wine on an empty stomach,” Jameson pointed out. “Are you going to let me in?” she asked playfully.

“Depends,” Candace said.


“How many fortune cookies are in that bag?”

“I don’t need a cookie to predict your future,” Jameson said.

“Really?” Jameson closed her eyes and pretended to concentrate. “I see it now; chicken wings, spare ribs, lo mein, and wine.” She opened her eyes. “How’d I do?”

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By Design Series

By Design

Under Construction

Solid Foundation

Rough Drafts

New Additions


Building Blocks

Road Blocks

Campaign Trail

Election Day

Commander in Chief

Situation Room

Domestic Policy

Bits and Bobs


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