A Lot Like Love, by Julie James

>> Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TITLE: A Lot Like Love
AUTHOR: Julie James

PAGES: 304
PUBLISHER: Berkley Sensation

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: There'll be a sequel in April 2012: About That Night

Jordan Rhodes is invited to all of Chicago's best parties, but there's only one the FBI wants to crash. To get her brother out of jail, she agrees to take Agent McCall as her date. But when the mission gets botched, requiring their "relationship" to continue, it starts to feel less like an investigation-and a lot like something else.
Trying to get evidence of money laundering that will convict a local crime boss, the FBI need access to a very exclusive wine tasting evening in order to plant the bugs they need in the right place. Fortunately, one of the guests is heiress Jordan Rhodes.

Jordan's beloved brother has been in jail for a few months, after the prosecutor decided to make an example out of him for some relatively harmless bad behaviour, and she's worried about him. He puts on a brave face whenever she visits, but she knows he's had a few run-ins with other inmates. So when the cops offer to let him out if she cooperates with their plans and takes one of them along to the wine tasting as her guest, she goes along with the plan.

But things don't go exactly as expected. The harmless-looking agent who was supposed to pose as her new guy comes down with a bug at the last minute, and the only one who can jump in is the very aggressively good-looking and macho Nick McCall, who just rubs her wrong. And then it turns out that the target of the investigation has a bit of a crush on Jordan (yep, even crime bosses crush on girls), and has decided to dig some dirt of her new boyfriend. Nick is now being followed, and it wouldn't look right if he had no more contact with Jordan, right?

Julie James is fast becoming an autobuy author, with her smart, competent heroines and the men who adore that about them. A Lot Like Love has that in spades. Just as in James' previous book, we have a hero who's quite macho, but who relishes the fact that the woman he loves is independent and strong in her own right. Both Nick and Jack, from Something About You (to be reviewed soon), are well aware that some people might see the women they are with (a heiress to billions and a high-powered prosecutor) as out of their league, but they're self-assured enough that they don't care. I loved that about them.

And it was not just the abstract dynamics of the relationship that I loved about ALLL. Jordan and Nick were great together, with fantastic banter and chemistry. The writing flowed beautifully. The secondary characters were well-done and made me want to read more about them (Jordan's brother), without it feeling like James was sequel-baiting. There were some very funny scenes, which balanced out the more serious tone of the suspense plot. And that suspense plot was actually quite good. The villain was very believable: he wasn't doing what he was doing because he was evil and wanted to do evil things, as we often get in romantic suspense. In fact, this wasn't really romantic suspense. The suspense was just there to force these two together and to provide a bit of tension at the end, but it was never the focus.

My only complaint is that the book felt a bit short. It was almost as if it was wrapping up before it had completely got going, and this meant that I didn't feel like I saw Nick falling in love, it was more like one minute he was scoffing at the very idea of him falling in love with anyone, and the next, he was admitting to himself, and without much struggle, that he had done just that. Still, a very enjoyable read.



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