Monday, April 24, 2017

ARC Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James

Series:     USAO/FBI
Pub. Date:April 18, 2017
Length:400 pages

It's been a while since I have read anything by Julie James, and now that I am back on the wagon, I need to catch up on her books for the last several years. As an attorney and fed myself, I am hesitant these days to pick up some legal-themed romances because I tend to pick them apart. But Julie James' stories are well-researched and don't make me twitchy like some other legal/LEO plots.  This last book of hers I read was in the FBI/USAO series, and I'm not sure if this book is included in that series or not. It's not listed as being included on Goodreads, Amazon or iBooks... but there is some character crossover with that series and the main characters here are FBI agents. You can read it as a standalone, but it would also be enjoyable to know some of the stories of the secondary characters that pop in from the FBI angle.

John Shepherd is a former Army Ranger who was recruited into the FBI after his military service. He is an all around bad ass, and a candidate for the Hostage Rescue Team - the FBI's elite counter-terrorism team. I immediately had a connection with John, particularly after the ugly end to his relationship at the start of the book. He is what I would consider a stereotypical military guy - an ambitious and hard-working go-getter. He was good-natured and funny, and just an all-around good dude. James did a good job establishing John's turmoil both over his relationship, and his feelings of confusion (at times) and inferiority during flashbacks to his time at the FBI Academy. 

Jessica Harlow, a graduate of Stanford Law, joined the ranks of the FBI at the same time as John Shepherd, and they were contentious rivals in the Academy. I had a harder time with Jessica's character. She definitely had a chip on her shoulder, and she knew it. She knew she had something to prove as one of two females in her entry class at Quantico, but I wasn't crazy how she went about it. When John approaches her with friendly banter and helpful tips, Jessica throws up a wall between them or acts like she is too good for him. And six years later when they meet again, she reverts to that same personality. But once she lost that chip on her shoulder, I actually liked her and started to connect to her character. 

The relationship between John and Jessica unfolded at a nice pace... not instalove but not stretched out to the end of the book either. It was almost an enemies-to-lovers situation, but they weren't quite enemies... maybe frenemies would be a better (non)word. Once they got past their dislike of one another, the attraction and chemistry came through strong and hot. 

As I said above, James researches her stories well. The details about the FBI and the investigations were realistic and didn't require that I suspend my belief. I wasn't quite happy with how things played out with the HRT, but that is more of a professional hazard based on my personal experience. The investigation at issue here is of the white collar variety, so there wasn't any suspense or danger, but it was interesting nonetheless. 

Secondary characters from past stories had small cameos, with larger roles played by John and Jessica's family. I loved John's dad and Jessica's twin siblings. The families added a feel-good aspect to the story and made the characters seem more real and relatable. 

I voluntarily reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, Berkley.