Skip to main content

Review of "The Thing About Love" by Julie James

Title: The Thing About Love
Author: Julie James
Publisher: Berkley
Series: FBI/US Attorney Book #7
Price: $10.99 (paperback) $8.99 (e-book) $15.74 (Audible Audio)
Rating⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2

From The Publisher

Two undercover FBI agents can hide who they are from everyone but each other in the latest novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Suddenly One Summer.
After spending six years in Los Angeles—and the last six months wondering how her marriage fell apart—FBI Special Agent Jessica Harlow is looking for a fresh start. When she finds out that the Chicago field office has an opening for an undercover agent, returning to her hometown seems like the perfect answer. But her new partner, John Shepherd, is someone she never expected to see again. Six years ago, the cocky Army Ranger was her top competition at the FBI Academy, and the one man who got under her skin like no other. 
Just one assignment away from joining the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team, John isn't going to let anything throw him off his game—not even the self-assured woman who once showed him up at Quantico. He'll work with Jessica to take down a corrupt Florida politician, even if pretending to be business partners staying at a beachfront resort means getting closer than they'd expected. For two experienced agents, it should be a simple enough assignment, but the heat behind their nonstop sparring threatens to make the job a whole lot more complicated…

The Review

Back when I was in college, I would leave for school about 2 hours before my classes started because my local bus was unreliable to the extreme.  This often lead to me reading whatever paperback I had stashed in my backpack (unless, of course, I had a test I needed to study for), reading from the moment I stepped foot on the bus, stopping only to walk from the bus to the Dining Hall, where I would inevitably start reading again (let's face it, I was my college's Rory Gilmore, book in hand, headphones firmly in place).  There were a few times that I would become so engrossed in the book I was reading that when I would eventually look at the small digital display on my old Trac Phone (yes, I had one of those clunky brick-like phones that would probably still function in the aftermath of a nuclear blast), I would realize that I missed the first half of my class.  The Thing About Love would definitely have been one of those books.  In fact, I found myself sneaking away from my desk at work, hoping to get a good five minutes of reading in before I had to go back to looking at houses that I will never be able to afford.  Yes, this book is that good.  It is the type of book that while reading it, you find yourself smiling like a lunatic and hoping that no one asks you why you're so happy.

One of the things I like about reading this series is that Julie James is a master of writing characters who know what they are doing.  She does her research and uses it to make her characters absolute professionals no matter what they're doing.  A lot of people talk about Competence Porn and this book is a perfect example of that -- both Jessica and John feel like real people, who I would trust to get shit done (good qualities in FBI agents, I would assume).  Some of my favorite scenes are the ones where they are undercover as Ashley and Dave, where they had to pretend to be financial professionals willing to bribe a high-level public official into doing them a "favor."  The way these characters are written, you would never know that they weren't exactly what they seemed to be.

Something that struck me as I was reading was that they were almost always undercover in some form.  Even when they weren't pretending to be Ashley and Dave, there was always something else going on with them.  First, they had to pretend that they liked each other (which I did not get) and then they had to pretend that they were simply partners without any other kind of feelings going on at all.  I like the fact that at the end of the book, when they realized that they wanted to be together officially that they would have to come clean about their relationship and that it wasn't going to be easy because there would be consequences (more for Jessica than for John -- because patriarchy and double standards) to having hooked up while being involved in an undercover operation.  I thought this was an interesting layer that I don't think I've seen before and I really liked the way they handled it.

While I loved this book, there are a few things that are stuck in my craw.  First, there is a stunning lack of relationships outside of the one Jessica shares with John.  She's shown as having a big, boisterous family, but they really aren't involved in the narrative, save for a few scenes where they were necessary to the plot.  Every once in a while there were text message conversations between Jess and her siblings, who were competing over setting her up with a rebound guy.  I loved those scenes, but there weren't enough of them.  John had a few more relationships, but they were only present to further John's character arc.  Hell, the book starts with him cutting four people out of his life, and while his reasons are completely understandable, it felt like Ms. James was creating a bubble for John and Jessica.  It was weird.  I don't think I've noticed this in any of her other books.

Another issue I had was the descriptions of the characters, specifically how John was described.  On several occasions, he was compared to Thor.  Had I not been familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and The Avengers movies, I wouldn't know what John looked like!  Sure, there were comments about him being blonde and muscular, but those aren't very specific characteristics so I wouldn't be able to picture him in my head.  It isn't just John who gets this treatment; one of Jessica's friends is later described as looking like Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy.  Because I'd only ever seen Zoe Saldana in her green makeup, I actually had to Google her to know what this character is supposed to look like.

Finally, I was not a big fan of the way we found out about what went down between John and Jessica when they were in the academy.  It felt way too clunky and could have been handled better had the characters simply talked to each other about their misconceptions about that time.  This was the rare case where telling would have been better than showing.  I didn't even know that was possible!

Honestly, these are pretty minor issues when the book is taken as a whole.  The relationship between John and Jessica just shines and Ms. James's writing is as lovely and witty as ever.  There is one point in which she does get a little schmaltzy, but surprisingly I really liked it and it reminded me of one of my favorite Rom-Com moments:

Obviously, it wasn't a direct quote (that would be weird and I bet Nora Ephron's estate would cry foul), but it was along the same lines and despite the schmaltz, it works.  I found myself sighing as John professed his love for Jessica.  It was beautiful and romantic, and it worked perfectly for who those characters were to each other.

I want to leave you guys with one last thing: The FBI's airline of choice is United.  Something tells me that no one is going to want to mess with this guy (even without what I am assuming is the war paint and armor) -- and, yes, that was my way of getting a picture of Thor in my review:

Not that Jessica couldn't take care of herself -- she knows some kind of leg trick that I hear works very well.  :)


Popular posts from this blog

Review of "The Other Miss Bridgerton" by Julia Quinn

Title: The Other Miss Bridgerton
Author: Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesby #3
Publisher: Avon
Price: $6.99 (e-book) $5.77 (mass market paperback) $21.55 (Audible)
Rating:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 I love Julia Quinn.  A few years ago, I stumbled upon Just Like Heaven in the Howard Beach library; I'd heard of Ms. Quinn before, but hadn't actually read one of her books.  Immediately after finishing the book, Marcus and Honoria became one of my favorite hero/heroine pairings ever.  I'm probably going to be diving back into the Smythe-Smith books again soon because despite reading all of the Bridgerton books, the Smythe-Smith series is still my absolute favorite Quinn series.  The Rokesby series is giving it a run for its money, though (I've read Because of Miss Bridgerton at least four times since it was published in 2016).  Is it wrong that I want another book already?  Sure, The Other Miss Bridgerton came out just last week, but one is never enough, right? From the Publisher:
She was in the wrong p…

Fifteen Years Later: Review of "His Sinful Touch" by Candace Camp

Title: His Sinful Touch
Author: Candace Camp
ISBN: 0373789963
Publisher: HQN
Series: Mad Morelands #5
Price: $5.98 (Paperback) $5.99 (e-book) $19.96(Audible)

Most readers remember their first, the first book of their particular genre that they read, whether they enjoyed the book or not.  I have two firsts--the first romance I ever read was a Harlequin Intrigue written by Amanda Stevens.  If you've read my blog before you probably already know this.  The first historical romance I read was Mesmerized by Candace Camp, which was also the first book in her Mad Morelands series.  

I was a senior in high school when this series began and I remember seeing the paperback version of Mesmerized on the shelf at the Target on Queens Blvd (yes, I spent a lot of time on Queens Blvd as a teenager), and was pulled in by the gorgeous cover.  Apparently, that book has had several covers over the last 15 years, but this is the one I remember:

Isn't it pretty?  Of course from the cover I…

It's Not Me; It's You--A Review of "Shelter in Place" by Nora Roberts

Title: Shelter in Place
Author: Nora Roberts
ISBN: 1250161592
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Price: $14.99 (e-book) $16.49 (hardcover) $23.95 (Audible)

Over the last few years, I have found myself reading fewer Nora Roberts novels.  In the past, she was my go-to author, an auto-buy, someone I knew whose work would never disappoint me.  Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.  While her prose is still beautiful and effortlessly depicts all manner of situations, her stories have become stale (recycling plots from other books is a big part of my problem with her) and it seems that she is less inclined to writing actual romances.  I was actually really excited about Shelter in Place because it wasn't like anything else I've read by her--and that sounded like a good thing.  What I got was a book that wasn't really sure what it was or what it wanted to be.

From the Publisher:
From Nora Roberts, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Year One (December 2017), comes…

Happy Bookaversary! A Review of "Edge of Darkness" by Karen Rose

Title: Edge of Darkness
Author: Karen Rose
ISBN: 9780399583087
Publisher: Berkeley
Series: Cincinnati Series
Price: $5.98 (Paperback) $7.99 (e-book) $28.28(Audible)

It seems like I've been reading Karen Rose novels my entire life.  I remember the day I came across Count to Ten in the Duane Reade on Queens Blvd.  I'd finished the paperback I brought with me to school that day while sitting in the Dining Hall eating lunch and needed something for the long bus ride home.  I almost didn't buy it because it was $9.99 and I hadn't gotten my financial aid money yet, but the cover copy called to me.  Not even the 500+ page count could scare me away.

I recently learned that Edge of Darkness is Ms. Rose's 20th book and in a strange way, I feel like a proud mama watching her child cross the stage to get their diploma.  I'm just a big ball of happy nostalgia, thinking back to all of the other books I've read by her and hopeful about the ones to come, so befor…

Blog Tour: Excerpt and Review of "Kiss Me At Christmas" by Valerie Bowman

Title: Kiss Me At Christmas Author: Valerie Bowman
Series: Playful Brides #10
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Price: $7.99 (e-book) $5.98 (mass market paperback)
Christmas Rating: 🎅🎅 1/2

I guess it is that time of year again--it is finally acceptable to listen to Christmas music on repeat!  Yes!  Unfortunately, I read this book in October and was getting a lot of weird looks when people heard snippets of Shake Up Christmas.  Honestly, this wasn't the earliest I've listened to Christmas music.  That honor goes to my review of Snowfall on Haven Point for the Smart Bitches, which I wrote in the middle of one of the worst heat waves in Northern California back in June of 2017.  But you're not here for a recitation of my Christmas music woes, so let's do this thing.

London, December 1818
Lady Regina Haversham’s thirtieth birthday was precisely one month away, which didn’t leave her much time to lose her virginity. Not that she wanted it lost. S…