Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 304 Pages, 4612 Locations
Formats: Paperback, Kindle
A Lot TO Love
The FBI is following the money trail in their investigation into the illegal doings of the the Chicago mob boss Martino and that trail has led them to local businessman and wine connoisseur Xander Eckhart, a man who may have crawled into Martino's pocket to do some laundry. Getting an in with the security-conscious Eckhart, though, demands finesse and care...and the help of billionaire heiress Jordan Rhodes. Not only does she share a social circle and hobby with Eckhart, but FBI Special Agent Nick McCall knows Rhodes has one other thing that makes her the perfect choice for FBI cooperation. Her twin brother is in prison after a nasty bit of Internet terrorism (it was Twitter, people!) and she would very much like him out of there.
Jordan doesn't like Nick very much. Besides being an FBI agent, not exactly her favorite group at the moment, he's also snarky and manipulative. If he can get Kyle out of jail, though, just for dragging him along with her to an event she was planning on attending anyway, well...she supposes she can tolerate him. Maybe he'll show her some of the 10% of his personality she doesn't find abrasive and annoying. He does look pretty sexy in his new suit, after all.
When the undercover operation hits a snag that shocks Jordan and frustrates Nick, the two find themselves having to take their fake relationship further than either had ever intended. It's when that fake relationship starts to feel so, so real, though, that they both realize this case is far more dangerous than they had ever dreamed.
I've become such a huge Julie James fan since I stumbled onto her books a few months ago, and this sequel to her 2010 release, Something About You, provided just as much fun, sexy entertainment as that one did. Nick and Jordan are thoroughly likable and fit very well together as the romantic leads. I favor romances that start out with the lead characters striking the sort of sparks off each other that blow up into a lusty, yummy conflagration and there aren't many authors who do that with as much wit and humor as James does.
Her style of storytelling really appeals to me, with a pleasantly robust narrative that doesn't scrimp on the sort of tasty details that round out characters and plot to provide a fully satisfying read. Little snippets of scenes, like Nick's conversation with his brothers and mother, or the dinner with Jordan's friends...scenes and dialogue that doesn't affect the main plot one way or another, but provides a more layered and complex tone to the overall story. James does it flawlessly and it lends a much appreciated depth to the reading experience. I also like how she tied in a character of another of her novels in this book. Scott Casey, the narcissistic actor with the misogynist tendencies in James' Just the Sexiest Man Alive gets a mention here as the hot tub-loving bad boy that achieved some Twitter notoriety with Kyle's girlfriend. Very nice touch, James.
As a lighter-toned romantic suspense, I thought the suspense arc of the plot was well paced and blended well with the romance. I had a bit of a problem towards the end, when Eckhart's character made some questionable choices that tread a bit too close to plot contrivance for my taste. I also didn't find the wine business, wine collecting, and winery aspects of the story very compelling, as it's not an interest of mine. I have to acknowledge and do appreciate that James seemed to do quite a bit of research on the topic, however, as the details that were included in the story felt very genuine and seemed pretty spot on, and James imbued her characters with the knowledge in a way that lent credibility to their character definition. It just wasn't to my personal taste.
The only other slight issue I had was that while the book is contemporary at the moment, it will quickly date itself with the pop culture references to Lost and Dancing With the Stars. Ten years from now, that's going to make this book hard for people to relate to, if it doesn't happen much sooner. The references were cute, though, even for someone who didn't last beyond the first few episodes of the second season of Lost. And hey...Sawyer was hot!
I don't even feel the need to mention how well the romance worked. I haven't seen James do a bad romance. With A Lot Like Love she provides a light, humorous, sexy, feel-good read with genuine substance. Her books definitely cruise the brain candy aisle, but they also serve up the meat and potatoes of solid, technically sound, and adept writing as the main course. She's on my autobuy list and I can't wait to read more.