Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Julie James

REVIEW:  It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

REVIEW: It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

it-happened-one-wedding

“SHE KNOWS BETTER THAN TO SAY “I DO”

After a humiliating end to her engagement, investment banker Sidney Sinclair is done with commitment-phobic men. But when her sister winds up engaged after a whirlwind courtship, Sidney is thrown into close contact with exactly the kind of sexy playboy she wants to avoid—the gorgeous best man. She’s stuck with him, for better or worse, until her sister walks down the aisle, but that doesn’t mean she has to give in to his smooth advances, no matter how tempting they are…

BUT HE MAKES IT HARD TO SAY “I DON’T”

Special agent Vaughn Roberts always gets his man on the job and his woman in bed. So Sidney’s refusal to fall for his charms only makes him more determined to win over the cool and confident redhead. Only what starts out as a battle of wills ends up as a serious play for her heart. Because the one woman who refuses to be caught may be the only one Vaughn can’t live without…”

Dear Ms. James,

This has almost become a Spring ritual. The flowers start blooming, the trees start dumping chartreuse colored pollen on my car and I get to read the next book in your continuing FBI series. I’ll leave you to guess which 2 of those events I actually look forward to.

This book has a great beginning, a pretty good body and a wonderful finish which was more than I was expecting given the wedding theme, which is often a signal that the heroine is going to be embarrassed over the course of the story by well meaning people asking “So when are you getting married?” or she’ll be engaged in some frantic treasure hunt of an effort to snag a date for the big day. But even though Sidney actually is looking for a date for the date, it never felt like a pratfall to me as it was obvious that 1. Sidney’s got agency and 2. Vaughn was going to end up being The One and he was actually helping Sidney with Man-Speak. More on that later.

Sidney and Vaughn initially come together in a definitely not-meet-cute. Vaughn – in his guise of a bad-ass FBI agent who notices all – sees a hot woman on an obvious first date with a guy Vaughn soon pegs as an blowhard idiot. Later, when he tries to move in and ask Sidney out, she busts his balls. Sidney enjoys busting Vaughn’s balls and does so regularly and with great finesse which annoys yet intrigues him.

Sidney and Vaughn part ways thinking never to see each other again but of course we know better. Soon they know better too as they discover they are the siblings of the engaged couple of the title. Isabelle and Simon are just the most darling two people in love, so much so that, as Vaughn says, he almost expects singing birds and happy woodland animals to show up whenever those two are together. The set up that this allows, a wedding planner pressure cooker of three months, thus throws the best man and the maid of honor together all the time. Whenever anyone mistakes Sidney and Vaughn for a couple, the two recoil in horror and send out “wave off, wave off!!” signals. Since neither is looking to hook up with the other, they’re free to get to know each other in a way they never would have otherwise.

As they continue to talk along the way to helping get the whirlwind wedding off the ground, they don’t even realize that they’re beginning to share what’s most important to them such as Vaughn’s difficult early FBI assignments and the fact that doing those investigations was more professionally satisfying to him or Sidney revealing all the messy details on her father’s marital issues. And then Vaughn’ll do something nice like ask Sidney to tell him about her mother and what traits Sidney inherited from her. Plus he’s always available to interpret the texts and emails Sidney gets as she dates her way through Chicago’s single men. I enjoyed Sidney’s Man-Speak interrogations of Vaughn as he cracks the code men use to play women. His eye usually twitches when he does. I love that Sidney catches his giveaway mannerism fairly quickly and teases him about it all book long.

Yet still these two insist they’re not in love, no siree bob, not us, no way. Everyone around them senses something but Vaughn still swears that he’s not interested in giving up his fun bachelor lifestyle and Sidney won’t consider him since he fails her 34 Rules for knowing if a guy is worth bothering about for a long term relationship. Since I’m having so much fun watching them together I didn’t mind it taking them a while before the penny dropped and each realized that the other is the person they want to see after a sucky day at work, or just anytime for that matter. Not only did I like listening to their conversations but I loved watching them actually change and grow to be the people who are ready when Vaughn starts to talk about forever. B+

“So, I have a question.” She looked Vaughn right in the

eyes, for once not trying to hide her vulnerability. “What does

it mean when a guy who has spent years avoiding commitment

says he’s suddenly changed his mind? Is it a fluke thing he’s

going to regret in a couple of months, or is it the real deal?”

His hand caressed her cheek, his voice husky with emo-

tion. “It means he’s found the one woman who makes him

want to be a happily- ever- after type. So bring on the damn

singing birds and woodland animals.”

~Jayne

AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

Jayne’s Best of 2013

Jayne’s Best of 2013

The last few years I’ve done these year end lists, I’ve come up short of 10. I’ve realized either I’m not reading the right books for me, I’m too picky a reader or I’m totally out of touch with what’s popular right now. So when my list kept growing all year long, I began to think – “OMG, I just might make the max this year!”

Well, not only did I make the max, I exceeded it – whoopee! In ecstatic acknowledgement of that I’ve decided to go over the limit of 10. Yes, yes I will. In order by grade and not much else –

Back-Across-the-StyxBack Across the River Styx by Karalynn Lee – This one is so good I read it twice just to be sure that I wasn’t hallucinating about how good it is. When I finished it the second time, I was still as enchanted with it. Since I have more books on hand – print and ebooks – than I will probably ever be able to finish, the fact that I spent time rereading says a lot to me. Greek mythology is perfectly blended with romance. The story arc is complete and satisfactory. The use of historical fact is imaginative and ingenious. I’m running out of adjectives for how good this novella is.

story-guyThe Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers – This one came in for its fair share of criticism but it drew me in from the start and didn’t let go. It’s beautifully written, emotionally engaging and about people who seemed real to me rather than hangers on which to drape an improbable plot. It made me smile as well as cry. It’s also made 2 other DA reviewers’ end of the year lists. ‘Nuff said.

Starting-From-ScratchStarting from Scratch by Stacy Gail – I usually hate amnesia plots, am tired of small town stories and kitsch so for this one to be one of my favorites for 2013 amazed me. Yes, it’s a little heavy on explanations of military life but these go to show what came between the hero and heroine and how much they have to overcome for their HEA. This also backs up the angst, giving it depth instead of leaving it to feel like a shallow check off list of faux emotions to me. I also enjoyed the relationship between the heroine and her best friend from childhood. I’ll be looking for his story.

geek-with-cat-tattooGeek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir – A cat as a narrator? Absolutely and it’s not a shifter story either. The second in this series of three cat siblings finding their forever owner or helping their forever owner find a HEA I loved this one even more than the first from last year. The hero’s shyness and the heroine’s self doubts are perfectly captured. Sam the cat is a wonderful matchmaker and if this one doesn’t make you want to donate to an animal shelter, you have a heart of stone.

Love IrresistiblyLove Irresistibly by Julie James – This is a wonderful relationship story between two well drawn, believable characters who have full lives, friends, believable backstories and can speak lawyer to each other. The conflicts are centered on them rather than an external villain and I felt that I got a multilayered view of them as people and why I should care about them and about them falling in love.

bridgeThe Bridge by Rebecca Rogers Maher – I think this is probably the most unusual blurb for a book to be offered to Dear Author this year. Two people determined to end it all who try and give the other a reason to live is not a storyline I come across every day. Could this possibly be anything other than a downer to read? Indeed yes, it could be. It’s also an illuminating trip through what two people think makes the best of New York City. The story doesn’t pull punches and never sinks to “feel good” attempts to diminish the real pain the characters have endured and still feel. The ending is hopeful and HFN but I appreciate the fact that it’s real and honest.

sweet-and-sourSweet and Sour by Astrid Amara – I read a lot of holiday themed novellas this year as well as more lgbt stories and this one is good enough to make the “best of” cut. It’s as much the ending of an old relationship as the beginning of a new one which takes a bit of finesse, IMO. It’s also a Hanukkah story and while I can understand that this isn’t considered a major Jewish holiday, it’s still nice to get a holiday story other than one about Christmas.

the-tilted-worldThe Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fenelly – Can an artiste of illegal whiskey and a revenue agent determined to uncover her identity and shut her down find their chance at love in rural Mississippi in 1927? Read this book and you will believe in their slow, gentle romance even as the raging, flooded Mississippi River threatens the town with total destruction. It’s not only a love story but a trip back in time I enjoyed making.

Rhythm-and-BluegrassRhythm and Bluegrass by Molly Harper – This is the second book in the series and I enjoyed it just as much as the first. It’s funny and yet a view of the struggle that many small and not-so-small US towns are faced with in an effort to modernize and survive in today’s global economy. I liked that the conflicts are real, the people are adult about how they deal with them and the hero and heroine have time to let their attraction sizzle a bit before jumping into bed. Nothing felt phony or made up – despite the town name.

LongbournLongbourn by Jo Baker – What, me read a book set in the world of Jane Austen? At the beginning of the year I would have laughed to think I would but here it is in my top reads of the year. The view of life from below stairs at Longbourn is what drew me in but the descriptions and depictions of the servants as they go about their lives while the major events of “Pride and Prejudice” go on above stairs is what kept me reading. The story, though, isn’t all about how the servants view the Bennett sisters finding love. Instead there is a romance for one of their own that seemed realistic to me. I not only want to believe in their HEA, I do believe it.

Knowing-the-ScoreKnowing the Score by Kat Latham – This one tackled me like a rugby player – in a good way. And by the time I finished it I knew a lot more about the sport than I had. It’s funny, has great dialog and uses UK/US slang brilliantly. The hero should be bottled and sold by the gross. He wins his heroine by being nice to her as well as admiring her work ethic instead of being a prick. The heroine’s virginity might put off readers but it’s made to seem reasonable for her given her past. By the end of the story, I felt that both of them had totally opened themselves to the other and were all set for their HEA.

passion-purple-plumeriaThe Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig – I rejoiced to see this book about an older heroine and older hero finding their HEA. I love that the heroine is shown as competent and intelligent. Also that her hero sees and admires this in her. The modern day parts of the story worked just as well for me which hasn’t always been the case in this series. It’s still going strong and I’m still anticipating the next one, which says volumes.

Carolina-GirlCarolina Girl by Virginia Kantra – Books about small town life often put me off by making the small town into a paean of wonderful. That’s not the case here as both the heroine and hero return to the small Carolina coastal town they couldn’t wait to leave. It’s also has a great family relationship arc that is being carried through the whole series. Though I think readers could start with this one if they wish. Both the hero and heroine mature, make concessions and help each other each with their individual goals as well as their relationship one.

Her-Hesitant-Heart1Her Hesitant Heart by Carla Kelly – I love me a Carla Kelly historical and if it’s a western, that’s the cherry on top. This book might seem like just so much same-old, using standard Kelly tropes, with standard Kelly wry humor to tell the story of two deserving people triumphing over those who want to shame them and/or put them down for acting like honorable adults instead of asshats but, damn it, that’s what I love about her books.

Must Like Kids by Jackie BraunMust Like Kids by Jackie Braun – This isn’t the usual saccharine, baby filled Harlequin offering. I know that sounds like a backhanded compliment but overabundance of secret babies and surprise pregnancies of this publisher leaves it wide open for such statements. Given the number of embarrassing tweets, live mic fuckups and other ways public people have dug themselves into holes this year, the set-up is inspired. I enjoyed watching a heroine who is good at her job and a hero willing to gracefully accept her expertise. The children of the story are realistic instead of being plot moppets. The relationship is allowed time to develop and the characterization remains consistent. Too bad about the cover.