REVIEW: Something About You by Julie James
Dear Ms. James,
Something About You begins with a hilarious scene in which Assistant U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde, wanting nothing more than a little sleep, overhears some raunchy sex from the hotel room next door to her own.
“Such a big, bad man! Right there, oh yeah-‘right there, don't stop!”
The pillow over her heard did nothing to drown out the woman's voice. Cameron closed her eyes in a silent plea. Dear Mr. Big and Bad: Whatever the hell you're doing, don't you move from that spot until you get the job done. She hadn't prayed so hard for an orgasm since the first-‘and last-‘time she'd slept with Jim, the corporate wine buyer/artist who wanted to “find his way” but who didn't seem to have a clue how to find his way around the key parts of the female body.
What happens shortly afterward though, is no laughing matter. Cameron is awakened by the sound of the bed being slammed against the wall. She calls the hotel’s front desk to send someone to ask the couple next door to be quiet, and watches through the peephole to see, from the back only, a man in a hooded T-shirt leaving the neighboring room. Soon after that, hotel security guards arrive and discover a dead woman's body in the same room. What Cameron overheard was a murder.
The dead woman is a prostitute named Mandy Robards and a video camera found at the scene proves that Mandy recorded her encounters with an important client-‘none other than a United States senator. It's not clear who killed Mandy or why, but due to the senator's involvement the FBI is brought in.
Two FBI agents arrive on the scene to question Cameron, and to her disbelief, one of them is Jack Pallas-‘the same Jack Pallas who blames her for the fact that a case he risked his life working on was never brought to trial.
Three years earlier, Jack and Cameron worked together to bring mobster Roberto Martino to justice. Jack had spent the two years before that undercover in Martino's organization, until his cover was blown through no fault of his own. Jack barely escaped with his life, and wanted nothing more than to see justice served.
So did Cameron, who joined the U.S. Attorney's office after her father, a police officer, was gunned down in the line of duty. But Cameron's boss, U.S. Attorney Silas Briggs, decided not to prosecute and ordered her to break the news to Jack without telling him who made the decision.
Cameron, new to her position, felt she had to play ball, so when she broke the news to Jack, she told him it was she who'd decided not to bring charges against Martino. A furious Jack made some disparaging comments about Cameron to the media, and was preparing to apologize when he saw her coming out of his supervisor's office and learned that he was being transferred to Nebraska.
Now Jack is back from Nebraska and he has not forgiven Cameron for the bad decision he believes she made-‘or for having him sent out of state in the wake of his unkind remarks to the press. But despite this, when Jack realizes that Cameron is all that stands between a U.S. senator and murder charges, and that the real killer is still at large and a danger to Cameron, he is determined to protect her.
While spending time questioning Cameron and seeing to her protection, Jack begins to have difficulty maintaining his animosity toward her. His partner, Wilkins, teases him about his jealousy and curiosity where Cameron is concerned.
Cameron, meanwhile, has never forgotten how much she liked and respected Jack before their falling out. And though her closest friends, Amy and Collin, are still angry with Jack for his public disparaging of Cameron three years before, Cameron herself is more forgiving.
But how can Jack and Cameron act on their attraction when Jack believes that Cameron decided against bringing to justice the mobster he worked so hard to take down? And what will happen when Mandy Robards' killer discovers that Cameron witnessed his escape from the scene of the crime?
Something About You is a charming, entertaining blend of romantic comedy and romantic suspense. It's not a whodunit, since we learn the killer's identity in the fourth chapter. Instead, it's a lighter story where the murder investigation serves as the way to throw two smart and lovable people together.
In her A- review, Jayne noted how much she appreciated the hero and heroine's intelligent behavior. I felt the same way. One thing that makes the romance convincing in this book is that it's founded on mutual respect and admiration; even from where they start off, with a big disagreement between them, it's clear that Cameron and Jack think highly of one another, and easy to understand why.
You have a gift for writing endearing characters. I love that although Cameron is successful and beautiful, she still has an underlying vulnerability that makes her easy to relate to. She also comes across as smart and capable, and it is evident why Jack begins to like her again even when he is reluctant to do so.
As for Jack, he too is easy to admire since he cares so much about his job and takes no chances with Cameron's safety even when he has a grudge against her.
The dialogue in this book really sparkles; not just the repartee between Cameron and Jack but also the banter between Jack, his partner, Sam Wilkins, and the Chicago Police Department officers guarding Cameron.
And speaking of secondary characters, Wilkins was adorable and I hope to see more of him and his teasing sense of humor in the future. Collin, Cameron's gay friend, was also a very lovable character. I appreciated that he didn't fit the stereotype and I loved the story of how he and Cameron became friends.
I thought the last third of the book, although still enjoyable, wasn’t quite as compelling as the first two thirds. The internal conflict (Jack believing that Cameron shut down the mob case) was resolved partway through the book and after that, there was only the external conflict with the killer, which made some of the romantic and sexual tension peter out early. The sex scenes, therefore, didn't fully hold my attention.
Also, I liked that this book had more introspection on the part of the characters than Practice Makes Perfect but I would have loved to have even more. For example, at one point Jack compares himself to Mandy Robards, the murdered prostitute, thinking that they both had jobs that required detachment. I really liked that and hoped that this would lead to more insight into Jack but instead it turned into a segue for him to think about how Cameron, unlike everyone else, gets under his skin, which is nothing new in romance.
And as long as I’m nitpicking, I thought there were some improbable happenings in this book. All of them involved the police or the FBI:
First, the fact that the cops and FBI agents in the story became aware of Jack and Cameron's romantic involvement made the situation feel a bit fantastical. Had Cameron and Jack kept their relationship secret, I would have found it more believable that Jack would remain assigned to the case in which Cameron was the witness.
Second, I thought it was a little far-fetched when Jack replaced Cameron's police protection. I can’t believe that only one agent would be guarding such an important witness around the clock (even when he needed to sleep) without any backup. It felt like a contrivance to give Jack and Cameron privacy.
A third thing that struck me as out of character for the FBI was that they did not investigate the prostitute’s video camera, which was bought at a store that sold spying equipment. I expect that even in a city the size of Chicago there wouldn't be many places that sell such equipment. Tracking down that store's customer list could have provided a clue about the killer's identity.
Despite this and despite a couple of other blunders the FBI and police made, I still felt Something About You was better-researched and more plausible than many contemporaries I read. Details like the heroine having a real career, being a child of divorced parents, having a sexual past that was a non-issue in the story, and the use of contemporary technology by various characters, all made this story feel current. The characters never felt like they were stuck in a time warp; this is a contemporary that actually feels contemporary.
Something else I enjoyed was the clever way you handled what a friend of mine calls “mental lusting.” Lust is a staple of romances and for this reason, it often feels clichéd, but here it felt fresh and funny, because of the way you used it to generate humor.
One example of that is this excerpt from a scene in which Cameron, riding behind Jack on his motorcycle, unconsciously slips into a fantasy and is brought up short when the ride ends.
They were just getting to the good part in her head–in her mind she had revised the scene from the other day when Jack and Wilkins came by to tell her about the surveillance, only this time it was only her and Jack (no clue how he actually got inside her house, useless details) and this time she had just stepped out of the shower (with perfect makeup and hair, of course) and he was waiting in her bedroom (an act that would be stalker-ish in real life but was necessary to advance the storyline) and he said some sly bit about was she going to be a cooperative witness and she said something equally sly back (she hadn’t come up with the exact line yet but at this point the dialogue became superfluous) and then she dropped her towel to the floor and walked over and without saying anything else they tumbled onto the bed and–
Pulled in front of her house.
In a recent discussion on Twitter Robin said that the difference between a C+ and a B- is whether a book is written with flair. Despite its aforementioned flaws, Something About You has flair in spades and for this reason I give it a strong B.
This is published by Berkley, one of the Agency 5, but is pre-April 1 release and thus available at Amazon.