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REVIEW: Something About You by Julie James

Cover image for Something About You by Julie JamesDear 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.

Sincerely,

Janine Ballard

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This is published by Berkley, one of the Agency 5, but is pre-April 1 release and thus available at Amazon.

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

25 Comments

  1. Danielle D
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 14:30:40

    I read this book when it first came out and loved it!!!! I totally agree with your review.

  2. Janine
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 14:49:10

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it too, Danielle! I thought it was a lot of fun.

  3. Robin
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 15:44:15

    James excels at the beginning story hook, IMO. I loved the first scene of both this one and her last, Practice Makes Perfect.

    In general, her books read like rom com films to me, although I was glad to see that in SAY both protags were given more emotional depth and resonance to their characters, esp. the hero, whose character, IMO, has been a bit underdeveloped in previous James books.

    And yeah, this one had lots of flair.

  4. Carolyn
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 15:50:13

    I read a review of this book (don’t remember where, but the dress on the cover was discussed in detail) and immediately bought it. Needless to say, I loved it and tracked down Ms James’ other books.

    I agree with your review, but admit the discrepancies you mention went right over my head; I was totally involved with the characters, and since we knew who the killer was … didn’t much care how they caught him as long as he was caught. I was straining at the bit for Jack to find out the truth about the past.

    I’ll have to reread again; my eyes were flying, lol.

  5. becca
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 15:51:48

    I don’t tend to like contemps or rom com, but the reviews here and at SBTB prompted me to get this book – and then run out and get her other two books. I liked this one the best, but enjoyed the other two anyway. She’s definitely an author I’m going to enjoy looking for again.

  6. Randi
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 16:50:13

    I’m like becca. Based on the earlier review here, I bought SAY, read it in one day, and immediately went out to buy the other two. Then I read those in two days. I look forward to her next novel. Yay for reviews that bring authors new readers (and $$$ of course)!

    I will say this: I’m not so much into the rom-com, usually too much slapstick for me. But James didn’t strike me so much as COMEDY and HUMOR, if you get my distinction. The BANTER between the characters was what made it funny (aside from the courtroom scene-which was HILARIOUS-and situational comedy). I much prefer humor over comedy.

  7. Randi
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 16:53:10

    Shoot. I can’t seem to make an edit. That should have read,

    “But James didn't strike me so much as COMEDY but/ HUMOR, if you get my distinction”

    Oi.

  8. Randi
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 16:53:39

    OK, that didn’t work either. Never mind. LOL.

  9. Janine
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 17:02:08

    @Robin: I agree that James is good at the beginning story hook. I haven’t read her first book yet but one of my favorite things about Practice Makes Perfect was the wonderful ending. I also see the similarity to romantic comedy movies.

    And I also agree that there was more depth and resonance to the characters in this book, though I would like even more (I’m greedy that way — the more I like a character, the more I want to know about him or her).

    Still, I think I might like PMP slightly better overall, because as I said in the review, for me this book lost some of its romantic tension once the internal conflict was cleared up.

  10. Janine
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 17:10:49

    @Carolyn: I’m really glad you enjoyed the book. I think that is the sign of a really gripping book. All books have discrepancies but if we are totally entertained we either don’t notice them or don’t care about them. In this case I noticed but I didn’t really care that much.

    As an aside, I don’t read or review that many straight contemporaries partly because I pick up on inaccuracies in those books a lot more than I do when reading historicals or paranormals. I think the familiarity of the contemporary world makes it easier for me to spot them. That’s one of the reasons it’s a treat to read a contemporary like this one, where the problems are relatively minor and overall, the book feels believable and convincing.

    @becca: This books seems to be a winner for many readers. I’m glad it was for you.

    @Randi: It is always exciting to discover a new author who writes good books, isn’t it?

    I think there are different types of humor and I would call all of them comedy. I also prefer banter to slapstick. The banter in this book was absolutely delightful, I thought.

  11. Robin
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 17:26:25

    @Janine: This may sound strange, but one of the things I felt was weaker about this book than PMP is the way James seems to have absorbed more Romance-speak, especially in the love scenes (which are seriously turned up in terms of heat in this book). SAY felt more genre Romance-y to me in the language, and because the first two books weren’t that way, I noticed it here and it felt a little derivative to me. I really, really don’t want her to lose her voice, which doesn’t feel intrinsically genre Romance to me, even though IMO her books are very romantic.

  12. Mary G
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 17:39:55

    I enjoyed your review. I too did not notice
    the improbable. Julie writes smart, sexy, funny books. I laughed trying to imagine the first chapter on an audiobook. WhaMA-WhaMA

  13. katiebabs
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 17:50:34

    Loved the scene during the bachelorette party. Julie is my must read author.

    Great review :)

  14. Janine
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 17:52:56

    @Robin: From what I remember of the love scenes in PMP, they were fade to black, weren’t they? I actually wanted the bedroom door to remain open when I read that book, but in SAY, the love scenes were less engaging to me than the rest of the book. I can’t say how much of it was the language, though, and how much of it the fact that the internal conflict was completely resolved by the time Jack and Cameron first had sex. I like for characters to bring their issues into the bedroom because it makes love scenes more distinctive and memorable. In this case, it seemed like they had no issues left, and I saw that as the main reason that the sex felt generic to me. I’m not saying the language didn’t play a role too (I noticed some familiarity there) but I still maintain the early resolution of the issues between Jack and Cameron was a factor too.

  15. Janine
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 17:56:49

    @Mary G: Now you’ve got me laughing trying to imagine chapter 1 in an audiobook! Glad you enjoyed it!

    @katiebabs: The scene where Jack and Wilkins arrive at the party was funny! One of my favorite scenes was the earlier one when they come to Cameron’s house to find Collin cooking breakfast for her.

  16. katiebabs
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 17:58:42

    And Jack feels some jealousy. I liked that also.

  17. Julie James
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 19:32:59

    Thanks for the lovely review, Janine! And yes, Wilkins makes an appearance in Book 4–albeit a very brief one. For readers who liked Jack, he’s back as well. :-)

  18. Janine
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 19:56:26

    @Julie James: Oh, cool!!!

    :: does happy dance ::

  19. becca
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 20:51:11

    I’m about audiobooks the way some people are about ebooks – always astonished when a favorite book or author isn’t in my format yet. Ms. James, since you’re here, is there a chance SAY will go into audio? I’d *love* to hear it. I’d pay really good money for a copy.

  20. Joan/SarahF
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 21:23:11

    I’m reading this right now and LOVING it. *My* little discrepancy with it is a big old…

    **SPOILER**

    After the killer shows up at her house and *doesn’t* kill her, no one bothers to question WHY he didn’t kill her. He had time alone with her when he didn’t know there was anyone else around and he doesn’t kill her. No one goes, “huh, wonder why he didn’t kill her?” and figures out why he was there. They just…accept the fact that he was there w/o really wondering why. WTH?

    **END SPOILER**

    But I like the characters too much to really care. Like I said, loving it.

  21. Janine
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 00:17:24

    @becca: I hope Ms. James sees your comment. She may be at the Romantic Times convention.

    @Joan/SarahF: Agreed. I didn’t mention it since it was a spoiler, but it was one of the things I alluded to when I referred to “a couple of other blunders the FBI and police made” in my review. And I also liked the characters too much to really care.

  22. Tabby
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 00:42:52

    I loved this book! When I was reading I distinctly remember being thrilled each time the characters didn’t do something stupid or ridiculous for the situation. I had no complaints and was so happy with the story I would have given it an A then. But now I can barely remember the story even though it was only a few months ago. So I guess a B seems like the better grade to me now. Thanks for your review–I enjoyed reading it.

  23. Julie James
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 08:06:42

    @becca That’s a good question–I’ll have to ask my editor about audiobooks. But as far as I know, there’s nothing currently in the works for that format.

    And Janine is correct–I will be at RT this year. My first time attending, so I’m really looking forward to it.

  24. Janine
    Apr 24, 2010 @ 15:00:42

    @Tabby: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the book and the review.

  25. Best of 2010 Jayne | Dear Author
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 12:13:11

    […] Something About You – Julie James […]

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