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April Book Club Pick: Love Irresistibly by Julie James

Today we are hosting the April Dear Author Book Club pick: Love Irresistibly by Julie James.  If you haven’t read Jayne’s A- review, take a gander here.  The following is a Q&A with the author to prime our discussion pump.  If you haven’t bought the book, you can find it at most bookstores or via these links:

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Love Irresistibly by Julie James

Dear Author Book Club

1)  What was the genesis of your story?

I started with a mixture of characters and plot. I had introduced the hero, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cade Morgan, in my previous book, About That Night, and had contemplated doing a book for him next. Along with that, for some time I’d been wanting to utilize a real-life criminal investigation that I’d heard about, where the FBI approached the higher-ups at a famous five-star restaurant in Chicago and said, basically, that two New York mafia bosses were going to be having dinner at the restaurant on a certain date, and that the FBI wanted to listen in on the conversation. In the book, I changed the case to a corrupt state senator instead of the mafia, but the basic set-up is the same.  And that’s how the hero and heroine meet—the heroine, Brooke, is the general counsel for the restaurant company, and Cade needs her assistance in order to put the sting operation in motion.

In addition to being an assistant U.S. attorney, the only other thing I knew about Cade when first beginning to outline the story was that he’d played football in the past. Admittedly, I’d started watching Friday Night Lights shortly before beginning to write the book, and I’m pretty sure that influenced my decision to include a football subplot.

2)  Small-town contemporary romances are very popular, however your stories feature women with careers in the big city. Have you found that any of your readers have difficulty relating to those characters or you think it is those characters differences that drive readers to your books?

I do sometimes hear people saying that publishers are only looking for small-town contemporary romance—but, fortunately, I haven’t personally experienced that. In fact, I’ve probably been upping the big-city Chicago “feel” in my recent books, and Berkley has been very supportive of that. For me, I think what readers want is variety. I also think that, by focusing on a small subset of the city—the Chicago FBI and U.S. Attorney’s offices—the books have a “community” feel. The characters are friends and co-workers with other characters from prior books—but instead of the local diner, they all hang out at Starbucks, the FBI gym, and Wrigley Field.

As for readers relating to my heroines, I’ve found the opposite to be true—that readers are connecting well to the women in my books. I like to write female characters who are like the women I’ve met while working and living in a big city like Chicago. And I have a test—my heroines have to be someone I would want to sit down and have a drink with.

 

3)  It seems to me that the heroine in your story decided to take a different path that was more in concert with the hero’s path. Do you think that a relationship could have been successful between the two if she had taken a different route at the end?

It would be hard for me to answer this question without discussing the ending, so maybe we could put this in a spoiler box…

[spoiler]Writing Love Irresistibly was interesting for me because I originally started out the book focusing a lot on Cade and his relationship hang-ups. And while that very much is still a part of the book, somewhere along the way I became very passionate about Brooke’s journey. Admittedly, I may have been tapping into personal experience here—going back to my days working at a large law firm—but I really felt what she was going through: her ambition and drive to succeed, but also that gnawing awareness in the back of her mind that she was sacrificing a lot to keep up with the demands of her job.

 

On the other hand, I knew that the book wouldn’t end with Brooke walking away from the career she’d fought so hard to build. That just isn’t who she is. Instead, the ending is about Brooke taking a step back and asking herself what she wants. And once she realizes that she wants both a career and a satisfying personal life, she has to figure out how to get that.

 

I do think a relationship still would have been possible if Brooke had chosen a different path (i.e. taken the job in North Carolina), because Cade offers to move there with her. But it was very apparent that she’d be traveling a lot and working a ton of hours if she took the job, and, ultimately, she decides that she wants more time to enjoy her personal life.[/spoiler]

 

4)  You always incorporate the cover models dress into your story. Can you tell us how that came to be?

It started with my first FBI/U.S. Attorney series book. I’d originally written the heroine wearing a black formal dress to a wedding, but when I saw the cover Berkley had done, with a flashy fuchsia dress, I asked my editor if I could rewrite those scenes so that the heroine’s dress matched the cover. That’s something I now try to do with all my books, if possible.

 

5)  When writing your book, do you begin with your characters or does it begin with a plot?

It’s typically a little of both, although what I tend to find is that I start with the basic plot, and then get a true feel for the characters during the writing process.  For example, with Brooke, I knew from the outset that she’d grown up as one of the few kids without a lot of money in a very affluent town. At first, I’d thought her backstory was that she’d been bullied as a kid for not having money, and thus had this drive and urge to be successful so she could “prove herself,” so to speak. But that just . . . didn’t work. It felt negative, the idea of wanting prove oneself worthy and successful in the eyes of others. So I changed it so that Brooke worked hard because, simply, that’s what she had always done—she always did everything at full-speed. After I made that change, the story felt much more authentic.

 

6)  You do a lot of interviewing for your books. What are the types of things you’re looking for when you’re interviewing and how are they incorporated later into your stories?

I strongly believe that if I don’t know the ins and outs of both the heroine and hero’s professions, then I’d better talk to someone who does. When interviewing, I’m looking for a variety of things. I ask broader questions, such as: what an average day is like, what a good day is for someone in that profession, and what a bad day would be. Then I also ask specific questions, like, say, what kind of gun an FBI agent carries, or what the inside of a grand jury room looks like.

For Love Irresistibly, I was fortunate in that I was able to interview the CEO of the restaurant company upon which Sterling Restaurants (Brooke’s company in the book) is based. The CEO used to be the general counsel and there were two things he really emphasized about his days as GC: first, that he had to be a jack-of-all-trades and never knew what to expect when he walked into work, and second, that it took some time before the other restaurant employees were able to relax around him—that they’d see him, the general counsel, walk into the restaurant and would think, “Oh, crap, what did we do wrong?” So in the book, I wanted to capture both those aspects of Brooke’s job.

 

7)  In the promotional video that you did for this book, you talk about balance between work and life. What you think is the greatest challenge in finding that balance and how did you portray that in your story?

Like I mentioned in the video, whether you’re a lawyer billing tons of hours at a large firm, or a stay-at-home mom, or a grad student working on your thesis, women today have a lot to balance. That’s something I feel on a daily basis, it’s something I talk about with my girlfriends when we get together—how there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. And I feel like what often gets sacrificed first is the “me” time, so to speak. Meaning, there are so many things we have to do, that the things we want to do—like read a book, or call that girlfriend we haven’t talked to in awhile, or take that yoga class we planned to start, oh, five years ago—fall by the wayside. In the book, Brooke is at a crossroads in her life, when she realizes that she’s been missing out on a lot of those “want to do” things—so the question becomes what she’s going to do about that.

 

8)  What’s next for Julie James?

I’m currently writing my next book, which I haven’t said too much about yet, except that it will be part of the FBI/U.S. Attorney series. I’ll also say that I’d originally thought the lead character of the book was going to be someone else, but then this other character kept nagging at me during the outlining process so I went with that character’s book instead.

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Add your thoughts in the comments.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

13 Comments

  1. hapax
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 11:19:22

    I liked this book quite a lot (certainly better than the previous one) but I didn’t love it.

    What I liked best were the protagonists. Both Cade and Brooke were interesting, smart, decent people, driven to do good things for both themselves and others. Their backgrounds were realistic, and served logically to create their adult selves, both virtues and flaws alike. Their individual story arcs were compelling, and resolved in an optimistic, yet believable fashion.

    Problems: the big one was that as much as I believed in the h/h, I didn’t particularly buy their romance. I definitely thought that they were good friends, that they had hot sex (fans self!), that they had potential to be each other’s one-and-only. But I felt like this was only the start of the romance; the HEA ending, with the mutual “I love you”s and the implication of Forever, was simply too much, too soon.

    Other nits: the supporting characters, likable as they are, were all either blatant sequel-bait (and why no females in the bunch?) or obviously catching-up-with-old-friends (often shoehorned in the most awkward way, as noted in the review.*) Contrarily, I thought that there was a missed opportunity for a subtle and graceful possible shout-out to longtime James fans, in simply changing the outside law firm hired by Sterling to “Kendall & Jameson”!

    So I probably would have scored it a B — not my favorite James book, but well worth the money for the strong but not domineering characters and the (as always) sparkling dialogue.

    *and if I never read the appellation “Twitter Terrorist” again, I’ll still never lose the eye-twitch it produced.

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  2. Lada
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 11:21:46

    It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a satisfying contemporary. I for one am glad there are authors willing to write about career women whose jobs aren’t treated like background filler. Jobs do get in the way of dates, getting together with friends and family and all sorts of other things. (It can even get in the way of trying to participate in this book club…been trying to post this for 2 hours now…gah!)

    One of the things I liked best about Brooke was that she could give as good as she got. I recently tried to read a novella that has received a lot of good buzz here at DA and featured a heroine who became blushing and tongue-tied as soon as the hero was around. I can’t relate to that type of woman and it’s one of my bigger turn-offs in contemporaries (what I think of as the pseudo-virginal ingénue). Brooke I could easily hang out with. Even when she acknowledged her attraction to Cade, her brain still kept working and she’s never intimidated by him.

    I disagree with the question that Brooke’s decision of what to do in the end was based on staying in a relationship. I felt like she took the time to figure out what she really wanted and then took action to make that happen. It was clear to me at least that while Cade might have played a part, he certainly wasn’t the deciding factor.

    Cade was a great character too and it was interesting to watch him deal with the twist that makes him face his past. I also enjoyed watching him hang out with the guys. I like the way friendships were integrated in the story and thought that added a lot of authenticity.

    I am a big Julie James fan and Love Irresistibly is my favorite of hers so far.

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  3. Johnny Ray
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 11:25:08

    This was a great interview which gave fantastic insights into what goes into writing a novel. Job well done.

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  4. hapax
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 11:29:36

    @Lada:

    Oh I am so glad you said this:

    I disagree with the question that Brooke’s decision of what to do in the end was based on staying in a relationship. I felt like she took the time to figure out what she really wanted and then took action to make that happen. It was clear to me at least that while Cade might have played a part, he certainly wasn’t the deciding factor.

    Because this really made the character (and the book!) for me.

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  5. Kim
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 11:57:42

    I really enjoyed this book. You write about smart and witty characters that actually enjoy their jobs. Instead of portraying the legal profession and law enforcement at it’s worst, your characters are representative of how the legal system should work.

    I know some readers have been disappointed that the outside law firm hired by Sterling wasn’t Payton’s and J.D.’s firm. However, some readers may have forgotten that Gray and Dallas does employ Taylor Donovan, the heroine from your first book.

    Finally, as I told you previously, I really liked the relationship between Zach and Cade. It showed Cade’s good character that he could separate his personal anger over a certain situation (I’m being careful of spoilers) and welcome Zach into his life. I enjoyed all their scenes. I also liked all the secondary characters. If any of these men (hint: Ford or Vaughn) are the hero of your next book, it will be great.

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  6. Lada
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 12:29:58

    @hapax: I did notice that Brooke’s BFF was male and one of Cade’s closest work friend is female which was a little…cute. But I do appreciate an author showing that women and men can be friends without it being sexual. Friends-to-lovers stories can be great but sometimes, it’s okay for them just to stay friends, too.

    And I guess I did buy into the HEA even though this is not an overtly romantic book simply because these two characters were very thoughtful. Nothing was reactive with them; even when facing difficulties, both were mindful of their words and actions.

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  7. Suze
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 15:28:47

    I LOVED this book. I spent an entire Saturday morning reading it beginning to end. I could not put it down. I was sad when it ended because I wanted more, more, more. I can’t wait for the next one. Great job.

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  8. Joy B
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 21:55:44

    I really enjoyed this book. I thought the plot and character development were realistic. I also appreciated the catching-up-with-old-friends aspect; it’s one of the reasons I like books in a series.

    I’m glad it was the Dear Author book club selection – which encouraged me to read it today and not in 3 months (like much of my TBR).

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  9. Kaetrin
    Apr 15, 2013 @ 23:02:35

    I listened to this one recently. I liked, but did not love it.

    I, too, noticed the lack of females in the book.

    It was difficult for me to relate to Brooke because she was all about work and I’m not. I’m lucky enough to have a career where I can be successful and work part time or full time and where either way, a lot of travel, weekend work and late nights are optional and rare rather than the norm. As much as I enjoy my career, I’m glad to have time to spend with my husband and son and with friends and reading and blogging etc. Brooke doesn’t even have time to finish a book. She’s lost contact with her female friends and her family, the only person she can squeeze in is her BFF (Ford) and that seemed very unsatisfying to me. I was exhausted just reading about her.

    While the relationship between Cade and Brooke could have worked – maybe – if she hadn’t have made choices she did at the end, if the situation was reversed, I’d want Cade to have made those changes too because otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to spend very much time together. Cade, in this book, is successful and works very hard but he also has (most) weekends off and has time for friends and family. I didn’t really think of it as a gender thing but more in the context of “how can their relationship thrive if they never spend any time together”?

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  10. rachel
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 10:22:13

    LOVED it! I’ve read it twice already.

    I do prefer big city romance, one of the reasons I love JJ’s books and can’t wait for the next one.

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  11. Vicki P
    Apr 16, 2013 @ 18:38:56

    I absolutely loved this book–smart, witty characters, as someone already said, and realistic problems–careers & family–that made it much more than a “fluff” contemporary! I think I started reading your books at the start of the FBI/U.S. Attorney series, and have loved them all, but then I also found Practice Makes Perfect and The Sexiest Man Alive, and totally enjoyed those as well!
    Congrats on making the USA Today bestsellers list and your second printing already. You are an automatic buy for me–in paperback format for my keeper shelves!

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  12. cleo
    Apr 17, 2013 @ 09:54:45

    I just finished this on the way into work and I’m still enjoying my “good book glow.” I liked both Brooke and Cade. I liked that their relationship seemed real and balance.

    My main quibble with the book was the references to other books – especially the parts with Cameron and Jack. My least favorite part of their book was Jack’s possessiveness and I really hate how that’s the part of their relationship that shows up in the rest of the series. The thing about him threatening Cam’s co-workers to not bump into her – it’s obviously written for laughs, and Cam seems to be able to handle it, but it’s not funny to me. I read it and think “red-flag, get out before he turns abusive” and that takes me out of the story.

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  13. library addict
    May 07, 2013 @ 20:29:59

    This was my favorite book of the series so far. After enjoying books 1 and 2 I felt book 3 was really a let down. So I was happy that book 4 was so enjoyable. I did think the resolution with Cade’s father was heavy-handed. But I liked the fact there wasn’t just one case the plot revolved around and that it was more a slice-of-life story.

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