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REVIEW:  It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

REVIEW: It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

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“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

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REVIEW: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves

REVIEW: Heartstrings and Diamond Rings by Jane Graves

Dear Ms. Graves,

Lately I’ve been trying to read more new-to-me authors and when your latest book, “Heartstrings and Diamond Rings” landed in my arc pile, it was fate. I had heard you have a good reputation for humor and this story certainly backs that up. That plus good hero/heroine snappy dialogue are what makes the book for me.

Heartstrings and Diamond Rings	Jane GravesAfter her latest long term relationship disaster, Alison Carter ends venting and crying to her best friend Heather. Where have all the good men gone and why can’t she find one? Alison isn’t really asking for much – just a decent guy who wants to settle down, raise a family or at least a date who won’t ask her if she’s interested in a threesome. Heather urges Alison to try a matchmaker – not just Match.com but a real, live, old fashioned matchmaker and then offers the clincher that the woman had matched one of Heather’s coworkers who will now be headed down the aisle in a month or so.

With nothing to lose except – hopefully – bad dates Alison makes the call then arrives for her appointment to discover that Rochelle died two weeks ago and her grandson Brandon Scott is taking over the business. A little shocked at first – because what guy knows anything about romance or what a woman wants – Alison lets herself get talked into taking the $1500 plunge for five matches. But despite all he tells her, little does she know that Brandon has no interest in love, romance or matchmaking. Instead he sees this as his chance to earn the quick cash that he needs to enter a real estate partnership after which it’s adios to Dallas.

Yet as Brandon attempts to do what he’s being paid for in order to keep being paid, he starts to fall for Alison and her trusting nature. Is there any way he can keep from breaking her heart since he’s never pictured himself as the “9-5 with a family” kind of guy? Or when he’s earned what he needs, will he head on down the road?

To me this is a very funny book. I especially love Alison’s blow by blow recounts of her dates to Brandon. Yeah, they might be exaggerations – at least I hope no woman has gone through these for book research purposes – but the ways in which these men are so awful as dates is wickedly inventive fun. My favorite is the Pharmaceutical rep with bonus points to you for getting the police involved on the date.

I also love the kittehs in the story. I grew up with Siamese and can testify to their rwonks! Lucy, Ethel and Ricky are lucky to have found such a good home and loving cat slave who’ll accept their early morning drag races down the hall.

Alison is lost at times in the glory that is Brandon without his shirt on as he tries to fix his broken AC but she isn’t tongue tied around him for long nor does she fall over things or engage in other twatish nonsense to show how hotly she lusts for his bod. It’s also nice that though she physically doesn’t change at all, and Brandon doesn’t initially think she’s more than just a nice girl who’s okay to look at, by the end of the book he’s totally fallen for her – he’s smitten and wanting the best for her. He wonders – as he’s still trying to set her up – if there’s any man out there who’s good enough for her. Then after he decides he’s too in love with her to ever leave, he makes the supreme sacrifice and does something just because he knows she’ll love it. This is what I like to see from a hero – that he’s a man who’s either noticed what his heroine likes or he’s willing to do something that he thinks he’ll hate just for her.

You did surprise me by not bringing a certain character from Brandon’s past back into the story for which I thank you. Brandon also doesn’t use this person or his childhood to have “sworn off romance for all times!!” No, he just doesn’t think he’s cut out for staying in one place for long, that’s all. This is such a nice change from what I’ve come to expect from not just historical but also some contemporary heroes.

The secondary characters are great in the story from Heather and her husband Tony to Alison’s dad – whom I loved for his plain spoken bluntness and the pistol packing Bea. This is Texas after all. And it’s not just Alison and Brandon who are funny together but all these people. This works as an ensemble piece.

Another thing I like is that Alison ends up helping Brandon almost as much if not more than he helps her by using her marketing skills. When I had mentioned at DA that I was reading this book, a reader questioned whether or not Alison comes off as pathetic because she wants to be married so badly. Her competency here is part of the reason that, to me, she didn’t. Beyond her job skills though, you give Alison a background from which it makes sense that she wants marriage and a family: her best friend is happily married and Alison’s suffered some family losses that would lead her to want to establish her own.

The changes in Brandon are gradual, begin at the halfway point and the HEA doesn’t depend on some last minute change of heart that I’ll find too quick. But he’s not all RomanceLand hero – he does his share of smoothly checking out the neckline of Alison’s little black dress, her slutty pink shoes and he takes a lot of pleasure in watching her position herself for a pool shot.

I love a book that amuses me as it entertains me and if this is the typical style you write, I think I’m going to enjoy seeing what else out there you’ve got. B

~Jayne

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