REVIEW: About That Night by Julie James
Dear Ms. James,
There’s no easy way to say this so I guess I’ll just come right out and get it over with. The bloom is off the rose. The last second basket rattled off the rim. I don’t love this book the way I’ve loved some of your other books. That hurt me to say it but … well the review will tell.
Relaxing with her friends in a bar after finals are over for their first year in law school, Rylann Pierce is laughing and having a good time. So she doesn’t shoot down the guy who tries to chat her up when she goes to the bar for the next round of drinks. He’s so cute that he just has to be one of those “he knows he’s so cute” kind of guys. But when her friend Rae quickly arranges the exit strategy so that Rylann is stuck alone and Kyle Rhodes steps up to escort her home, she discovers he’s much more than a gorgeous guy and son of a billionaire. But fate intervenes and they miss the planned date the next night thus going their separate ways.
Flash ahead nine years and Rylann is moving back to Chicago following the breakup of a relationship. She’s the newest AUSA in the district which means she opens cans of whoop-ass in Federal cases while working closely with, among others, the FBI, ATF, and Secret Service. Yeah, she’s a Bad Ass Prosecutor. And as an easy opening case that’ll let her get her feet wet, her boss Cameron hands her the plea agreement already worked out with Kyle Rhodes – aka the Twitter Terrorist. No, Rylann never expected to be handed a file folder with “United States v. Kyle Rhodes” on it. Not exactly a meet-again-cute.
Kyle Rhodes arrives in court expecting to see the asshole AUSA who’d railroaded him and called him a cyber terrorist. Yeah, what he did was stupid but when a guy is publicly dumped by his girlfriend in under 144 characters on twitter and then she posts a video of herself frolicking with a movie star, a man might feel the need to resort to some whisky which in turns fuels a dumb hack attack on twitter that shut it down for 48 hours. He eventually sobered up and headed back to face the music and would still be facing another 14 months of it behind bars except for the deal struck for his sister’s help in cracking another FBI case. Imagine his surprise when it’s Rylann Pierce who finalizes his release.
Well, Kyle gets his life back but is ready to act prickly when Rylann contacts him for help about something that went on when he was behind bars for 4 months. Still, he steps up, doing the right thing and finding himself strangely attracted to Rylann as she gets all lawyerly during the Grand Jury hearing. He also decides he wants to discover exactly what she looks like under all her sexy, power suits. So….they date. She does lawyer stuff. And he gets a new business venture started. And they have hot sex. And a few disagreements. And….work things out. The end. Wow.
There is plenty of your trade mark bantering here and I loved it. There’s great best friend dialogue between Rae and Rylann. Rylann exchanges quips with her fellow AUSAs and the tough men in suits she works with as they work to bring down bad guys. Kyle and his sister’s love interest, Nick, do the manly guy sports trash talking. Rylann and Kyle have great interactions even before they get to a bed. This stuff is wonderful. Also, the sex between Kyle and Rylann is smoking.
You do a great job explaining what goes into Rylann’s job. How hard she works, the things she’s up against in her quest as one “who prosecutes on behalf of justice.” I actually liked this part a lot which is saying something because most of the time we see her outside of court and handling paperwork is usually not exactly riveting. Though it is cool to see her go all lawyer on people. Jane does that sometimes at DA when people think they’re going to intimidate us when we post things they don’t like and I always squee and say, “Go, Jane!” Ahem… I have to admit that the parts showing Kyle setting up what he’s going to do are…not so interesting. Actually kind of draggy and skimable. Then there was the weird flashback to what happened to break up their date nine years ago and in the ensuing months after. And that dragged too. And parts got skimmed.
They finally have the talk and work things out but….as I sat reading the book, the unease I had finally crystallized. There’s really very little conflict here between Rylann and Kyle. Perhaps to lawyers, the fact that an Assistant US Attorney is dating an ex-con whom her office prosecuted is a big deal but to a non-lawyer like me, not so much. Maybe it seems like it’s coming close to a line but they never cross over it, nothing is illegal and for me the Klaxon bells and WARNING, WARNING alarms never truly sounded. Even a last minute misunderstanding seemed more made up than anything to worry about.
So, it’s a book with fun and funny dialogue, with two Beautiful People who have great sex as they fall in love and overcome a few tiny speed bumps along their road to happiness. But not much conflict or reason to get my panties in a wad as I wonder how they’re going to finally reach their HEA. C+
I haven’t read this but I felt somewhat similarly about the latest Carolyn Jewel, Not Wicked Enough. It had lovely writing, hot sex scenes and great characters but ultimately, not enough conflict for me, so I know where you’re coming from. I feel that conflict is an essential ingredient in a book. It can be overdone but if the reader isn’t a little worried about how they’ll get to the HEA, what is to drive that reader to turn the pages?
As someone who carries a badge, I can tell you that dating an ex-con is kind of a big deal. It would seriously impact my security clearance if it became known and could be a career killer. We get constant talks about how even the perception of something bad could have consequences. One of my background checks turned up an ex (thankfully already an ex) who had committed identity theft. I never knew about it (was before we dated), but I got grilled.
But not much conflict or reason to get my panties in a wad as I wonder how they’re going to finally reach their HEA.
I think it depends on what you’re expecting and personal preferences. I do like reading books that are all about the couple falling in love with no external conflict, but that’s just me (worrying about the HEA can be good but also exhausting). I do think that an US Attorney dating an ex-con is a big deal, is that the main conflict? Maybe Ms. James keeps it light to fit the overall feel of the book.
Have you read Practice Makes Perfect?! I loved that book so much! I have an irrational love for it and laugh just thinking about it. I’m afraid to read it again in case it doesn’t match the memories I have of it, that’s how much I liked it!
So you didn’t like this because it wasn’t angsty enough basically? Hmm, I don’t always like angst in contemporary romance so I may still enjoy this.
Oh, and anybody working in a profession involving the law in any way and security clearances dating somebody with a criminal record is a huge deal.
Like Jayne, I found this book to be rather conflict less. Sure, the pairing of the felon Kyle with the AGA on its face seems to be rife with conflict but the story doesn’t play out that way. There is little internal angst by the heroine over dating the felon. The focus was primarily on whether it would be an ethical conflict & even then I questioned the line that James butts up against in resolving that conflict. A good lawyer would come back and challenge her involvement. The book is very entertaining but short on the emotional stickiness.
@Isobel Carr: Yes but…Rylann doesn’t get grilled. She hardly even gets ribbed about it. I kept waiting for the moment when their relationship would be discovered and all hell break loose about it and it never happened.
@Ducky: I’m not an angst bunny either. Generally I avoid books dripping in it but I would have welcomed it in this case as it would have engaged me. As it is, parts of this book read like a “take your child to work and let them see what you do” sort of thing. Not exactly a thrill a minute.
@Brie: No, I haven’t read any of her books outside this series. One day….
@Ducky: Conflict seems to me to be one of the most misunderstood terms in the romance community. Conflict and angst aren’t the same thing. Angst involves a lot of conflict but a conflict can be more low key and still be a conflict. A conflict can be any kind of obstacle to what the characters want.
Yeah, James’ books are very hit-or-miss for me. I threw Practice Makes Perfect against a wall instead of finishing it because I hated the hero’s personality so much. I mildly enjoyed Sexiest Man Alive, and deeply enjoyed Something About You and A Lot Like Love. I’m tempted to give this one a chance, but from your description, it sounds like it might be another one of ones I get more mild enjoyment out of. Probably one I’ll look for at the UBS instead of paying full price.
Well, darn. I’ve loved all of the author’s previous books, and I had planned on saving this for a Really Bad Day.
Looks like I’ll have to invest in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk instead.
Thanks for the review. I thought the blurb sounded kind of derivative of Something About You, but it sounds like that’s not the primary problem with this book. I liked the other books in the series (even though the hero in SAY was *way* too controlling for my taste), so I’ll probably wait for the library.
@Jayne: Her first two books are a little different than this series – same humor and banter, same strong heroines, but much less sex. And more lawyering.
@cleo – I liked the hotter James book. In fact, it was the one thing I thought this book did better than the previous three.
Sex with an ex-con she helped to put away and no one says “hey you’re sending your career down in flames here”? Really? Okay.
@Patricia Eimer: Kyle is an ex-con but Rylann wasn’t at that office when he was tried. In the previous book in the series, his sister worked out a deal with the FBI to help them with a case if Kyle got the rest of his sentence reduced to time served. Rylann’s first case in her new job was to handle the finalization of his release.
I am still very much interested in reading this, lack of conflict notwithstanding. Yeah, I adore internal romantic conflict (Liberating Lacey by Anne Calhoun had some of the best internal romantic conflict I can think of) but I also adore witty, sophisticated, urban setting contemporary romance that is not chick-lit.
@Jayne: Well taht does seem “off” to me.
Sigh. I like James’ work a lot, typically, so I’d been looking forward to this. I really appreciate that she writes about lawyers* without creating stereotypical ice-queen heroines who are melted by the hero’s love. I’ll probably end up reading it anyway, just because I’m so grateful for that.
*Although where, oh where, is the Julie James of transactional lawyers? Surely someone wants to write about finding love amid the disclosure schedules and the escrow instructions?
Random comment: my eyes crossed a bit now and then when I read this review: Rae, Rylann and Kyle. Similar names, ouch. I had to re-read some lines to figure out who’s who. :D
I’m okay with less conflict. As long as I always want to know what happens next I’m happy.
I want her to write the book for Jack’s partner whose name escapes me at the moment. Wilkins?
I think the real reason it was hard to get worked up about the ausa-excon matchup is bec he’s a billionaire–it’s not like he’s gonna ever have trouble getting a job, you know. Still, I really enjoyed it. Vicarious career-Barbie FTW!
I picked it up early this weekend and really enjoyed the book! Hi Beth, there is mention of Jack’s partner Sam Wilkins in this one. He gets a meet cute so I don’t know if he will get his own story.
I didn’t want to comment until I’d read the book and I finished it this afternoon. Yes its a little short on conflict but I loved it anyway. Its just a really nice love story. I thought Kyle and Rylinn had great chemistry. There was lots of witty banter (which is often missing in contemporaries). Well worth the money in my opinion and I’ll definitely by buying Julie James next book.
@Carol: We want Wilkins! We Want Wilkins! We want Wilkins!
@bronte: I felt exactly the same way.
This book worked for me on so many levels. Reading the review first totally helped, since I knew what to expect. I thought their re-connection was sweet. Loved the dialogue and the characters, nothing rang false to me. I love Ms. James’ strong female characters – highly educated, driven professionals, and confident in their careers. I also enjoy the urban settings of her novels. I like the small town setting novels too, but it’s refreshing to get something else for a change.
On a personal level, I’m thinking Ms. James wrote this for me, hah. My husband and I met at UIUC. He was also a computer science and engineering grad, and we now live in Silicon Valley. Everything related to Kyle’s start-up work connected for me.
Sorry for the long gush.
@Jayne: Is Wilkins the black Ivy Leaguer sidekick? I LOVE HIM. WILKINS 4EVA!
@cbackson: Yes, that is Wilkins. So far, as written, he’s got such a great sense of humor and I’ve loved reading about him.
@shelly: I’m so glad the book worked for you and that my review helped you know what you’d get from it. And yes, I should have played up the big city locale in my review. Thanks for mentioning it.
I liked the book and thought that Rylann did worry about committing career suicide by dating Kyle. I liked that there wasn’t any manufactured conflict and that the story was more about the timing of a relationship.
I’ve been debating about reading this book. I read the other book, “Something about You”—that was good but it lacked something that didn’t encourage me to read more of the series. Then I see this book in the dabwaha awards going up agains Motorcycle man which I loved so I’m looking for reviews of this book to justify me checking it out.
Love Julie James! I can’t wait for her new book that comes out April 2nd! Check out her blog for some awesome giveaways, she always has fun things for her fans.
Almost forgot, the book is called “Love Irresistibly.” =)