REVIEW: The Thing About Love by Julie James
After spending six years in Los Angeles—and the last six months wondering how her marriage fell apart—FBI Special Agent Jessica Harlow is looking for a fresh start. When she finds out that the Chicago field office has an opening for an undercover agent, returning to her hometown seems like the perfect answer. But her new partner, John Shepherd, is someone she never expected to see again. Six years ago, the cocky Army Ranger was her top competition at the FBI Academy, and the one man who got under her skin like no other.
Just one assignment away from joining the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, John isn’t going to let anything throw him off his game—not even the self-assured woman who once showed him up at Quantico. He’ll work with Jessica to take down a corrupt Florida politician, even if pretending to be business partners staying at a beachfront resort means getting closer than they’d expected. For two experienced agents, it should be a simple enough assignment, but the heat behind their nonstop sparring threatens to make the job a whole lot more complicated…
Dear Ms. James,
Spring has sprung and it’s time for a Julie James book. We start in a scene where Agent Wilkins and Agent Pallas are discussing shopping in Babies-R-Us. Wait, where is Wilkins’ book? Who is Rae?? It’s nice to catch up just a little with past agents without spending all book with them hanging out and saying how damn happy they are!
Okay it looks like there will be two FBI agent main characters. Has there been a book with this combo before? Another change is the fact that while a lot of the book is set in big town Chicago, there are flashback scenes to Virginia and the undercover stuff in Florida. New territory. The worshipping at the altar of the HRT complete with repetitive descriptions of how grueling the tryouts are and how freakin’ amazing!!! it is to be selected to join it were a bit much. I got it the first three times. Ditto on the FBI Academy.
John’s long term relationship just broke up after he caught his girlfirend literally cheating with his best friend while Jessica just got the divorce decree for her 3 year marriage. So yeah, the perfect time for both to get thrown into each other’s life again. Right, yes they Have History at the FBI. Back then, she thought he was an arrogant asshole and he thought she was a smart know it all.
The “she remembered,” “he remembered” sections help give the reader the background on each of them that will help us to understand their POV and mindset during the time. But for two professionals who have been agents for six years, they certainly have a lot of childish, immature moments. IMO, this is (initially) beyond just getting a few digs in. The reaction of the FBI agents in the Chicago office to Jessica’s physical appearance – I heard she’s hot, is she hot? – is disappointing.
After letting their thoughts, prejudices and annoyance marinate for as long as they do, they finally do talk and clear a bit of the air. Once they actually get on the scene of their undercover case, they manage to put issues behind them and work together well, giving and taking, acting as a team. And yes, the attraction between the two of them is on a slow simmer already.
When they finally give in, at least they realize it’s probably not the best thing to be doing before the adrenalin, hormones and sexual attraction kick in and get the party started. John has also been through life partner betrayal and when he sees Jess starting to mentally beat herself up over her ex’s known behavior and possible behavior, he’s astute and sensitive enough about the situation to give her some good though not emotionally gooey advice. Jess is surprised to find him a good listener and easy to talk to as well as being smart, ripped and thorough about work. They find themselves bonding a little over the excitement they get from going undercover and seeing justice done – to know they’ve made a difference.
The smoking hot sex – hang on to the soap dish, Jessica – doesn’t immediately cause a change in their feelings. Jess’s friend Tara and John’s brother both throw out some relationship advice – mainly that this is something more special than initially thought and if there’s a chance, maybe it’s worth pursuing. The fact that Jess drove 12 hours and 12 minutes across half of the country just to get back in time to see John off Says Something. Jess and John have also been Having Thoughts and thinking in terms of “going home” or “when you get home” which Says Even More.
It was fun watching the set-up and execution of the case they assist with in Jacksonville. So what is the best way to handle bribe money? All at once or split? I had spent a lot of the book wondering how Jess had managed any degree of public events with her ex-husband the Hollywood director without the risk of being outed as an agent during an undercover investigation. By the end of the book, I could see how hard it must have been. The “shit show” ending certainly will become a legend as the case heads to trial.
But how will Jess and John finally admit their feelings and deal with the 850 miles between them? Why with a wonderful confession of when those feelings started, how long those feelings have lasted and what John plans on teaching their daughters. Even the “sounds like an epilogue” ending is there for a reason. Good job. B
His eyes held hers. “Because I love you. I think I’ve always loved you, from that very first morning in the auditorium, when you stood up and inspired our whole class with your speech. You amazed me every day at the Academy, and now that we’ve reconnected—and you’re actually being nice to me for a change,” he added with a smile, “those feelings have only gotten stronger.”
Her eyes had filled with tears. “I didn’t know you felt that way.”
“Well, I had a hard time accepting it myself,” he conceded.
“But when you told me at the hospital that you’d missed me, it was like everything else fell away. I knew in that moment that the thing I want most is to spend the rest of my life with the one person who drives me crazy in all the best possible ways.”
She wiped away another tear, complete mush by this point. “For the record, you are knocking it out of the park with this speech.”
“You always did make me up my game, Harlow.”
He smiled tenderly. “Somebody has to be around to teach our gaggle of towheaded girls how to make fire with the ass end of a lightning bug.”