Published by Berkley on April 18th 2017
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FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army ranger clashed during their training at Quantico, gladly going their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to run into each other again–assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting.
For both of them, being paired with a former rival couldn’t come at a worse time. Recently divorced from a Hollywood producer and looking for a fresh start, Jessica is eager to prove herself at her new field office. And John is just one case away from his dream assignment to the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team. In order to nail a corrupt Florida politician, they’ll have to find a way to work as a team–a task that becomes even trickier when they’re forced to hole up at a romantic, beachfront resort as part of the investigation. Suddenly, the heat behind their nonstop sparring threatens to make the job a whole lot more complicated. . .
The antagonistic-lovers trope is Julie James’s calling card, I swear. And it’s done with quite a bit of aplomb in ‘The Thing About Love’ which is pretty much a solid, steady kind of offering that has been a long time in coming. Technically not quite part of the FBI series that James has gotten going, John Shepherd (this guy can easily be a main character from Lost or Stargate with a heroic name like that) and Jessica Harlow work perfectly fine on their own here as first entanglements bring them from oneupmanship to dislike and finally, to mutual attraction years later. The long break between books as well, helps in a way that make the story not feel like a retread, even if characters from her previous books do flit peripherally in and out as reminders of the lawyer/law-enforcement dynamic that has always defined this series.
The setup is painstakingly detailed, given the number of pages in this book, even though the research and writing feel like a police procedural at times, but by and large, the story somehow reads like a screenplay—written for readers, yet built for the big screen on Valentine’s day while newly-minted couples cozy up to John and Jessica’s slow burn and capitulation.
Despite starting out a little slowly, the delicious build gained momentum and not without several laugh-out-loud descriptions I’ll always come to associate with James’s brand of written romantic comedy. The peaks and troughs aren’t too sharp, and without the pile of angst or false levity that could accompany stories like these, James manages to keep the whole story buoyant and easy to read. I think what I really enjoyed was the fact that I didn’t quite know how things were going to progress—or at least work themselves out—despite being able to guess how the conflict was going to play out when both Jessica’s and John’s career paths looked as though they were moving in opposite directions. Yet both Jessica and John are great in their own way, with pasts they’d rather leave behind but still lacking those extremes that can make or break a character, which, in many ways, do make them quite likeable.
Definitely a way more light-hearted read (not that that’s a bad thing) for FBI-type romances, ‘The Thing about Love’ is an unexpected surprise and I daresay, quite worth the wait.