FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army Ranger clashed during their training at Quantico and gladly went their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to be assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting.
For both of them, being paired with an old 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 together—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 lot more complicated...
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
Copyright © 2017 Julie James
THE THING ABOUT LOVE
When FBI agent John Shepherd walked into the office Tuesday morning, he found a small crowd of his squad mates waiting around his cubicle.
“Look who’s back,” Ryan said, doing a slow clap as John approached. “So? Was it as bad as they say?”
“Worse,” John said. And he had the aching muscles to prove it, too. In the shower this morning, he’d cursed up a storm just trying to raise his arms to wash his hair.
“Was it nonstop drills?” asked Jin, another one of his squad mates.
“Let’s just say they set the tone the first morning by waking us up at four a.m. for physical fitness tests. Swimming, running, and stair climbing while wearing a fifty-pound vest and carrying a thirty-five-pound battering ram—with no breaks in between. And that was the easy day,” John said.
The Hostage Rescue Team selection process, as John as his fellow “selectees” had quickly discovered, was designed to break down the candidates both mentally and physically in order to identify the individuals who would perform the best in high-pressure situations. And indeed, the exercises and drills they’d been put through were no joke. During the course of two weeks, John had scaled a narrow ladder to a grate seventy feet above the ground and crawled up the outside of a four-story building with no net to break his fall. He’d walked blindfolded underwater for seventy-five feet while carrying a thirty-pound weight, participated in a simulated hostage rescue in a shoot house while the evaluators observed him from an overhead catwalk, slept in cramped tents and barracks for no more than one or two hours each night, and been put through the “dog run,” a training exercise where candidates ran with a large raft to a lake and paddled their asses off toward a target point while a helicopter flew low over the water to slow them down.
In other words, it had been two weeks of hell.
And John had thrived on it.
Still feeling like a fool for not knowing that his girlfriend and friend had been screwing around behind his back, he’d shown up for Selection angry and with a lot of energy to burn. But from that very first morning when the HRT evaluators had woken him up at four o’clock and told him to strap on a fifty-pound vest for a little “light” exercise, he’d stopped thinking about the shitty state of his personal life. Instead, he’d fallen back on his Ranger training, concentrating only on two things: (1) surviving and (2) executing the orders he was given to the best of his ability.
He had no idea what the evaluators had thought of him. To further mess with their heads, the candidates—who were known only by the number on their clothes, not by name—weren’t given any feedback, positive or negative, during the entire process. But in some sense, it didn’t matter. John had set out to prove something to Piser by showing up for HRT tryouts, but maybe he’d needed to prove something to himself, too.
And when he’d stood there at the end of those two weeks, sweaty, starving, exhausted, and with his muscles screaming in agony, but still ready to take on any other shit the evaluators wanted to throw at him, he’d felt surprisingly . . . good. Spending fourteen days in constant crisis mode tended to put things in perspective, he supposed.
“Well, we’re glad to have you back.” Ryan grabbed John’s shoulder in camaraderie. “And I think I speak for all of us when I say”—he feigned a quizzical expression—“Dude, what happened to your hair?”
The rest of the group laughed as John grinned and ran a hand through it. “Thought it was time to change up the look.” Normally, he wore his hair a little longer, seeing how it was tough to play an organized crime thug if one looked suspiciously like a clean-cut FBI agent. But since having his hair in his face for two straight weeks of drills was never a smart idea, and ponytails didn’t work with the combat helmets, he’d trimmed off a few inches before leaving for HRT tryouts.
Jin pretended to wipe away a tear. “But . . . I didn’t even get to say good-bye to the man bun.”
“Still with that?” John asked dryly. One time he’d made the mistake of wearing his hair tied back in a knot to work, and, boy, had his squad mates ever had a field day with that. For two damn weeks, all he’d heard was Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair! every time he’d walked into the office.
Fortunately, all color commentary about his hair fell by the wayside when Brandon, a younger agent who’d recently joined their squad, walked over with a grin. “Guess who I just rode the elevator with?”
“The director?” Ryan quipped.
“The new agent,” Brandon said.
Immediately, he had the group’s full attention.
“And are the rumors true?” Jared asked eagerly.
“Do we have visual confirmation that she’s cute?” Ryan wanted to know.
Brandon leaned against the cubicle, clearly enjoying having the inside scoop. “Indeed, we do.”
John was obviously out of the loop. “Who are you guys talking about?”
“That’s right, you were off yesterday,” Brandon said. “A new undercover agent joined the public corruption squad. Rumor is she’s a former lawyer—I heard she was giving Sam Wilkins crap about going to Yale.”
“What is it with these former attorneys and their law schools?” Ryan nudged John. “Hey, how many postgraduate degrees does it take for a white-collar-crime agent to figure out how to use his pistol?”
John feigned surprise. “They let white-collar-crime agents carry pistols?”
He grinned as the rest of the agents cracked up. Yes, it was an old joke. And in truth, there were a lot of really good agents on the public corruption and other white-collar crime squads. Even the former lawyers, John could acknowledge, despite the fact that some of them seemed to fancy themselves a little more refined and intellectual than everyone else.
Not that he was biased against former-lawyer types.
Okay, maybe he was a little biased.
There’d been this one woman he’d met at the Academy, a former lawyer who’d worked at one of Chicago’s top firms before joining the FBI. She and John were the only two trainees in their class from Chicago, and, normally, one might’ve assumed their local connection would foster some camaraderie between them.
But in this case, not so much.
Because in this case, said former lawyer had been a real pain in the ass.
Ooh, look at me, I’m soooo smart with my Stanford law degree, I should be teaching these classes instead of sitting here with the rest of you schmucks.
All right, maybe she hadn’t said those exact words, but that had been the gist of her attitude. She was smart and quick on her feet, and a natural at interrogations, and there was no doubt that she’d been the shining star of their training class.
And she’d loved rubbing his face in it every chance she got.
Fortunately, that woman was across the country in Los Angeles, undoubtedly impressing the entire office with her wondrous brilliance or whatever.
“Any other intel on the new agent?” Ryan asked Brandon. “Like, whether she’s single?”
“Going straight to that question, are you?” John said to Ryan.
“Hey, have pity on those of us who don’t already have a gorgeous girlfriend waiting at home,” Ryan shot back.
Right. John cleared his throat, adding “drop vague hints to co-workers about not seeing Alicia anymore” to his mental to-do list.
“Did you at least get the new agent’s name?” Jin asked.
“As a matter of fact, I did. It’s—” Brandon trailed off, looking sheepish as their squad leader, Special Agent Reece Gunnar, approached the group.
“As much as I hate to break up the sewing circle, gentlemen,” Gunnar said wryly, “Shepherd here has a meeting with the SAC to get to.”
This was news to John. “I do?”
“I just got off the phone with him, and he asked me to send you up.” Gunnar’s gaze settled on John’s newly shorn hair, and the corners of his mouth curved. “Aw. Just when the man bun was starting to grow on me.”
John looked up at the ceiling, shaking his head.
Seriously. One time.
At the end of the hallway on the twelfth floor, the assistant to the Special Agent in Charge waved John through from behind her desk.
“You can go in. Mr. McCall is expecting you,” she said.
Nick looked up from his computer when John knocked on the door. “Agent Shepherd. Either you made it all the way through Selection—in which case, hats off to you—or you flunked out and have been on a very unauthorized vacation these past few days.”
John took a seat in front of the desk. “If that was a vacation, I really need to find a new travel agent.”
Nick chuckled. “When do you find out if you made the team?”
“A few weeks.” During his outbriefing, John had learned there were several steps to the decision-making process. If he’d earned the recommendation of the HRT operators, his candidacy would then be passed up the chain for approval by both the Bureau’s Tactical Section and the Mid-Level Leadership Selection Unit.
“And when would you report to NOTS?”
NOTS, or New Operator Training School, was the eight-month-long program held every year at Quantico for new HRT recruits. “The Tuesday after Labor Day.”
Nick nodded. “Then we’ll keep you off any long-term investigations until you hear from headquarters. I spoke with Gunnar, and he says you have plenty of reports you can catch up with now that you’re no longer traveling to Detroit every week.”
John pictured the huge stack of paperwork waiting on his desk.
Probably, he’d rather be starved and tortured for another two weeks.
Nick grinned. “I had a feeling that would be your reaction. So I took the liberty of assigning you to a short-term investigation. Assuming you don’t mind traveling again.” He grabbed a file off his desk and handed it to John. “The Jacksonville office needs two Chicago agents to help out with a sting op. This one is a little different from your usual roles.”
Intrigued by that, John took the file from Nick and opened it. He quickly skimmed the summary provided by the case agents. “A private equity investor? That is a new one for me.”
“I figured we should let you have a little fun, seeing how this could be your last undercover assignment.”
Last undercover assignment. The words were a little bittersweet. “I see the sting op calls for two investors,” John said.
“You’ll be partnered with an agent from the public corruption squad. She’s new—just transferred in yesterday.” Nick checked his watch. “She should be here any moment, actually. I asked her to meet us this morning, so we could go over the details of the assignment.”
Interesting . . . the new agent. Meaning, presumably, the new cute agent. John could only imagine the looks on his squad mates’ faces when they heard about this. “Where’d she transfer from?” he asked conversationally.
“Los Angeles. But like you, Chicago is her hometown—which makes you both perfect for this job. Without even faking it, you two can wax poetic about deep-dish pizza, why the Cubs are America’s team, and how putting ketchup on a hot dog should be a federal offense.”
Hell yes, it should be, but John was focused on something else his boss had just said. “She worked in the L.A. office?”
“For the last six years.” Nick cocked his head. “That puts her right around your year, doesn’t it?”
Oh, indeed . . . it did. Which meant this was all either one hell of a coincidence, or John was about to come face-to-face with the one person who’d not only managed to get under his skin at the Academy but also succeeded in making him look like a total jackass.
Nick looked over at the doorway and smiled. “Ah. Perfect timing. We were just talking about you. Agent Harlow, I’d like you to meet Special Agent John Shepherd, your fellow ‘shady Chicago business entrepreneur.’”
John closed his eyes momentarily, then stood up and turned around.
There she was, standing in the doorway with her tailored gray pantsuit and heels, looking sleek and stylish and so perfectly. . . white-collar-crime-esque.
Her hair was different, he noticed. Still a warm blond, but instead of the long ponytails she’d favored at the Academy, it now fell to her shoulders in a straight, sophisticated cut.
“John,” she said, her light blue eyes widening in surprise.
Nearly fifteen thousand special agents in the FBI, spread throughout the United States in fifty-six field offices, and she had to show up in Chicago for what was quite possibly his last undercover assignment.
As his new partner.
And here he’d thought HRT tryouts had been hell.
Admittedly, Jessica Harlow was caught off guard at the sight of him in her new boss’s office. For one thing, he was supposed to be in Quantico, already part of the Hostage Rescue Team and at this very moment engaged in a live-fire close-quarter battle exercise, or scaling a burning ten-story building. Probably while inverted and holding on to the bricks only by his pinky toes, just for extra kicks.
And for another thing, wow, he looked different from the last time she’d seen him.
Six years ago, John Shepherd had shown up at the FBI Academy looking every bit the former Army Ranger. With military-short hair, cobalt-blue eyes, and six feet, four inches of ripped muscles, he’d had the kind of clean-cut, all-American good looks that belonged on a Wheaties box.
But the man standing before her seemed . . . grittier. Gone was the buzz cut; instead he wore his deep gold hair in a semi-unkempt, textured style that was a bit longer and choppier. Also gone, apparently, was his razor—at least judging from the week’s growth of scruff along his strong jawline.
No tie, she noticed. And an open-necked shirt underneath his suit jacket. Technically, both were violations of the FBI dress code.
“Isn’t this a coincidence?” she said, recovering from her surprise and putting on a smile for the benefit of her new boss as she walked into the office.
From behind his desk, Nick pointed between her and John. “Do you two know each other?”
“Jessica and I were in the same class at the Academy,” John explained. From the easygoing nature of his tone, he, too, didn’t intend to let the SAC in on their little personality clash.
“Funny. Small world, huh?” Nick asked.
“It sure is,” John said.
“You can say that again,” Jessica agreed, at the same time.
They looked at each other and chuckled, as if this were all just so funny. Ha ha ha, good times . . . yeah, it would be a miracle if they made it through this assignment without throttling each other.
“So,” Nick said, clapping his hands. “Since you two are already acquainted, I think we can just dive right in. Jessica, if you’ve had a chance to review the case file, why don’t you bring John up to speed?”
“Of course.” She refocused her less-than-equanimous feelings for the person sitting next to her and got down to the task at hand. She was a professional, after all, and an experienced undercover agent to boot. She could fake playing nice with the best of them.
Although she noted, for the record, that this dirty-hot, I hang with unsavory types look John had going on hardly screamed private equity investor.
And she also noted, for the record, that she was glad there was not, in fact, an actual record of her thinking of John Shepherd as dirty-hot.
“The target is Patrick Blair, mayor of Jacksonville, Florida,” she began. “The son of a high school teacher and a Navy lieutenant, Blair attended law school at the University of Florida and, at age twenty-six, became the youngest city councilmember in Jacksonville history. The report the case agents sent over didn’t include a photograph, so I snagged one off the Internet this morning.” She handed one over to John. “A copy for your convenience, Agent Shepherd.”
In response to her sweet tone, he threw her a look so dark and scowly she expected to hear an ominous boom of thunder outside.
Trust me, big guy. The feeling’s mutual.
“Four years later, Blair ran for mayor, and lost by only three thousand votes to a retired judge running on a nonpartisan ballot,” she continued. “He then ran again in the next election with a campaign that emphasized his experience on the council and focused on Jacksonville’s economic growth. He won that race, becoming the second-youngest mayor of a top-twenty U.S. city. His popularity continued to rise, particularly after he sponsored legislation designed to revitalize key neighborhoods through investment by the private sector, and earlier this year he was reelected to a second term by a whopping eighty-five percent of the vote. By all accounts he’s quite charismatic and is especially popular among female voters.” Jessica smiled. “I’m sure that has nothing do with the fact that he’s single and was recently included in People magazine’s ‘Sexiest Politicians Alive’ edition.”
John snorted, flipping through the file on his lap. “So what’s the catch?”
“The catch is that Jacksonville’s golden boy is running a side business: taking bribes in exchange for political favors,” she said. “The investigation started eighteen months ago, after a local lobbyist approached agents in the Jacksonville office with a tip that another lobbyist, Anthony Morano, was arranging bribes for the mayor. The tip turned out to be a good one and, after two agents visited Morano at home and had a chat with him about the advantages of cooperating with the FBI when one has been caught conspiring to engage in honest services fraud, he flipped on Blair and agreed to wear a wire.
“Through that, the Jacksonville agents learned that Blair has several real estate developers lining his pockets. And we’re not talking penny-ante stuff here; these guys are paying Blair upwards of fifty grand a pop in exchange for his assistance with various zoning and permit issues. It’s a nice little arrangement: For the right price, Blair makes a few phone calls to his friends on the city’s Land Use Committee and, voilà, all the red tape and delays the developer would normally face magically disappear.”
“Is there any evidence these other city officials are on the take?” John asked, his eyes meeting Jessica’s.
She paused, flashing back six years to the many times she’d seen that focused, determined gleam in his blue eyes. Except, around her, that look typically had been accompanied by an irritated tightening of his jaw.
Ah, yes. There it was.
“That was one of the questions I asked Agent Leavitt in Jacksonville when I called this morning to introduce myself,” Jessica said. “He says that, to their knowledge, Blair’s the only crooked one of the bunch. There’s no evidence that the other city officials are aware he’s making money off this scheme—from their perspective, they’re just helping out the mayor when he asks for a favor. Basically, being politicians.”
“Do they have an estimate of how much bribe money Blair has raked in so far?” Nick asked Jessica.
“Around five hundred thousand. But the one concern the U.S. Attorney’s office raised as a potential trial issue is the fact that, so far, all the individuals with firsthand knowledge of the bribes—Morano, plus the developers who’ve paid Blair off—are part of the scheme themselves. Once the arrests are made, we know how this will shake out: These guys will all turn on Blair in exchange for a deal. Which, while helpful, also leaves them open to impeachment on cross-examination that they’re just saying what the government wants in order to save their own skins.”
“An issue that’s far less of a concern if the U.S. Attorney’s office also has testimony against Blair by two undercover agents with firsthand knowledge of the scheme,” Nick said.
“Cue the two ‘shady Chicago business entrepreneurs,’” John said.
Exactly. “The specifics of the assignment are all there,” Jessica said, pointing to the file John held. “You and I will pose as partners from a successful Chicago-based private equity firm interested in opening a restaurant in Jacksonville. Morano will set up a meeting with the mayor, under the guise that we’d like to discuss a few zoning and permitting issues with a property we have our eye on for the project. Then we go from there.”
Nick rested his forearms on the desk. “I’ve already informed the Jacksonville office of your potential time restrictions,” he told John. “They’ve assured me that you and Jessica will be able to wrap this up in a handful of trips. Frankly, either Blair takes the bait or he doesn’t.”
“I’ll get started on my undercover legend right away,” John said.
“Good.” Nick grinned. “By the way, when I spoke to the SAC down in Jacksonville, he mentioned that, as part of your cover, they’re going to put you up at some swanky hotel on Ponte Vedra Beach. So when you two are drinking mai tais by the ocean and swapping stories about the good old days at the Academy, don’t forget who you can thank for this assignment.”
Jessica and John laughed along as if that were just so darn hilarious. Ha ha, chuckle chuckle, ah . . . the “good old days” at the Academy.
Yeah, they were so screwed.
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. There’s a he said/she said dynamic in the story. Did you agree with both John’s and Jessica’s points of view about what happened at the FBI Academy, or did you side more with one character?
2. Both John and Jessica envy the strengths that the other has at the Academy. Why is it so important that they each be the best? Is that simply part of their personalities, or do they each feel that they have something to prove?
3. Jessica works in a very male-dominated field. Do you think her gender is an advantage or a disadvantage in her job as a special agent?
4. John and Jessica start out hating each other. In which scene do you think this begins to change?
5. What do you think John finds most attractive about Jessica? And vice versa?
6. John refuses to forgive his two friends Lucas and Matt, who knew that Rob was sleeping with John’s then girlfriend, Alicia. If you were John, could you ever forgive them? Do you think Lucas and Matt should’ve told John what was going on, or were they caught in the middle? Have you ever been in a similar situation?
7. If you were in Jessica’s shoes when she finds out that her ex-husband is getting remarried, would you want to know whether he cheated, or would you prefer to never know?
8. Why do you think Jessica is so reluctant to admit her feelings for John? Is it because of her recent divorce and a fear of opening up again, or is it that she’s afraid to fall in love with someone who’s moving halfway across the country?
9. A recurring theme is the strain that undercover work can put on the agents’ personal lives. Often people’s jobs strain their romantic relationships. How is undercover work both similar to and different from a nine-to-five job? Has work ever stressed your relationship?
10. For the sake of her job, Jessica has to put up with Mayor Blair’s flirting. Do you think this is something a lot of women encounter and have to deal with in work situations? What do you think about the way Jessica handled it? Have you ever been faced with a similar situation? How did you navigate it?
11. If this were a movie, who would you cast as Jessica and John? How about Mayor Blair? What about Nate and Tara?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love this book and it’s strong characters. Wish Mrs. James could have put a little short story about Tara and Ryan’s meet and greet. But overall great story.
Read til 2 am on a work night, but had to wait to finish the next afternoon.
This is just one of the many awesome romantic comedies that Julie James writes. They are so beautifully written and she is by far one of the most gifted contemporary authors currently writing today. Thank you so much for the adventures.
Loved the story and characters. Absolute fun and fantastic read. You will love it!!!
This was my first Julie James read. She's been on my list for awhile now. I wish that I had started her books earlier. With so much fluff out there, it was refreshing to read a book with so much heart. I loved the dynamic of these characters. Their interaction and the way Julie pens the tale is addictive to the reader. Not only that, but the subject matter is intriguing and makes the book un-put-downable. I love that we get into the mindset of how both Jessica and John perceive their time together in the academy. It's so easy to see how each could be frustrated with the other. I loved watching them slowly opening up to each other and eventually laying certain cards on the table. While the ending wasn't where I thought it might go, it was very apropos for their mindset. It's true that not everyone is meant to do certain things despite abilities and mentality. It's easy to see the research and dedication to characters on Julie's part. The secondary characters were equally interesting and the interactions and dialog with them were fun and provided a certain level of insight. I wholly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more. I highly recommend not only this book, but also this author.
Love all of her books!
triangle, part-of-a-series, special-ops The Thing About Love is part of a series. It is a stand alone book and has interconnecting characters. It is well written with good characters, humor, and a believable plot. This is somewhat different from the other books in this series. I wanted to read this book in one sitting and it just didn't happen. It was a little slow to me. Just didn't compare to the others but still a good read.
I sure wish Julie could write faster as I can’t get enough of her books! Her eyes widened. “Ooh… was it hate sex? I’ve always wanted to have hate sex.” The Thing about Love by Julie James unquestionably ranks as one of my favorite audios I’ve listened to this year! It stars two FBI agents in a sweet, funny, light-hearted, believable, seductive, well-written done-right story line . It’s an enemies-to-lovers trope tale and it’s hot… and sexy… and funny… and, well, just gloriously perfect! Even though this is the seventh book in the author’s FBI/US Attorney series, this installment - like the other books in this series - works entirely well as a stand alone, if that is your preference. This is the story of Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd. They first meet at the Quantico FBI training facility where the two are highly competitive and quickly draw wrong first impressions of each other. After graduation, they happily go their separate ways expecting never to see the other again. Fast forward to six years later as they find themselves both assigned to the Chicago office as partners on a high profile undercover case located in Jacksonville. Thank goodness, they are both professionals and their personal feelings for each other will not be factors as they work their case. If you believe that, I have land for sale in the middle of a yet-to-be-discovered ocean. Jessica and John are written excellently! They are each likable and genuine. Both are driven to excel in whatever they do. Jessica is newly divorced and looking for a fresh start in the Chicago FBI office. John has recently separated from his long-time girlfriend after discovering her cheating on him with his best friend. Actually, they could each write a book on relationship hard knocks. Their constant need to compete with each other makes for some highly entertaining laugh-out-loud moments. Their chemistry is fantastic and their witty banter is both giggly and swoony. Julie has written this story alternating their viewpoints so readers get the inside track inside their heads. I couldn’t get enough of watching them interact from the sidelines. Karen White is one of my favorite narrators. I’m ecstatic that she’s narrating this series. Not surprisingly, she aces every aspect of The Thing About Love! She nails the personality of both main characters with authentic, consistent and realistic-sounding male and female voices. Her pacing couldn’t be better. The end product is polished and professional. I literally could not put this audio down and I’m sure those around me on a pedestrian bridge that I frequently walk wondered what was going on as I burst out laughing at the hilarious banter throughout. I further confess to listening to some of this audio in my hot garage because I didn’t want to hit stop. Karen’s performance, without a doubt, added to my enjoyment of this read. If you are an audiophile, I would highly recommend that you elect to listen to The Thing About Love. Julie and Karen are a pairing made in heaven! I sure wish Julie could write faster as I can’t get enough of her books! I absolutely adored this book and would listen to it again. If you are looking for a highly suspenseful read, don’t pick it up. But, if you enjoy sexy, feel-good contemporary romances with just the right amount of angst, do yourself a favor and check out The Thing About Love! My full review is posted at Reading between the Wines Book Club. Please check it out there!
Loved this book. Would love to see a continuing series with these two and their life together.
Entertaining characters. Good beach read until the final act which ended in the EXACT scenario of a book I read several years ago. Wish I had spent fewer $$.
OMG, absolutely loved. Julie James hasn't written anything I haven't liked, but this one? Blew all of the others out of the water! The dynamic between Jessica and John was fantastic, whether they were in their earlier antagonistic phase (or was it antagonistic? Poor John, LOL) or their reluctant let's-make-the-best-of-this-op phase, or their OMG these two are setting the pages on fire phase, they are absolutely fantastic together. If you like romantic suspense that's high on the romance and snark and does a decent job with the suspense, you can't go wrong with Julie James! (I got a NetGalley copy, but actually listened to the audio from Audible because I love the narrator. She does a fantastic job every time--definitely worth the expense!) Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A
Julie James is back and better than ever! After a long wait, “The Thing About Love” is finally here, and I for one could not be happier! Jessica Harlow loves to be the best at all she does. Stanford Law School aced. FBI Academy, top academics. A top undercover agent in the Los Angeles office…..and then her marriage to a Hollywood producer crashes. So not “her best.” Barely divorced, she returns home to Chicago to lick her wounds and is now assigned to the white collar crimes unit. Then there’s “Shep.” John Shepherd always put 100% in everything he has done. Son of Chicago Police detective, he played football at Wisconsin, then decided to serve his country as an Army Ranger. Recruited to the FBI, he excels at the Academy in the grueling physical schedule and at firearms training. He came in second in academics, right behind some lawyer who thinks she is better than everyone. He is assigned to the organized crime unit of the FBI’s Chicago office, his home city where is widowed dad, brother, friends and live-in girlfriend surround him….until he loses his girl and some close friends in one fell swoop. Now Shep is about to lose his mind, as that stuck-up lawyer from the Academy is now assigned to the Chicago office and, yep, they have to work undercover together. Time to cue the witty banter and sexual chemistry! I loved every page of this book. Some readers seem to find that it lagged, and were disappointed in the book. I was not. To me, this was vintage, excellent Julie James! The banter between Jessica and John was absolutely priceless. The writing as sharp as ever and the plot engrossing. I loved the dynamic between these two - the chemistry was there from the beginning at the Academy, but our duo just didn’t know how to deal with it! The undercover mission was interesting and the secondary characters added the perfect touch - I hope to see some of them in future books! And it was fun to see glimpses of our old favorites - Sam Wilkins, my main man Jack Pallas, Nick McCall and the ever-swoon-worthy Vaughan Roberts. This is an A+ read!
Really enjoyed this. Well worth the read.
I had a difficult time deciding between three and four stars for this one. It was good, not great but not bad either however it could have used less time sort of dragging out the sit downs and socialization and really focused on the h/h who I completely adored but expected more out of after all the focus being drawn on a certain attribute or trait but then never getting to see it. I didn't really get why it was made such a big deal out of why John was this or that when he just comes off as a regular joe without anything to establish the whole he's a 'this that or other' ditto that for Jess. I didn't particularly get why they were a love match either since there wasn't a whole lot of love to be found or explored between them since their relationship is more or less a focus on their professional bond that made them feel more like friends than lovers than any passion or emotional bond that should have been established. Yet there is a lot of world building, there is a lot in plot, a lot in the case being worked, there is a lot involved in Julie's author voice her writing is fantastic, I just wanted more out of our h/h and a reason to cheer for their love life involvement. Still, it was a great read and I enjoyed it so in the end I went with four stars. Good read.
Loved this book! Loved their banter. Loved their dynamic. The supporting characters were awesome. Can't wait for her next book!
Good characters with an engaging storyline. Nothing earth shatering, but very enjoyable. I'll probably re-read.
Captivating!!!!!!!! I was given an advanced copy of this book to write an honest review for Netgalley and Cocktails and Books. I thoroughly enjoyed this fun and flirty story. What makes it so captivating are the well developed characters and the the witty, snappy dialogue. I enjoyed the main characters and all the entertaining secondary characters. This is a fast paced story with a hunky, alpha male hero and a sassy heroine. Special agent John Shepperd and special agent Jessica Harlow first meet when they go through the FBI academy in Quantico together. They spend twenty one weeks trying to outwit each other and compete over everything. By the end of their training, they loathe each other and hope they never meet again. Before joining the FBI, John was an Army Ranger and is the biggest, most athletic in their training group. While Jessica, an attorney, is one of two women in their class and feels she has to constantly prove herself. Now, six years later, Jessica moves back to her hometown of Chicago and finds herself partnered with her former nemesis, John. Neither of them is happy to be working undercover together and find themselves falling right back into their old habit of competing over everything. I was laughing out loud, enjoying their snarky remarks and how they continually try to one up each other. All the while, pretending to everyone else, they get along. As they work on the case, they grudgingly start to admire each other and find themselves having to fight their mutual attraction. I loved the chemistry between John and Jessica. They have a dry wit and there is a lot of verbal bantering and funny lines. Julie James has an easy, breezy, carefree style of writing that is so hard for most writers to achieve but she seems to do it effortlessly. I was immediately transported into John and Jessica's world and I never wanted to leave.
I have always wanted to read a book by JULIE JAMES but never got around to it. Then I got lucky, and received a copy of THE THING ABOUT LOVE to review. Wow, what an enthralling novel. This book is so good, I read it from cover to cover in only a couple of days. The characters are well-convinced, the plot is exciting, and the love story is seductive. FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd attended academy training together. During that time, they were very competitive and rubbed each other the wrong way. In fact, they could not wait to graduate and end their professional relationship. Now it is six years later, and Jessica and John are both based out of the Chicago office. Much to their dismay, they are partnered up, and assigned to an undercover sting operation in Jacksonville, Florida. Spending time together in the sunshine state fuels their feelings for each other, and over a very short period of time they fall in love. However, due to John's promotion and transfer to Quantico, a future may not be possible. This is both an angsty and passionate love story. The author perfectly combines drama and seduction into this fast-paced romantic read. I immediately connected with both Jessica and John, and I cheered them on as they discovered their feelings for one another. I loved learning about the intricacies of being an FBI agent, and how committed an agent has to be in order to be successful. Overall, this is a terrific book with a happy ending that will leave a smile on your face. Complimentary copy provided by Romance Junkies.
This is the first time I've ever gotten to read a Julie James novel, and I went in with pretty high expectations because I've heard great things about her books. I am very happy to say that I wasn't disappointed at all. I'm a big fan of secret agent romances with some suspense, and this one also happens to be an enemies to lovers story so I was really excited. FBI agents Jessica and John meet during training in Quantico and immediately get off on the wrong foot. Jessica is a very hard worker and feels the need to prove herself among all of the men in their training group. John also wants to prove himself, but he is trying to prove that he isn't just a "grunt" and that he has a good brain behind it all. Throughout the training they constantly butt heads and their rivalry begins, always trying to be the better agent. After graduating they both go there separate ways, until six years later they are picked to work together as partners on an undercover assignment. There is still a lot of tension between the two of them, but they both start to realize that maybe it's a different kind of tension this time around. Jessica has just ended her marriage and isn't looking for anything serious. John has also recently left his relationship after catching his girlfriend cheating with his friend. Jessica was a great strong character. I've read a lot of books where they try to make a strong female character but push it a little too hard and either make it completely unbelievable, or just end up making them really unlikable. Jessica wasn't either of those things. She was a hard-working agent, that had some great witty banter with John's character but never came off as a "man hater" type. She was aware that her height and weight had her at a disadvantage but never complained about it and found a different way to overcome the situation. John is a former Army Ranger for whom that has had little to no trouble with the physical aspects of FBI training. John had some struggles early on in the academic department, but he worked harder in those areas, just as Jessica had to work harder to succeed when it came to the more athletic areas of their training. The competitive streak in them both pushed them to work harder and become even better agents, even if they resented each other in the process. John also has a bit of a protective streak when it comes to Jessica, that I found really sweet but not overbearing. When these two first see each other again after six years, they pick up right where they left off with the bickering, and I have to say I loved it! Their banter back and forth was one of my favorite parts of this book, and it continues even after they start to get along. It's more of teasing at that point, but it was cute. I liked watching them working out their problems and work together, and watch those sparks between them build and build. This is a slow burn romance, but it was worth the wait, in my opinion. They had great chemistry together. I've read a couple reviews that talk about the police procedure scenes taking up too much of the story, but I actually really enjoyed reading about that aspect of their work. I thought it was all really interesting. I feel like this was a little bit more light-hearted and less gritty than other FBI/secret agent type of romances that I've read. I really enjoyed this one a lot and look forward to reading more from Julie James in the future.
FBI agent Jessica Harlow has fought hard to find a place in her male dominated field, and even though she has found some success, she knows she still has a lot to prove. She is hoping that her new high-profile undercover sting assignment will give her the edge she needs to prove to her boss that she can handle whatever he throws at her, but the instant she meets her new partner she begins to have her doubts. Of all the people they could pair her with they chose the most annoying and stubborn one they could find... the unbelievably sexy and oh so cocky ex-Army ranger John Shepherd! Ex-Army Ranger John Shepherd is on a mission to land himself a prestigious spot on the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team, now all he needs to do is come out on the winning end of his new high-profile undercover sting assignment. He has rid his life of distractions, fine tuned his focus, and is ready to tackle this assignment head on... that is until he meets his new partner. When his former Quantico nemesis Jessica Harlow breezes through the door and he learns that they will be working side by side on this mission he just about loses it. She is the most infuriating woman he has ever met, and he is certain that there is no way he is going to be able to find common ground long enough with her to get the job done... or will he? This was my first time reading a book by Ms. James, and I can say with complete certainty that it won't be my last! I enjoyed everything about this book, the story line was plausible, suspenseful and engaging, and the characters came with a very realistic feel, you couldn't help but connect to them! I really enjoyed reading John and Jessica's story, their chemistry was electric, at times I swear you could literally feel the sexually charged sparks between them arcing off the pages. It was also refreshing to read a story with a strong and determined heroine who could hold her own against the alpha hero, Jessica had something to prove and she wasn't about to buckle to John's will!! Hands down one of the best first reads that I have settled down with in a long time!! Highly recommend!! I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this title.
The thing about love is it can strike in the unlikeliest of places. Take Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd. Thrown together years after an intensive 21 week FBI training course, where their competitive nature and insecurities got the better of them, these two adversaries are once again face to face working as a team to help bring down a greedy, dirty politician. Finding themselves on a new assignment and both of them newly single, they struggle to resist the temptation of being lip to lip as they push aside false, past notions of one another and focus on the job ahead. With heated glances and unexpected, growing, silent admiration they try to keep hidden, writing that flows, back and forth flashbacks to establish their past history, Julie James delivers another masterful, heart melting FBI themed romantic tale. This reviewer certainly is not surprised. You see, this is experience talking here, my fellow romance book loving friends. I’ve read each and every one of the nine books this author has written so far, and I’ve loved them all, especially her FBI/US Attorney series. So, yeah, love can be complicated, folks, but it was an easy decision to delve into Ms. James’ latest literary endeavor. Here’s to hoping my review has been helpful in some way and that you’ll feel the same. Title: The Thing About Love, Author: Julie James, Pages: 368, 4/11/17, stand-alone, MC are FBI agents, recently divorced heroine, newly single hero, adversaries to lovers, lots of back and forth banter, hesitant to be the first to make a move/commit, white collar crime case. VERY steamy scenes, no cheating, no OW/OM drama, no love triangle, romance safety read. (This review is based on an advanced reader copy distributed via Edelweiss in exchange for an unbiased, fair opinion. No compensation was provided to this reviewer, nor is there any affiliation between the reviewer and author/publisher/Edelweiss.)
This review was written by Marie as a guest review on Ever After Book Reviews blog: The Thing About Love, is that it hits you when you least expect it. And the hero and heroine in this book were blindsided by it while doing the jobs they adore. This second-chance romance is a light-hearted, fun and sassy story about Jessica and John, two former FBI trainees who are reconnected years later, when they’re assigned to the exact same case. As the story unfolds, their former irritations with one another feed in to their undeniable chemistry. As time goes by and they are forced to spend time with one another, their quips and witty banter make for an entertaining show, and evolve in to just what they never expected – love. Ms. James never disappoints when she tells a story. Her literary talents bring her characters to life, and the snarky and strong-willed Jessica is a perfect match for the very stoic and swoon-worthy John. Throw in the excitement of a delightfully detailed FBI investigation, and you’ve got a beautifully pieced together romance with an air of mystery. I have always loved her books, and this one… this one is by far one of my absolute favorites. I voluntarily read a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own.