Genre fiction lover: Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy
I always look forward to a Julie James book because she fills a void in romance for me. She writes whip smart urbanites who are sexy and adult and who are great in their jobs. Usually the type of big-city high powered female she writes finds a more comfortable home in chick lit or women's fiction. If they do find their way between the pages of a romance novel, they are usually running from their terrible life in the city to their more wholesome life the a small town.
But not in here. These are straight up contemporary romances with a fun and sexy side.
In this one Sidney is returning back to her hometown from NYC. Except her hometown just happens to be Chicago where she has just landed a job as a manager of a huge investment fund. There she meets Vaughn, an FBI undercover agent, at a coffee shop where he tries to pick her up and she witheringly shoots him down.
I liked Sid and Vaughn together. They were total opposites. She was wealthy and sophisticated and was unabashedly looking for romance, love and marriage. She makes no bones about this. She is even registered with an online dating site. Vaughn, otoh, hails from more yeoman stock, is a little rougher around the edges and enjoys his bachelorhood with no excuses. Either one or both could have been tiresomely made to seem like a stale cliche, but they weren't.
Both Sid and Vaughn are matter of fact in their desires. While they spar and find good-natured (sometimes judgey) fault in the other's romantic goals, as a reader I couldn't judge either one of them.
Of course this is a romance and they are the protagonists so they are attracted to each other. They find themselves in each others orbit because their siblings are getting married in what amounts to a whirlwind wedding. And that attraction leads to some great sex.
Two things really stand out in this book.
The first is the dialogue. The verbal jousting between Syd and Vaughn is sharp and funny. I loved it so, so much. In one scene (post-coital) Syd is picking Vaughn's brains to get tips to weed out the players. He doesn't want to get married but she does so in preparation for dating life after their hot attraction cools, and so she wants to use his vast experience to give her a leg up on spotting the losers.
Vaughn scoffed. "I'm not giving you tips on dating other guys."
"Because we just slept together. It's...weird."
She reached out and touched his hand, smiling ever-so-sweetly. "Aw, baby, don't be like that. We're friends, right?" Her eyes danced mischievously. "Isn't that what you guys always say?"
a little later in the conversation
"Wait - pause right there." Sidney grabbed her phone and began typing.
Vaughn stared at her. "Are you taking notes?"
"Hell, yes. This is good stuff." She read out loud as she typed "'No texts good-night.' Got it." She looked up. "What else?"
"Seriously, Sinclair, I was just inside you ten minutes ago."
She reached out and touched his hand, her smile sweet once again. "Aw, baby. And you know how special that was to me."
The second, and again I think James does this very well, is how their workplace is incorporated into the story, James makes her protagonists very competent, even excellent at their jobs. We get to actually see them at work, doing work. And in Sid and Vaughn's case, their work isn't included just as a place to set the scene. Nor is it included to propel plot. As a matter of fact, you could redact all the scenes of their workplace from this book and have lost nothing. But these workplace moments add a little brick in the foundation of their character development. Just as much as Sid's relationship with her father is a part of what makes her tick, her competence in the boardroom is as well. And instead of telling us she is a good businesswoman, James showed us and we get to see it in action as Sid pursues a company and snags a client. Ditto with Vaughn and his takedown of some dirty cops. It had absolutely nothing to do with his romance with Sid but did a great job of showing that he was a cool customer and a great agent.
My biggest issue with the book is just like the last one of hers I read, I felt the ending came out of nowhere suddenly. We get all this great build up and then -- abrupt ending.
But even so, Sid and Vaughn were fun to read about and spend a day with. Good book.