They were the worst dancers anyone had ever seen, but they were also the happiest.
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Every time a Julie James book comes out, I get excited because I know it’s going to be a good one. Her characters have fantastic chemistry—they bicker and banter and usually intensely dislike each other before they love each other—and I adore how her protagonists from past books pop up now and then to remind us that they are beautiful and still in love. Another source of her books’ appeal? James typically focuses on FBI agents, but you know, the hot, hyper-masculine, and also sensitive ones—not the ones that ruin entire elections. (I know, I know. That’s for a whole different blog post.)
I bought The Thing about Love for myself on Mother’s Day and it was a decadent treat.
In the opening chapter of the book, Special Agent John Shepherd discovers that his girlfriend is cheating on him with a good friend. He’s pretty upset about this, but he also sees it as a good excuse to follow the opportunity he’s thought about for a long time—pursuing the Hostage Rescue Team. He’d have to move and undergo intensive training, but he’s single (now) and without any major commitments.
Special Agent—yes, both lead characters are FBI agents in this book!—Jessica Harlow has divorced her husband and moved back to Chicago. Her boss assigns her to an undercover mission where she and a partner will try to take down a corrupt Floridian mayor who is accepting money in exchange for helping companies break zoning, etc. laws.
Her partner is John Shepherd, and there’s only one problem. They’ve detested each other since FBI training. Okay, there’s a second problem, too. They're also crazy attracted to one another.
John and Jessica travel to Florida to catch the mayor doing his nefarious deeds, and along the way they discover that there are some misunderstandings in their past. But they’re coworkers who have both been burned recently in the romance department, and one of them—John—has plans to change his whole life to become a member of the specialized HRT.
Do John and Jessica have the potential to be more than hot, Floridian sex partners? That's the question of the day.
Read Julie James’ The Thing about Love to find out.
Need to Know: A cinematic, tense murder-mystery that probes at questions surrounding the lies and truths of friendship and the secrets we keep.
From the opening lines of The Dry—a gruesome meditation on the blowflies swarming around the dead bodies of the Handler family—to the last stirring, powerful lines, I was hooked into this murder-mystery. This book offers a tense, mesmerizing ride; it's an extraordinarily focused mystery that also manages to be tender and empathetic to many of its characters.
When the novel opens, Luke Handler, his wife, Karen, and their young son, Billy, have been shot and killed. All signs point to Luke as being the perpetrator of the murders. Aaron Falk, a police officer who lives in Melbourne and who was once Luke’s best friend, returns to Kiewarra for the funeral. While there, he’s enlisted by Luke’s parents to investigate what happened.
Complicating Aaron’s presence there is the fact that when he and Luke were teens, one of their closest friends, Ellie Deacon, was found dead. The people of Kiewarra suspected the two young men, but Luke and Aaron avoided any further suspicion by using the same alibi. The problem is that they weren't being honest about where they were the day that Ellie died.
The questions surrounding the whodunits drive the plot forward and double the tension. Could Luke have murdered his wife and son and killed himself? Are the Handler murders and Ellie’s death related in some way?
Underpinning all of these questions is the drought in Kiewarra, a drought that’s devastating the community. That’s making people act in unexpected ways. That’s creating near boiling conditions where anything could happen, particularly when the Handlers have just been killed and the person suspected of killing Ellie Deacon is walking in their community again.
The Dry is such a good mystery. Finely crafted and well-written, with a compelling plot that doesn’t skimp on thoughtful characterization. Some of the scenes in this book, particularly regarding the child Billy, are incredibly difficult to read; partly because, plot aside, these were characters that I cared about. But don’t let that stop you from reading this really great book.
Give me that HEA, please.