*Warning: The review contains spoilers. Beware*
A Love Like Love by Julie James
published by Berkley in March 2011
THE FBI WANTS HER COOPERATIONGenre: Contemporary romance
As the daughter of a billionaire and the owner of the city’s top wine store, Jordan Rhodes is invited to the most exclusive parties in Chicago. But there’s only one party the FBI wants to crash: the charity fundraiser of a famous restaurateur, who also happens to launder money for the mob. In exchange for her brother’s release from prison, Jordan is going to be there—with a date supplied by the Bureau.
AGENT McCALL JUST WANTS HER
As the top undercover agent in Chicago, Nick McCall has one rule: never get personal. This “date” with Jordan Rhodes is merely an assignment—one they’re both determined to pull off even if they can’t be together for five minutes before the sarcasm and sparks begin to fly. But when Nick’s investigation is compromised, he and Jordan have no choice but to pretend they’re a couple, and what starts out as a simple assignment begins to feel a lot like something more...
Series: Connected to Something About You
The Story: After the events in Something About You, the FBI was been able to arrest Roberto Martino, head poncho of the largest crime syndicate in Chicago, and is now working towards shutting down all of his operations. One of them is a money laundering scheme that is run through Xander Eckhart's bars and restaurants. In order to gather evidence, the FBI needs to plant some bugs in Eckhart's office; however, security is tight and access, limited. The only opportunity would be during Eckhart's Valentine's party; however, the guest list is extremely exclusive... which is why, the FBI wants Jordan Rhodes' cooperation. What makes Jordan an excellent candidate is not the fact that she is the daughter of a billionaire or the owner of a successful wine shop, but instead, that the FBI has the perfect incentive to ensure her cooperation: the release of her twin brother from prison.
Jordan would do anything to help her brother and sneaking an FBI agent as her date to a party seems like a fair trade. The only problem she has is Agent Nick McCall grating her nerves. Luckily, he was only brought in to coach her and Agent Huxley and offer assistance as he has extensive experience of undercover work.Unfortunately, things never go as planned and when Agent Huxley falls sick, Nick has to step in... and when Eckhart gets jealous and wants to find dirt on Nick, the charade must go on... but what if it becomes the real thing?
My Opinion: Ms James is an author that I always enjoy, but while everyone looooved her books, I only liked them. My biggest issue with the books has been they weren't contemporary romance enough, a touch too chick-lit-ish. As a result, I went in A Lot Like Love with low expectations and I was pleasantly surprised :)
I think what worked best for me in A Lot Like Love were the characters and the storyline. I really liked both Jordan and Nick. I thought Jordan was a very interesting character, very sophisticated but at the same time, grounded to earth. Although she's the daughter of a billionaire, her father made his fortune while Jordan and her twin brother were growing up and is a firm believer of making it on your own. So Jordan pretty much grew up like everyone else, went to school, got a degree in business and drafted a business plan to open her wine shop. Even now, she does not depend on her father's money... and that's what made Jordan so interesting in my opinion. She wasn't born with the silver spoon in her mouth, but she knows both sides of the medal. When Nick meets Jordan, he thinks she is a spoiled princess, but she is anything but. Instead, she's independent, capable and smart. Another check in the plus column for me was Jordan's relationships with the people she loved. Her loyalty to her brother Kyle, which means she's behind him and also there to lend support. The fact that she goes each week to visit him and cheer him up, it means a lot and is very commendable. Also, she's known her best friends and maintained a relationship with them since college and fortune has not changed that. Really, she's just a regular woman with a very expensive car :) As for Nick, I liked him as well, although I thought his character wasn't as developed. Then again, what is there to say about a single man who's dedicated his life to his work which mostly consisted of undercover work? What I can say about Nick is that he did come across as manly, rough around the edge, but not overboard alpha and that was good for me :) It made him more normal and real in my opinion, although who doesn't know Dancing with the Stars nowadays? His reaction was funny though :) Something else I liked about Nick is that he was not too stubborn. For example, he had preconceptions about Jordan because her father is a billionaire and so he thought she was princess-y in the beginning. However, his opinion changed once he got to know her and admitted he was wrong. So a good guy who is able to match everything Jordan throws at him and even more :)
The story is as I described above. Jordan and Nick pose as a couple to go to the party so Nick can plant those bugs. What neither expected is Eckhart has been after Jordan, but because of Kyle's trial and imprisonment, his seduction has been on hold. He was planning to resume it at the Valentine's party and Jordan showing up with Nick really doesn't please him. He wants to find dirt on Nick to get him out of the picture and so, Jordan and Nick have to continue to pose as a couple... that means kisses and spending time together. I quite enjoyed the romance; it worked for me. I like that they had to spend time together, which means they got to know each other. I think that's really made Nick realize who Jordan was truly, how hard-working she was. It also showed Jordan's a better side of Nick as well, like picking her food, helping her close the store. It's all small things, but it gives you such insight.
Other things that worked for me and made this book better: Jordan and Kyle's relationship. Also, that Kyle wasn't such a criminal... what he did was stupid, but seriously didn't warrant jail time... and LOL, the Twitter Terrorist. It was a bit absurd, but all in good fun :) Nick's family - we don't actually see them (and I actually wished we did!), but there are phone calls and I think the dynamics said it all :) Finally, probably one of the best part, was the FBI's office. Loved seeing Nick and Jack Pallas competing with each other, their trash-talking, it's really what guys do :) Then you add in Huxley and Wilkins, LOL. I also loved Wilkins reaction when their boss told him the next assignment would be his LOL.
All in all, I think Ms James wrote great characters and a good story ;) The balance between the romance and plot worked well too :) I thought it was actually interesting. The humor was good and I had some nice LOL moments. My only complaint and why this book isn't getting an A grade is the way Nick's cover story broke. Having an ex-girlfriend coming and confronting Jordan and then, blowing Nick's cover, ugh. That's just too frustrating. I guess it could happen, but I felt it was the easy way out here. Also, I felt it really reflected badly on Nick's professionalism. What if Jordan had been the mark? As it is, it still put the whole investigation in jeopardy, with their suspect catching on! I didn't mind Nick's identity being discovered, but the way it was done, it really left a bad taste in my mouth...
Finally, I do think once Jordan and Nick really got together, the storyline snowballed to the ending. It was a bit rushed and the disagreement between Jordan and Nick seemed a bit foolish. However, it was all counteracted by all the goodness in this book :)
My Grade: B++. I am soooo looking forward to Kyle's book now! :) Also, I hope Ms James will continue with the FBI office, I think it's really a good set up for her stories :)