The Premise: FBI agent Nick McCall is used to going undercover and pretending to be someone else for months at a time, but his latest assignment starts off short and simple. He has to pretend to be the date of billionaire heiress and wine store owner Jordan Rhodes at the annual wine tasting and fundraiser at Bordeaux restaurant. All he needs to do is plant a few bugs in the office of Bordeaux's owner and suspected mob money launderer, Xander Eckhart, and that will be that. Unfortunately, an unforeseen circumstance turns a one day job into one with no end in sight.
My Thoughts: The plot is in the same ballpark as James' earlier book, Something About You (which I reviewed here: ), we watch as an FBI agent falls in love with the woman he's supposed to protect. This was a straightforward contemporary suspense romance: boy meets girl; there's some friction and banter, but sparks fly; bad guy gets in the way; love prevails. It's not a overly complex plot, but it's oh so much fun. A Lot Like Love reads like a nice romantic comedy that is perfect for a rainy day.
This story begins with Nick finishing up another long stint undercover and ready to spend a few days off to visit his family, when he's called in by his boss to consult on another case. An agent new to the undercover business needs Nick as backup as he takes heiress Jordan Rhodes to the exclusive, 5000 dollar a head charity fundraiser at Bordeaux. Jordan is well known within Chicago because of her very rich, billionaire father, not to mention her infamous twin brother who is in jail for a computer-related crime. Nick expects a spoiled rich girl, but Jordan really doesn't live off her father's money -- she makes her own money via her wine store. I loved that Jordan is a business owner and her knowledge of fine wine is a large part of the book (she may not be a lawyer like past Julie James heroines, but her job is still very important to the story). When Nick first meets Jordan, he has his initial assumptions, and neither is happy that Nick has to replace the original agent assigned to be her date. Nick learns very quickly though that Jordan is not a snob. I liked that Jordan really is unpretentious. Her friends aren't all wealthy socialites and she owns a wine shop because she loves wine, not for the prestige. She treats wine as something she wants people to feel comfortable with and to try, and that she's geeky about, not as some way to flaunt her wealth and privilege. It was fascinating as a non-wine expert to read about it, and It was nicely done how Jordan's open approach was so different from Eckhart's: he wanted to show off, and it is a competition to him. His snobbery extends to the rest of his character, and this is shown in the book in many little ways.
The romance in A Lot Like Love was just right. Sweet, but not too sweet, steamy (there is sex), but not too steamy. And there's plenty of sarcasm from everyone which adds a nice touch of humor to the romance. Nick is a guy through and through, and Jordan brings out an introspective side of him that he isn't used to. Jordan is perfect for him because she's just as unused to saying how she feels. In her family, they deal with things through sarcastic humor. So when Nick and Jordan are together, they are on the same sort of wavelength. Nick calls her Rhodes, and Jordan tries to expand his comfort zone. I liked that they both realize how they feel and it's not hard for them to be honest with themselves (being honest with each other is another story). They had their bumps but they were relatively easily resolved along with the investigation.
I also liked the other relationships in this book. Jordan had good relationships with her store assistant, Martin and with her twin brother. She also has a tight-knit set of friends. Although they were on the page too quickly for me to get individual impressions of them, I could tell that they were important to Jordan. Nick too has family that he is close to, and his relationships with his brothers and with the guys at the FBI are full of the friendly ribbing that Jordan gives her brother. It was also nice to see some familiar characters from Something About You show up here, and bonus points for a couple of Pride and Prejudice references (as well as Lost and Dancing with the Stars).
Overall: I liked this one just about as much as I liked Something About You. They're both romantic suspense, is a subgenre I don't really go for, and I prefer her straight contemporaries without the suspense plots, but Julie James writes comfort food for my soul, and that trumps my romance reading preferences. It's an uncomplicated story, but it hits the spot. A Lot Like Love was the right read for me this past rainy weekend.
I'm already looking forward to her fifth book, which will have Jordan's twin brother, Kyle, as its hero, and has been tentatively titled About That Night (via trueromance).