BOOK REVIEW: The Thing About Love by Julie James

Title: The Thing About Love

Author: Julie James

Series: N/A

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Published: April 18th 2017 by Berkley

Rating: 3/5 stars ★★★

SYNOPSIS:

FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army ranger clashed during their training at Quantico, gladly going their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to run into each other again–assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting.

For both of them, being paired with a former 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 as a team–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 whole lot more complicated. . .

MY REVIEW:

3 of 5 stars to The Thing About Love by Julie James

★★★

Julie James has always been a favorite author of mine and so I, myself, was surprised when I finished this book and felt it was lacking, hence, the 3 star rating.

I commend her thorough research on the technicalities around FBI and the whole government process in general. The story did seem more realistic because of it. However, I find that there was so much info dump in all the chapters regarding these matters which bored me. It felt like she was so focused on giving us an idea of what happens to the characters’ field of work–I appreciate that, I really do–that in the end, she lost track of the romantic aspect and wasn’t able to provide enough material to remember her characters by.

It was so easy to build Jessica and John’s (oh, what a forgettable name) chemistry because they had a past and they hated each other. I enjoyed their back and forth so much. This element is what I need more from the story. It always so happens that when I feel like they had a good banter going, the chapter would end already and the next one would open with another lengthy explanation of what their job entails. And because of that, the good flow of the reading experience is cut prematurely.

Regardless, I still liked it, enjoyed it some.

Since it’s been a while since James released a book, I was really looking forward to reading this so it was disappointing to end up not completely loving it. And because I have a lot of opinions about this book, I decided to answer some of the discussion questions at the end of the book:

  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?

I was neutral to their stories because I was able to pin point which instances the characters were exaggerating or were unintentionally misinterpreting the other’s actions. I attribute that to James who put subtle hints on which part the characters were completely being biased.

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?

I have to say, both. Being competitive is simply part of their nature. They wouldn’t join the FBI in the first place if they weren’t up to the challenge. Being naturally competitive, they would always have something to prove whether to themselves or to others, it doesn’t really matter. In the end, they have the natural instinct to try and excel at their job.

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?

Her being a female in a male-dominated field definitely has its advantages and disadvantages. However, there is no issue here because males also encounter the same experience when faced with the same scenario.

4. John and Jessica start out hating each other. In which scene do you think this begins to change?

I’m very sure they started out liking each other with the subtle looks and quiet admiration they felt even before they talked. But to answer the second question, their feelings changed when Jessica felt the need to assert her place in the academy by turning down John’s attempt at levity.

5. What do you think John finds most attractive about Jessica? And vice versa?

John and Jessica are quite similar in characteristics and I think that’s the reason they connected so well and the characteristic they liked most about each other. They may have quarreled a lot in the beginning but when they matured, they easily got each other’s vibe and related with each other’s past relationship failures.

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?

I’m not a very forgiving person so I guess that answers the question. I am like John in this regard. I have a hard time forgiving people who I felt wronged me in some way. And when I do forgive someone, I never forget what they did so the relationship never goes back to the way it was. I strongly believe Lucas and Matt could have told John what was going on. I faced a similar situation when I was in high school. Two friends of mine were having trouble in their relationship and they both confided in me about it. They didn’t want to talk to each other so they came to me instead. I know they would get mad if I revealed their grievances about one another but I still did because I wanted to help. They both got mad at me after that. There was a lot of crying but in the end, we made up.

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?

I would want to know because it would serve as my closure. I’m the kind of woman who has a hard time moving on if she doesn’t have enough reasons to do so. I think cheating is unforgivable so that would be a sure fire way of being able to move on.

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?

It’s all three because love is complicated and makes you doubt yourself in the beginning of a relationship when you’re fresh out of a break up.

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?

I’ve never been in a relationship but watching people around me, I learned that love makes time. Jobs, whether nine-to-five or not, will always affect a relationship in some way and it’s up to the couple to make it work. If they really love each other, anything is possible.

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?

Unfortunately, sexual harassment has become a common thing in my country. It’s disgusting and with the patriarchal government that influences society to be the same, it’s likely to become worse. I think Jessica handled her situation well. I actually envy her composure and confidence in dealing with these kind of situations. I have experienced similar scenarios. I was young then, 15, I think. I was in a public vehicle on the way to school when the  guy next to me put his hand on my lap but in a really subtle manner so no one saw. It was a first time for me so I didn’t know what to do first. I tried ignoring it and decided to just put up with it until my stop but it was taking too long so I forcefully removed his hand. It was hard because he was resisting. Nobody did anything. I wasn’t traumatized, however. It was just a small incident. But I did learn from that experience. Cat-calling also happens to me a lot but I have learned to just ignore it.

11. Jessica doesn’t want John to know that she drove through the night from South Carolina to say good-bye to him in person. Why do you think she keeps this from him? Do you think it would’ve changed John’s decision to leave for Quantico if he had known that she did that?

I think it boils down to the fact that Jessica was still unsure of John’s feelings for her and she didn’t want to be the first to admit her feelings for fear of rejection, maybe. If she told John this could have influenced his decision big time especially since he was already having doubts about leaving.

12. At the end, both Jessica and John are willing to make sacrifices in order to make the relationship work. What do you think about John’s decision to quit HRT? Do you think making the team was something he genuinely wanted, or do you think it was more that he felt he should join the team since he could?

For John, joining HRT wasn’t a dream at the time but a chance to escape his reality. He was trying to move on and forget what his bestfriend and girlfriend did so this was his way to deal.

13. If this were a movie, who would you cast as Jessica and John? How about Mayor Blair? What about Nate and Tara?

Hm, tough question. For John, Charlie Hunnam maybe. For Jessica, a blonde Bryce Dallas Howard would be perfect. I don’t really care who gets cast as Mayor Blair, Nate and Tara.


** Cover art: 4/5 stars. Looks great! Too bad the story didn’t live up to it.
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