We’re back with another Pandora’s Box, this time featuring About That Night by Julie James. We have lots of Julie James fans here, so we thought it would be fun to get two reactions to her latest release. This time, we’re featuring Maggie Boyd and Heather Stanton in the box.
So, what’s happening in the latest installment in James’ FBI/US Attorney series? Due to events beyond his control, Kyle Rhodes skipped out on his first date with Rylann Pierce. He discovers the chemistry between them still in full force, though, when he finds himself face-to-face with her nine years later in a Chicago courtroom.
Rylann hadn’t expected to have to face the infamous Twitter Terrorist in court. It was, after all, someone else’s case. But when fate throws her once more into the path of the force of nature known as Kyle Rhodes, aka the Twitter Terrorist, , she is pleased with how she handles things. Cool. Professional. Totally over being stood up. She’s glad they had this moment of closure so he could see just how thoroughly she’d moved on.
Then she finds herself having to work with Kyle on another issue and starts to feel her detached manner being slowly eroded away by his charm. Does life really hand you a second-chance at love at first sight?
Maggie: Hi, Heather, thanks for joining me on this Pandora’s Box. Is this your first Julie James? If not, how did the book compare to others of hers that you’ve read?
Heather: Hi, Maggie, This is actually my second Julie James book as I previously read Practice Makes Perfect and adored it. I didn’t have quite the same reaction to About That Night. I liked it but didn’t love it.
Maggie: I had the opposite reaction. Liked but didn’t love Practice Makes Perfect but this one is pushing A-/B+ territory for me. I think one of the things I really enjoyed here was Rylann and Kyle’s relationship. She understood he had a perfectly good reason for standing her up, so there was no baggage from the past they had to overcome. He understood her job and the risks she was taking to be with him in the present (at least at first). While they exchanged plenty of zingers, I can’t remember them ever acting (or treating each other) like anything other than mature adults who really liked each other. The scene with the migraine stands out as sort of defining the relationship for me: I loved that Kyle came over and was so nurturing while she was so down. How did you feel about them as a couple? Did you feel it was the h/h that made this book less than ideal or was there something else that pulled the book down for you?
Heather: For me, it was less of a case of pulling the grade down as it was not quite standing out enough to push the grade higher. This was a B- read for me. I would still recommend it, just a little less enthusiastically.
I think part of my problem is that I never fully warmed up to Rylann. There was nothing I found objectionable about her, but she was just ok. And she was completely overshadowed by the true star of the story, Kyle. He has just enough of a bad-boy edge, i.e. hacking into Twitter, to make me happy without him being an actual bad guy. I fell hard for Kyle. And I agree about the migraine scene. It was one of the moments I found most memorable and cemented my love for Kyle. I also thought the scene with Rylann and the shirt towards the conclusion was a memorable one.
Maggie: Yes, the shirt scene was fantastic. It tied in so beautifully with the idea of love re-discovered. That’s an idea I love in romance (although the mere thought of running into any of my own uni crushes makes me cringe!) ! I also appreciated how she showed the trajectory of each character’s career. Neither of these people existed in the “ether” that so many contemporary characters work in, with jobs you can tell the author knows nothing about. We really got to see glimpses of how each spent their work day, which helped define the characters for me. What did you think of the plotting overall? Did you like the story line of love re-discovered or did you find that hard to buy?
Heather: Truthfully, I am a sucker for love rediscovered stories so I enjoyed this aspect of the book. I think, though, that this was a departure from most second chance at love stories since the hero and heroine did not have much of a history together. They did not have old wounds and baggage that they had to work through together. He stood her up on their first date but she knew why, and did not spend years wondering or letting resentment build up towards him. Hence, I think the story was atypical for a reunited lovers story.
I really liked the way the story came sort of full-circle with Kyle and Rylann finding one another again. It was nice to see both characters letting go of past relationships and not letting those affect their current relationship.
Maggie: I agree. I liked that they didn’t judge their new love by their old. For me, both seemed like grounded, realistic people who are really ready for commitment. I especially appreciated the contrast between Kyle and Jon. It was so clear that Kyle is just a lot more ready to take the next step in the relationship than Jon is or was. I also loved Kyle’s relationship with his family – close but not clingy. They didn’t live in each other’s pockets but were comfortably enmeshed. I would have liked to have seen more from Rylann but her friendship with Rae showed us some of her personal life. I thought her defining character moment came at the end, in the conversations with Cameron and Cade. They showed that smooth, poised, honorable and straight shooting that were characteristic and that she utilized both in her personal and professional lives.
Heather: Did I mention that I am totally crushing on Kyle? I never quite connected with Rylann though. This could be attributed to her characterization as a highly analytical planner who prefers reason over emotion. And so when she finally lets Kyle know how she feels, I still had the sense that she was holding back. While this is in character, I wanted her to be not quite so reserved.
I really enjoy contemporary stories that feature young professionals attempting to balance work, family, and relationships and I think Ms. James does this very well. I agree that both characters were ready for a relationship. Both had experienced bad breakups, but neither allowed that to stand in the way of their future relationship, which I appreciated.
I also appreciated that Rylann doesn’t sacrifice her career in order to be with Kyle. She is determined to make it work. My main issue is the time it takes her to make her decision. I understand that she is a “look before you leap” person through and through, but I really felt that by that point in the novel she should have been ready to confront the issue of bringing their relationship into the public eye. Because she is such a careful planner, she had to have known that the issue would soon be raised. The way she handled the situation made me wonder if she was fully invested in the relationship. Plus I think it is hurtful anytime someone does not want to make a romantic relationship known. Maybe because I connected with Kyle’s character I could easily put myself in his shoes. Regardless of the reason for keeping the relationship secret, it had to have felt like shame and rejection to him.
Maggie: I actually understood it from her point of view. It wasn’t just making a relationship known to friends and co-workers but to the whole nation. The brunette bombshell news article incident at the beginning highlighted this. People have lost jobs before because the press makes it impossible for them to work in any position that requires confidentiality and as a US attorney, Rylann assuredly has one of those jobs. So I thought it was good that they waited to see just how committed they were before moving forward.
This author does a great job of keeping her main characters front and center, imo. We see Jordan and Nick, Cameron and Jack. We might have witnessed the start of a new relationship with Rae and another Jame’s regular but I didn’t feel any of these characters took the focus of the main couple. Do you agree or did you feel there were too many guest appearances?
Heather: Yes, I get very annoyed when the characters from preceding novels crop up so often in a story that they take the focus from the main couple. This is especially true when the entire cast of a series pops in and you have to keep the names of all 52 cousins straight. Fortunately the appearance of characters from the previous novels was just right here. I loved the interactions between Jordan and Kyle because they have such a typical brother/sister relationship. She has his back but she still mocks him mercilessly!
Maggie: I love memorable scenes and one that sticks out in my mind is where Kyle learns how his parents actually met. Hilarious! Did you have any memorable scenes in this book?
Heather: Oh that scene had me giggling too. I thought that, in addition to being cute and funny, that it served as a reminder to Kyle that his parents were human, flaws and all. And it made the point that relationships can develop out of unusual circumstances and thrive.
I also got quite a kick out of Kyle’s dad informing him that he had watched an episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” once and he really, really didn’t want either of his children to turn out like them. I love pop culture references and, well, I’ve seen “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”…
Maggie: Yes, that was really cute! The Kardashians, a warning to us all to raise our kids right!
Like I said, overall I give this an A-/B+ and a strong recommend for those who like funny, sweet contemporary romances. How about you?
Heather: I’d give this one a B-. There were a few minor aspects that bothered me, but I would still recommend About That Night as a fun contemporary with a yummy hero.
– Maggie Boyd and Heather Stanton