Billionaire heir computer genius Kyle Rhodes has just been released after 4 months in a federal prison. After his Brazilian supermodel girlfriend broke up with him over Twitter AND posted pictures of her in a hot tub with another guy, he sort of crashed the whole site and then spent the next two days in a drunken stupor in Tijuana. When he comes to and realizes that he created a global incident, he turns himself in, pleads guilty to all charges, and unequivocally takes responsibility for his actions (by the way, I know I’m old when I find “unequivocally taking responsibility for his actions” super hot. Though not so much with the prison part.) So Kyle is enjoying his newfound freedom when the US Attorney’s office, the same people who labelled him the Twitter Terrorist and called him a cyber-menace to society, approach him about testifying on something that me may have witnessed in prison. Since he believes (correctly as it turns out) that they railroaded him for the publicity, he’s reluctant to help them out, at least until he meets the Assistant US Attorney handling the case. He and Rylann Pierce had a steamy encounter nine years previously, but tragic circumstances had kept them from going on their first date and they hadn’t seen each other since. The sparks are still there, but she’s reluctant to get involved because he’s an ex-con and her witness and he’s understandably wary about getting into a new relationship considering how the last one ended. About That Night (Berkley Sensation 2012) is all about how Kyle and Rylann flirt, fight, and fall in love. Granted, that’s what most romances are about, but this one’s really good. I promise!
Though I’m one of the few romance fans here at Rampant Reads, I tend to be be really picky within the genre. I get too frustrated at women’s limited options in society to really enjoy historicals (The Pink Carnation series is an exception because at least the ladies get some quality spying going on.) and I’m not exactly overly demonstrative in my affections (seriously, my limited hug policy is legendary in some circles) so I find many romances to be too flowery and cheesy for my tastes. But Julie James writes books that fall right into my romance wheelhouse. The characters are all strong and relatable, the dialogue is smart and witty, and there is a minimal amount of cheese and angst. About That Night is no exception.
Rylann and Kyle make great lead characters. It’s always nice to see a heroine who’s tough, extremely capable at her job, and can hold her own with anyone. She doesn’t start acting like an idiot as soon as she’s around someone she’s attracted to, which I sadly think is too often the case in fiction. And her concerns about getting involved with Kyle (she doesn’t want to damage her reputation as the badass prosecutor nicknamed Meth Lab Rylann. I’ll let you discover the origin of that nickname on your own.) make total sense and are not just some bullshit excuses to manufacture drama for the main couple.
Kyle, who we first met in A Lot Like Love, is a trickier character because the whole billionaire heir computer genius ex-con thing could easily come across as really unsympathetic and super douchey. But James manages to make him charming, sexy and somewhat humbled after his experience in the slammer. Probably because of the aforementioned taking total responsibility thing (did I mention that I find that hot?), devotion to his family, and hard work towards rebuilding his professional life. In fact, both characters have identities and ambitions outside of the romance, which I think makes them a more interesting couple and a stronger overall story.
Besides strong characters, I think James’ real strength as an author is that she writes great dialogue. This is not a plot heavy book. Yes, there’s the witness stuff and the career stuff, but the bulk of the story is Kyle and Rylann bantering and eventually falling in love, so if the dialogue isn’t good or interesting, then you’d get a really boring book. Luckily the banter here is smart, sexy, and genuinely funny. And as someone who comes from a loving family who expresses that love mainly through teasing and sarcasm, the sense of humor is right up my alley.
Romance novels aren’t for everyone, but if someone was looking to dip their toe in the romance waters, Julie James is probably the first author I’d recommend. Her books are fun, sexy diversions (and I mean that in the best possible way) and she avoids the cliches that newbies associate with the genre. Check out About That Night, or any of her older titles, for a great read. Now where’s my billionaire heir computer genius?