Three years ago, U.S. Attorney Cameron Lynde worked closely with Jack Pallas on an investigation that went totally FUBAR. His career was in the toilet, and he blamed her for totally screwing him over. He ended up in the remote wilds of some place that wasn’t Chicago nursing a big old asshurt over how wrong things went and doesn’t expect to see her again – until she overhears a murder in a hotel room next door to her own, and Pallas is assigned to the case.
I don’t think I can do justice to how freaking fun this book is. Something About You is a perfect storm of awesome. From first impressions to the last page, it’s worth shaking your tail feather over.
Part Awesome the First: Cover is unique, hot, and also eye-catching. And in fact, the cover art reflects a dress that the heroine wears – how in the world did James pull that off? I suspect chickens and voodoo were involved.
Part Awesome the Second: from the first scenes, the dialogue is dry champagne crossed with poprocks. (That’s a good thing.) It crackles, it’s funny, it makes you laugh, and it isn’t ever fake or cliche or completely unrealistic. These are smart, intelligent people who speak like normal humans and don’t ever mouth cliches unless they’re using one to tell the other off.
Part Awesome the Third: there’s plenty of conflict for the plot, between the history overshadowing Cameron and Jack, and the murder she heard overnight in the hotel room next door, and the mystery of who did it, and who completely screwed up that other investigation three years ago. But James excels at writing characters who are so real they bring understandable and realistic conflict to the story that isn’t ever too much to believe. It’s not top-heavy, and the mystery of what happened in the hotel isn’t more or less important than what happened three years ago, or a few days prior between Cameron and Jack. The characters themselves are so vivid and real, and so interesting, the plot could have revolved around the typesetting of the phonebook for HoHoKus, New Jersey, and I’d have been reading page after page.
Part of James’ deft character building skillz include the redevelopment of traditional and expected character roles. The best friends are real, and if there’s a potential for cliche, it never goes where I expected it to. She updates and then redeploys the expected trope, and makes each character, not just Cameron and Jack, into amazing people. There was real emotion for each, and no limited role for any character.
For example: meet Cameron’s best friend Collin is something of a local celebrity. He’s also gay, with relationship problems of his own, and not once does he veer into stereotypical typecasting as “Ye Olde Gayye Best Friendde:”
“And I haven’t even told you the twist,” Cameron said. “Jack Pallas is one of the agents handling the case for the FBI.”
It took Amy a moment to place the name. “Wait—Agent Hottie?”
“Agent Asshole,” Cameron corrected her. “Agent Hottie” had been her former nickname for Jack, one long since dropped. Ever since he accused her of accepting bribes….
“That is a twist. How is Agent Asshole these days?” Collin asked dryly. As Cameron’s best friend, he was de facto required to exhibit animosity toward Jack Pallas as well.
“More important, how was it seeing him after all this time?” Amy asked.
“We traded sarcastic barbs and insults the whole time. It was nice, catching up like that.”
“But is he still just as hot?” Amy exchanged a look with Collin. “Well, one of us had to ask.”
“That’s kind of irrelevant, don’t you think?” Cameron managed a coolly disdainful look as she took a sip of her wine. Then she swallowed too fast, nearly choked, and coughed while gasping for air.
Amy smiled. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
Cameron dabbed her watering eyes with a napkin and turned to Collin for help.
“Don’t look at me—I’m staying out of this one,” he said.
“I would like to remind both of you that the jerk embarrassed me on national television.”
“No, the jerk embarrassed himself on national television,” Amy said.
Cameron sniffed, partially molliﬁed by this. “And I’d also like to point out that because of him, virtually every FBI agent in the Chicago area has carried a grudge against me for the past three years. Which has made things tons of fun, considering I work with the FBI on a near-daily basis.”
“You don’t have to see him again, do you?” Collin asked.
“If there is a god, no.” Cameron thought about this more seriously. “I don’t know, maybe if there are some follow-up questions they need to ask. But I’ll tell you this: if I do see Jack Pallas again, it will be on my terms. He may have caught me off guard last night, but next time I’ll be prepared. And at least I’ll be dressed appropriately for the occasion.”
“What was wrong with the way you were dressed?” Amy asked.
“I was wearing yoga pants and gym shoes.” Cameron scoffed. “I might as well have been naked.”
“Certainly would’ve made for a more interesting interrogation.”
Collin sat back in his chair, all haughty manlike. “You and your high heels. You’re lucky you weren’t still in your underwear. Between that and being interrogated in your gym shoes, which would you prefer?”
Cameron thought about this. “Do I still get to wear high heels in the underwear scenario?”
“That was supposed to be a rhetorical question. You have a problem,” Collin said.
Cameron smiled. “So I like to vertically enhance… I’m a ﬁve-foot-three-inch trial lawyer. Cut me some slack.”
There’s no “As you know, Bob,” crap, nor is there any tired dialogue that says nothing and takes up space. It’s hilarious and awesome. Cameron, Jack, Collin, and Jack’s FBI partner Wilkins are never stupid or mean or boneheaded. If there’s fighting – and between Cameron and Jack there’s some fighting, there’s enough of a clue from a gesture or a momentary expression to reveal that their tempers get the best of them for a very hot reason.
The plot also reveals the villain and spends some time in his head – but it doesn’t become fearsome or tiresome, or an exhaustive list of How Psychologically Fucked Up Is That Guy OMGWTFKITTENKILLER.
My lone point of discomfort was how very, very neatly and bow-wrapped glittery perfect the ending was, with every loose end tied down and each piece of perfect lined up flawlessly. It had an overwhelming fairy tale aspect that didn’t fit with the realistic honesty of the characters and the plot.
Jayne mentioned in her review at Dear Author that Cameron and Jack listen to each other – oh, yes, they do. They professionally and personally listen to each other, because they’re adults (and because they have to listen to make sure the next verbal gauntlet hits the mark). I’ve been disappointed by some contemporary romances lately because the characters are so even, so rational, so dead boring grown up that there’s no conflict. Here, the characters are grown ups who lose their tempers and act in anger, but who can carry themselves professionally and apologize to each other. (That is some hot sexy right there). What I enjoyed most was that this book featured a heroine I admired and learned from, and a hero I admired and learned from. This is a contemporary romance well worth savoring, and laughing over, and reading all over again.