Sunday 11 May 2014

#CBR6 Book 51: "It Happened One Wedding" by Julie James

Page count: 304 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Sydney Sinclair has moved back to Chicago after years in New York. Her engagement ended badly just two weeks before the wedding, when she discovered her fiancee had been cheating on her. Now she's completely done with commitment-phobic men. She wants a faithful husband and a family, and doesn't have any more time in her life for casual dating. So when handsome and charming Vaughn Roberts approaches her after another failed first date in a coffee shop, she recognises his happy go-lucky playboy attitude a mile away, and can't stop herself from venting all her frustration over him. Of course, she'll never see him again, so it's not that big a deal, is it?

It wouldn't be much of a fun book if that was the end of it. Special Agent in the FBI Vaughn Roberts is the older brother of the man who Sydney's younger sister has just gotten engaged to. The happy couple don't realise that when they invite their siblings to an announcement dinner, said siblings met awkwardly in a coffee shop close by. Now their siblings want them to be best man and maid of honour, at a wedding that needs to be planned in a hurry. So Sydney and Vaughn are going to be spending a lot of quality time together, fighting their attraction for each other all the way, as even if they had mutual goals for the future, risking a messy future break-up when they're set to become in-laws is just asking for trouble.

Julie James is probably my favourite author of contemporary romances, and excels at dialogue and witty banter. Her protagonists tend to be driven, likable, sociable and very successful in their chosen field. The supporting characters tend to be well fleshed out and feel as fully satisfying individuals in their own right, not just there to give the main characters to talk to occasionally. Vaughn is a very successful FBI agent who likes the work he does, but his undercover work also means that he ends up in dangerous situations every so often, and there are huge aspects of his everyday job he can't tell his loved ones about. He's not ashamed of being a ladies' man and is proud that of the fact that he's never led any of his many conquests on. He understands pretty much immediately that Sydney's rant isn't really personally directed at him, but isn't really used to being rejected so vehemently either. Hence he begins seeing it as a challenge when they are forced to spend more time together.

Sydney loves her younger sister, but has to struggle to keep a brave face on when she realises that not only has her baby sister found a really good guy, she's sure he's a keeper after less than three months together. The reason they need to hurry the wedding is because Isabelle is pregnant, and doesn't want anyone but Sydney to know. Vaughn and Simon's parents are staunchly Catholic, so they want to be married before Mrs. Roberts discovers that she's going to be a grandmother. They don't even want Vaughn to know, which leads to some pretty farcical behaviour in order to cover up Isabelle's raging morning sickness and other obvious pregnancy signs. Naturally, as a trained observer, he's not really fooled for a second. Sydney, who has all her dreams of weddings and future families crushed by her dirt bag of a fiancee less than a year earlier, now has to see her sister get everything she ever dreamed of for herself. Her strong attraction to Vaughn, while he drives her crazy, is not making the situation easier.

This book may have struck more of a chord with me because I understood a lot of where Sydney was coming from. While I have been happily married for years, I'm now at a stage where so many of my friends and colleagues are having babies, while as of yet, I have not been lucky enough to conceive. In her early thirties, with a wish for children, Sydney doesn't have time to casually date any more. She needs to find Mr. Right, so she can settle down and start the family she's dreaming of. Of course, as her best friend says, what's the harm of enjoying herself with Mr. Right Now, having a bit of fun while she utilises her comprehensive 34-point checklist to find that special someone who's just as ready to commit as she is? She and Vaughn have crazy chemistry, and because he's only looking for a fun time, what better adviser to have when she's trying to sort through all the candidates for Mr. Right? Being a playboy himself, he knows all the tricks that other commitment-phobic men use. He's the perfect person to help her. As they spend more time together, Vaughn comes to realise that it's not all that fun that Sydney keeps dating other guys while still seeing him, and Sydney discovers that even if the some of the men seem perfect on paper, there is still something very important missing for them to fit just right.

I don't think I've really disliked a single of Julie James' books, and there is a reason she's on my auto-buy list. For anyone looking for fun, escapist, clever romance of the contemporary variety, I highly recommend her.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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