Love Irresistibly
by Julie James, contemporary (2013)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-25119-5


Assistant US Attorney Cade Morgan is used to having his way when it comes to his job. He was at the brink of being a breakout football star in his younger days when an injury ended his career, and now he dedicates his time giving corrupt politicians and their buddies their just desserts.

When he needs the cooperation of Brooke Parker, the general counsel of Sterling Restaurants, to have a table bugged in order to catch a corrupt politician in action, he ends up owing her a favor. Of course she cashes in that favor to solve a workplace crisis later, and before they know it, they are indulging a relationship that both are determined to keep to "strictly casual". After all, they both have problems maintaining relationships - too busy, the women find Cade too emotionally closed off, the men find Brooke's career-driven nature at odds with their idea of the more domesticated darling they'd like to marry, et cetera - so maybe it's time to just sit back and enjoy the flow, no? Of course, things never work out the way they want to.

The synopsis at the back cover may give people the impression that this is a standard romantic suspense tale, kind of like the author's last few books that mixed light suspense with the message that even lawyers deserve love, when this is not entirely true. In fact, most of the courtroom and FBI stuff on Cade's part as well as the boardroom negotiations on Brooke's part all take place off-stage in this story. But oh my, there is so much more to love in this story to make up for this.

For one, it's been so long since I've read a romance that actually focuses on the tiny delightful nuances of a budding relationship to drive home the maddening joys of falling in love when one least expects to. While this story is nowhere as laugh out funny as some of the author's books in the past, I find myself smiling like a lunatic for so long that it's as good as laughing all the way to the happy ending. Those sweet playful jabs at one another, the banter, that wonderful, wonderful moment when they realize that they have given their heart away to the other person - all these are here, along with some heartwarming scenes when Cade and Brooke just can't help but to make each other feel whole and fuzzy inside. Cade telling Brooke how much he loves her actually makes me go into that "mad woman not sure whether she should laugh or cry because, in that instance, life feels so amazing and wonderful and lovely all at once" mode. Give me a minute - just thinking about that scene makes me want to read it again, and I have that page dog-eared. Page 267 to 268, if you really must know.

Okay, where was I? Oh yes. On top of all that sweet, sweet lovely moments that make me feel like I'm falling in love myself all over again, there are plenty of stuff that makes this book a typical enjoyable book by this author. Brooke is allowed to be bloody good at her job, and she makes no apologies about it. She doesn't have to change a thing or give up her job to get the man. Sure, there is the predictable job crisis thing later on, but this crisis is more about moving on to better opportunities instead of screwing up badly. I especially adore how the message of the day isn't about how a woman needs to give up her ambitions to find love - it's all about balancing one's needs with the demands of the job. Cade has to find that balance too, so it's not just the heroine who has to make some changes in this relationship. How Brooke finds that balance and scores a home run when it comes to her career makes me want to stand up and applaud that woman.

Cade and Brooke are true equals here - another reason I really love their story. This is rare, but these two have emotional issues that are not tied to the romance. No one has to rescue the other - they both sort out their issues on their own. Their relationship isn't about mending damages in their lives, it's about providing emotional support that inspires the other person to make the move to ship his or her baggage off to a better place. It's really rare to have such a story that doesn't require the hero to rescue the heroine in some manner, and I just love how the author breaks tradition like this and still make the story such an uplifting romantic read.

Okay, I think I've gushed like a besotted fan long enough, so let me just clear my throat and say that this is easily one of my favorite romance novels of the year. Or maybe ever. I... if you'll excuse me, I'm going to scowl at some cute puppies in order to regain my equilibrium. But oh, it's such a great feeling to just lose myself and love every minute of this story, I can't say I'm embarrassed by my complete loss of composure where this book is concerned. Love Irresistibly - oh, indeed, so much so yes indeed.

Rating: 94


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