BLOG REVIEW: It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

33y.o. new private-equity firm director now tackles dating like she does her business accounts, 
with 34 set rules of the type of man she'll invest in dating. 34y.o. undercover FBI special agent Hero doesn't fit her set dating profile, although she's very attracted to him. 
She rejects his advances right off the bat. And he's surprised and none too pleased about it.
Both are in for a great surprise, when they soon see each other again and realize that they're respective siblings have just gotten engaged and are to be married in 3 months time.
They pretend to not only have just met
and be happy to be at each other's company
but also that they only have platonic future-in-law feelings for each other.
When in fact they're both discomfited by how much they want each other,
since most times they're arguing and one-upping each other.
They eventually enter a secret affair with Hero making clear that it can only be temporary.
He even continues to give her advice on her dating life,
despite that he's getting more bothered about it.
And, when she finally meets the perfect man, 
he's knocked by how much it matters to him. What does he do about it? Will he change his dating rules? Will she?

I really liked this James' book because it has her usual quick-witted dialogue between 2 strong characters and it has the more detailed sex scenes that I found lacking in her previous books. The sex scenes in this book gave me a fuller experience of Hero and heroine's romance. They drew me more into the emotional experiences of Hero and heroine. It was wonderful. I also loved the banter between headstrong Hero and heroine. We have 2 main characters who are astute, witty, strong, and know what they want and are not easily railroaded.  Heroine's firm convictions and sarcasm battled with Hero's uber-confidence and life-long experience of always getting what he wants. They were equals and it was enjoyable to watch them butt heads while seeing them struggle to against their uncontrollable attraction to each other. The dialogue was a mix of funny and confrontational and vulnerable and understanding. It highlighted their sexual and emotional chemistry and how very similar they actually were.  And what they have to sacrifice to make a long-term relationship between them work.

I liked how player Hero was portrayed. He wasn't a player because he was damaged by his past like the usual Hero trope nowadays. In fact, he had a good childhood with wonderful parents and a brother that he was still close to. He was a player because he liked it, it suited his lifestyle, and he didn't want to settle down yet. And he was open and honest about it and saw nothing wrong with it. I liked his insight into it and pragmatism. He had his dating rules but they were more implicit and not explicitly listed like heroine's. The brief angst in this book was from his increasing realization about heroine and what he needed to do about it:

     ----------SPOILERS:  Don't read below if you don't want to know the book's details--------------

Hero started out cocky about his ability to handle a brief tryst with heroine. As it was his usual. But he realized their 1-night stand wasn't enough and he was counting down the hours until he could legitimately be with her again without breaking his no-return-sex-for-1-week rule. It was funny and cute, which was very much in opposition to his savvy Mr. FBI-agent persona.  He made excuses for extending their 1-night-stand into a friends-with-benefits (FWB) arrangement. It wasn't anything new since he'd been having a FWB with another woman. But being with heroine again gave him a sense of fulfillment that he'd never had nor was looking for with a woman right now.  Unlike his other FWB, spending time with heroine and getting to know her was just as pleasing as bedding her.  Although his other FWB wanted to reconnect again, he had no desire for her and ignored her offers. I liked that, since he and heroine first kissed, he wasn't even tempted by any other woman. Which was so unlike him and his friends were teasing him about it because he was missing all the cues (blatant and subtle) from other women that he ordinarily honed in on and readily accepted. Even when heroine was out on dates with other men, he had zero interest in other women and focused his efforts on work instead. 

We saw Hero gradually getting more and more bothered by her dating other men while sleeping with him. But he'd go a week or 2 without contacting her. The length of time between contacting her made it seem like he didn't really think much about her. They both had demanding jobs and I understood that naturally getting in the way. But still. A week or 2 without a text, email, or phone call made it look like he didn't think much about her. However, each time they got together, we saw Hero become more emotionally involved with heroine. The sex wasn't as rushed, he became more tender towards her, and relished just watching her. The turning point was her date with the man who ticked all 34 of her perfect-man-to-marry requirements. His staying up the night after a busy work day, waiting for her text about another date gone wrong never came. Her informing him of a 2nd-date with the other man burned him. But he had no recourse because he made the rules for their temporary affair. I liked seeing him depressed and helpless because it was so different than his usual unshakable confidence. It showed how much heroine mattered to him. 

It took the sage advice of his brother and friends to get him to see what he had to do to convince heroine to be a permanent part of his life. What I thought was endearing, though, was that he was already and unknowingly headed that way. Before his big a-ha moment about his feelings for heroine, Hero had already gone out of his way to look for the lost wedding apparel of heroine's mother, when he saw how devastated she was that it was gone. As much as she was covering it up, he knew her enough by then to recognize that her belated mother's wedding clothes was something she would've liked to have. I wished that there were more moments like this when his actions blatantly showed that he cared for her and missed her. I did like his straightforward approach to telling heroine how he felt about her and what he wanted with her. He even got on his bended knees and had none of his usual twitching that evidenced his fear of being in a commitment.  

     --------------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS-----------------------------------------------

I liked that we got to see 3-months worth of their relationship progress and Hero's change from unapologetic man-ho to being solidly committed to heroine. Although their relationship progress was gradual from fighting to their secret affair, Hero's admitting his feelings for heroine and his big change in his commitment status felt a little too quick. Not unbelievable. Not really. But it seemed rushed towards the end, which other James' books also have. I also needed a little more display of their romance for a 100% guarantee that Hero was reliably and happily committed to heroine and that they indeed were going to have a HEA (happy ever after). An epilogue showing us their relationship, say 2 or even 5 years later, would've fixed that. I'd have like to see them married, still successful in their careers, and maybe starting their family. All in all, though, their romance was good and looked lasting.

I recommend this book.
4-star



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