"Julie James writes "light romantic suspense" exceptionally well, and A LOT LIKE LOVE delivers."
Reviewed by Maria Munoz
Posted February 3, 2011
A LOT LIKE LOVE, a follow-up to Something About You,
takes us back to the Chicago branch of the FBI and the
agents who are working tirelessly to put the final coffin in
the nail of crime boss Roberto Martino. Their target this
time is Xander Eckhart, famous restaurateur, who is
laundering money for the mob as a quick way to grow his
business. Catching Eckhart in the act, and getting him to
turn on Martino, could make for an open and shut case.
Their best chance to infiltrate Eckhart's domain is with the
help of Jordan Rhodes, billionaire heiress and proprietor of
one of the city's top wine stores. She has an invite to
Eckhart's exclusive Valentine's Day party, and they have the
leverage they need to get her to cooperateâ€” her help in
exchange for the release of her incarcerated twin-brother,
Kyle, the internet "terrorist." Nick McCall, ready for a
break after working long-term undercover, is dragged into
the case for short-term support. Suddenly, he finds himself
undercover as Jordan's boyfriend. It doesn't take long for
the line between work and pleasure to become blurred, as
Jordan and Nick find themselves taking their roles a little
Julie James writes what I like to call "light romantic
suspense" exceptionally well, and A LOT LIKE LOVE delivers.
I love these stories with just the right balance of charm,
love, action, and touches of humor and suspense. Once I
started reading, I couldn't put this book down. Jordan and
Nick were strong and independent, with loving connections to
friends and family. Their characters, and the supporting
characters, felt rich and well-developed, with distinctive
voices. I thoroughly enjoyed the banter, particularly the
pop-culture references that popped up periodically. I can't
wait for Kyle's story (please don't make me wait too long!).
THE FBI WANTS HER COOPERATION.
As the daughter of a billionaire and the owner of the
cityâ€™s top wine store, Jordan Rhodes is invited to the
most exclusive parties in Chicago. But thereâ€™s only one
party the FBI wants to crash: the charity fundraiser of a
famous restaurateur, who also happens to launder money for
the mob. In exchange for her brotherâ€™s release from
prison, Jordan is going to be thereâ€”with a date supplied
by the Bureau.
AGENT McCALL JUST WANTS HER.
As the top undercover agent in Chicago, Nick McCall has
one rule: never get personal. This â€śdateâ€ť with Jordan
Rhodes is merely an assignmentâ€”one theyâ€™re both determined
to pull off even if they canâ€™t be together for five
minutes before the sarcasm and sparks begin to fly. But
when Nickâ€™s investigation is compromised, he and Jordan
have no choice but to pretend theyâ€™re a couple, and what
starts out as a simple assignment begins to feel a lot
like something more. . .
The chime rang on the front door of the wine store.
Jordan Rhodes came out of the back room, where sheâ€™d been
sneaking a quick bite for lunch. She smiled at her
customer. "You again."
It was the guy from last week, the one whoâ€™d looked
skeptical when sheâ€™d recommended a Cabernet from South
Africa thatâ€”gaspâ€”had a screw top.
"So? Howâ€™d you like the Excelsior?" she asked.
"Good memory," he said, impressed. "You were right.
Itâ€™s good. Particularly at that price point."
"Itâ€™s good at any price point," Jordan said. "The fact
that it sells for less than ten dollars makes it a steal."
The manâ€™s blue eyes lit up as he grinned. He was
dressed in a navy car coat and jeans, and wore expensive
leather Italian loafersâ€”probably too expensive for the six
to eight inches of snow they were expected to get that
evening. His light brown hair was mussed from the wind
outside. "Youâ€™ve convinced me. Put me down for a case.
Iâ€™m having a dinner party in a few weeks and the Excelsior
will be perfect." He pulled off his leather gloves and set
them on the long ebony wood counter that doubled as a
bar. "Iâ€™m thinking Iâ€™ll pair it with leg of lamb, maybe
seasoned with black pepper and mustard seed. Rosemary
Jordan raised an eyebrow. The man knew his
food. "Sounds delicious." The Excelsior would certainly
complement the menu, although she personally subscribed to
the more relaxed "drink what you want" philosophy of wine
rather than putting the emphasis on finding the perfect
food pairingâ€”a fact that constantly scandalized her
assistant store manager, Martin. He was a certified level
III sommelier, and thus had a certain view on things, while
she, on the other hand, was the owner of the store and thus
believed in making wine as approachable as possible to the
customer. Sure, she loved the romance of wineâ€”that was one
of the main reasons she had opened her store, DeVine
Cellars. But for her, it was also a business.
"I take it you cook," she said to the man with the great
smile. Great hair, too, she noted approvingly. Nicely
styled, on the longer side. He wore a gray scarf wrapped
loosely around his neck that gave him an air of casual
sophistication. Not too fussy, but a man who appreciated
the finer things in life.
He shrugged. "I know my way around food. It comes with
"Let me guessâ€”youâ€™re a chef," Jordan said.
"Food critic. With the Tribune."
Jordan cocked her head, suddenly realizing. "Youâ€™re Cal
He seemed pleased by her recognition. "You read my
Yes, she did, along with many others in
Chicago. "Religiously. With so many restaurants in this
city to choose from, itâ€™s nice to have an expertâ€™s opinion."
Cal relaxed against the counter. "An expert, huhâ€¦ Iâ€™m
So. He knew her name.
Unfortunately, a lot of people knew her name. Between
her fatherâ€™s wealth and her brotherâ€™s recent infamy, rare
was the person, at least in Chicago, who wasnâ€™t familiar
with the Rhodes family.
Letting this sit for a moment, Jordan moved behind the
counter and opened the laptop she kept there. "A case of
the Excelsior, it is." She pulled up her distributorâ€™s
delivery schedule. "I can have it in the store next week."
"Thatâ€™s plenty of time. Do I pay for it now, or when I
pick it up?" Cal asked.
"Either one. I figure youâ€™re good for it. And now I
know where to find you if you try to skip out."
Yes, she may have been flirting a little. Maybe more
than a little. For the last few months her family had been
living under an intense spotlight because of the mess with
her brother, and, frankly, dating had been the last thing
on her mind. But things were finally starting to settle
downâ€”as much as things could ever settle down when oneâ€™s
twin brother was locked up in prisonâ€”and it felt good to be
flirting. And if the object of said flirtation just so
happened to have polished, refined good looks and was a
first-class connoisseur of cuisine, well, all the better.
"Maybe I should skip out, just to make you come look
for me," Cal teased.
And maybe she wasnâ€™t the only one flirting a little.
He stood opposite her with the counter between
them. "Since you read my restaurant reviews, I take it you
trust my opinions on restaurants?"
Jordan shot Cal a look over the top of her computer as
she finished entering his wine order. "As much as Iâ€™d
trust a complete stranger about anything, I suppose."
"Good. Because thereâ€™s this Thai restaurant that just
opened on Clark thatâ€™s fantastic."
"Glad to hear it. Iâ€™ll have to check it out sometime."
For the first time since entering her wine shop, Cal
looked uncertain. "Oh. I meant that I thought you might
want to go there with me."
Jordan smiled. Yes, sheâ€™d caught that. But a little
warning alarm had gone off in her head as she wondered how
many other women Cal Kittredge had used his "Do you trust
my opinions on restaurants?" line on. There was no doubt he
was charming and smooth. The question was whether he was
She straightened up from her computer and leaned one hip
against the bar. "Letâ€™s say thisâ€”when you come back to
pick up the Excelsior, you can tell me more about this new
Cal seemed surprised by her non-acceptance, but not
necessarily put off. "Okay. Itâ€™s a date."
"Iâ€™d call it more. . . a continuation."
"Are you always this tough on your customers?" he asked.
"Only the ones who want to take me to new Thai
"Next time, then, Iâ€™ll suggest Italian." With a wink,
Cal grabbed his gloves off the counter and left the store.
Jordan watched as he walked past the front windows of
the store and noticed that snow had begun to fall outside.
Not for the first time, she was glad she lived only a five-
minute walk from the shop. And that she had a good pair of
"My god, I thought heâ€™d never leave," said a voice from
Jordan turned and saw her assistant, Martin, standing a
few feet away, near the back hallway. He walked over,
carrying a case of Zinfandel that heâ€™d brought up from the
cellar. He set the box on the counter and brushed away a
few unruly reddish-brown curls that had fallen into his
eyes. "Whew. Iâ€™ve been standing back there, holding that
thing forever. Figured Iâ€™d give you two some privacy. I
thought he was checking you out when he came in last week.
Guess I was right."
"How much did you hear?" Jordan asked as she began to
help him unpack the bottles.
"I heard that heâ€™s Cal Kittredge."
Of course Martin had focused on that. He was twenty-
seven years old, more well read than anyone she knew, and
made no attempt to hide the fact that he was a major food
and wine snob. But he knew everything about wine, and heâ€™d
grown on her. Jordan couldnâ€™t imagine running the shop
"He asked me to go to some new Thai restaurant on
Clark," she said.
Martin was instantly impressed. "Iâ€™ve been trying to
get reservations there for two weeks." He lined the
remaining bottles on the bar and tossed the empty box onto
the floor. "Lucky you. If you start dating Cal Kittredge,
youâ€™ll be able to get into all the best restaurants. For
Jordan modestly remained silent as she grabbed two
bottles of the Zin and carried them to a bin near the front
of the store.
"Oh, right," Martin said. "I always forget that you
have a billion dollars. Iâ€™m guessing you donâ€™t need any
help getting into restaurants."
She threw him an eye as she grabbed two more
bottles. "I donâ€™t have a billion dollars." It was the
same routine virtually every time the subject of money came
up. Because she liked Martin, she put up with it. But
with the exception of him and a small circle of her closest
friends, she generally avoided discussing finances with
It wasnâ€™t exactly a secret, however: her father was
rich. Okay, extremely rich. She hadnâ€™t grown up with
money; it was something her family had stumbled into. Her
father, basically a computer geek like her brother, was one
of those success stories Forbes and Newsweek loved to put
on their covers: after graduating from the University of
Illinois with a masters degree in computer science, Grey
Rhodes went onto Northwestern Universityâ€™s Kellogg business
school. He then started his own company in Chicago where
he developed an anti-viral protection program that exploded
worldwide. Within two years of its release to the public,
Rhodes anti-virus protected one in every three computers in
America. (A statistic her father made sure to include in
every interview.) And then came the money. A lot of it.
One might have certain impressions about her lifestyle,
Jordan knew, given her fatherâ€™s financial success. Some of
these impressions would be accurate, others would not. Her
father had set up guidelines from the moment heâ€™d made his
first million, the most fundamental being that Jordan and
her brother, Kyle, earn their own wayâ€”just as he had. As
adults, they were wholly financially independent from their
father, and Jordan and Kyle wouldnâ€™t have it any other
way. On the other hand, their father was known to be
extravagant with gifts, particularly after their mother
died nine years ago. Take, for example, the Maserati
Quattroporte Jordan had sitting in her garage. Probably
not the typical present one received for graduating
"Weâ€™ve had this conversation before, Martin. Thatâ€™s my
fatherâ€™s money, not mine." Jordan wiped her hands on a
towel they kept under the counter, brushing off the dust
from the wine bottles. She gestured to the store. "This
is mine." There was obvious pride in her voice. She was
the sole owner of DeVine Cellars and business was good.
Really good, in factâ€”certainly better than sheâ€™d ever
projected at this point in her ten-year plan. Of course,
she didnâ€™t make anywhere near the 1.2 billion her father
may or may not have been worth (she never confirmed
specifics about his money), but she did very well for
herself on her own merit. She made enough to pay for a
four thousand-plus square foot house in the upscale Lincoln
Park neighborhood, to treat herself to fine hotels when she
traveled, and she still had plenty of money left over for
great shoes. A woman couldnâ€™t ask for much more.
"Maybe. But you still get into any restaurant you want,"
Martin pointed out.
"This is generally true. Although I do have to pay, if
that makes you feel any better."
Martin sniffed. "A little. So are you going to say
"Am I going to say yes to what?" Jordan asked.
"To Cal Kittredge."
"Iâ€™m thinking about it." True, there was the slight
excess of smoothness to think about. But on the upside, he
was into food and wine, and he cooked. Practically a
"I think you should string Kittredge along for awhile,"
Martin mused aloud. "Keep him coming back so heâ€™ll buy a
few more cases before you commit."
"Great idea. Maybe we could even start handing out
punch cards," Jordan suggested. "Get a date with the owner
after six purchases, that kind of thing."
"I detect some sarcasm," Martin said. "Which is too
bad, because that punch card idea is not half-bad."
"We could always pimp you out as a prize."
Martin sighed as he leaned his slender frame against the
bar. His bow tie of choice that day was red, which Jordan
thought complemented nicely with his dark brown tweed
"Sadly, Iâ€™m underappreciated," he said, sounding
resigned to his fate. "A light-bodied pinot unnoticed in a
world dominated by big, bold cabs."
Jordan rested her hand on his shoulder
sympathetically. "Maybe you just havenâ€™t hit your drink-now
date. Perhaps youâ€™re still sitting on the shelf, waiting
to age to your fullest potential."
Martin considered this. "So what youâ€™re saying isâ€¦ Iâ€™m
like the Pahlmeyer Sonoma Coast Pinot."
Sure, exactly what sheâ€™d been thinking. "Yep. Thatâ€™s
"Theyâ€™re expecting great things from the Pahlmeyer, you
Jordan smiled. "Then we all better look out."
The thought seemed to perk Martin up. In good spirits
once again, he headed off to the cellar for another case of
the Zinfandel while Jordan returned to the backroom to
finish her lunch. It was after three oâ€™clock, which meant
that if she didnâ€™t eat now she wouldnâ€™t get another chance
until the store closed at nine. Soon enough, they would
have a steady stream of customers.
Wine was hot, one of the few industries continuing to do
well despite the economic downturn. But Jordan liked to
think her storeâ€™s success was based on more than just a
trend. Sheâ€™d searched for months for the perfect space: on
a major street, where there would be plenty of foot
traffic, and large enough to fit several tables and chairs
in addition to the display space they would need for the
wine. With its warm tones and exposed brick walls, the
store had an intimate feel that drew customers in and
invited them to stay awhile.
By far the smartest business decision sheâ€™d made had
been to apply for an on-premise liquor license, which
allowed them to pour and serve wine in the store. Sheâ€™d
set up highboy tables and chairs along the front windows
and tucked a few additional tables into cozy nooks between
the wine bins. Starting around five oâ€™clock on virtually
every night they were open, the place was hopping with
customers buying wines by the glass and taking note of the
bottles they planned to purchase when leaving.
Today, however, was not one of those days.
Outside, the snow continued to fall steadily. By seven
oâ€™clock the weathermen amended their predictions and were
now calling for a whopping eight to ten inches. In
anticipation of the storm, people were staying inside.
Jordan had an event booked at the store that evening, a
wine tasting, but the party called to reschedule. Martin
had a longer commute than she did, so she sent him home
early. At 7:30, she began closing the store, thinking it
highly unlikely sheâ€™d get any customers.
When finished up front, she went into the backroom to
turn off the sound system. The store felt eerily quiet and
empty without the eclectic mix of Billie Holiday, The
Shins, and Norah Jones sheâ€™d put together for the dayâ€™s
soundtrack. She grabbed her snow boots from behind the
door and had just sat down at her desk to replace the black
leather boots she wore, when the chime rang against the
A customer. Surprising.
Jordan stood up and stepped out of the backroom,
thinking somebody had to be awfully desperate to come out
for wine in this weather. "Youâ€™re in luck. I was just
about to close for the. . ."
Her words trailed off as she stopped at the sight of the
two men standing near the front of the store. For some
reason, she felt tingles at the back of her neck. Perhaps
it had something to do with the man closer to the door.
Her eyes immediately fell upon himâ€”he didnâ€™t look like her
typical customer. He had chestnut brown hair, and scruff
along his angular jaw that gave him a dark, bad boy-ish
look. He was tall, and wore a black wool coat over what
appeared to be a well-built physique.
This was no Italian loafer-wearer. Unlike Cal
Kittredge, this man was good-looking in a rugged, masculine
way. There was something a bit. . . rougher about him.
Except for his eyes. Green as emeralds, they stood out
brilliantly against his dark hair and five oâ€™clock shadow
as he watched her intently.
He took a step forward.
Jordan took a step back.
A slight grin played at the edges of his lips, as if he
found this amusing. Jordan wondered how fast she could
make it to the emergency panic button underneath the bar.
The blond man, the one wearing glasses and a camel-
colored trench coat, cleared his throat. "Are you Jordan
She debated whether to answer this. But the blond man
seemed safer than the tall, dark one. "I am."
He pulled a badge out of his jacket. "Iâ€™m Agent Seth
Huxley, this is Agent Nick McCall. Weâ€™re with the Federal
Bureau of Investigation."
This caught her off guard. The FBI? The last time
sheâ€™d seen anyone from the FBI had been at Kyleâ€™s
"Weâ€™d like to discuss a matter concerning your brother,"
the blond man continued. He seemed very serious about
whatever it was he needed to tell her.
Jordanâ€™s stomach twisted in a knot. But she forced
herself not to panic. Yet.
"Has Kyle been hurt?" she asked. In the four months her
brother had been in prison, there already had been several
altercations. Apparently, some of the other inmates at
Metropolitan Correctional Center figured a wealthy computer
geek would be an easy mark. Kyle assured her that he could
hold his own whenever she asked about the fights during her
visits. But every day since heâ€™d begun serving his
sentence, sheâ€™d worried about getting that phone call that
said heâ€™d been wrong. And if the FBI had sent two agents
to her store during a blizzard, whatever they had to tell
her couldnâ€™t be good.
The dark-haired man spoke for the first time. His voice
was low, yet smoother than Jordan had expected.
"Your brother is fine. As far as we know, anyway."
Jordan cocked her head. That was an odd thing to
say. "As far as you know? You make it sound like heâ€™s
missing or something." She paused before folding her arms
across her chest. Ohâ€¦ no. "Donâ€™t tell me heâ€™s escaped."
Kyle wouldnâ€™t be so stupid. Well, okay, once heâ€™d been
that stupid, actions which had landed him in prison in the
first place, but he wouldnâ€™t be that stupid again. That was
why heâ€™d pled guilty instead of going to trial. Heâ€™d
wanted to own up to his mistakes and accept the
She knew her brother better than anyone. True, he was a
technology genius, and assuming there was a computer
anywhere within reach of the inmates, he could probably
upload some code or virus or whatever that would spring
open the cell doors and release all the prisoners in a mad
stampede. But Kyle wouldnâ€™t do that. She hoped.
"Escaped? Thatâ€™s an interesting thing to say." Agent
McCall looked her over. "Is there something youâ€™d like to
share with us, Ms. Rhodes?"
Something about this special agent rubbed Jordan the
wrong way. She felt as though she was facing off against
an opponent holding a royal flush in a game of poker she
didnâ€™t realize sheâ€™d been playing. And she wasnâ€™t in the
mood to play games with the FBI right then. Or ever.
Theyâ€™d charged her brother to the fullest extent of the
law, locked him up at MCC and treated him like a menace to
society for what, in her admittedly biased opinion, was
simply a really bad mistake. By someone with no criminal
record, she noted. It wasnâ€™t like Kyle had killed anyone,
for heavenâ€™s sake, heâ€™d just caused a bit of panic and
mayhem. For about fifty million people.
"You said this is about my brother. How can I help you,
Agent McCall?" she asked coolly.
"Unfortunately, Iâ€™m not at liberty to fill you in on all
the details here. Agent Huxley and I would prefer to
continue this conversation in private. At the FBI office."
And she would prefer to say nothing at all to the FBI,
if they werenâ€™t dangling this bit about Kyle over her
head. She gestured to the empty wine shop. "Iâ€™m sure
whatever it is you have to say, the Chardonnays will keep
"I never trust a Chardonnay," Agent McCall said.
"And I donâ€™t trust the FBI."
The words hung in the air between them. A standstill.
Agent Huxley intervened. "I understand your hesitancy, Ms.
Rhodes, but as Agent McCall indicated, this is a
confidential matter. We have a car waiting out front and
would very much appreciate it if you came with us to the
FBI office. Weâ€™d be happy to explain everything there."
She considered this. "Fine. Iâ€™ll call my lawyer and
have him meet us there."
Agent McCall shook his head. "No lawyers, Ms. Rhodes.
Jordan kept her face impassive, but inwardly, her
frustration increased. Aside from her general dislike of
the FBI because of the way theyâ€™d treated her brother,
there was an element of pride here. They had come into her
store, and this Nick McCall person seemed to think she
should jump just because he said so.
So instead, she held her ground. "Youâ€™re going to have
to do better than that, Agent McCall. You sought me out in
the middle of a blizzard, which means you want something
from me. Without giving me more, youâ€™re not going to get
He appeared to consider his options. Jordan got the
distinct impression that one of those options involved
throwing her over his shoulder and hauling her ass right
out of the store. He seemed the type.
Instead, he pushed away from the bar and stepped closer
to her, then closer again. He peered down at her, his
brilliant green-eyed gaze unwavering. "How would you like
to see your brother released from prison, Ms. Rhodes?"
Stunned by the offer, Jordan searched his eyes
cautiously. She looked for any signs of deceit or
trickery, although she suspected she wouldnâ€™t see anything
in Nick McCallâ€™s eyes that he didnâ€™t want her to.
A leap of faith. She debated whether to believe him.
"Iâ€™ll grab my coat."
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