I tore through James' first three books in a single weekend. Her characters are sarcastic, witty, intelligent, and funny. Then I got to "A Lot Like Love" and my enthusiasm dimmed just slightly. I really could have cared less about the wine lessons, but there was enough going on and enough witty banter that I still enjoyed the book. Now we have "About That Night".
The first problem that I have is the fact that there's not much of a conflict. She's a US Attorney and he's "billionaire heir Kyle Rhodes" (do you know how many times that phrase appears in the book? Just how many times does the reader have to be reminded how much money Kyle has?). Okay, so he's an ex-con. Rylann is very angsty about that, but so what? He was incarcerated for four months, and it wasn't for a violent crime. I'm not saying Rylann's character should not have taken pause, but the way she was carrying on, you would have thought Kyle was a serial killer or had at least kidnapped the Lindbergh Baby. All of Kyle's prison reflections ("Prison changes a man.") were just kind of silly too. Dude, you were in for FOUR MONTHS .
The second issue I have concerns "telling instead of showing". In James' other titles, we know her characters are dedicated and good at what they do because the reader gets to see them in action and experience things right along with them. For instance, in "Practice Makes Perfect", Payton experiences what has got to be the most horrifying court appearance ever known (flashing the courtroom, falling down, etc.) and pulls it off with grace and aplomb, and the reader gets to experience it right along with her, down to the fury she feels when she realizes the hero of the story is responsible. In "About That Night", Rylann is supposed to be an intense and dedicated attorney, but we don't really get to see this in action. Instead, we're told (a few times actually) that she climbed down a ladder in a skirt (given the nickname, Meth Lab Rylann, which I found silly and annoying). The reader is supposed to hear this story a couple of times and be convinced about Rylann's determination and dedication? Couldn't we have experienced her doing something that showed this to us instead of just hearing about it?
I kept waiting for something to HAPPEN. Honestly, I thought Rylann and Kyle were going to have to go on the run or something, and Kyle was going to have to use his mad hacking skills to save their lives. I thought he might have to risk his freedom and take off after Rylann to save her from something while he still had the ankle bracelet on or SOMETHING. Instead the case was settled and they spend the rest of the book hovering around each other whining about how tough it is to trust (especially when you're "billionaire heir Kyle Rhodes"). **SPOILER AHEAD**Even when "the shirt" comes into play at the end. That scene had the potential to be really wonderful. I thought there was going to be some sort of grand gesture. Instead, the shirt makes an appearance ("You kept it?" "Yes, I did.") and everyone is convinced and everyone is happy. **END SPOILER**
There is still enough to like to make the book worth reading. There is James' signature banter. This time, unfortunately, it was diluted a great deal and there wasn't enough going on in the story to counteract its absence. I still await the release of another Julie James book, but I will keep fingers, toes, and anything else anatomically possible crossed that this was an aberration and the next book will have Julie James back at fighting weight.