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I've heard a good things online about Julie James so when jmc_bookrelated offered me a copy of Practice Made Perfect (thank you), I jumped at the chance to read it, especially since I wasn't seeing this book in my library system or in my closest bookstore (why that is I have no idea, both her books have great buzz online). Anyway, this one jumped to the head of the TBR because I've had a bad month and needed a good HEA.
Premise: Payton Kendall and  J. D. Jameson are associates at the prestigious Chicago law firm. Both are highly ambitious lawyers who are good at their jobs and have been working their butts off for eight years towards the same goal: becoming partner. Everything seems on track for them until they discover that the firm is planning to make only ONE of them partner this year. J.D and Payton have quietly had an ongoing feud, but they've never been in direct competition before. To make matters worse, Payton and J.D. actually have to work together for the first time for a very important new client.
This is a classic tale of opposites attracting - Payton is a vegetarian liberal feminist raised by an uber-hippie mom and J.D. is a privileged conservative with a country club membership with rich, snooty parents. Payton can't really remember why they've been fighting all this time, she just knows she must put J.D. down a peg or two. She's very aware that J.D. fits easily into the good-ole-boys club with his country club membership and ability to talk sports with the other men in the office, while she has to work harder to have the same repartee with senior partners - most of whom are men. J.D. on the other hand believes Payton has an edge as a women - reverse discrimination means she will move forward just because having women in higher positions looks good to the firm.
My thoughts:  OK we all know it's totally bunkus what J.D. is going on about regarding Payton having an edge as a woman! Pah, and yet, with such things coming out of his mouth, he still worked for me as a hero because I just felt like he was just a big idiot for much of the book (especially when it comes to Payton - he's just irrational), not truly an asshole. He didn't really seem to cross the line into being a bad guy until something he did long ago to Payton gets revealed. That was really awful, but he made it worse because when Payton wants to know why he did it (she actually gave him a chance to explain), his first explanation really wasn't one. I thought his explanation to his best friend was what Payton deserved, not what she eventually got (rushed and last possible moment).
So that was the biggest flaw for me in this book - the hero's quite worthy apology (plus wait till you find out why they've been fighting all this time - another classic example of idiocy). But until that point I really liked both characters. There is an obvious chemistry between the two and I had a really good time reading about them and their slow realization about how they've really felt about each other for the past eight years. There is very little sex in this book - most of it relies just on their verbal dances and interactions with lots of sexual tension, though both of them are clueless/in denial about this for most of the book. I really like books like that - a slow buildup between two characters, and a realistic timeline before they hit the sheets (if anyone has other recs of such kinds of books, please comment, I will love you).
Julie James has a background as a lawyer before becoming a writer and it shows in the writing. Despite not knowing much about practicing law myself, I noticed a lot of details that seemed the kind of thing only a lawyer would know and it added a layer of believability to the day to day aspects of the story.
Overall:  Really good read - loved the competition between these two characters and their inner dialogs. The writing is top notch - smart and humorous. I'm a fan and will have to go find Just the Sexiest Man Alive (James' debut novel). I found myself wishing I could read faster, I just wanted to know what happens next. But - I was left with a nagging feeling because after that tallying all the things Payton and J.D did,  J.D. was by far the worse person, yet his explanation was a little late and a little rushed, and in that aspect this book doesn't quite satisfy.  This was the only fly in my ointment however, and I think I'd reread other parts of the book.
Reviews elsewhere:
Racy Romance Reviews (with a discussion about feminists and gender politics in romance novels) 

Originally posted on janicu.vox.com


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 10th, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
This is the one book this year that I cannot stop talking about. Going in my top 3 for 2009 and Julie James is one of my favorite authors this year.
JD and Payton are just too adorable for words, especially when they go away together on business.
May. 11th, 2009 01:23 am (UTC)
That was my favorite part of the book too. They finally get it then. You must have read Just the Sexiest Man Alive, how does that compare? I want to read it.
May. 11th, 2009 12:12 pm (UTC)
Just the Sexiest Man Alive is also an adorable read. The hero and heroine at first snipe at each other but then become good friends. Very much recommended.
May. 13th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed this book :)

Re: JD being the worse person, I thought about this when I was reading the book, in terms of how Payton was comparatively less bad than JD wrt her hostility and retaliation toward him. And I wondered if it was because readers would not accept a heroine who was too bitchy or aggressive or self-interested. Would it have made a difference to you if Payton had found some way to get back at JD for the courtroom debacle? As I read the scene that followed, I felt rather ambivalent: yes, she put the client needs above her own, but once again JD got a pass on his behavior. It felt (to me) like James was avoiding having Payton actually be the hard case that we were told she was.
May. 13th, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
Spoilers for people who haven't read the book and may be looking at this thread
I'm so mad, I wrote this longggg comment and then this stupid browser went back two pages making me lose everything! *scream*. OK I need to recreate my reply...

OK so I felt that upto the courtroom debacle wasn't the problem. It seemed to me at that point that Payton would do something (accidently spill coffee), then J.D would do something a bit worse in retaliation (accuse her of doing it on purpose), then Payton would retaliate more (get the backup), and so on until her ass ended up in the air. Someone had to be the better person and draw the line and when it came to ruining J.D.'s career plus putting their feud in front of a client's interests Payton made the right choice.
May. 13th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
Spoilers for people who haven't read the book and may be looking at this thread part 2
I'm being paranoid now and posting in two parts so it actually SAVES this time.

So where was I? Yes so Payton makes the right choice by not getting back at J.D. through the deposition thing. I think I was fine there. THEN after that when it was revealed that it's JD's fault that they've been fighting and what he said to Ben - that's when I felt the unbalance. If I was Payton, I wouldnt exactly be screaming, jumping on him and scratching his eyes out, but I wouldn't have her reaction either. At least some yelling and more anger than that. That's when I felt JD was getting off easy.

If Payton was more of an aggressive bitch, maybe I'd feel better, but I kind of like that she's the more evolved person (like: ha, see, women are more evolved), so what I really want is J.D. grovelling more. GROVEL. Maybe he grovels out of the picture, but I'm not sure. I feel unsated.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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