Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Review: Practice Makes Perfect

Man, I am super impressed with Julie James. The first book of hers that I read, Something About You, was really good. And I think her previous book Practice Makes Perfect is even better.

One of the things I liked best about Something About You was how the hero and heroine had a history prior to the book's beginning. In other words, their relationship was believable because it didn't feel like something that just developed overnight. The same is true in Practice Makes Perfect. Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson are both eighth-year associates in the litigation group at a big Chicago law firm. Both are up for partner, but because their firm has always been about giving partnership to worthy attorneys, there's really no competition. They both put in a lot of hours, and they both excel in their specialties--his is class action lawsuits and hers is labor law and discrimination suits. Because they work on different kinds of cases, they rarely have to work together. And that's a good thing, because the two of them don't get along. Payton is a vegetarian, feminist liberal, and J.D. is a Harvard-educated, country-club member conservative.

But then their firm gets the chance to land a big corporate class-action gender discrimination lawsuit, and their boss orders them to work together to lure the client in. It is only after Payton and J.D. suck it up to do just that that they learn only one of them will be promoted to partner--all because the firm is worried about age-discrimination lawsuits (because other firms have been sued for forcing older attorneys out to make room for new partners).

Hijinks ensure. Well, not really, because Payton and J.D. are pretty professional, but they do get the occasional petty digs and acts in. And all the forced interaction starts to make them realize what was really the root of all the tension they'd had for eight years.

What I like about James' books is that it's clear she's smart enough to write smart characters. No dumb bimbos for her, no one-dimensional chauvinists. Payton is smart and funny, and J.D. is charming and nuanced. It was just fun to read about them. Sure, the ending was a little predictable because, really, there was only one way it could end. But she did throw in a few things to spice things up. I really enjoyed reading this book. I have only two problems. The first being how depressed this book make me about working in a law firm. We don't really know much of anything about Payton and J.D. outside of their work... and there's a reason for that. Neither of them really have a life outside of their work. Sounds awful. And second, I'm not a fan of the names James uses for her heroines. They all seem really yuppie/preppy to me. In this book it was Payton (obviously). In Something About You it was Cameron. And in her other book Just the Sexiest Man Alive, it's Taylor. I don't have a problem with any of those names individually, but collectively, they just seem too trendy. Throw in a Claire or a Liz or something.

I kind of want to read Just the Sexiest Man Alive on account of how much I've liked James' other two books, but the hero in that book is an actor (who was voted Sexiest Man Alive), and I just never like books where the characters are Hollywood stars. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is always writing about celebrities, and the ones where they are actors/actresses are always my least favorite.

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