Okay, as you all know I am not very well-versed in the romance genre. I took my first dip in last summer when The Book Smugglers dared me to read Loretta Chase's Mr. Impossible. While I had a great time completing the dare and reporting on it, the book was not my cup of tea and I wasn't so taken with the experience that I wanted to repeat it again just yet. I have, however, casually been keeping my eye out for my next attempt. Based on my reactions to Mr. Impossible, Ana recommended giving Julia Quinn's What Happens in London a shot, but every time I go to the library it's been checked out. This is probably a good sign. And so I figured I'd just wait for that one to come back in and give it a go. Then, as part of the Smugglivus Feats of Strength, Thea read and reviewed Julie James' Practice Makes Perfect--one of Ana's favorites of '09. And it was like the this is the next one light went on in my head. I think it was Thea's comment:
I was a little nervous going into Practice Makes Perfect - but from the first page of this delightful book, I found myself immersed and entertained. Ms. James' novel is romantic comedy at its finest.
How could I resist that? Especially when she followed it up by noting that there is a decided lack of "mush" and play-by-play sex scenes in the book. In short, it sounded made to order.
Payton and J.D. have worked at the same Chicago law firm for eight years. And for eight years they have been at each other's throats. Opposites in almost every way, Payton is a liberal vegetarian, attended a public university, and worked her way up the corporate ladder on pure talent and grit. J.D. Jameson, on the other hand, is as old money/conservative as they come, grew up privileged, attended an Ivy League school, and considers himself a shoo-in for partner. Since they specialized in different kinds of law, they are fortunate not to have to work with each other too often. The fragile balance is thrown off kilter, however, when they're assigned to the same case and forced to see if they can put aside their animosity in favor of securing those partnerships they've both been counting on.
I was still hesitant as I cracked open Practice Makes Perfect. And for the first few pages I still wasn't sure. The somewhat blatant clichés (liberal feminist vs. conservative money) worried me and I was concerned the predictability would end up bothering me and that the characterization would be slapdash at best. But then Payton and J.D. start interacting. And the dialogue...well, it's incredibly witty. They excel at insulting each other and concocting hilarious pranks to play. Having known and hated each other so long they know all the right buttons to push. But my favorite part is how the wit doesn't end when they stop talking. Ms. James stays in their heads just long enough that we get that sort of running self-editorializing of thoughts that we all do and that is simply hilarious to be in on. The other aspect of the book I enjoyed was all the legal shoptalk. Ms. James herself was a lawyer for many years and it shows in the writing. I appreciated how interesting it was and it definitely lent the story a welcome authenticity.
I read Practice Makes Perfect in one night and enjoyed it so much I immediately went out and hunted down Julie James' first book--Just the Sexiest Man Alive. As the title might indicate, this one features a ridiculously famous actor who has recently been named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. Jason Andrews is on top of the world and believes nothing is out of his reach. Then, while preparing for his next legal thriller, he agrees to spend a day with an actual attorney to help get into the role. Taylor Donavan is only in L.A. for a few months. On loan from her law firm in Chicago, she's helping out with a high stakes sexual harassment case. Then she's asked to do a "favor" for one of the partners and babysit Jason Andrews for a day or two to show him what it's like to be a real lawyer. Furious at this monumental waste of her time, and still smarting from breaking off her engagement, Taylor is determined to hate the big, dumb movie star. For his part, Jason is intrigued by the existence of a woman who appears to actually dislike him. And from that point, things pretty much go the way of the inevitable.
What can I say? These books are bibliocrack. In the most basic sense of the term. Absolutely addictive, hilariously entertaining, irresistible romantic comedies. I ate them up with a spoon and consider my time reading them very well spent, especially as Thea was exactly right. They feature smart, independent protagonists who are good at their jobs and have interests and goals in life outside of the romantic. And these protagonists are drawn to each other because of these qualities. And, okay, yes, they're all pretty much aces as far as the hotness factor goes, but their connections are real and you want them to understand each other and realize what's there under the hot lawyer and/or actor surface (take your pick). The writing is clean and even, the dialogue shoulder-shaking-giggles-inducing (though expect a fair amount of language), the best friends good and true, the tension sizzling, the intimate scenes minimal and fade to black, and the endings just the way you want them--decidedly happy. If you're in the mood for any or all of the above, you might as well grab yourself a bowl of popcorn and settle in, because you're in for a rocking good time. I myself can't wait for Ms. James' third book, Something About You, which is due out March 2nd.
I pretty much NEVER read romance anymore (I used to as a teen), but I've put Just the Sexiest Man Alive on my wishlist thanks to your post. It sounds like fun! And shouldn't we all have a bit of fun sometimes?ReplyDelete
oooh i like the way you said the love scenes "fade to black" that is EXACTLY how i thought of them too (although as a certified lusty reader i do enjoy/prefer lusty scenes when appropriate!) plus i think the ideas for her books started off as screenplays? maybe? so fade to black is uber appropriate.ReplyDelete
i lent Practice Makes Perfect to a friend who enjoys "smart chick lit." she doesn't know i read romance but im trying to trick her into getting into the genre. *fingers crossed* she'll have the same reaction as you and thea!
How I love these books! Julie is just crazy smart, and she's got a wonderful wit.ReplyDelete
Both books kind harken back to a "His Girl Friday" kind of feel to me. I'm so glad you gave them a shot. I've read Something About You, and while it's a tad steamier than PMP and JTSMA, it's still got amazing funny moments, and side aching hilarity.
I'm so glad you gave these books a shot. Julie is going to be thrilled to have them labeled "Bibliocrack!"
You linked to my review, so you know already, but I LOVED Practice Makes Perfect. LOVED.ReplyDelete
I had a feeling you might prefer the contemporary romance over historical, but then.. Julie James could be the reason too. :)ReplyDelete
Really? Hmm.. I think I'd like a romantic comedy that 'faded to black' instead of getting all mushy. And I always love a funny book - thanks for the review!ReplyDelete
Lenore, same here. Although I didn't read it as a teen either. But I've been sort of on the hunt for some that fit my particular taste and these fit the bill. So much fun!ReplyDelete
lustyreader, I think you're right. She was a screenplay writer as well and that's got to be why they read so smoothly, just like a great romcom. And good for you pimping out the James to reluctant romance readers, you sneaky thing. It worked for me, hope it does for your friend!
Kati, she really does. And they definitely hearken back to the screwball comedy/Cary Grant b&w affairs. Love those. Makes sense I love these, too. I'm very glad I read them as well and will be buying SOMETHING ABOUT YOU the day it comes out for sure. Glad to hear it lives up to expectations. :) Bibliocrack, indeed. :)
Lisa, yup, I enjoyed your review very much. What's not to love about PMP? I knew when I read the P&P quote going in that good things were in store. Love the convo between J.D. and Tyler regarding P&P. lol.
Janice, you were right! These hit all the right buttons. I would have thought I'd go for historicals initially, but maybe the setting somehow heightens the mush? I don't know. Either way, I'm a James fan now.
Michelle, really. I was reluctant as well, but they are perfectly fluffy, perfectly hilarious reads and I think you might love them. Light on the mush, heavy on the laughs.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT was definitely a fun, witty, fun-loving sexy and romantic story. I haven't read Ms. James' other releases yet, but wouldn't hesitate to pick them up. I know they won't disappoint.ReplyDelete
Good for you for giving some straight romance another go, Angie. :)
Your review sold me on both books so I ordered them. I can't wait to read them.ReplyDelete
YAY! Angie, dude, I am so glad you gave Julie James a try and found her books as irresistible and delectable as Ana and I did. I completely understand your hesitation (and agree with your minor complaint of the cliched nature of Payton and JD, at least initially) - but the characters are so delightful, the banter so witty that you can't help but smile. YAY, again! So glad you loved the books :)ReplyDelete
Normally I avoid contemporary set romances like the plague, but I gave Julie James a try based on your review here and LOVED THEM BOTH. I devoured Just the Sexiest Man Alive and then Practice Makes Perfect and wish the third were out already.ReplyDelete
It's just neat, though, that I've tried a few of your reviews that were closer to my comfort zone and liked what I read, and now I've read - and really enjoyed - books I probably would never have heard about or considered reading.
They were exactly what you described, by the way, spot-on reviews.
I picked up Practice Makes Perfect last year and enjoyed it, but was never tempted to read Just the Sexiest Man Alive. (I don't know, it's just something about hotshot actors in romances.) After your review, though, I'm going to give it a try.ReplyDelete
I read those last year and could not put them down. I am an advid romance reader but these were a great change of pace from the paranormal overload that has flooded the market. Don't get me wrong, I love paranormal but I like contemporary romance and there has been a severe lack lately.ReplyDelete
It was nice to read an articulate book about lawyers. It was refreshing and real and I can't wait for the next one.
Christine, lol, look at me. I'm growing. ;)ReplyDelete
Karen, sweet! Let me know what you think. I hope they don't disappoint. They were exactly what I was hoping they would be.
Thea, exactly! You can't help but smile. Thanks to you for reviewing them. I would never have picked them up otherwise.
erin, oh, wow. You made my day with that comment! Seriously. I try hard to get the reviews right and not misrepresent any books. So it's extremely relieving and gratifying to hear you say they're working for you. I'm so glad you loved these two and that you're finding books you wouldn't have otherwise. I love it when that happens to me.
Trisha, I hear ya. I was thinking JtSMA might fall flat for me for the very same reason. And his attitude and lifestyle are offputting to say the least when you're first getting to know him. But then...I don't know. Somehow Julie James makes me care about him and I'm turning the pages as fast as I can. If you do try it, I hope it's a fun read for ya.
Heather, exactly. They were a breath of fresh air in every way. I can't wait to get a hold of the next one. It sounds hilarious.
I loved these two as well - I felt like I was watching a romantic comedy...just in words. It pushed all the right buttons for me.ReplyDelete
I was reading PMP on a plane and got the funny eye from my neighbor as he tried to read over my shoulder to see why I almost shot apple juice out of my nose (the broken heel scene). Too, too funny - I can't wait for the next one!
Lana, that's exactly how it felt! Like a smooth as butter romantic comedy. I love that you were reading it on the plane. I would have snorted apple juice out my nose reading that scene on a plane as well. SO funny!ReplyDelete