Blossom and Bubbles reviewed Just the Sexiest Man Alive, the first book by Julie James and they both loved it. When Practice Makes Perfect came out it was a given that they would read and join forces to review it. You know how it goes right? Bubbles reviews it here and Blossom (AKA KatieBabs) at her place. But what of Buttercup? Well she is still AWOL. Last we heard she decided to ditch her “training” with Batman, Wolverine and Gambit because according to her they are “wimpy do –gooders” (her words, not ours) and decided to join forces with Rorschach. We dread the day she will come back. The word “intervention” has been flowing around the Powerpuff Girls’ HQ.
Title: Practice Makes Perfect
Author: Julie James
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publishing Date: March 3, 2009
Paperback: 304 pages
Why did I read the book: I loved Just the Sexiest Man Alive and was really looking forward to reading Practice Makes Perfect. When it came along in the post from Berkley, I was super happy!
Summary: When it comes to the laws of attraction, there are no rules The battle between the sexes is about to make these two lawyers hot under the collar. Opposites collide when two lawyers try to make partner at the same firm. Payton Kendall is a feminist to the bone. Cocky J.D. Jameson was born privileged. But when they’re asked to join forces on a major case, they gain a newfound awareness of each other’s personal assets. The partnership spot will be offered to only one of them, though. The competition heats up. Sparks fly. Let the games begin.
I will start by being blunt and saying: I wish more books were like this one. Deliciously funny, easy to read, enjoyable and gripping. You know the type: when you have to stop reading because real life interferes, all you think about is how much you want to go back to the book and know what.happens.next.
Here are the basics: two hot shot lawyers working for the same prestigious law firm in Chicago. Enemies for the past 8 years although no one in the office has any clue of their hostility towards each other as they are masters in playing cool in public. Now, they are both running to make partner in the firm when they learn they must work together to bring in a big new client.
She: Payton Kendall, ambitious, smart and gorgeous; vegetarian, daughter of a hippie, activist mother, went to public school. Feminist, strong and proud of her own achievements.
He: J.D. Jameson, ambitious, smart and hot; Harvard educated, from a well-respected and moneyed family. Traditional, hard-working and proud of his own achievements.
These two now need to deal with the mental and physical strain of their career while at the same time coming to a point of realisation that hey, maybe they are perfect for each other. But before getting to that point, there are antics, pranks, arguments and sexual tension by the bucket loads (without any actual, graphic sex scene) that has the reader (at least this one) glued to the pages. For example:
J.D. apologises for an assumption he made.
“Is that it?” Payton asked, not entirely mollified by this apology.
“Oh I was just waiting for you to say something sarcastic about assholes and assumptions.”
Payton gave him a level stare. “As if I would be that cliché”.
She noticed he was watching her. Again. “What?”.
J.D. grinned.”Now I’m waiting for you to do that thing with your hair. The little flip.
Payton glared. Note to self: invest in hair clips.
“You know, as apologies go, this one could use a ton of improvement”.
The farcical situations the characters find themselves involved into (dear lord, the courtroom scene? I nearly choked with laughter) the sharp dialogue, the repartee, the strong female characters who stand on equal grounds against their male counterparts and the obvious attraction despite the hostility they may feel for each other are characteristics of one of my favourite types of romantic comedies: the Screwball Comedy. I am a huge fan of the genre (I collect movies by Howard Hawks, George Cukor and Frank Capra) and Practice Makes Perfect is so much like a Screwball Comedy, I can only but rejoice in reading this book.
Another aspect that distinguishes Practice Makes Perfect (and Just the Sexiest Man Alive) and makes them extraordinary in the midst of the romance genre is the fact that there is hardly any mushiness ( which is also another characteristic of the Screwball Comedy by the way) if at all. Pretty much every scene has some sort of funny innuendo and the characters start fighting and they go down fighting – yeah they may come to realise that they love each other but they also LOVE the parks that fly when they fight. For those who never watched a classic Screwball comedy and would feel more at home with a recent comparison: reading Practice Makes Perfect is akin to watching one of the best Ally McBeal’s episodes but with Joss Whedon’s dialogue.
Practice Makes Perfect is brilliantly written not only for the two protagonists but it has some fairly interesting secondary characters (like The Perfect Chase) and it touches relevant and important points such as genre and class in romance (For a more in-depth analysis of these points please read Jessica’s review of Practice Makes Perfect here). J.D. and Payton’s legal discussions held my complete interest as did their relationship with their parents and friends.
My one grippe with the book is the one added conflict close to the end because of something that J.D. did a few years ago. It doesn’t come out of nowhere because there were a couple of red herrings pointing that it would happen at some point BUT I did think it was completely unnecessary. Not only because there was enough conflict in their lives to make their relationship interesting but also because that particular J.D.’s action was, I felt, out of character. Look at me, defending the hero! J.D. acted like a jerk but a jerk he was not. Furthermore, the outcome of that was to have the hero getting advice from his best friend in an almost play –by – play of what happens in Just the Sexiest Man Alive which almost pulled me away from the book gravitas to wonder about formulas and the such but thankfully this happens only for a few pages and look! There comes The Grovel. And the banter again, so all is well in the world after all.
In the end it all boils down to this: if practice makes perfect, then I cannot wait for what Julie James comes up with next.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: It has got to be the courtroom scene when JD does the shoe prank. I will not spoil it but I was crying I was laughing so much. But the scene is also brilliant because it has several layers: there is not only the hilarous situation of the prank itself, but it is also a fantastic moment to show how strong Payton is and it has a very interesting outcome for JD – who compares his own reaction to a prank she played on him to her reaction to this one and…..something happens right then inside of him.
Additional Thoughts: If you liked Just the Sexiest Man Alive and Practice Makes Perfect, go back and watch some of the movies from the golden era of Screwball Comedies. Usually they have “enemies” turned lovers or divorced couples getting back together stories. Really, they are good fun and awesome.
It all started in 1934 with It Happened One Night by Frank Capra (one of my favorite directors). A road movie with Clark Gable (pre-Gone With the Wind) and Claudette Colbert.
Ellie: I just had the unpleasant sensation of hearing you referred to as my husband.
Peter: Oh yeah, I forgot to tell ya about that. I registered as Mr. and Mrs.
Ellie: Oh, you did…Well, what am I expected to do? Leap for joy?
Peter: I kinda half expected you to thank me.
Ellie: Your ego is absolutely colossal.
Peter: Yeah, yep. Not bad. How’s yours?
Ellie: You know, compared to you, my friend Shapeley is an amateur. Just whatever gave you any idea I’d stand for this?
Peter: Hey now, wait a minute. Let’s get this straightened out right now. If you’re nursing any silly notion that I’m interested in you, forget it. You’re just a headline to me.
Ellie: A headline? You’re not a newspaper man are you?
Peter: Chalk up one for your side.
Then you have another good example with His Girl Friday directed by Howard Hawks (another fantastic director) and starring Cray Grant and Rosalind Russell – this one is of the divorced-get-back-together variety.
Hildy: A big fat lummox like you – hiring an airplane to write: ‘Hildy, don’t be hasty, remember my dimple.’
Walter. It delayed our divorce twenty minutes while the judge went out to watch it.
Walter: I’ve still got the dimple and in the same place.
The Philadelphia Story directed by yet another favorite of mine, George Cukor with Cary Grant, Kate Hepburn and James Stewart. Another one that has a couple that start out divorced then remarry by the end.
C. K. Dexter Haven: Sometimes, for your own sake, Red, I think you should’ve stuck to me longer.
Tracy Lord: I thought it was for life, but the nice judge gave me a full pardon.
C. K. Dexter Haven: Aaah, that’s the old redhead. No bitterness, no recrimination, just a good swift left to the jaw.
More recently though there was a pretty good movie that I watched many times. I Love Trouble with Julia Roberts and Nick Nolte, it has all the elements of screwball comedy and I thought it was good fun, even though critics seem to disagree with me. I know, shocking.
Verdict: Pure, unmitigated fun. Sexy as hell without graphic sex scenes. Smart and engaging – simply a damn good contemporary romance.
Rating: 8. Excellent
Reading Next: Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
Review: Practice Makes Perfect, Julie James (with discussion about feminists and gender politics in romance) | Racy Romance ReviewsMarch 13, 2009 at 3:28 am
[…] Book Smuggler, Ana, 8 […]
JessicaMarch 13, 2009 at 3:38 am
I agree with you completely. I, too, was laughing my bathing suit off (hey, I was on a beach!) at the courtroom scene, and even at the scene that precipitated it.
I loved that in both books, there was terrific sexual tension without any explicit sex. I DO like a book with explicit sex when it is called for, but I hate the trend of just sticking it in there (heh) because it sells.
I agree with you about J.D.’s bit of bad behavior, which was signaled, but was out of character. Then again (fan girl rationalization ahead. Warning:) we all do things that are out of character at times, don’t we? That’s why we have the expression. What bothered me about it was more Payton,s reaction, which I felt was too cool given the very high stakes and what J.D.’s actions could mean for her chance at partnership.
(Warning. Coercive fan girl rheotircal question ahead:)Didn’t you just love the “other” revelation about J.D. (overlooking the fact that it occurred during the “friend convo” which was indeed similar to the one in JTSMA, which I did not realize until you wrote that).
I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but James posted a really illuminating comment to my review on the feminist themes, etc.
Great review!! Now where’s that OTHER one, hmmm?
MelissaMarch 13, 2009 at 4:29 am
Sounds like an interesting book. I have to say, too, that His Girl Friday is one of my favorite movies!! I just love the fast-paced bantering dialogue. I’m also a big fan of It Happened One Night and The Philadelphia Story.
AnaMarch 13, 2009 at 4:32 am
Jessica, I completely agree with you on the subject of sex or lack of it!
and you know what? NO, I did not like the other “revelation” about J.D. I could have done without that to be honest.
I was completely HORRIFIED at what he did and I put down Payton’s reaction at being caught completely by surprise? as I was. I so did not see that coming. 👿
AnaMarch 13, 2009 at 4:33 am
Melissa, if you like those movies, you will love Julie James’ books!
unnecessaryMarch 13, 2009 at 5:31 am
Powerpuff Girls Review: Practice Makes Perfect by ……
Bookmarked your post over at Blog Bookmarker.com!…
she readsMarch 13, 2009 at 7:24 am
You know, I just didn’t love this book like so many people did. I was in love with a lot of the dialoge and scenes, just didn’t love the book as a whole.
Funny, because I expected to based on the reviews I read (and continue to read!). Ah well, for it’s good moments and the writing skill I can so clearly see I will try J.J. in future anyhow.
Julie JamesMarch 13, 2009 at 8:12 am
So first, let me start by saying this– holy cow you compared my dialogue to Joss Whedon. (fangirl warning ahead HERE): what a compliment. Since Buffy’s pretty much one of my favorite TV shows of all time, that just is… the beyond. : )
Thank you so much for the great review, Ana! One thing I really loved is all the comparisons to older screwball rom/coms. When writing PMP, that was the exact feel I was going for– I’m such a fan of those films. A couple of little things I did, sort of inside jokes: I chose J.D. to have a name with initials as an homage to Cary Grant’s character in The Philadelphia Story, C.K. Dexter Haven. I think that has got to be one of the best character names I’ve come across. Second: Billy Mernit wrote a very informative book called “Writing the Romantic Comedy.” In it, he includes discusses this trend in rom/coms:
“In my book Writing the Romantic Comedy, I coined a term — useful to screenwriters and students of the genre, at least — to describe the Other Guy, the one who doesn’t get the girl in a rom-com, the Mr. Wrong that our heroine invariably steps over as she ultimately rushes into the arms of her Mr. Right. I dubbed him the Bellamy, in honor of the actor Ralph Bellamy, who embodied the paradigm for this hapless role in such watershed screwballs as The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday.”
So… did you happen to catch The Perfect Chase’s last name in PMP? 😉
Okay, so now about the part near the end, J.D.’s revelation… I’ll be careful not to give any spoilers away, but here’s my thought: I hesitated, a lot, about putting that scene in the book. The problem is, and this might sound silly, but in my head, that’s what I saw happening. J.D. constantly being told how he had this “way” of looking at Payton… I figured somebody would catch onto that somewhere along the way. And, given J.D.’s proud persona, he would panic, and would try to cover it up, and yes, he did a very bad thing. I felt this was somewhat mitigated by the fact that it was several years ago, but this is obviously something in the book that will work for some and not for others. I am really glad, however, that it didn’t curtail your enjoyment of the book!
Once again– thanks for much for the wonderful review!! BTW, I love that you mentioned “It Happened One Night.” In the book I’m just finishing up now, I include a scene that is a direct homage to a scene in that film. Such a great movie.
AnaMarch 13, 2009 at 8:35 am
She reads, I am sorry to hear it didn’t work as well for you. Maybe next time! 😀
AnaMarch 13, 2009 at 8:35 am
Hey Julie 😀
THANK YOU for your comment. From a Whedon fan to another *highfive* Buffy is my all time favorite show!
I am loving to read all of this inside information on the Screwball comedy inspirations – this is really great! “The Bellamy” LOL , this is so cool.
And Julie OMG. Mentioning It Happened One Night is to make sure I will be there to read your book as soon as it’s out (as if I wouldn’t anyway). I love ALL Frank Capra movies (he is like, my Joss Whedon of movies). I bet I can guess the scene you are talking about: it’s either the Walls of Jericho one or the Hitchhiking scene *hyper* am I hot or cold? I am SO excited. EEEEEEE. CAN’T WAIT.
Julie JamesMarch 13, 2009 at 8:38 am
Ana: you are very, very hot. 😀
AnaMarch 13, 2009 at 8:42 am
*roots for the Walls of Jericho*
katiebabsMarch 13, 2009 at 9:13 am
Everytime I think of the court scene with Payton’s mishap with her shoes, I chuckle.
Bubbles, we are always of the same mind it seems!
oranniaMarch 14, 2009 at 8:15 pm
Great review Ana! I think I definitely need to politely suggest to the library that they purchase Julie James’ contemporaries as well as her categories! That way I can ‘share the love’ 🙂
MameMarch 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm
I am finally getting around to checking out my favorite blogs and glad I am I caught this review. I love romance novels with wit and sharp dialogue. I can’t wait to check out “Practice Makes Perfect”
Thanks for the review!
Also, for really great dialogue and witty romance in a movie check out “Pillow Talk” starring Rock Hudson and Dorris Day! Fabulous!
LisaJuly 8, 2009 at 8:36 am
I picked this one up on the basis of this review and the linked one- thanks for the recommendation, I really enjoyed it.
I posted my review this morning:
Practice Makes Perfect, by Julie James « Lusty ReaderJuly 23, 2009 at 9:41 am
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