7 Rated Books Book Reviews Smugglivus

Smugglivus Feats of Strength: Thea reads Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

The Feats of Strength are an integral part of our annual Smugglivus Tradition. In the Feats of Strength, we each dare each other to read a book that we know is so far beyond the other’s comfort zone as to put it in another galaxy altogether. It is more than a mere Dare – it is a Feat of Strength.

Title: Practice Makes Perfect

Author: Julie James

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Berkeley (Penguin)
Publication Date: March 2009
Paperback: 304 pages

Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel

How did I get this book: Bought

Summary: (from amazon.com)
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’m always a little leery of starting a romance novel.

Don’t get me wrong – I love a little romance as much as the next person. But, more often than not, my forays into the romance genre for books have ended in disappointment. True, there are the outstanding Diana Gabaldons, Lisa Kleypases, and Loretta Chases of the world – but if we’re being perfectly frank, I find myself much rather preferring romance as a subplot; something ancillary to a more dominant storyline. So, it was with trepidation that I began Practice Makes Perfect

The story is straightforward: Payton Kendall is a senior associate at one of the most prestigious law firms in Chicago. After slaving away, billing thousands of hours over eight years as a litigator, Payton is finally up for her hard-earned partnership – but there’s a catch. Because of a recent suit aimed at law firms for discrimination against their older partners (forcing them out of jobs to make cap room for younger associates), the firm has decided that it can only justify making ONE litigator a partner. For Payton, this means she has just come into direct, head-to-head competition with J.D. Jameson – a gorgeous, infuriating, silver spoon-in-his-mouth, bentley-driving, super-republican, old-money, squash-playing type. As J.D. is a workhorse (just like Payton), has never lost a case (just like Payton), and is one of the best attourneys in the nation (just like Payton), the competition becomes intense. When both J.D. and Payton are assigned on the same big-time anti-discrimination case, the two are thrown into close quarters, only intensifying the tension between them. After witty banter, intentional and unintentional stunts, and a whole lot of unresolved sexual tension, you can guess what happens next.

As I mentioned earlier, 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, featuring the always entertaining “enemies” falling in love storyline. Yes, there is a degree of safety and predictability in terms of plot, but when the banter is this much fun, it’s easy to put cynicism aside and allow yourself to get caught up in the happy-ever-after magic. If the plotting is somewhat straightforward and the characters cliched (the feminist/idealist female from the public school system versus the old money/legal legacy Ivy Leaguer male), the relationship that sparks between them is genuine and – did I mention? – oh so fun. The greatest strength of the novel lies in this spark between J.D. and Payton, and Ms. James shines with her quick, sharp dialogue – the witty repartee, if you will, between her two main characters. As top litigators, Payton and J.D. exchange some pretty good verbal barbs and engage in a number of entertaining power struggles. For example, my favorite scene would have to be in the law library, shortly after both discover that only one of them will get the partner gig. Observe:

“Are you saying that I don’t deserve this?” he demanded. “I’ve billed over twenty-nine hundred hours for the past eight years!”

Payton whipped around. “So have I! And the only difference between you and me is that statistics say you’re more likely to keep it up. The firm doesn’t worry that one day you’ll decide you want to leave at five to kiss your kids good night.”

J.D. stepped closer to her. Then closer again, literally trapping her against the bookshelves.

“Spare me the feminist rant, Payton. It’s getting a little tired. I’ve had to work my ass off to get where I am, while you had your ticket written form the minute you stepped into this firm.”

Payton felt her face flush with anger. “Really? Well, you know what I think, J.D.?” She jabbed his chest with one of her fingers. “I think that you are an uptight, pony-owning, trickle-down-economics-loving, Scotch-on-the-rocks-drinking, my-wife-better-take-my-last-name sexist jerk!”

J.D. grabbed her hand and pulled it away. “Well, at least I’m not a stubborn, button-pushing, Prius-driving, chip-on-your-shoulder-holding, ‘stay-at-home-mom’-is-the-eighth-dirty-word-thinking feminist!”

Witty, intense, and fun stuff. The ‘I-hate-you-but-I-like-you-but-you-make-me-so-ANGRY’ dynamic charges every scene between these two characters, and it’s delightful. Additionally, Payton and J.D.’s thoughts are revealed throughout the novel to the reader, and there are many scenes involving their inner dialogues – in which they refuse to admit, even to themselves, that they are falling in love with the competition. And all of these scenes are delectable good fun.

Furthermore, there’s a decided lack of mush in this book, which was an immense relief. The number one turnoff to romance novels for me is the uncomfortable level of mushiness. Well, that and the gratuitous, embarrassing, play-by-play sex scenes. Thankfully, neither of these are present in Practice Makes Perfect. There’s a healthy dose of sexual tension, attraction, and build-up – and when the sex does happen (which, inevitably, it does), it’s tasteful and non-cringe inducing. Ms. James balances romance with realism, which makes the novel even more effective.

Speaking of realism, it’s also worth mentioning that Ms. James captures the life of an associate in the legal profession in a completely convincing manner – and considering she is a former attorney and alumnus of the University of Illinois School of Law (as is her protagonist Payton), it’s no surprise that she writes with such authority.

In short, Practice Makes Perfect is a sweet, traditional rom-com, and one that will undoubtably have readers grinning as the pages fly by. I highly enjoyed it, and certainly recommend it to romance readers, and reluctant romance readers alike.

Notable Quotes/Parts: You can read an official excerpt from Chapter 2 online at Julie James’ website, HERE.

Additional Thoughts: Ana LOVED this book, and we’ve had author Julie James over for a number of guest posts. Check out her post about her Inspirations & Influences for Practice Makes Perfect, or her Smugglivus Guest Post for more information!

Verdict: Fun, witty, escapist entertainment at its best. I definitely enjoyed Practice Makes Perfect, against my own biases and prejudices! Julie James is a romance author that, to this reluctant romance reader, has just made the publication watch list.

Rating: 7 – Very Good

Reading Next: Moonseed by Stephen Baxter


  • AnimeJune
    January 6, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Great review!

    Glad you liked the book, Thea. I did too, although I think I had the same reservations – sometimes Peyton really REALLY annoyed me with her blatant assumptions about JD had weren’t based on any evidence, although it’s certainly a clever turn around to make the feminist hippie a bigot instead of JD.

  • katiebabs
    January 6, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Thea, I am still waiting on a dare review from you on my blog!

    Love Julie’s book so much. PMP had me in stitches. I so want it made into a movie with Ryan Reynolds as JD!

  • Julie James
    January 6, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Whew! Glad you survived the Feats of Strength, Thea!! I’m thrilled to hear you enjoyed the book. I’ve really been getting a kick out of this year’s Smugglivus festivities. You guys cracked me up with the Airing of the Grievances… (and I’m so with you on Lost). 😉


  • Maya M.
    January 6, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    I got whiplash going back and forth between how much I enjoyed the story overall, and what to me was a glaring absence that colored the whole way I look back on the novel


    at the beginning of the story, the hero trys to gain an advantage in the race for promotion by holding a meeting with star clients at a club where women aren’t allowed. This was such a non-heroic, anachronistic thing to do that I was certain it foreshadowed the hero and heroine ending the story by taking the misogynistic club to court. NEVER HAPPENED. Leaving me reeling with questions like: How is it possible that his action didn’t become a dealbreaker for the heroine – who specializes in gender discrimination cases, no less? How is it possible that the senior partners of the firm had no problem with his action, given that they make money off the firm’s reputation for handling discrimination cases? And how is it possible that the hero didn’t gain sufficient insight by the end to cut off all contact with that club?

    END SPOILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    So while I enjoyed a lot about the book, in the end, that enjoyment is coated in squick.

  • KMont
    January 7, 2010 at 9:26 am

    I’ve got this one in the TBR pile. Or one of the author’s books. I DO think it’s this one. Maybe. I ought to get on it. I’m actually psyched to hear there’s a lack of mush. And I’m in the mood for a rom comedy that doesn’t come off as silly immaturity between two adults.

  • orannia
    January 8, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    I tried to read this last year and got halfway through and then couldn’t get any further. I think it was me, and not the book. I’d glad you liked it 🙂

  • Sarah
    February 21, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    I just picked this up last night and finished it last night as well! I have to echo your love of the lack of mushiness! It would have ruined the book because these two are not mushy.

    I also loved that she never had to apologize for being super career driven. So many contemporaries end up neutering the career driven women and this one seemed to celebrate it! I think its one of my new favorite contemporaries – I only wish it had been longer, I felt like it needed a bit more room to breathe (the father bombshell?)

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