Berkley Sensation, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-22674-2
Contemporary Romance, 2009
After succumbing to and giving Julie James’s debut effort Just the Sexiest Man Alive an uncharacteristically high score, I plan to be extra tough on Practice Makes Perfect. After all, I don’t want people to start thinking that I shoot rainbows out of my belly button or something.
Well, look how well my plan turned out. I suspect that this author must know some sneaky magic ninja tricks or something, because I end up thinking that this one is too much fun to read. We have two lawyers, Payton Kendall and JD Jameson, who are doing their best to upstage each other in the race to become the new partner in their law firm. Both are equally qualified and very determined to make the cut, although if you ask me to place my bets on one of them, I’d pick JD. Don’t underestimate the glass ceiling effect, after all. When they are assigned to work together on a huge case – and trust me, this one is big – they have to grudgingly cooperate with each other for a change. But you know how things can be, I’m sure. Long nights, too much coffee, too close to the pretty… it must be love, eventually.
Honestly, I often get quite uncomfortable at times reading Practice Makes Perfect, because if there is one thing Ms James did very well here, it’s to introduce enough realism here to show how tough it can be for a woman to break into the old boys network. Payton has to work extra hard to be seen as an equal to JD, and all it takes is one simple exchange between JD and the boss to destroy the careful professional image she had cultivated with her colleagues and peers. I get uncomfortable because I’m convinced that poor Payton will lose in the end and has to settle for a hot boyfriend as a consolation prize. As it turns out, oh, who am I kidding? Julie James doesn’t get Payton to compromise like that. The ending is a very nice one that puts a smile to my smile because both Julie and Payton get a happy ending with both their dignities intact.
Well, sort of. Thanks to his foolishness, JD comes off as a complete asshole late in the story, but he grovels so prettily that I guess I could forgive him one day. I won’t be as lenient as Payton though, because if I were her, JD would have to grovel and beg a little longer before he regains the privilege to kiss my dainty toes. Still, it’s a wonderful grovel. It’s equally impressive because JD manages to stay in character even as he begs for Payton’s forgiveness.
Apart from that oddly timed conflict that seems more like a last moment padding to me, this story is a complete blast of a read. Both characters generate plenty of electricity together with their exchanges and interactions with each other. Payton and JD are complete opposites at the surface, but it is soon very apparent that they are very similar to each other the way well-matched couples tend to be. JD is fun and naughty with enough gravity in his personality to make him a well-rounded bad boy type to adore. Payton is an equally appealing heroine, especially when Ms James actually gives Payton a life of her own outside her job, something that many romance heroines are not allowed to have. Payton actually dates guys, a refreshing change from the “I’m too busy for sex” stereotype heroines that populate the genre. When it comes to their romance, good for them. I think it will work out well and I’m pleased to have followed them all the way to their happy ending.
While this one lacks the larger than life Hollywood magic of the previous book, Practice Makes Perfect is a top notch romantic comedy that works wonderfully on me. If you want a fun romantic comedy that is as far away as can be from the usual Navy SEAL or small town sheriff retreads, with adorable bad boys and heroines who actually come off as human, take a look at this one. And the previous book as well, of course.