Thankfully, Julie James did not disappoint - at all. In fact “Practice Makes Perfect”, while different, was as equally enjoyable as “Just the Sexiest Man Alive”. Further, this book takes “the battle of the sexes”, to a whole new level. The theme of the story involves workplace adversaries who become lovers.
Practice Makes Perfect
Payton Kendall is a female lawyer specializing in “employment law, particularly single-plaintiff race and gender discrimination lawsuits”. Politically, she is liberal to the core, a vegan, a strong-minded feminist, she has a sarcastic rapier wit and is ultra competitive in her work environment. Payton is weeks away from a earning a partnership at the elite law firm in Chicago where she has devoted long arduous hours for the past 8 years. Payton has never lost a case; she is a top-notch lawyer having earned her way in what is still predominately a man’s profession.
J.D. Jameson is a male lawyer specializing in class action law, handling large multi-plaintiff, multi-district cases. Politically, he is conservative to the core, a meat eater, comfortable with the “upper class – old boy’s club”, due to his upbringing by wealthy old school parents. J.D. is cocky as hell and is ultra competitive in, well everything. He is weeks away from a earning a partnership at an elite law firm in Chicago where he has devoted long arduous hours for the past 8 years. He too is a top-notch lawyer having earned his way up in the firm, and he sees women in his profession as having a edge because of their gender.
Oh, and Payton and J.D.? They work for the same firm and have offices across the hall from one another. Neither is sure what initiated the "dislike" they feel for one another, but each views the other as the "enemy". They maintain an outward air of civility in the office however, when they are out of earshot of the administrative staff and other associates, they have been "at war" for eight years. They even compete to be first into the office in the morning. The cutting sarcastic exchanges between these two, which I am now coming to enjoy as “vintage Julie James”, are hilarious.
Competitive angst bubbles between J.D. and Payton reaching the boiling point, and pours forth when the partnership committee of the firm decides that only one of them is going to make partner because of “strategic leveraging” which will force the other to leave the firm. Both of these characters have invested their heart and soul into their career at the firm for a long time and at first they are stunned. Then they become angry with the powers that be for forcing them into an even more competitive situation. What makes it worse, is that the senior partner “Ben” uses J.D. and Payton’s expertise in a bid to reel in a huge client for the firm prior to the shoe falling with respect to the partnership decision.
When a conversation between Payton and J.D. following the announcement of the partnership decision turns sour, the gloves really come off and it’s every man/woman for themselves.
There is an absolutely hilarious courtroom scene involving Payton that you will have to read the book to enjoy but all I can say is that Ms. James once again had me howling with laughter!
I’ve read a couple of reviews that indicated they had difficulty liking J.D. in the early part of the story because of his chauvinistic attitudes. However, I liked him. He and Payton are extremely prideful, driven people with a strong set of principles. The narrative allowed me to see that the angst and competitive issues between them was actually sexual tension that had been simmering for 8 years. This story is a slow burn with respect to these lovers finally making it to the bedroom, once again this is a contemporary romance and there is no graphic sex. However, I thought the love scene penned for them was fun, rather sweet and quite sexy.
The secondary characters were awesome. J.D.’s friend Tyler is an absolute hoot. Here is a short example of an exchange between J.D. and Tyler as the former offers his friend some advice with respect to Payton.
“No, see, that’s what makes it all the more interesting, “ Tyler said. He adopted a grandly dramatic tone. “‘Does our fair Ms. Kendall truly loathe the arrogant Mr. Jameson as she so ardently proclaims, or is it all just a charade to cover more amorous feelings for a man she reluctantly admires?’”
Up front, the cabdriver snorted loudly. He appeared to be enjoying the show.
“Psych 101 again?” J.D. asked.
Tyler shook his head. “Lit 305: Eighteenth-Century Women’s fiction.” He caught J.D.’s look and quickly defended himself. “What? I took it because of the girls in the class. Anyway, I see a bit of P and P dynamic going on between you and Payton.”
J.D. didn’t think he wanted to know. Really. But he asked anyway. “P and P?”
Tyler shot him a look, appalled. “Uh, hello--Pride and Prejudice?” His tone said only a cretin wouldn’t know this.
“Oh right, P and P,” J.D. said. “You know, Tyler, you might want to pick up your balls—I think they just fell right off when you said that.”
Up front, the cabdriver let out a good snicker.”
“Practice Makes Perfect” © Julie James
Tyler is actually a very cool guy and when the going really gets tough with Payton, J.D. turns to his best friend for support and guidance.
Then there is Payton’s mother. OMG. Lex Kendall calls her daughter “Sis”, protested everything, felt Barbie dolls and fairy tales were sexist. She also is a vegan and vehemently opposes people wearing fur coats. It makes for an interesting exchange when Payton and Lex run into J.D. and his parents in a restaurant.
There are a couple of surprises in store for readers with respect to J.D. and a rather ugly secret he has kept for years concerning Payton. Lets just say a past mistake comes back to bite him in the butt big time nearly causing irreparable damage to a burgeoning relationship with Payton.
The only thing I was left wondering was what the initials J.D. stood for? lol
“Practice Makes Perfect”, is now sitting on my keeper shelf next to Julie James’ first novel. I love her voice and am so looking forward to her future work.