TBR Challenge – New to Me Author

practice_makes_perfect Even though I haven’t noticed my TBR pile diminishing in size, I have to say that I’m still looking forward to my TBR Challenge read each month. This month’s theme is New-to-You Authors, and I had a wonderful experience trying a book by an author that I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while. I keep hearing wonderful things about Julie James’ writing both from my colleagues here at AAR and elsewhere in romanceland. As it turns out, I have two of her books in my TBR, but there was one that I just had to read.

Whenever someone from romanceland finds out that I spend most of my offline hours as a lawyer, the first reaction I get is usually, “Wow – so you’re a REAL lawyer!” (Do we have a lot of fake ones running around out there?) And the second reaction I get tends to be, “Have you read Practice Makes Perfect? That’s supposed to be the most realistic lawyer romance out there.” Since the unrealistic lawyers I sometimes encounter in fiction make me crazy, that particular recommendation functioned like catnip for me. I was determined to get my hands on that book. And I did – at RWA 2009 where I also got to meet the delightful Julie James when she signed my book(and hundreds of others).

However, I now have to confess that life intervened and Practice Makes Perfect sat in my 2009 RWA box until very recently. It now sits on my bookcase next to Do-Over by Dorien Kelly, the other book that I think really gets lawyer life right. I’m glad that the TBR Challenge made me try an author I’d been meaning to try because I really liked her voice and if I had been reading this for review, it would have been a solid B+ for me.

The set-up of the book is a little contrived, but only a little. Some of what goes on in real-life legal practice hits that “truth is stranger than fiction” territory after all. The hero and heroine of the novel are both associates in a large corporate law firm in Chicago and each has spent the past eight years competing and angling to make partner. As they hit the final stretch, in a decision supported by reasoning that seems to come straight from Planet WTF, their department head tells them that only one will make partner. This sets the stage for all kinds of romantic and job tension as Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson work to outwit one another and get that coveted partnership slot. Their antics are totally over-the-top sometimes, but their characters ring true and that makes all the difference.

The big firm setting is well-written and reminded me of law firms I and my friends have known. The descriptions of how the hierarchy works, how many hours of drudgery go into corporate practice, and how lawyers live in their very few off hours all felt familiar. And then there were the trial descriptions. Perry Mason it is not. Instead, we have Payton musing on how, “She personally found it to be the most exhausting thing a lawyer had to do: protect her own witnesses during cross-examination and pray, pray, pray they didn’t say anything stupid.” True, true, true. Some of the courtroom scenes veer into screwball comedy territory, but it never felt wholly unrealistic and always managed to be vastly entertaining.

In addition to a strong setting, the reader really gets to feel the buildup of chemistry between the leads. They may start off a little overly snarky, but the dialogue is clever and kept me turning the pages. Even though mention is made of other romantic interests, it’s obvious from the beginning that Payton and J.D. are Meant To Be. They’re smart, they’re good at what they do and, even better, they’re flawed people. In a genre that sometimes gives us too many overly perfect leads for comfort, I found Payton and J.D. refreshing. As a reader, I couldn’t help liking them. And when they finally got together, the payoff was fantastic. There’s a little too much melodrama at the end for the book to be a complete DIK read for me, but it’s a very good book nevertheless. So, the TBR Challenge was definitely a wonderful experience for me this month!

Now – get out there and try a new-to-you author. You know there’s someone you’ve been meaning to try reading!

– Lynn Spencer

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14 Responses to TBR Challenge – New to Me Author

  1. Leigh says:

    This was the first book that I read by Julie James, and I loved it. Since I am out of books to read right now, I think I will do a re-read.

    It is always great when authors get it right (of course it helps that Ms. James is a lawyer).Since my career experience is in the medical field, I tend to always scrutinize that type of information.

    I need to check with my niece and see if she has read her books. She just passed the bar, and is now working for a law firm. I have already heard of an 80 hour week. . . .

    As of right now, I think I have the trying new author category checked off as completed. Over the last three months I have at least tried 15.

    Glad you mentioned this book. . . Off to check and see if it is on my kindle.

  2. Tee says:

    As with Leigh, “Practice Makes Perfect” was also my first Julie James’ book a couple of years ago and it definitely will not be my last. I’ve enjoyed all those of hers that I’ve read and wish there were more in the pot. She’s a witty author and master at keeping you interested in the characters and the story. Yay for wonderful new authors.

  3. Karen says:

    I’ve read all three of Julie James’ books (I haven’t gotten to her new one yet) and Practice Makes Perfect was my favorite. I was a little disappointed that Something About You was more of a standard romantic suspense book (although still good) and I hope she goes back to the legal setting in the future.

  4. Carrie says:

    This month I’ve read several new-to-me authors from my
    TBR list for the TBR Challenge. Maureen Child (Maternity Bride 2.5*/5*), Winifred Watson (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day 5*), and Debbie Macomber (Morning Comes Softly 3*/5*). I have several more that I’ll try to get to this month, including Primary Inversion by Catherine Asaro. That would fulfill requirements for three different challenges: Speaking of Audiobooks, Sci-Fi Rom, and TBR. Multitasking!

    Another author I’ve had on my list a long time is JR Ward. I have Dark Lover on audio, so that’s a possiblity, as well.

  5. trish b says:

    I tried my first (and so far only) Julie James book last year with SOMETHING ABOUT YOU and I really enjoyed it. The book was fun, witty, smart and sophisticated. I’m looking forward to her next/upcoming book A LOT LIKE LOVE which looks good as well.

    As for my new-to-me author read, I’m just getting around to reading BUTTERFLY SWORDS by Jeannie Lin which got a ton of buzz last year. I’m only about 70 pages in, but so far, so good!

  6. Thea says:

    “Practice Makes Perfect” was close enough to reality that I had to stop reading it. The description of life in a big law firm brought back too many bad memories. I set this book aside because I read to relax, and it was stressing me out! That being said, I’ve read and enjoyed other books by James.

  7. Leigh says:

    Carrie, I loved the movie Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. . .Have you seen the movie? If so, is the book different from the movie?

  8. Jane AAR says:

    I think this book is the only one so far by Julie James that I haven’t read. But I love the other books by her — such a strong new(ish) contemporary writer! And she keeps getting better, too. Her latest two were wonderful.

  9. Tee says:

    Kristan Higgins is another author who is new for me (within the last year), but I’m up to date on all the books she has written and I love her writing. She too is witty and very character oriented. Can’t wait for her new one coming along soon. In her own snappy-dialogue way, she reminds me of Julie James.

  10. Carrie says:

    Leigh~ I’ve enjoyed both the book and the movie. The movie changed some events and, of course, streamlined the time line, but overall it had the same feel, if you know what I mean. The writing is so rich and witty, and the characters so well drawn that I highly recommend the book. I listened on audio and Frances McDormand (who played Miss Pettigrew in the movie) does a masterful job with the narration. It’s interesting to note this was written in 1938, so it was “contemporary” when written. When you look at the mores and issues addressed, it’s very enlightening. The book is very funny and poignant, but while this isn’t a typical romance, it IS romantic and you come away feeling very good.

  11. Victoria S says:

    I liked Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin, but while reading the book, I kept thinking to myself …”there is no way this can have a HEA, a high-ranking Asian family would never have let their daughter marry a non-Asian man! But if I suspended that belief, the book was excellent.
    I must have been reading under a rock! I just read my first Julie Garwood’s (Killjoy, Mercy and Heartbreaker) and my first Judith Ivory’s
    (Untie My Heart and Sleeping Beauty). I know these are not new authors, and I couldn’t tell you why I’ve never read them before, but I’m glad I finally did.

  12. Kim says:

    I’ve read all of Julie James’s books and have enjoyed them all. She has some of the best dialogue in contemporary books, plus interesting secondary characters, too.

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