Just the Sexiest Man Alive

Julie James
October 2008, Contemporary Romance
Berkley Sensation, $7.99, 296 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425224201

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Kisses

Here’s the good news: This is the second smartly written contemporary I’ve read in the last few weeks. The not so good? The heroine spends too much time bending over backwards to dislike the hero and, in a shocking twist, there’s no sex – and I really mean that – and I definitely felt the lack. For a book being marketed as a romance, it’s an odd choice.

Taylor Donovan is a young hotshot lawyer on the partnership fast track who finds herself temporarily in L.A. representing the defendant in a high profile sexual harassment case. Despite the fact that she is tied up in trial, Taylor is pressured by her boss to assist a spoiled Hollywood actor in prepping for his upcoming role as a lawyer. She protests (and protests and protests and protests again), but soon enough finds herself being stood up by Jason Andrews – named the Sexiest Man Alive a record three times – for their professional session and getting more than a little pissed off by his arrogance.

Jason finally shows and, much to his surprise, the superstar finds himself intrigued by a woman who obviously has no interest in him. He attempts to pursue Taylor, she rebuffs him. Rinse and repeat. Then rinse and repeat again.

Here’s what I enjoyed: Julie James is, according to the publisher, a lawyer who divides her time between L. A. and Chicago and she writes of subjects with which she is obviously familiar. She also creates smart dialogue and two intelligent, likable characters. The author does a particularly good job with Jason, who comes off as sort of adorably pampered and clueless, but willing to learn how to be better.

But, despite those undeniable positives, I found myself wondering what kind of lawyer finds time for dinner dates and weekends off when she’s in trial (hey, the lawyers I know spend every evening and every weekend preparing for the next trial day), what kind of entertainment world is limited to breaking news stories in People and Us Weekly (stories don’t break weekly anymore – they break hourly on TMZ), and what kind of HEA this couple is really going to have since the heroine spends 99% of the book in varying degrees of hostility to the hero.

As for the latter, I’m not exaggerating since the heroine finally comes around on page 288 of a 296-page book. As a result, the reader doesn’t have any time to get to know them as couple – what they’ll be like, how they will relate to each other when they're not verbally sparring – making their HEA seem more than a little hollow to me.

Still, I had fun reading this book, especially during the first half when I thought...well, you know, that things would move on a whole lot faster than they did. Still, no matter how much I enjoyed my reading experience, the truth is that I would have enjoyed the book even more had there been less hostility and more of a payoff. As it is, Taylor and Jason's story feels only half-finished to me.

-- Sandy Coleman

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