Oct 1 2008
Dear Ms. James:
Ordinarily I don’t read books that where the protagonists are lawyers, particularly trial lawyers because so few people ever get it right. When I read the blurb for this book, I admit to mentally groaning but I couldn’t help myself from opening it up, just to take a peek. I ended up reading the whole thing.
Taylor Donovan is a the hottest young trial lawyer for a big Chicago law firm not Sidley & Austin, of course, but some fictional big Chicago law firm named Gray & Dallas. I got the Austin/Dallas thing, but wasn’t quite sure as to the Sidley/Gray connection. Taylor’s specialty is employment law defense (think sexual harassment suits) and she’s on loan from Chicago to the LA office for a big thirty million dollar sexual harassment case. Her senior partner wants her to take on another, but special, assignment. As Taylor’s sole goal is to make partner, she’s willing to do just about anything.
Anything turns out to be the tutor for Jason Andrews who, besides being “Just the Sexiest Man Alive”, is starting to film a legal drama. He wants some pointers on “how real lawyers act in the courtroom. You know, demeanor, where to stand, those kinds of things.” Taylor really isn’t interested in this but knows the importance of pleasing the senior partner.
Unfortunately, Jason Andrews is kind of an asshole. He’s a movie star, after all, is used to everyone currying his favor. Due to Andrews’ bad behavior, Taylor has no interest in currying anything and uses her opportunity to show him that he isn’t worth her time. She walks out on him, repeatedly. While this makes for good scenes and sets up Taylor as an intriguing female to Jason, it really doesn’t fit with her desire to be partner more than anything. I found it odd that she never seriously questioned that her behavior with Andrews could have had a negative impact on her partnership status, particularly when it becomes clear that her status at the firm is dependent on how happy Jason Andrews is (who I kept referring to as Julie Andrews in my head).
Taylor’s seeming indifference to Jason’s magnetism peaks his interest because women fall over themselves to get to him, not away from him. While not deliberate on Taylor’s part, it’s the best way to attract someone like Jason. He loves a challenge. The more time that they spend together, the more that their attraction to each other simmers until Jason and Taylor find themselves a couple.
There is a super human aspect to Taylor that I found unreal. Not only is she the best litigator in the entire worldwide firm of Gray & Dallas but nothing, absolutely nothing, phased her. (which actually is the trait of a good trial lawyer) But she had an answer for everything and everyone. She was able to coach and deal with Jason Andrews on one hand and prepare for a thirty million dollar lawsuit on the other. Having been there, I can say that I barely have time to remember to shower, let alone be engaged in another type of high stress negotiation.
She was seemingly unmoved by being courted first by Andrews and then the next sexiest man alive, another actor who secretly and constantly feels in competition with Jason. I kept thinking that even the best trial lawyer, particularly a young female one, might have a pause or two if she found herself dating George Clooney on one hand and Brad Pitt on the other. Instead, Taylor takes all this blithely in stride. Admittedly, I am superimposing my own experiences and feelings onto this story and those who don’t identify with Taylor might not care about the details I am describing. It’s probably a reason I should stay away from lawyer books. On the other hand, the description of Taylor’s lawyering and the courtroom related scenes (including the coaching scenes with Jason) were very accurate and I enjoyed that quite a bit. I also wonder, conversely, whether a non lawyer would find those detailed scenes as interesting as I.
Taylor rolled her eyes disdainfully. “You’re way too confident.”
“Do you know that the average American woman between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five has seen each of my movies six times?”
Taylor scoffed at this. “Who told you that bullshit statistic?”
“Okay then, how many times have you thrown down ten dollars to see me on the big screen?”
“How many times?”
She shrugged nonchalantly, trying to think of a way to lawyer herself out of the question.
Jason’s eyes widened at her gesture. “Oh, I’m sorry, Ms. Donovan, but your answers need to be audible for the court reporter.”
Like, the “audible for the court reporter” thing is hilarious to me because lawyers have to remind witnesses about every fifteen minutes that they can’t shake their heads or go uh huh or mmmhhmm because the court reporter can’t transcribe actions or inaudible responses. Would non lawyers think that’s as funny as me? But even beyond the court room scenes, the dialogue is humorous:
The point, Jeremiah, is that this is not how things were supposed to go tonight.”
Jeremy reached out and solemnly put his hand on the Sexiest Man Alive’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Jason. But maybe she’s just not that into you.”
It was a joke, but Jason’s face suddenly filled with worry. “Do you really think that could be it?”
Despite the fact that he generally enjoyed any fun that could be had at Jason’s expense, Jeremy felt a little bad seeing the look of concern on his friend’s face.
“No, I actually don’t think that’s it,” he said reassuringly. “But I also don’t think she’s going to admit how she feels.”
The words seemed to reinvigorate Jason. “Well, too bad for her.” He ignored the look Jeremy gave him. “Hey-’don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed this game of hard to get that she’s played. It’s been like three weeks of foreplay.”
Jeremy rolled his eyes. The comment wasn’t even worth responding to.
“But it’s time for things to start moving along, to where she and I both know this is headed,” Jason continued, fully confident.
“And I suppose, Evil Genius, that you have just the plan to accomplish this?” Jeremy paused when he saw the sly smile on Jason’s face. “You actually do have a plan, don’t you?”
“I do,” Jason said proudly.
“Do I even dare to ask what this plan might be?”
“Every woman’s weakness,” Jason told him. “Jealousy.” He folded his arms and leaned back against the balcony ledge. “Let her see me with someone else, and then we’ll see how stubborn she is.”
Jeremy waved this off. “Taylor’s hardly the type to get into some catfight for you.”
“That’s not what I’m looking for,” Jason said. Then he paused, as if suddenly getting the visual. “As hot as that might be-”
As for Jason, he’s incorrigible. He’s rude, self centered, and fairly shallow. While he falls in love with the tart Taylor, he doesn’t change much as a character. At least, he’s not shown to change. Instead, we are told he’s a better person just for loving Taylor and because he’s had the same best friend since high school. I guess I saw that he was loyal, good with a quip, but not very deep. This might be intentional as the story is definitely more lighthearted than angsty.
I’m a big fan of the straight contemporary novel and this one has alot of the features that I think readers of contemporaries look for such as great dialogue exchanges and contemporary situations. The Hollywood aspect might hold people back as some believe that actors (and athletes) can never be faithful. That’s not a theme of this book and each reader will have to check their own suspension reflex. For me, it was a quick and breezy read that didn’t evoke many tears, but did generate alot of smiles. The reason for the B- was the lack of emotional connection I had to the characters and the superhuman characterization of Taylor. I think if the characters had been less perfect, more flawed, I would have enjoyed it more. B-