REVIEW: Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James
Dear Ms. James:
I was reluctant to read this book despite hearing accolades of support from other readers. Mostly I resisted because I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to read a romance about two lawyers, particularly two lawyers vying for a coveted partnership position at a BigLaw firm. I didn’t think I would be able to suspend my disbelief to enjoy the story. After some urging, though, I sat down to read it and I was glad that I did.
Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson are lawyers with different backgrounds but the same goal in mind: partnership at their national Chicago based lawfirm. Payton is a litigation associate and J.D. works in class actions. There are approximately 4 weeks left until the partnership decision is made when Payton and J.D. are informed that because of the tightening economy, only one person will be making partner. In Biglaw, you either move up or out so in four weeks one of them will be humiliated and have to be looking for another position.
Payton & J.D. have been competing, subtly, ever since they began 8 years ago in the same associate class. Payton looks upon J.D.’s background of white male privilege with disgust. J.D. believes that as a white male he’s being discriminated against particularly when a firm email is sent out stating the firm’s new intention to grow the female partnership (there is only one at this point).
The saying that there’s a thin line between love and hate echoes loudly between Payton & J.D. Even though they hadn’t recognized it before, the increased competition brings them into close contact with each other when a class action discrimination suit is being shopped around to different firms and the two are forced to work as a team for the first time.
But right when the two are starting to recognize their feelings for one another, Payton learns of a past betrayal of J.D. and it doesn’t look like she can get beyond that. Even if she does, the partnership looms large.
In the beginning, I thought that I was going to hate J.D. The way in which he was portrayed, no matter the intense pressure of his Circuit Court Judge father, grated on me (as I think you intended). But I grew to like J.D. That he was super competitive in everything from squash to impressing the partners rang true, but underneath J.D. was a decent guy who was slightly hapless when it came to Payton. I laughed reading the reasons why Payton and J.D. became mortal enemies at the firm and the hijinks that ensued in the competition between the two.
The chemistry between the two was evident from the very beginning and it wasn’t surprising that everyone around them had their own ideas to the outcome. There are some great comedic moments from the pranks that J.D. and Payton pull on each other, to the office pool, to J.D.’s near constant need for advice from his friend, Taylor.
Payton is a great character. She’s a fierce, no nonsense kind of woman who clearly deserves her position in life. As a reader, I wanted her to get the partnership and I want her to get J.D. but it didn’t seem like it was going to happen. I liked that she was able to overcome her hormonal attraction to J.D. when she was genuinely upset with him (and for good reason).
There were a couple of areas that I thought were a little overdone. J.D. and Payton are the exact antithesis of each other except for their fierce competitive natures. She’s a vegan and a democrat with a hippie mother. He’s a republican voting, Bentley driving, high rise living son of a federal appellate judge and society mother. While they didn’t interact as caricatures, I felt the descriptions of them, at times, were heavy handed. I couldn’t help but wonder if you were channeling Adam’s Rib at times.
Additionally, I wondered about the level of detail of the lawyerly things in the story. There were discussions of the Executive Committee, courtroom scenes, and client pitches. These were all very authentic but I wondered if it wasn’t too meta. Overall, though, I really enjoyed the story and there were times I had to cover my mouth to prevent my laughter from waking up my sleeping husband.