I’ve been watching a lot of TV shows about lawyers lately, so it only makes sense that I would choose to read a Julie James book as my next romance. James was a lawyer before she began writing screenplays and novels, and almost all of her books feature lawyers (and the one book that doesn’t feature a lawyer protagonist, A Lot Like Love, still revolves around a legal case). James has gotten a lot of love in the contemporary romance world for writing books that feature adults with real jobs and actual common sense. Also, she’s great at banter. Her characters always act as if they’ve stepped right off a screen, walking and talking and trading insults and innuendos with one another.
Practice Makes Perfect was James’s second novel, one that I hadn’t previously gotten around to reading. It features that much-beloved trope of the relationship that begins with hate and ends with true love. Payton and J.D. both work at a big-deal Chicago law firm, and both of them expect to make partner within the next few weeks. Despite working together for eight years, they strongly dislike one another, constantly bickering out of ear’s reach of their coworkers. Then they find out that the firm has decided to only make one of them partner, despite pairing them up together in order to win over a major new client. Obviously, this means Payton and J.D. become even more competitive, which is inconvenient in light of the fact they are both gaining more respect for each other.
I liked Practice Makes Perfect quite a bit. It’s funny and breezy, and the central plot of the partnership is an actual conflict that doesn’t seem designed solely to keep our couple apart for a few more pages. You can actually imagine that this is the kind of thing that would be detrimental to a burgeoning relationship, one that the characters genuinely care about. Once again, James has created characters who have a real problem that they try to solve in both a professionally- and emotionally-sound way. Yes, there is a great deal of reader wish-fulfillment happening here (these characters are smart, attractive, have good jobs, and are absolutely loaded), but the story isn’t designed to be anything more than breezy summer fare anyway. And that’s exactly what it was for me.