Monday, February 23, 2009

Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James

Okay, I couldn't believe how damn delightful Just the Sexiest Man Alive was. What a complete and total pleasure to read!!

Even doing this review now, I find myself thinking back on reading the book almost the way I'd look back on a really wonderful thing that happened to me. Do you ever get that? This is definitely one of my best books of 2009 so far! This and Kiss of a Demon King.

The plot, quickly: Taylor Donovan is this high-caliber Chicago lawyer who gets sent to L.A. on a case. Taylor ends up being forced, much to her annoyance, to take time out of her busy schedule to coach a mega-movie star Jason Andrews to help him prepare for his new courtroom drama. (Guess who I was going with for the star. And his initials are not RC.)

Basically, Jason the movie star acts like an entitled jerk, Taylor decides she hates him, Jason falls in love with her, she'll have none of it.

The fantasy of it was just delicious clear through. There was a bit of the Cinderella story in here, and while I'm generally cynical toward the whole Cinderella thing (I'm much more a Little Red Riding Hood gal), this was such sassy and clever Cinderella action, I couldn't resist. The thing is full of great moments.

Example: Big movie star Jason blows off the first meeting his assistant schedules with Taylor, and then their second meeting, too, making career-minded Taylor miss some critical stuff on her important case.

Finally, days later, Mr. Entitlement waltzes in while Taylor's in court, and afterwards expects her to drop everything and stay behind and do some tutoring on how a lawyer is supposed to act. Not very squiriferous!

So let me set the stage: they're alone in the courtroom. She's pissed. Jason's like, c'mon lady lawyer, put me on the stand and show how to question a witness. So she puts him up there--I just love this scene:
Taylor launched into the first question of her "mock" cross-examination.

"Mr. Andrews--you are aware, are you not, that your assistant made arrangements for you to be at my office last Thursday?"

Jason smiled as if he found her challenge to be amusing. He eased back in the witness stand, getting comfortable. "Yes, I am aware of that, Ms. Donovan."

"You did not show up for that appointment, did you?"

"That is correct."

"And you are aware that after failing to show up for that first appointment, your assistant made subsequent arrangements for you to be at my office on Friday morning; is that correct?"

Jason stretched out and crossed one leg over the other, seemingly unconcerned with such a trifling line of questioning.
She goes on to inquire whether he owns a cell phone, and if he knows how to operate one, and is soon busting him on fudging answers about where he was the day of the first meeting, and on and on. And then this:

When his gaze met Taylor's, he detected the faintest trace of a smug smile in her eyes. It was then he realized something.
She was toying with him.

was toying with him.
I just want to type out this whole scene, because it's so fun. Suffice to say, Taylor totally toys with him, makes him look like a fool, then walks out, leaving Jason sitting there, shocked.

A lot has been made of the banter between these two characters, and rightly so. I have two things to add there. One, it's a fabulous feat of the old show-don't-tell maxim. The dialogue between Taylor and Jason just sparkles. It sings! And then when Taylor interacts with other possible suitors within the story, the chemistry isn't there, and the reader gets, in this wonderfully direct way, that the hero and heroine SO belong together.

Thing two: I think Julie James has a fantastic writerly memory of her own text. These characters are constantly pulling little things up out of past conversations and incidents and evolving all these little inside jokes and callbacks, sort of creating their own world out of their banter...oh, it really is just wonderful.

What's more, Julie James sort of does that callback thing with the reader, too, puts in these little details that she turns around and uses later. The result is that, as a reader, I felt "on the inside" with this book, instead of on the outside. Do you know what I mean?

Here's a really minor example: the button thing. Taylor has to rendezvous with Jason for a dinner "meeting" he's finagled. What to wear? She doesn't want to look like she thinks she's on a date, and deliberates at length on her white shirt: "two buttons open, or three? Two or three? She went back and forth in the bathroom mirror at least ten times." You don't find out the answer; suddenly she's parking, at the restaurant, she's arrived late. She apologizes, yada yada, and two pages later:

Taylor watched as his eyes skimmed over her shirt with an appreciative look.
Dammit. She knew she shouldn't have gone with the three buttons.

Great callbacks. What fun. Bottom line: I loved living in the world and the fun situations of this book, and I was sad to leave it. But that's okay, because I understand from a little bird that James' follow-up, Practice Makes Perfect, which hits stores in a week, is every bit as excellent.

Reviewed by the Romance Reader here, Dear Author here, Aaaah Romance here, and loved to pieces by powerpuffs Katie Babbling about Books and Ana at Book Smugglers. Nominated tops of 2008 in two categories at RNTV, and one of the best authors of 2008 by Book Binge.


Tracy said...

Great review! Wasn't that first courtroom scene between the two just wonderful? I love how you call him Mr Entitlement. lol

And I really liked the secondary characters in this one as well. I thought Jeremy was just a great character and such the polar opposite of Jason. I think that's why I didn't hate Jason...I just knew he had to be an ok guy deep down.

Carolyn Crane said...

Tracy, that is a really good point. Jeremy really helped me get a fresh picture of Jeremy. That friendship really worked for me!

KT Grant said...

I loved how Taylor didn't put up with Jason's crap.
Such an adorable book!

Lori said...

Arrrrrgh!! I have got to read this book!! You all are killing me here!!

lisabea said...

I have GOT to read this!

Carolyn Crane said...

KB: agreed!

Lori and LB: Not to overhype, but I can't imagine not loving this one.

Kati said...

I keep kicking myself because I seriously dragged my feet on reading this one. I read it until about 2am one night, and unsurprisingly sent Julie off the gushiest fangrrl letter EVAR! I love, love, love this story. I love the Hollywood stuff (being a pop culture junkie) and I adored how Taylor called Jason on all of his shit.


Carolyn Crane said...

A gushing fan letter, OMG, Kati, you are so funny. I can totally see why you wrote her though.

Did you imagine George? I imagined Taylor AS Julie James from her picture, even though the Taylor in the book has brown hair.

Holly said...

I love that scene you typed out. That was just hilarious. I also loved how Jason kept grouping Taylor in with all the women from his past and then being SO surprised when she wasn't like them at all. A great example is when they get caught at the courthouse together with all the reporters and Taylor runs off rather than being scene with him in the press. That was great.

And my heart just melted during the hospital scene. So cute.

I'm really disappointed in myself for waiting so long to read this, too. But I've made up for it by re-reading it no less than 5 times since. heh.

Great review, babe. :)

mslizalou said...

I loved JTSMA. I loved that Taylor didn't take any crap from Jason.

Ladytink_534 said...

I'm intrigued! Love that scene too, it sounds like a really interesting read!

Anonymous said...

I met Julie James in San Francisco and she was delightful. I really liked her. I've heard great things about this book, too, so I'm not sure why I haven't picked it up yet.

No more messing around! Right to the top of my TBR.

Carolyn Crane said...

Holly: FIVE times! Oh, boy, that is so impressive. But I can sort of see it with this one.

Liza: me, too!

LT: Do you see this lovefest? Join us, dude!

Carolyn Crane said...

Hey Jill: Cool! I always love to hear when authors whose books I enjoy are nice people as well.

Anonymous said...

So my computer opens up to the Thrillionth page to find... a smoking hot picture of George Clooney! Oh wait-- and an INCREDIBLE review of JTSMA, too!! Wow, Carolyn Jean, seriously, thank you so much for this--it blows me away. I'm so thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the book.

Now about that picture of George... I think I mentioned this somewhere else, but when writing Jason I actually sort of envisioned Cary Grant. But then I needed a more modern day actor to capture the paparazzi/obsessed fans element, so at times I thought of Brad Pitt. But so many people who've read the book think Jason is based on George Clooney. So this is the equation I've come up with: Cary Grant + Brad Pitt= George Clooney. And you know, I can kind of see that. : )

Thank you again!

Carolyn Crane said...

Hey Julie! I like your equation. Oh, gosh, so interesting about Cary Grant. And you know who I put in for the other one was the blond actor boyfriend of Samantha on Sex in the City.

I guess that's the thing: once it's out there, it's all up to the reader.

KT Grant said...

I love Cary Grant!!
Jason Lewis is Samantha's bf from SATC. He is a cutie also.
I envisioned Ryan Reynolds as Jason.

Carolyn Crane said...

Ryan Reynolds? Who is that? You are so funny.

KT Grant said...

You don't know who Ryan is? Van Wilder. Married Scarlett Johansen. Was in one of the Blade movies. Has abs you can bounce quarter off of.

Kati said...

You don't know who Ryan is? Van Wilder. Married Scarlett Johansen. Was in one of the Blade movies. Has abs you can bounce quarter off of.

You forgot dumb as a box of rocks, Kate. :oD

KT Grant said...

I am so sad because I know so much useless info about everything, even Ryan Reynolds.
Hit me with any questions about actors and I can even tell you when they took their last pee.

Sarai said...

I wish I could get into lawyer books. But after working in a law office for too long and seeing what most attys look like I just can't do it LOL! I might have to make an exception for this book. We'll see! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book!

Renee said...

Wow. You know, for all the great things I've heard about this one, I have to admit that when I hear "lawyer" and "actor", my eyes glaze over. However, your review hit all the right buttons for me.

Great dialog? check
Strong heroine? check
Show don't tell? check

From what you say, this sounds to me like I have to check it out. Last year, Flat Out Sexy blew my preconceived biases away with its awesomeness. You've convinced me that JtSMA might do it for me this year.

Great review, CJ. :-)

Renee said...

Oh! BTW, I like how you slipped your new ward into the review. Very smooth. ;-)

And, yes, Cary Grant + Brad Pitt = George Clooney

Does it for me!

Anonymous said...

Ok, that's it. I am going to christen my kindle when I get it (tomorrow! yippee!) with this book.

Wait, christen? What kind of racy romance reader am I anyway?

I should say "take my kindle's maidenhead." "Deflower my kindle"?

Hmm, the possibilities are endless.

but the book choice is one: JTSMA!

M. said...

I'm two chapters into this book! And I also pictured George! Though I hope he'd not be so rude IRL.

The Bookworm said...

wow sounds really really good!
great review :O)
now I want to read this!

Anonymous said...

Wait, it's JULIE James you kids like? Cripes. Last weekend that little misunderstanding let me in for a brain-hurting read. You know those Harlequin Presents with the heroine who's innocently unaware of her beauty, is bearing up bravely under invisible wounds that will Make Him Love Her When He Knows, and on top of that is treated contemptuously by the hero when secretly (of course) she's honorably (!) whoring herself out to save her mother's life? Because to succumb to manly wiles and enjoy it *without* a dying mother/gambler father/extraordinary debt in the background would be oh so unladylike? Oh, and comes with a side of horrific national and racial stereotypes? Yes, all that and more. Will write five hundred times: JULIE James. JULIE James. JULIE James. JULIE James. JULIE James. OK, five hundred is a big number. Maybe just a few more. JULIE James. JULIE James. JULIE James.

Carolyn Crane said...

Sarai: you're ruined!

Renee: definitely have to check out Flat Out!

Jessica: I'll be so interested to see what you think. With some books, I fear I overhype, so I hope I'm not going around ruining it, you know.

M: Well, as you might guess, he comes around...

Naida: loving your new avatar!

RfP: oh, funny. Oops! Hmm, I do believe you read quite a DIFFERENT book.

Lana said...

Loved the first courtroom scene, the mock cross-examination, the buttons...and I adored that she billed their 'date'! The dialogue was so snappy and wonderful, I just sped through it. And now I'm majorly excited to read Practice Makes Perfect!

Loved your review, so I linked to you here.