In Her Defense, by Julianna Keyes

>> Thursday, October 22, 2015

TITLE: In Her Defense
AUTHOR: Julianna Keyes

PAGES: 300
PUBLISHER: Carina Press

SETTING: Contemporary
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Follows Time Served

Caitlin Dufresne has never loved anyone as much as she loves winning. A ruthless fifth-year associate at an elite Chicago law firm, she's on the fast track to partner... until a stupid, serious error enrages her bosses. Caitlin's continued refusal to share work—or credit—lands her a forced two-week vacation. She needs to regroup and learn to be part of a team, not just the star.

When she meets Eli Grant, head of the firm's IT department, Caitlin knows the overgrown frat boy isn't her type. But too much alcohol and a very public game of Truth or Dare turn into a dirty, breathless one-night stand. Which turns into a (mostly naked) two-week fling. Which turns into something that makes Caitlin incredibly nervous, despite the great sex.

Eli shows her the many upsides to sleeping in, and for the first time ever, Caitlin has more than the law waiting for her at home. But when she returns to the office and the relentless demands of a high-profile case, Caitlin must decide if winning this one is worth losing Eli forever.

I love difficult heroines, so when I read a few reviews about this book, it was an easy decision to buy it.

Our heroine, Caitlin Dufresne, was apparently the villain in the first book in this series, Time Served. She's a star at her law firm, working harder than anyone else and getting outstanding results. She also makes sure her colleagues see her disdain at their lazy work habits (imagine, doing only 14-hour days!) and that everyone is aware of just how good she is. Her non-stop working habit bites her in the ass one day, though, when sheer exhaustion causes her to make a mistake.

The partners at her law firm are not angry at her, but they are worried and want to make sure she won't just burn out. Their solution is to force her to take a holiday, and while she hands over her cases, they place restrictions on her work times, enforced by limits on when she can operate her computer. This brings her into conflict with the firm's head of IT, Eli Grant, and when they run into each other at a bar after work, the initial antagonism turns into something else.

I liked the idea of a bitchy, unapologetic heroine. However, what I got really wasn't good. My feelings about Caitlin herself were mixed, and about the romance itself wholeheartedly negative.

I'll start with Caitlin. Yes, she's unapologetic about her ambition and her sex life and doesn't suffer fools gladly at all. But at the same time, she's an asshole. There's a particular scene close to the start where she goes off at a guy in accounting who's pointed out to the partners her high level of billing, and the stuff she says to him points at some really ugly attitudes. I just couldn't buy that she'd changed by the end of the book, not without some major introspection. It was a bit like those people who go on racist rants when they're drunk and then try to blame the drink. Sorry, that was inside you, and the drink let it out.

Another problem was that Caitlin's character didn't really gel for me. She's supposed to be this fantastic litigator, but has absolutely no emotional intelligence. Well, we're told she has it when interacting with witnesses and others in the courtroom, but she demonstrates none of it outside of the courtroom. Does she just turn it off? Because she can't understand other people's motivations worth shit, and she makes quite a few decisions and assumptions here that are just plain stupid.

The romance didn't work for me at all. For starters, I found Eli very unappealing. Actually, I thought he was a passive-aggressive little shit. I think the book would have been improved by us readers seeing Eli's point of view, rather than have first-person narration from Caitlin. The way Keyes wrote it, when we have situations such as him blowing Caitlin off and lying to her about what his plans are so that he can hang out with his ex because he's "confused", he feels like a sleazy liar. If we'd been in his head I might have been a bit more sympathetic. I wasn't. I didn't want Caitlin to forgive him. I wanted her to dump him and go for someone better, because I didn't believe he loved her. Nor did I believe she loved him.

I also didn't like that Keyes found it necessary to make Eli the heir of a powerful family, rather than just simply a guy with a normal job, as is initially setu p. I think part of the problem is that Keyes has clearly no concept of what being head of IT in a corporate setting actually looks like. She (and by extension, Caitlin) seems to think a head of IT would be a basement-dwelling nerd who repairs computers (she even has him drilling holes in the walls in the new office). Erm, no, it's a corporate, management job, at least at the sort of level and in the sort of company she's describing here.

I also had issues with the portrayal of other women: they're either bitchy and desperate for men (Caitlin's colleagues, the women who are after Eli), or oblivious and unbelievable (Caitlin's sister). Ugh!

I even had problems with the cover! I know that the stuff at the bottom of the image is supposed to be a bedsheet, but my eyes keep reading it as the guy's shoulder and back, and that grip looks painful!

MY GRADE: A D. I did finish it, at least, but I enjoyed very little of it.


Darlynne 22 October 2015 at 23:19  

I worked for years with attorneys and IT departments in law firms as an instructor, help desk person and programmer. Ugh. Too often, things boiled down to "you're not an attorney so you don't understand how important we are" and "you're not IT so you don't have a clue how to do anything." Caitlin sounds all too realistic to me, not something I want to read about. Thanks for the review.

Rosario 23 October 2015 at 07:02  

Unfortunately, I think you're right.

"You’re support staff. I pay for the house, you clean it. You say thank you, Caitlin. I say shut the fuck up. Is that clear?"

I can totally picture some types of people saying that. I don't want to read about them as heroes in my romances, particularly when they never even realise just how fucked up this sort of attitude is.

Darlynne 23 October 2015 at 20:32  

Man, that brings up some ugly $hit I haven't thought about in years. The author obviously has experience to write such a character and I certainly don't fault her for presenting her heroine that way. The problem lies in making her someone we could care about and, having personally been on the receiving end of similar, there is no way that can happen.

People who treat others like that--especially those in an unequal relationship--will never be the heroes in romance; they can't even be decent people in real life and there isn't a big enough road-to-Damascus conversion that could fix this. Ugh x 2.

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