Just The Sexiest Man Alive, by Julie James

>> Tuesday, April 06, 2010

TITLE: Just The Sexiest Man Alive
AUTHOR: Julie James

PAGES: 320

SETTING: Contemporary Los Angeles
TYPE: Straight romance

REASON FOR READING: I've been hearing a lot of buzz about James.


Nothing fazes Taylor Donovan. In the courtroom she never lets the opposition see her sweat. In her personal life, she never lets any man rattle her–not even her cheating ex-fiancĂ©. So when she’s assigned to coach People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” for his role in his next big legal thriller, she refuses to fall for the Hollywood heartthrob’s charms. Even if he is the Jason Andrews.


Jason Andrews is used to having women fall at his feet. When Taylor Donovan gives him the cold shoulder, he’s thrown for a loop. She’s unlike any other woman he’s ever met: uninterested in the limelight, seemingly immune to his advances, and shockingly capable of saying no to him. She’s the perfect challenge. And the more she rejects him, the more he begins to realize that she may just be his perfect match...
Taylor Donovan is a lawyer, a very good one. So good, in fact, that when her law firm's Los Angeles office gets a case that falls under her specialty, she's sent over there from Chicago to take it over. The case is just her sort of thing, but it turns out the LA office is completely different to what she's used to. It seems to Taylor that LA is all about Hollywood celebs, and her office is no exception.

Still, even having realised this, Taylor is shocked when in addition to her very demanding duties, she's requested ordered to make nice with sexy megastar Jason Andrews, in the hope that her firm might get his legal business. Jason is about to star in a legal thriller, and he's asked to be coached by a real trial lawyer. Taylor is it, and she's not happy about it.

And she gets more and more unhappy when Jason keeps blowing off their appointments, even after she made a huge effort to carve some time out of her insane schedule. It doesn't help that what with all those papparazzi following Jason around, Taylor can't help but know exactly where he was when he was supposed to be meeting with her -and it isn't exactly at a relative's deathbed.

When they finally, finally meet up, Taylor isn't shy about her displeasure, and her total lack of interest in Jason. Jason's been a Hollywood star for years and years (and has definitely been living the life -he doesn't do stuff, he's got people who make sure his every whim is taken care of) and he's just not used to women not immediately trying to flatter and seduce him, let alone not even liking him. Making Taylor warm to him is a challenge at first, but soon turns into vital business when he realises he likes her more than he's liked anyone in ages.

This is the sort of contemporary romance I love: no suspense angle, just two people falling in love and the natural conflict that comes from that. For a while, it seemed no one other than Susan Elizabeth Phillips was doing anything like that, but it looks like the straight contemp is back.

It was my first Julie James and I loved it. I can totally see why people are calling her books feminist - this is not an "issues" book at all, but for starters, Taylor is extremely good at her job, loves it and falling for Jason doesn't change that in the least. She doesn't screw up her case because she's with Jason. She can have a romance and still be professional.

But even better, this is a book where the heroine can actually win in confrontations with the hero without being "put in her place" or "getting her comeuppance". Oh, how I loved that! It's so rare. Jason is a self-important asshole at the beginning. He's been sucked up to for so long that he seems to feel that he just doesn't need to bother with common courtesies to others. Of course they'll be happy to ignore any inconsiderate behaviour from a big star such as he! So he very richly deserves to be put in his place, no doubt about it. There's shouldn't be a problem with the heroine doing just that, right?

Well, I'd definitely agree, but I've read way, way too many books where given a situation like that, the author clearly feels that because the heroine is a woman, she shouldn't be able to do that without being humiliated as well. How dare she be so uppity! It's as if they believe that the only triumph of a woman over a man can really be to make him love her (and I've actually seen people say this). Well, that doesn't happen in the book. Everyone gets what they deserve. Asshat Jason gets taken down a peg and made to behave like a regular human being again. Taylor, who acts nothing but professional and like a decent, normal person, gets her happy ending and no personal or professional humiliation whatsoever. Perfect!

But JTSMA doesn't just get the sexual politics right, it's also a lovely, lovely romance. There's funny banter, there's chemistry, there's a sense of connection between the characters. In the end, I believed in the HEA, even given Jason's fame. I probably wouldn't buy this in real life, but these were characters in a book, and I was prepared to accept the author's portrayal. The person described here would never cheat on the woman he loves, period. I also believed the change he underwent during the book, mainly because it wasn't a complete personality change. Jason's self-centred behaviour didn't seem to stem from him being a bad person. He just seemed a bit clueless, probably due to having been living in that Hollywood bubble for so many years.

I found JTSMA to be quite a sexy book. Now, this is something I've been debating whether to include in this review or not, but I only realised at the end that there had been no sex at all between Taylor and Jason, and that when they did do it, very late in the book, it was a "fade to black" kind of scene. The reason I didn't know whether to even mention is that this is something that could actually keep me from picking up a book. The idea of it annoys me (I see it as coy and silly). However, like I said, I didn't even notice it here. It works, the book doesn't feel as if it's lacking anything. It's sexy, even without the outright sex. If you're like me, you should ignore this and read the book anyway. It's so worth it.



janicu,  7 April 2010 at 23:41  

This is my favorite Julie James! The order of favorites is this one, then Practice Makes Perfect and then Something About You. They're all good books of course! I just prefer the straight contemps over suspense in general, but James' suspense is better than a lot of other romantic suspenses in my opinion.

rosario001,  8 April 2010 at 07:32  

janicu: I've read Something About You as well and so far my order is like yours. Although they're very, very close in quality, and I loved both.

ReneeW,  10 April 2010 at 06:25  

I actually like Practice Makes Perfect better than JTSMA.  I loved the humor and the conflict between the H/H.  I haven't read SAY yet but it's near the top of my list.

rosario001,  10 April 2010 at 08:15  

Renee: I'm trying to restrain myself from gobbling down Practice Makes Perfect... that's the problem with discovering an author when she still has a small backlist!

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