By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
This was on sale a little while ago, so I picked it up because I've liked Julie James' more recent stuff (this is her debut), but this was a disappointment. Partly I think that's my fault: as a lawyer/litigator myself, I have little tolerance for the overdramatized, oversimplified simulacrum of legal practice that appears in fiction. Because I know what happens in real life courtrooms, the heroine, Taylor, seems cartoonishly unrealistic: a hotshot lawyer who snarks at judges, disrespects opposing counsel, doesn't trust a junior associate to handle the simplest motion hearings, has never lost a case, is the darling of partners and juries alike, yet appears (by my lights) to have no grasp of nuance, ethics, or evidence. This has bothered me about other James novels, so there is a degree of should-have-known-better in my disappointment with this book, but it's worse here because Taylor's case is more central to the plot than the trial work of the Assistant U.S. Attorneys featured in James's more recent books.
Leaving the Ally McBeal-esque courtroom shenanigans aside, I just didn't feel the romance between Taylor and Jason. Jason is a movie star, voted People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" (hence the title), and he has all the trappings of celebrity: buckets of money, women, a 12,000 square-foot mansion, women, a private jet, women, an Aston Martin Vanquish, and all the women he wants, and any woman he wants. (Again, there's probably an element of should-have-known-better here for me, because I've never been a fan of the current trend of "billionaire" heroes: if a romance is going to work for me, I need a lot more verisimilitude.) Jason is prepping for a role as a lawyer and needs to work with Taylor to see how it's done.
They get off on the wrong foot when the entitled Jason stands Taylor up twice. She'd have blown him off then and there, but because he's a big, important guy who could become a big, important client of the law firm, Taylor's boss won't let her. The story follows a pretty formulaic enemies-to-lovers plot arc, with both of them secretly attracted to the other even as they needle and annoy one another.
Jason's attraction to Taylor makes sense. I imagine it's refreshing, after years in the Hollywood bubble, to meet someone who isn't looking for attention, who isn't with him just for the reflected glory of being seen with the It-guy. Taylor's attraction to Jason was, in my opinion, far less believable. At the start of the story, Taylor is still reeling from a broken engagement to a man she caught banging his secretary, and her resistance to Jason's womanizing ways is not just self-protective, it's rational and entirely reasonable. The way she overcomes that resistance is just too hasty and too convenient for my satisfaction, and I just don't believe a woman who cares as much about her career and her independence as we're told Taylor does would blow everything she's worked toward just for the opportunity to be with a pretty face, especially when Jason has done so little, over the course of the book, to prove himself worthy of such sacrifice.
The only thing I enjoyed about this book was Jason's friendship with his much more down-to-earth wingman, Jeremy. Despite his comparatively minor role, he has a depth that the other characters in this story lacked. Jeremy holds this book together. He deserves a story of his own.