If clothes maketh the man then the character should be well shod too

Practice Makes Perfect

by Julie James

a shallow reader review

Always assume there are *spoilers*

Now here is an author who consistently delivers well written, contemporary romance novels which are full of scrummy narkiness, scrummy characters and the obligatory HEA. To add to the well written stories Julie James also delivers in the well dressed, well heeled character stakes. And in Practice Makes Perfect the clothing is described is an important part of the image that the protagonists choose to show to others.

Julie James’s Practice Makes Perfect is about two law associates in the last months before they find out if they make partner at one of Chicago’s top law firms. Both Payton (tha chick) and J.D. (da man) partake in snarky one-upmanship and all-round competition against each other.  Their constant bantering makes for fun reading though at times both overstep their boundaries which is where their vulnerability towards each other starts to emerge. Throughout the book they wear corporate clothing that is hand tailored, professional and conforming to the expectations of legal counsel. I felt that their clothes are part of what sets the scene as to the style and tension that is over-riding in this book. The alphamale is capitalised to ALPHA with his Zegna suits, or when going a little casual

“… he wore an open-necked black pin-striped shirt and perfectly tailored charcoal gray pants”.

Yep, I’m one of those women that can sit in the corporate end of town feasting her eyes on those immaculately cut suits. J.D. is hot hot hot.

Julie James slowly builds the tension between the main protagonists until you are on the edge of your seat two-thirds of the way into the book wanting to scream “Will you just get it on!”. I enjoyed the slow weaving of why each protagonist chose their career path and I liked that the majority of the action in the book was in the corporate office setting.

The book did have a few unresolved storylines at the end. But they did not particularly worry me. The unresolved tension between J.D. and his domineering judge father – did not worry me. That Payton never explores J.D’s work motivations – did not worry me. And the sabotaged shoe scene – did not worry me. What did worry me was that throughout the book Payton’s complete outfit is described. Her dresses, shirts, skirts, suits all the way down to the heels of her Jimmy Choos and other stiletto numbers that she wears at work (this goes totally against the grain for me as a librarian who happily dons her flat, stylish yet sensible, Camper shoes). Yet, when J.D. is described, he has hotness trousers, great shirts, growl man ties and suits to die for but his shoes are not mentioned. I reread the book a second time in search for a reference to his shoes and I could not find one. Does he not wear any? Is he shoeless? Where are his Oxfords, Legates, monkstraps or wingtip Bluchers? Where are his John Lobb or Berluti shoes? This omission seems incongruous in light of the meticulously attired J.D.

So please, when you read this fab romance, please, if you catch a mention J.D’s shoes – drop me a line.

If clothes maketh the man then they maketh the book character too

Maybe This Time

by Jennifer Crusie

a shallow review

Jennifer Crusie’s latest book Maybe This Time edges into the paranormal activities of ghosts (thank you Jennifer for not bringing vampires into the equation) whilst rekindling a romance that had soured many years earlier. The book is set in 1992 which I found a bit perturbing. It was not long ago enough to be classed as a historical romance but it certainly is not a contemporary romance. It did have a retro feel but must we have another sub sub genre? It did make me wonder if it was the author’s way of not wanting to deal with modern technology such as SMS and the internet for her book (which is fine).

However, the clothes that Andie, the female protagonist, wears through most of this book created a phenomenal mind block for me. On the first page she is wearing an ill-fitting tailored jacket. Why? What would possess any intelligent woman, and Andie IS intelligent, to dress like a bag lady when facing a hot former beau/husband? I didn’t get it, though I know I should get it as her rebellion against the “hero’s” conservatism. Couldn’t she just flip the proverbial bird to the establishment by dyeing her hair pink?

Further on in the book she is described as wearing peasant skirts and tank tops. I cannot shake from my mind a cross between Stevie Nicks and Patrick Swayze. This is not a good thing.

I found it unbelievable that ex-hubby North who is a conservative, button down suit kinda Beta hero could stand the sparkly, sequin Tree of Life woman that was being described. So I improvised. Where the book describes her misshapen jacket, I replaced it with a shapely jacket (no woman would choose to look like shit when they are seeing an ex for the first time in a decade). When her peasant skirt is being described I change it in my mind to a flowing, long skirt.


I realise that this is a stupid thing to be bothered about. Other reviewers have found Andie’s lack of care for her young male charge, Carter & and her ignorance as to how men’s needs, both Carter and North, as an oversight in the writing. I don’t agree.  I just thought she was an unfeeling towards male characters. Unlikeable character trait – yes. Writing fault – No.

But when Andie finally dons a t-shirt and jeans just before she does the deed with North I let out a breath of relief.

Unfortunately, despite her reverting to wearing jeans I remain unconvinced that maybe this time the loving couple make it. Because after all that fab sex poor North still has to look at a woman channelling the Nickster.

The Nickster

P.S. Despite what sounds like an anti-Maybe This Time diatribe, apart from the disturbing fashion sense, this book works for me. The creepy ghosts, the faulty relationships and the lack of maturity in the female protagonists which is angering and frustrating all make for a good read. That it takes her 10 years to have a decent relationship and that it takes 2 neglected children for her to finally understand that a person needs to stick around even when they are not the centre of the universe is a revelation. Crusie rocks.

P. P.S I also get that the book being retro you probably think that peasant skirts were hip in the early 90s. But they weren’t. Even then they were ugly.