Total hours of sleep while reading this book over a two-day period: 9.
Just the Sexiest Man Alive is a weird title. I also don't read many contemporary novels. But the reviews for this book on some of the blogs I read were so good that I decided to get it anyway. And I'm really, really glad I did. I honestly did not expect that much from this book, but I was pleasantly surprised--mainly because it's the most imaginative recreation of Pride & Prejudice I've ever read.
Taylor Donnovan is a sexual harassment attorney from Chicago who is temporarily relocated to LA to head the legal team for a huge lawsuit. HUGE. Taylor is a workaholic who has only two priorities: making partner, and forgetting all about her recently ex-fiance, whom she caught having sex with a 22-year-old grad student in his office. Ouch. Fortunately, both of these plans are coming along rather well. At least until the firm "asks" her to babysit celebaby Jason Andrews as he does research for an upcoming role as a litigation attorney.
Andrews is the highest-paid actor in Hollywood. He's won an Oscar and been voted the Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine 3 times. Oh, and he's a notorious playboy. So, the man's filthy rich, handsome, and charming--basically what every woman in the world wants. Just like Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. And just like Elizabeth Bennett, Taylor is determined before she even meets him not to like him, for two reasons: one, her former fiance was rich, handsome, and charming, and she doesn't want to go down that road again; and two, her initial impression of him leads her to believe he's a spoiled, arrogant, self-centered celebrity. And in fact he is (at one point he says to her, "What do you mean you can't go to Napa with me for the weekend? Do you know who I am?). But, you know, there are redeeming qualities.
Aside from the Pride & Prejudice references (there are at least two lines in the book obviously borrowed from the production with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth), there are funny moments that feel like they're being channeled from a Preston Sturges film, with classic romantic high-jinks and super-smart, witty dialog. In fact, it's pretty obvious Julie James is something of a cinemaniac and that Just the Sexiest Man Alive is meant to be a romantic comedy in book form.
Overall the book is successful and enjoyable. It's not perfect. The protagonists don't meet for the first fifty pages, which contain a lot of tedious back story and setting up of unnecessary subplots. Also, the ending feels rushed and didn't wrap up the story very well, emotion- or plot-wise. The writer lets us know that Jason is addicted to gambling, but doesn't give Taylor a chance to figure it out before the book is finished. So what was the point of that? Also, the "Mr. Wickham" character, another actor who's Jason's younger, handsomer professional rival, apparently wants revenge against Jason for... something... but he just appears and disappears whenever it's convenient and that storyline is never fully developed, either. I would have preferred it if Taylor and Jason got together in the middle of the book--but admittedly, that wouldn't have worked with the story arc the author set up.
Despite these problems, I really really liked this book. Bordering on love. It was fun, unputadownable, had great film references, and I did feel as if I was being transported into the world of a Hollywood celebrity. There were moments when I was thinking, "Is LA really like this???" Whether it is or not, it's certainly entertaining.
*Reposted from my old non-book blog, 2/8/09
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