So here's the thing. I love, love, love romance books. I love the HEA, I love the hot sex scenes, I love a guy that is totally into the heroine and the heroine being kick ass. But as we have all said here time and time again, older romance novels are problematic. There are a lot of tropes that just don't get done anymore unless that's a genre that you are trying to market to these days. These book had a whole mess of issues that made me cringe. Then again, this was written in 1993 so I was trying to give McNaught some leeway here, but honestly there was so much other stuff that didn't work that I just could not give this above two stars. I bought this book and have no intention of even looking it's way again.
I think that McNaught's historical romances are set up a bit better than this book though we still have the trope of heroine does something and hero takes it badly without listening that appears twice in this one. We also have the heroine is a virgin and has the best first time ever trope. Let us not even get started on the TSTL kicks that Julie kept getting on throughout this entire book.
"Perfect" is book two in the Paradise contemporary romance series that McNaught wrote. Book one is "Paradise" starring other characters that appear in this book as secondary characters (Matthew and Meredith). Book two is focused on Zachary Benedict and Julie Mathison.
Zachary Mathison is thrown out of his family's home by his grandmother. Zack then is able to turn around and become a stuntman (of course he did) and from there go on to acting and directing. He ends up being a highly respected actor and is now in the process of directing his wife in what many are calling an Oscar caliber film. When Zack finds his wife in disarray with the lead actor on the film and demanding a divorce. When a scene involving a gun leads to her death, Zack is then charged and convicted of her murder.
Julie Mathison is a foster kid that is shuffled around until someone realizes her potential. She is eventually sent to live with the Mathison family in Texas and promises she will do whatever she needs to be the "perfect" daughter, sister, friend. She eventually grows up and becomes a teacher and is happy with her life with her boyfriend (I think his name was Greg) even though she feels like something is missing from their relationship (it's the sex Julie, that's what is missing).
When Zack escapes from jail he eventually comes across Juile at a cafe, Julie because she realizes he has on new jeans and invents a reason for why he would have on new jeans (no I am not kidding) gives him a ride where eventually Julie figures out that Zack is an escaped convict who then takes her hostage. He just has to guys cause he's so drawn to her. I mean he's been in jail for five years (ughhhh).
That is just the bare bones to this story. We also have a plethora of characters in this one. Why McNaught got into Julie's brother Ted's romance in this one made no sense. That is honestly why this book was so endless and went on for more than 700 pages. She could have just broken up Ted's story and at least laid out the bare bones in this one without taking away from the main story.
That said, Ted sucks and can kick rocks. Most of the men in this story just sit around and either treat the women they supposedly care/love like crap through verbal and sometimes physical abuse (Zack and Ted) or they sit around and decide they know that's good for the woman (Zack, Paul-the FBI agent who falls for Julie, Julie's dad, Ted again (you still suck) or the feel like they have ownership over Julie's chastity (Julie's freaking father). The last few chapters of this book are actually about not having sex before marriage. I could not deal with this many men in my life being that up in my body.
To wrap it up most of the men (not Matt) are awful and I honestly thought the character of Paul was a freaking chump. Who hangs around someone who is not into you at all?
Katherine and Meredith were better heroines in my eyes than Julie. Julie is passive through this whole freaking book. And her going from being a virgin to all of a sudden wanting to have sex with Zack, who has kidnapped her by the way blows my mind. I wonder if McNaught even thought of the implications of Stockholm Syndrome? Zack repeatedly makes Julie tell him she believes that he is innocent. I mean even if she didn't believe it, you are alone with a guy with a gun what are you going to say/do? I think that would have been an interesting side road for her to go down.
The initial part of the book with regards to writing held a lot of promise. I always get annoyed when an author rushes the backstory to characters to get to the meet cutes and all. But McNaught did a very good of setting up Zack and Julie's circumstances. However, as I said above, there was way too much going on. This book did not need to be 700 pages. The flow was up and down depending on where McNaught took the story. Sometimes we would follow Zack and Julie around, then we would shift back to Ted and Katherine, Matt and Meredith, and then freaking Paul.
The writing in this book hurt my soul sometimes, but hey at least Sam (AMReader) and
WhiskeyintheJar/Kyraryker are having fun making fun of it.
Some of the passages where I include the percentages just so you can see my notes/comments as I was reading:
1 percent-“If you don’t like my offer,” Margaret informed her in a steely voice, “then I suggest you get yourself a job as a waitress or find yourself a pimp, because those are the only two careers for which you’re fit right now.”
19 percent-"Julie had never before offered a hitchhiker a ride; the risks were far too high, but she decided to do it this time, not only because he’d changed her tire or because he seemed nice, but also because of a simple pair of jeans—new jeans."
So Julie is not smart is what you are saying. Also don't tell me how she doesn't even let men come into her home and she's all let me give a total stranger a ride cause of his jeans.
24 percent-"He had tasted her lips and felt their response to him. His starved senses wanted to feast on the entire banquet."
He has literally kidnapped her at gunpoint?! Maybe wait a while on the hot smexy times.
28 percent-“Have something to drink,” he ordered, thrusting a long-stemmed glass toward her. “Drink it, damn it!” He made a visible effort to soften his tone. “It’ll help you relax.”
Ughhhhhhhh. I mean sure, let's get her drinking so you can do whatever. Gah.
31 percent-“My father is a minister!” she wept. “He’s a respected man and you’ve made his daughter into a public slut! I’m a teacher!” she cried hysterically, “I teach little children! Do you think they’ll let me teach children now that I’m a national scandal who wallows in the snow with escaped murderers?”
You have literally just kissed the dude! How do you go from that to I am a slut?! Also I should not be laughing at this, but I am.
31 percent-“I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life,” she sobbed brokenly, struggling harder against his grasp, “trying to be perfect. I’ve been so perfect!” she wept,"
You have been lame and exhausting. I have only been reading this for a little bit, but no, you have not been perfect.
40 percent-"Apparently, she had withheld her virginity from her own boyfriend, who obviously loved her and wanted to offer her respectability and a future. Tonight, however, she was willing to surrender it to an escaped convict who was incapable of loving anyone and who had nothing whatsoever to offer her."
42 percent-"Her body stiffened with the brief pain, but before he could react, her arms were around him and she was opening for him like a flower . . . welcoming him, sheathing him."
I love how back in the day all virgins in romance land either had the easiest first time ever or were assaulted by the hero. FYI these two didn't even use condoms. I can't with Julie having sex with a convicted criminal and not even thinking about STDs. AIDS was a thing back in 1993 and my first thought would be men being raped in jail or raping others and ugh this is why sometimes I have to yell at myself to just read and not get all actually about books, but it's hard.
44 percent"Now she looked at the man she loved"
So much wrong here I can't even.
The ending was ludicrous. I am not a fan of male characters being abusive to the heroines and it all just getting wiped away. There of course is HEA that honestly I don't see is remotely believable, but hey at that point I just wanted to be done with this.