Day 10 Julie James – The Art of the Comeuppance

Who Doesn’t Love A Good Come-Uppance?

As part of this month’s celebration of reading romance, I thought I’d talk about two women who have inspired my writing.

Jane Austen and Annette Bening.

Probably not every day that you see those two linked in a sentence, right? I’ll explain. It Happened One Wedding

Several years ago, I was toiling away as a trial lawyer, working hard toward my goal of making partner. The desire to write was just a glimmer in my eye—something I thought I would do “one day.” I was (and still am) an avid reader and a film buff, and I started a book club with some lawyer co-workers and several other friends. At one of our book club meetings, I mentioned that I hadn’t read anything by Jane Austen, and said I was curious to read Pride and Prejudice. I still recall my tough, no-nonsense-lawyer-friend Ami’s reaction:

“Ahh… Mr. Darcy.” Ami sighed, her face taking on a dreamy, far-away look.

“Um, I don’t really know who that is,” I said.

“Oh, you will. You will.”

With great anticipation after my friend’s cryptic lead-in, I dove into Pride and Prejudice and, not surprisingly, was instantly enthralled. I loved the book from the beginning, but it was The Scene—that scene where Elizabeth Bennet gives the arrogant Mr. Darcy a whole lot of what-for and tells him exactly where he can stick his marriage proposal—that had me:

“You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.”

She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she continued,

“You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.”

Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with an expression of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went on:

“From the very beginning, from the first moment, I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain for the feelings of others, were such as to form that ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built so immoveable a dislike; and which I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.”

Go on, girl.   Oh, Mr. Darcy— did you ever have that coming.

That scene between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy not only entertained me, but it got those writerly wheels in my head prideandprejudice_largespinning… and I realized how much I love a good comeuppance.

Another example that comes to mind of a good comeuppance is in the film The American President with Annette Bening. (Yes, I’m a total sucker for that movie.) Our intrepid lobbyist heroine, Sydney Ellen Wade, has just met the hero, the President of the United States, in the Oval Office. She is, naturally, impressed by her surroundings, and they go back and forth over a political bill she wants the White House to endorse—and then he asks her if she wants to grab “a donut, coffee, or something.” Feeling as though he isn’t taking her seriously, the heroine tells him off by saying:

“Sir, I’m a little intimidated by my surroundings, and yes, I’ve gotten off to a rocky and somewhat stilted beginning, but don’t let that diminish the weight of my message:

The GDC has been at every president for the last decade and a half that global warming is a calamity, the effects of which will be second only to nuclear war. The best scientists in the world have given you every reason to take the GDC seriously. But I’m gonna give you one more. If you don’t live up to the deal you just made, come New Hampshire, we’re gonna go shopping for a new candidate.”

And then she tries to walk out the wrong door. Ah, how I love that scene.

Being such a fan of them, I’ve enjoyed including comeuppance scenes in my own stories. In my most recent release, It Happened One Wedding, the hero—who is a confident, smooth-talking rake in the beginning of the book—tries to hit on the heroine in a coffee shop. He’s flabbergasted when she rejects him and tells him she knows exactly what his “type” is. Here’s the exchange that follows:

“That’s impressive. See, it’s my job to size people up. So I’m intrigued to hear if you’re as good as you obviously think you are.”

Sidney threw him a look. “Honey, you know exactly what your type is. And so does every single woman in her thirties.”

“Huh.” He leaned back in his chair and beckoned with this hand. “Now I really need to hear this.”

Logically, Sidney knew this was not the type of conversation one should have with a perfect stranger in a coffee shop. First of all, there was no point. Second, she had places to be, and allegedly so did he.

But his eyes dared her.

Despite her better judgment, she felt a spike of adrenaline course through her, a rush to rise to his challenge. Back when she’d first starting working as an investment banker in Manhattan, she’d known plenty of men who’d assumed they could intimidate her with tactics just like these.

They’d assumed wrong.

So she, too, sat back in her chair and got comfortable. She’d tried to be as diplomatic as possible in her rejection, but hey—if this guy insisted on answers, then answers he would get.

“All right.” Her eyes raked over him in assessment. “You’re thirty-four or thirty-five, gainfully employed, never been married. You think maybe you’ll settle down one day, perhaps when you’re forty, but for now you work hard at your job, so you want to play hard, too. You tend to skew more toward dating women in their mid-twenties, because women in their early twenties seem just a little too young and women in their thirties frustrate you with the way they all want to talk about marriage and kids by the third date. You’ll go out with a girl a few times, you’ll have a lot of fun together, and then when she starts pushing for something more serious, you’ll move on to someone else, wondering why it is that women can’t be content to just date without needing a commitment. And why would you want to commit to one person right now? For men as attractive as you, this city is one big candy store, filled with so many shiny treats you couldn’t possibly chose just one. So instead, you run around with your obviously healthy ego, sampling as many of the goods as you can get your hands on—simply because you can.”

Safe to say they do not end up going on a date that night.

I think my affinity for comeuppances comes from the fact that I tend to write characters who, in the beginning of the book, think they have everything in life all figured out. How much fun is it to see them thrown completely off their game; to realize that no matter how invincible and confident they appear on the outside, on the inside they have the same vulnerabilities and fears and uncertainties as everyone else?

But enough from me… I’d love to hear what you think. Do comeuppance stories work for you? Got any recommendations of other books or movies that involve this theme? Or how about a favorite comeuppance scene, either in a film or a book?


So many wonderful authors, I couldn’t possibly name them all. Here’s a few to start… for contemporary romance: Shannon Stacey and Kristan Higgins. Paranormal: Nalini Singh. Romantic suspense: Pamela Clare. Hot contemporary: Beth Kery and Jaci Burton. Historical romance: Sherry Thomas and Courtney Milan.

Questions for the Author:

Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

My husband and I swam with sharks (purposely) in Bora Bora. About five minutes into the expedition, a seven-foot lemon shark swam right underneath me and I looked at my husband thinking, “What the heck are we doing here?”

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.

I started my writing career with screenplays. When the option on my first screenplay, a romantic comedy, expired without the movie being made, my film agent suggested I convert the screenplay into a book. That story then became my first published contemporary romance, Just the Sexiest Man Alive.

Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

Pride and Prejudice — see above!

Julie James is generously giving away two signed copies of It Happened One Wedding. U.S. only (entry below) and one signed copy to an international winner (enter here).

Julie James (new)After graduating from law school, New York Times bestselling author Julie James clerked for the United States Court of Appeals. She then practiced law with one of the nation’s largest firms for several years until she began writing screenplays. After Hollywood producers optioned two of her scripts, she decided to leave the practice of law to write full-time.

Julie’s books have been listed on the American Library Association’s Reading List for Top Genre Novels, Booklist‘s Top 10 Romances of the Year, and have been featured as one of Cosmopolitan magazine’s Red Hot Reads. Her books have been translated into sixteen languages and Julie’s seventh novel, It Happened One Wedding, is now available.

Julie James lives with her husband and two children in Chicago, where she is currently working on her next book.

Buy Julie’s Books:

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