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?

Recommendations:

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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  • Sounds like a fun book! Thanks for sharing it 🙂

  • Anna

    I adore comeuppance scenes. And that one in P & P is the best! Julia Quinn wrote one in Romancing Mr Bridgerton that’s also fantastic.

  • Deb Hinshaw

    I agree with Anna that RMB has a great comeuppance scene. Penelope finally finds herself and informs Colin in no uncertain terms about it! My fave JQ book!

    I like comeuppance scenes where the heroine is spunky, not harsh or snarly, but lets the hero have it.
    Thanks for posting today, Julie!

  • Glenda

    I do like a great comeuppance scene. I don’t want the heroine (or the hero) to be mean and flat out rude, but lots a times a character needs a reality adjustment. 🙂

  • pamela paterakis

    Love comeuppance stories, makes me believe that someday some people I know will get theirs!

  • Jessy

    Love Julie James!

  • Debbie Turner

    I like comeuppance scenes. Nothing like giving a person what they deserve.

  • Jennifer Schultheis

    on my to read list..thanks for posting

  • Katrina Wreggelsworth

    I think that we all want a comeuppance scene. We need to see that fate has something in store for the hero or heroine that makes us feel that all the struggle worth it in the end.

  • Ellen

    Thanks for the great recommendations. Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books, and American President is a fun movie. I enjoyed It Happened One Wedding. Everyone should go out and read it.

  • Lubnaa

    I love your books! Can’t wait to read this one! 🙂

  • Erica H

    Nothing better than reading about people who think they have it all figured out, and then BAM….I love your books, and cannot wait to see what the next one is about!

  • ki pha

    Oh I do love some good comeuppance in books and films! They are what makes the book utterly delicious and irresistible.

  • I adore comeuppances as well, but for me, it’s mostly because whoever is delivering the comeuppance finally feels like they’ve realized that they’re worth it and that they deserve better regardless of whatever situation they’re currently in. This is probably a different sort of comeuppance though. I guess I concentrate more on who’s delivering the comeuppance haha.

  • TrishJ

    I love comeuppance stories. They think they are so smart and have mapped out the future and then, surprise!! Makes for such a good story. I do love your books. Your characters have such good banter.

  • rebecca moe

    Comeuppance scenes are so much fun, and It Happened One Wedding was fantastic! I loved Sydney and Vaughn’s story 🙂

  • Timitra

    I love a good comeuppance too and also a good grovel. Loved reading about your journey to writer.

  • Sharlene Wegner

    How to Marry a Highlander, by Katherine Ashe. The heroine propositions the hero & he refuses her, but then gives her a deal, the terms of which he thinks are impossible. She proves him wrong!

  • suepeace

    I am not entering because I have this book. I love all your books, Julie! They are a perfect blend of humor and romance!

  • Emmel

    I think we enjoy comeuppance scenes in books and movies because they work out. In real life, our envisioned comeuppances are complicated when the players involved don’t always act the way we’ve predicted they will. So it’s always a pleasure to see perfect comeuppances in our fiction!

  • Thuy Vu

    Great interview!! loved it!

  • Kim

    I really enjoyed It Happened One Wedding. As for a nice comeuppance scene, how about the rescue scene between Princess Leia & Han Solo in Star Wars when she grabs the blaster. “This is some rescue.”

  • Felicia M. Ciaudelli

    Comeuppance stories are So cool – definitely the one in P&P is awesome – I want to say “ha! ha! told you so!” LOL

  • Tammy H

    It sounds really good!

  • Sara Underhill

    I love comeuppance scenes, too! I find that I can sympathize more with a heroine with some guts and nerve to tell it like it is.

  • Briana Hammonds

    Comeuppance scenes are some of my favorites. I love to watch people be forced to sit back and re-evaluate what they once thought was all figured out or hidden away.

  • Michelle Harlan

    I adore a good comeuppance! A book that immediately comes to mind is Shana Galen’s If You Give a Rake a Ruby. Fallon gives Warrick a heck of a time & its so much fun to read!

  • Stephanie

    I love Julie James books!!!

  • Melissa Hanson

    Loved this book!

  • Lynn Grier

    Would love to read your book and the cover of your book is beautiful.

  • bpaine

    I think of all the times I’ve _tried_ to deliver a cutting comeupance – and have been so so wrong – sometimes those scenes just remind me all over again of every humiliating moment!

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    I love your books & I do love comeuppance scenes, especially the P & P one. For me it’s a chance to see it done since I’m too shy to actually confront someone like that. I can’t wait for your next book Julia.

  • Debbie Oxier

    Love your books.

  • Judy Goodnight

    I’m a fan of a good comeuppance scene. I loved that scene in It Happened One Wedding. There was such energy & sexual tension right from the start; I think I inhaled that book in one gulp. Two thumbs up! (Have you seen the P & P movie with Matthew McFayden as Darcy? In the proposal scene, I swear the tension is so thick you could cut it with a knife. I usually end up yelling at Darcy, “Just grab her & kiss her!”)

  • Quinn Fforde

    I love them, too. It is hard to beat Elizabeth’s speech now, though, because the language has simplified. Enjoyable essay!

  • Patty Vasquez

    You know, I think I love comeuppance scenes because I’m the one who thinks of the perfect set-down 3 hours after the moment. I live vicariously through a strong, well-spoken woman who can put her (future) man in his place with snappy dialogue and an arch look.

  • Julie

    I love the comeuppance scenes. I also love reading, so thank you for sharing your talents.

  • Cindy A

    I love comeuppance! Susan E Phillips does good – usually takes a whole book. Thanks for the recommendations on authors; I’ll be looking for them.

  • Alexandra

    Brb rereading Pride and Prejudice. Speaking of comeuppance I loved JD and Payton’s battle in Practice Makes Perfect. It’s one of my favorites by you!

  • Marcy Shuler

    I just love strong heroines who aren’t afraid to give a firm comeuppance!

  • Kim

    I love strong heroines who are willing to challenge their heroes!! I love your example from P & P! I loved when Evie challenges St. Vincent in A Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas.

  • Jahnavi

    Mrs. James fan of your books since Jason Andrews and Taylor Donovan came in my life and stole my heart. I would really love a signed copy of your book for my sis whose bday is coming up. I assure you this would make her year. We are James fan in our household. Shout out for you from India. Love your heroines and you too .

  • Sue G.

    I love American President! “Just stay away from Dupont Circle, I hear it’s murder this time of day!” That’s my favorite line!

  • Martha B

    Yes, yes, yes. Comeuppance scenes definitely work for me.

    When Sidney and Vance met later (after the scene in the coffee shop,) they are mortified and hide their previous meeting! It is funny to read, imagine, etc. It is very hard for them to back peddle when they discover qualities they want in a life partner. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett slowly realizes that Mr. Darcy truly DOES have a kind, generous heart. He secretly does things for her (without fanfare,) because he loves her. They transform each other. Her comeuppance speech both startles him (he can’t believe she would turn him down because he is so far above her). It makes him a better person. After all, don’t we all want our love for another to make us a better person?

  • Jill L

    I love Julie James’ FBI/Attorney series! I can’t believe she wrote screenplays first, so cool! Thanks for the giveaway! Can’t wait for the next book!!

  • Alyssa Chen

    Huge fan of Julie James and Jane Austen!! The banter is just so witty!

  • Stephanie Stevens Chalbeck

    I enjoy the “banter” between your characters.

  • Connie Saunders

    I also love Jane Austin and American President. Enjoyed this interview and
    appreciate this giveaway!

  • Toni Linenberger

    I love comeuppance scenes. There is something wonderful about a woman taking the hero down a peg. Witty banter is one of the reasons I love romance.

  • donnas

    Both such excellent scenes. That is one of my favorites from P&P. Now I need to reread the book and go find that movie!

  • Marie Campbell

    Excellent

  • Judy C

    I never knew that those scenes were referred to as comeuppance scenes. Thanks for recommending Nalini Singh. I always enjoy a good paranormal read.

  • Stephanie M.

    I love that scene from The American President. I love a strong female character, but I also love a man that can take it and make her stronger with his understanding and love.

  • Sheila M

    I love the part of Pride and Prejudice that you mentioned and also Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth in response.

  • Aya Safwat

    Julie is awesome…I’ve read and re-read all her books…would love to get a signed copy ♡

  • Courtney Cogswell

    Comeuppance is the best….it’s always so gratifying when you can live vicariously through characters in a book and get that good vindicated feeling. In my world, this is second only to a happy ever after. I’m definitely a fan of your books and look forward to reading the rest of them. Great post on RARM and I appreciate all that you do!!!

  • Hany Grace Zala Dragneel

    i love reading romance books and i’m so happy to have read the works of Ms. Julie ! it would be great to finally have a signed copy . .

  • Mj

    Love your books, always look forward to them

  • Joan Varner

    A strong and independent heroine that cannot be intimidated by arrogance from the hero is something that I always enjoy in romance books. Especially when it is handled with humor.

  • mariannewestrich

    You’re always on my automatic buy list! 😎

  • Laurie W G

    I haven’t read P&P or seen the movie. Oh well. I do like intelligent women who go after what they want. If a man gets put in his place along the way all the better. I would also recommend HelenKay Dimon,Suzanna Carr and Theresa Romain.

  • Angela H

    I don’t think I could ever swim with sharks – what a rush that was for you I am sure

  • LSUReader

    I love wit and humor in my entertainment, so of course I like comeuppance scenes in books and movies. I enjoyed your scene in It Happened One Wedding. I still love the scene in the movie To Have and Have Not that ends with Bacall (RIP this week) telling Bogey, “You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.” Thanks for the post.

  • Ann Mettert

    I do like the comeuppance scenes. 🙂

  • Jen C

    Haha! This was great fun. British comeuppances are pretty outstanding.

  • Margil Pondicüs

    Julie James is such an amazing author and by far my favorite romance writer. She made me finish reading P&P which I left hanging for like forever. And because of her, I’ve practically put “sassiness” on the checklist for a good romance book.

  • MK

    Oh yeah, I love comeuppance stories. I love the books where the heroine and hero don’t like each other to begin with- always such great fun!!

  • Kortney

    A film that comes to mind when I think about comeuppance would be the notebook. The scene in particular would be when he asks her out and she turns him down…. Twice!

  • Pamby50

    I actually have American President on DVD. Have P&P on my e-reader.

  • Erin F

    oooh… I love that scene! and the Keira Knightly version did wonderful justice to all of that 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Robin Driscoll

    Loved this article – I would never even consider swimming with sharks – you’re very brave.

  • BJ’s Reviews

    I’ve heard such great things about Julie James’ books from my fellow reviewers at AudioGals. Would love to win this giveaway to experience one of her books!

  • Rita Wray

    No way would I swim with sharks.

  • Terri C

    I loved the coffee shop scene!

  • Cheryl Hastings

    Everyone should read Pride and Prejudice…My very first and very favorite romance. I named my daughter after Elizabeth because of this book 🙂

  • Marie

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Julie! Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite books, and I could probably read Jane Austen any day of the week. Thanks again for the chance to win!

  • Debbie Kitzke

    Loving these giveaways thanks so much