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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Patently in love: a book review

Prior art?
Readers of this weblog may by now have heard more about Rhoda Baxter's contemporary romantic novel Patently in Love than they might have expected from a contemporary not-very-romantic but fairly novel weblog like this one. They may certainly not have expected a book review -- but here it is, courtesy of Anna Hescott (a doctoral intellectual property student at the University of Sheffield who knows a thing or two about biology if her Research and LinkedIn profiles are anything to judge by). This is what she writes:
"Patently in Love: a review
There is no prior art in this case. Patently in Love is Rhoda Baxter’s first book and it does exactly what it says on the tin (well, cover) – it's a love story combined with patents. Her use of magazine clippings and email exchanges between colleagues, friends and family works really well by providing a novel way of disclosing back stories and narrative. The story inventively utilises celebrity with black letter law, infidelity with new love, secrets with lies and office gossip with office politics (often but not always the same). So, we have a lack of prior art, novelty, inventive step, utility (in a loose sense perhaps) … what more could patent lawyers want in a novel?! While the legal backdrop was perhaps less central to the story than I had expected, by the end I really didn’t care. I devoured the book and would definitely go back for seconds … please write more, Rhoda!

Brief synopsis

When Jane, a trainee patent attorney in a northern pharmaceutical company, finds her famous boyfriend Ashby with another woman it is the push she needs to follow her dream of living in London. After a dramatic change of hair colour and cut she continues her training in a large London IP firm, hoping to remain anonymous in the Big Smoke and avoid the embarrassment of media coverage of her ex-boyfriend's infidelity and subsequent conquests.

En route to her first day in her new job Jane bumps into a handsome jogger who catches her eye. Coincidentally, the handsome jogger turns out to be our leading man: Marshall, a handsome workaholic patent attorney vying for a partnership in the firm Jane is just starting at.

While Jane and Marshall grow closer there are many questions to be addressed: can Jane outrun her past? Can Marshall make partner while part of an office romance? Will the evil villain (read sleazy partner) break up the pair that are patently falling for one another? Baxter guides us expertly though all of these questions, intertwining a little bit of patent law and a lot of office politics/gossip. A fun read for IP and/or love story enthusiasts!

Plot spoiler

After being put on the same case, Jane and Marshall grow closer -- but this does not go unnoticed by one of the partners, Keith (read villain), who has made a bet with another partner, Eric, that he can bed the new girl within a month. This of course, spells trouble for Marshall's partnership hopes; going after the same woman as a partner is dangerous for an attorney wanting promotion.. When Jane braves a dark London alleyway one night, a literary inevitable mugging occurs. Who should turn up to save her? Marshall – patent attorney by day, knight in shining armour by night. After rescuing her, Marshall cooks for Jane before the two part with a respectful kiss on the cheek although both parties want more. Marshall vows to put off asking Jane on a date until after the partner’s meeting, but Jane can’t wait and asks him out first. Marshall agrees to a date the evening of the day of the partner’s meeting, hoping to avoid any negative effects of an office romance.

When Jane finds a crucial piece of prior-art for the case she is working on with Marshall, he cannot help himself and the hero and heroine kiss and their romance quickly develops. Despite their attempts to keep things quiet in the office, rumours about the couple soon begin to fly around and Keith reports the pair to the firm’s discipline committee. This, combined with Keith’s trick of sending Marshall off to defend a seemingly hopeless case, severely damages Marshall’s hopes of promotion. With Marshall away, Keith makes the most of the chance he has orchestrated by taking Jane for a drink and spinning her fake sob-stories. However, his trick did not work entirely – Marshall wins the case [For future reference, do we know the name of the judge ...?]. Keith switches to plan B: undermining Marshall and Jane’s romance by organising for them to get photographed kissing and implicating that it was Marshall who organised the pap-attack and that he is still seeing an old flame. The picture quickly gets shared around the office; Jane accuses Marshall and runs away, with Marshall close behind (well, a little bit behind because he has to stop to shout at Keith) … that probably doesn’t make him look great to the partners! After hours sitting outside Jane’s flat pleading for her to listen to him, and an email saying he is suspended, Marshall thinks all hope is lost -- but realises he loves Jane. Finally, Jane’s flat mate returns and lets Marshall in but Jane struggles to believe him after her recent betrayal by a man. Marshall leaves and escapes to visit family in their B&B in Wales with his sister.

With Marshall away, an investigation into Marshall’s attack on Keith starts at work. Jane is questioned, which makes her realise how much she misses Marshall but still can’t believe anyone else could have told the press where she was. Jim, Marshall’s best friend and a partner at the firm, indicates that Jane should ask some of the other women in the office about Keith. One of the secretaries reveals that Keith did know where she would be that evening and could have told the press; she also tells Jane about the bet Keith had with Eric. Jane realises she had accused the wrong man, the man she loves. She tries to call Marshall but, being in Wales there is, of course, no signal. Jane manages to find a contact number for the B&B where he is staying. When she calls, Marshall answers the phone and Jane hangs up. 
Hearing his voice makes her realise she needs to apologise face-to-face. Jane takes a train and travels to phonesignaless [Merpel wonders if this word is Welsh; she has never encountered it in English] Wales. When a rain-sodden Jane (it is Wales, remember) makes it to the B&B she is anonymously greeted by an audience including Marshall’s aunt and sister. Marshall enters and Jane is forced to make a public apology. Thankfully Marshall forgives her and the pair kiss and make-up. Back at work Keith is issued strong words by the senior partners and Marshall’s promotion is delayed but he’s relieved to be keeping his job. The story draws to a close with Ashby and Marshall coming face-to-face with Jane in the middle … Jane realises she is much better off with her new man.

Eight months later, Keith leaves the firm, Marshall is made partner and he asks Jane to marry him … she says yes! All’s well that ends well – I do love a happy ending".
Usually the IPKat's reviews conclude with a note on the rupture factor: how heavy is the book and what might happen if you try to lift it up? Books like Patently in Love presumably call for guidance as to the rapture factor ...

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