Just The Way You Are
I’m not exactly proud of this, but I’m a sucker for a Cinderella story. And though the heroine is a shade t-o-o-o pure and perfect in every way, I’m happy to say that Christina Dodd has concocted a nifty modern-day variation on the theme for her first single title contemporary.
Seven years before the start of the story, adopted Hope Prescott, her two younger sisters, and her younger brother were cruelly separated by the evil types in her small Texas town. According to these rich and influential paragons of the community, their minister father and his wife not only stole from the church, they were killed in a car crash while in an attempt to get away.
Now working as an operator for a Boston answering service, noble Hope takes “care” of her clients (like the elderly lady in need of a hip replacement and the young man pining for a music scholarship) while she studies computer science. Her ultimate goal is unwavering: Finish her degree, get a high-paying job, and use the money to find her missing siblings.
Gazillionare Zack Givens is a techno-phobe and darn proud of it. Since voicemail and email are very far beyond him, his trusty secretary arranges for Hope’s answering service to handle all of Zack’s calls while she’s on vacation. (Surely even Zack can handle speed dial!) Since Hope, quite understandably, doesn’t like rich people, she’s a whole lot nicer to Zack when she thinks he’s Griswald the butler instead of Zack the ruthless businessman. And since Zack suffers from the everybody-only-likes-me-because-I’m-rich complex, he welcomes the decidedly un-fawning-like attention from the sexy-voiced Hope.
While Hope is busily fantasizing about Zack, Zack is just as busily fantasizing about Hope. And when Hope shows up with chicken soup to tend to “Griswald’s” (yes, I thought about Wally World every time) nasty cold, both are disconcerted to discover that the reality exceeds even their most hopeful fantasies. But, how can the path of true love be smooth if Hope is afraid of the distraction “Griswald” offers and Zack is living a lie?
I loved, loved, loved Zack. Smart, funny, and incredibly sexy, I’d be happy to teach him anything he wants to know about computers anytime. And, though Hope’s determination to reunite her family is admirable, she was (for my taste, anyway) so self-sacrificing that she sometimes seemed pathetic. I would have been a lot happier with a heroine who was far, far less of a martyr. Hope is cute, sweet, loving, noble, plucky, and – let’s face it – just a bit nauseating. Perhaps Dodd went slightly overboard in this aspect of her modern-day Cinderella.
Sometimes we need a fairy tale, and if Just the Way You Are occasionally fits the bill too strongly, Zach’s allure more than makes up for it. Dodd’s first foray into full-length contemporary romance makes for fun summer reading.