Just the Way You Are by Christina Dodd
When Hope Prescott's parents disappeared, her carefree teenage life vanished forever. She and her three siblings were separated and sent to different foster homes around the country. Now, seven years later, Hope is still searching for them. To support herself, she works for an answering service, and cares for her clients as if they were family. When wealthy businessman Zachariah Givens hires Hope's service, Hope initially mistakes Zack for his butler. Tired of being coddled and flattered because of his money, Zack is charmed by Hope's candor, not to mention her sexy voice, and keeps up the charade. As their friendship turns into passion, Zack is determined to have her, even if that means the unthinkable - marriage. But when Hope discovers his deception, Zack knows he must solve the mystery that haunts Hope's past in order to convince her that their futures lie together...
I realize that this isn't a new book. It has an original Copyright of 2003, with this one being a reprint by Pocket Books. However, I've never read it, so it's new to me and that's why I love reprints. New reading gems can be found when reprints occur.
The truth is, though, that I almost didn't buy this book. Dodd had given a book that I really didn't like a glowing front cover quote, and I had to wonder if she liked that book, does she write the same way? I mean, she's also a historical writer, and that's always an iffy buy for me. Also, I almost didn't buy it because of the BCC. I read that and thought basically it was saying this, "So basically, rich guy fools poor nice girl. Lies to her, falls in love and when she finds out who he really is and is pissed, he figures if he can find her family and figure out what really happened to her parents, she'll rush into his arms and say 'I'll love you forever, even though you are a lying manipulative bastard.' I don't know, something didn't just read right about it.
I am pleased to announce however, that I did indeed buy and then read the book, and I really enjoyed it. Hope Prescott is the daughter of a preacher, after losing her parents at the age of sixteen and then being separated from her brother and sisters by the very congregation that the Prescott's had considered friends, Hope ends up in an orphanage in Boston, far from her small hometown in Texas, where she is laughed at and beat-up on a regular basis. Once old enough to leave the orphanage, Hope sets out to find her brother and sisters. But, getting there isn't as easy as Hope had planned. She learns a few things about life, don't trust people with the story of her life and work hard for money so you can do what you need to do. And what Hope needed to do was find her family. Making it only as far as Cincinnati before turning back, Hope returns to Boston and finds small jobs, enrolls in community college to get her computer science degree so that she can make all the money she'll need. When Hope meets Madam Nainci and a laundromat she gets her first real break. A steady job at an answering service and from there she gets to know the clients and for the first time in a long time, Hope feels like she belongs.
Zachariah (Zack) Givens is a rich, arrogant, and ruthless business man. Eating small business for breakfast, Zack despises cheats and liars, is none to friendly, and has an aversion to any thing that involves technology. When his secretary takes vacation she hires Madam Nainci's answering service to take messages for Zack. After giving a man a heart attack on the floor of his office, Zack's friend and lawyer bets him that he cannot be nice for ten days. Not one to turn away from a bet, Zack agrees.
When Zack calls for his messages, he is taken aback with the voice on the other end of the line, and more than a little perturbed that she seems to be more concerned for her other clients rather than giving him his message. Remembering the bet, Zack bites his tongue. Hope figures he must be the butler, Griswald, because after what she went through as a child she cannot fathom a rich person with the reputation of Givens could be so nice. Zack finds himself enjoying their little chats and doesn't want to spoil them by letting her know who he really is.
When Hope and Zack finally meet face to face, the attraction is hard to ignore. Knowing he will have to go slow, and watch what he says carefully, Zack starts to "court" Hope. When Hope finds herself becoming more and more attracted with Zack (or Zack pretending to be Griswald), and falling for him, she decides it's time to stay away from him so she doesn't lose sight of her goals. But when she is attacked with a knife, she runs to the one place and person who makes her feel safe, Griswald. When Zack sees how scared and hurt Hope is, he realizes he will do anything to keep her safe, and that means keeping her with him. With her being so scared right after the attack Zack doesn't think now is the best time to tell her, he takes her to his room, cleans her up and calms them down.
Finally feeling comfortable enough with Griswald (Zack) to tell him the truth of her past, Hope lets it all out. Zack more than anything wants to tell her who he really is, he just hasn't found the right time. So when Hope is arrested for embezzlement from a notorious gangster, Zack goes to bail her out only to find his old friend, now enemy, siting with her in the jailhouse, and suddenly Zack feels betrayed and hurt. And now thanks to Zack's enemy, Hope knows who Zack really is and she feels just as hurt. Words are said and they both hurt each other deeply. But with the help of family and friends, Zack and Hope finally realize what they need is to learn to trust each other and allow themselves to love.
This was a really fun read for me. I like the books I read to have a good sense of community and Hope definitely has that, with a boss that talks like a cartoon Russian spy, and a slew of oddball clients at the answering service, Hope's life is full.
I also really liked the fact that, unlike the BCC would have you believe, Hope doesn't just fall back into Zack's arms. I liked that they both had some forgiving and personal growth to do before they could be together. I got my HEA, but the characters had to work for it, and that made it all the more satisfying. Also, this book is the first of three in a series, and I am really looking forward to see what happened to the other members of Hope's family.
I think that's probably one of my favorite things about this book. Hope didn't get everything she wanted right away. Zack's money couldn't solve the mystery immediately. If that would have been the case, this book would have been far too rushed. Now, I get to savor the mystery while enjoying some HEA's.
There were a few POV problems, some head hopping that got a bit confusing at first, but soon worked itself out. Other than that, I just kind of sat back and enjoyed the book. I really needed a book that I could do that with. Plus, I have a new author to start looking for, and since she's been around awhile, I'll have plenty of books to find by her.