Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Club: Just The Way You Are by Christina Dodd

by Brooke Hren


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….


Hope Prescott is a minister's daughter and Zach Givens is a corporate raider to the core. She's friendly, charming, and goes out of her way to help people; he is an egomaniac, uncaring, and rude to the point of being mean. The virgin and the bad boy.

The book begins with the moment that shapes young Hope and her siblings lives- she and her siblings are being separated and sent to foster homes/orphanages around the county because their parents were killed in a car accident. Her parents were also accused of embezzling church funds and were on the run when they had their accident.

Seven years later Hope is employed at a answering service and studying for a degree that she thinks will enable her to find a job that pays enough for her to search for her siblings.

"Money's the most important thing in the world. You have some, so you don't realize that without money, you're dirt on the streets. Without money, you depend on compassion, and there's not much in this world."

It's through the answering service that she first "meets" Zach who's company had contracted their services- except Hope thinks that Zach is really his butler Griswald. Zach does nothing to correct Hope because his fondest wish is for someone to like him for himself and not his last name or portfolio. And Hope does treat him like a normal person. Some of the comments that she makes about Zach are not very flattering and not something that I would say about a client to his employee. Imagine his surprise to be on the receiving end of those comments!

At the beginning of the book Hope comes across as a very bright, hard working girl who has been down on her luck for too long and is afraid to have good things happen to her. She spends all of her time working and studying. Zach throws himself into his work and only has relationships that fit his needs at the moment. Even his friend thinks he can't go a day without making someone cry.

There's an interesting tension in their relationship: romance vs. affair.

Hope says, "An affair involves body parts. A romance is of the mind and heart." I felt like Hope was having a romance and Zach was initially only after an affair.

The romance they develop does showcase the intense chemistry they have together though. Hope is consumed with all the new feelings she's experiencing, while Zach seems incredibly demanding in regards to those feelings.The steady stream of thoughts about how to bed Hope made Zach appear cold and calculating. He is so sure that once he has Hope that she will forgive him for deceiving her and it never really occurs to him that she wouldn't. It took me a long time to warm up to him. Their first time together and Hope's first time ever feels a little fast after the circumstances that bring her to his mansion but at the same time happen in a very Zach-like way; he sees an opportunity and takes it. He does wait until she has recovered and is no longer in shock though. You wonder when the big reveal of Zach's identity is going to happen and whether her will have a chance to tell her himself or someone else will.

As the story continues Hope is broadsided by an embezzlement scam that leads to her arrest and abduction by the bad guy who was scammed. It was nice to see all of Hope's clients rally to save her, with Zach's help.

Their reunion was sweet and orchestrated by the wonderful secondary characters of the Givens family. Zach pulled out a wonderful surprise for Hope that showed how far he had come. I adore Zach's fathers advice:

"Crawl, boy." "Women like to see a man crawl."

Ultimately Just the Way You Are was a good read and a intriguing beginning to the Prescott family mystery. It makes me want to read the rest of the series to find out what happened to the parents and see all the siblings reunited. It is a good read for readers who enjoy romance with a little mystery and happy endings.


Zach promises to make Hope dinner if she returns to his house to let him tutor her in physics. Of course he orders out but his secretary recommended lasagna which is a great first dinner date meal. My favorite recipe is by the Pioneer Woman:


1-1/2 pound Ground Beef

1 pound Hot Breakfast Sausage

2 cloves Garlic, Minced

2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes

2 cans (6 Ounce) Tomato Paste

2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley

2 Tablespoons Dried Basil

1 teaspoon Salt

3 cups Lowfat Cottage Cheese

2 whole Beaten Eggs

1/2 cup Grated (not Shredded) Parmesan Cheese

2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley

1 teaspoon Salt

1 pound Sliced Mozzarella Cheese

1 package (10 Ounce) Lasagna Noodles

(add 1/2 Teaspoon Salt And 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil To Pasta Water)

Preparation Instructions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan, combine ground beef, sausage, and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat until browned. Drain half the fat; less if you’re feeling naughty. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons parsley, basil and salt. After adding the tomatoes, the sauce mixture should simmer for 45 minutes while you are working on the other steps.

In a medium bowl, mix cottage cheese, beaten eggs, grated Parmesan, 2 more tablespoons parsley, and 1 more teaspoon salt. Stir together well. Set aside. Cook lasagna until “al dente” (not overly cooked).

To assemble:

Arrange 4 cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a baking pan, overlapping if necessary. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles. Spread evenly. Cover cottage cheese with a layer of mozzarella cheese. Spoon a little less than half the meat/sauce mixture over the top.

Repeat, ending with meat/sauce mixture. Sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan.

Either freeze, refrigerate for up to two days, or bake immediately: 350-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes, or until top is hot and bubbly