06 May, 2017

Just the Way You Are (Lost Hearts Book 1) by Christina Dodd #review

Pages -  388
Publisher -  Christina Dodd
Published -  March 19, 2014
Original -  2003
Sold by -  Amazon Digital Services LLC
Genre -  Contemporary, Mystery & Suspense, Family Saga
Series -  Lost Hearts 1 of 3
Language -  2/5
Sexual Content -  5/5 (smut)

Hope Prescott lives in Boston, far from the warm, southern home she recalls. She works with one goal in mind--finding her long-lost siblings. Yet her job at the answering service and her own loving nature creates a family of friends, people she knows only by their voices. She especially likes Griswald, gruff old butler for wealthy Zack Givens.
Meeting Griswald is a shock; he is neither gruff nor old, but a powerful, handsome man. In fact, he is Zack Givens, mysterious, cold, heartless--and charmed by the artless young woman who brings him chicken soup, treats him like a friend...and falls in love with the humble man she imagines him to be. Inevitably she will discover Zack's secret and face his betrayal. Then can Zack solve the mystery that haunts Hope's past to prove their futures lie together?

Well, I'll start by saying it wasn't all bad.

It just wasn't quite my thing, and the plot didn't really go anywhere to keep my interest, but I did finish the whole book.

I'm pretty sure this is my first Christina Dodd novel, and I'm still not sure if it will be my last.

This is another re-written for Amazon novel, first published in her Lost Texas Heart series back in 2003, but with the amount of sexual content involved, it isn't likely she rewrote very much of the original work for this 'updated' version.

If you read any of my posts, you know how I feel about 'updating' Contemporary or any Romance novels just to placate the butt-hurt crowd.

We won't go there today.

It was well written!

Very few type-o's and hardly any grammar issues, so there is that.

I also liked the way one of the mysteries is solved toward the end (thought it was kind of funny) and the way Zack forces himself to go against his own grain in order to win back Hope's trust.

The aside characters were notable: Zack's Aunt Celeste and Hope's boss, Madam Naincy.

The beginning of the novel is set in Hope's childhood, the bulk of the story centers around her meeting Zack, and then the epilogue jumps to seven years later.

And, when you finally do reach the end, the author inserted a synopsis of the work and included a bit of the original draft that she'd sent her publisher.

Kind of interesting as I'd never come across anything like it before, but I had to wonder why, or if anyone who just reads (not writes) would even care.

As for the story itself...

Well, it didn't touch me the way it should have, and I got lost in all of the day-to-day mechanics of the two leads to remember what the original goal was, until the author would remind me by mentioning Hope's past.

It also read more antiquated than modern, with a college campus equipped with out-dated computer systems, Madam Naincy's answering service, and Hope's old-fashioned mannerisms.

Again, if I had known this was originally written in 2003, it might have helped.

And, I just didn't get the theme of the plot.

It just wasn't written in a way that made sense or served a huge purpose.

Hope is searching for her 3 siblings, all adopted after their parents are killed, but she is also trying to clear their names after they had been falsely accused of embezzlement of the Texas town's church funds.

Neither issue is dealt with nor thoroughly played out at any time in the story, so I didn't get it.

Hope liked to talk about it, and Zack was more than interested in using his butler to help her out, but nothing about the issues came to light until the very end of the story... which ended more like a cliffhanger than actual resolution.


I mean, SEVEN YEARS go by at the end of the novel, and Hope still hasn't found them or discovered anything new about the embezzlement charges?


Even in 2003, though, and going back in my own mind to recall the state of technology at the time, it wasn't all that prehistoric as to be considered useless or even inadequate (well, by today's standards, yes, but for Hope's issues... no).

Hope could have easily accessed a computer at school, gone online, typed in some words, and discovered far more about her two pressing issues than Zack's butler discovered over seven years, adding Hope's young adult years prior to her having met Zack.

That's a lot of time to get something out of the way, right?

So, to summarize, this wasn't really about a poor, young girl struggling to make ends meet while insisting that "Once I graduate," and "Once I get a real job," she'll be able to begin her journey to discover her lost siblings and clear her late parents' names.

It was actually about Hope meeting wealthy Zack and thinking he is the butler until she discovers the truth... which takes far longer than I think might be realistically possible.

Zack's only goal is to get Hope in bed, and when he succeeds, just days after meeting her in person, he slowly starts to realize she means more to him than a good time.

I know a lot of readers frown on this scenario, and while I think I can honestly say I don't mind men who behave like pigs until the love bug strikes...


I'm actually okay with it.

I do, however, mind when two veritable strangers meet and have sex right away.

Especially when the author wants me to believe the h is a virgin.

And, not that I expect a whole ton of 'reality' in my Romance novels, because I don't.

I prefer the escape aspect and will tolerate a good deal of fantastical nonsense if it is well written and takes me beyond the four dreary walls of my life.

PACE, I believe it's called.

The story itself read too slow and day-to-day sameness for me to become fully engaged and care, but as for the relationship between the two leads, that took off straight away, and I'm just not inclined to go along with it or believe it is possible.

(At least not for a virgin)

EMOTIONS, even in a Romance novel, are a huge part of the story, so sticking as close to reality in that regard seems like the smarter way to go IMHO.

180 Reviews and 57 are Critical

I'll be honest and say SOME of the reviews seem (false) or (didn't actually read it) because if they had, they would know this ISN'T set in a small town (they're in Boston), there is no real mystery (aside from Hope getting kidnapped really briefly) and we can all agree that the characters are less than full-body.

Unless the author decided to tell us, I had no idea what the two leads really looked like or how they actually felt about life in general.

She said Zack was a hard-ass, but to me, he was just a wealthy snob running a big corporation.

She said Hope was beautiful (through Zack), and kind (through her boss), but as for Hope herself, I honestly don't know who she is or why she has her own story.


And I mean pages upon pages of graphic, blow-by-blow, in-your-face, choreographed porn in at least three different chapters.

Skim City, sorry to say.

Anyway, that's my take-away on Just the Way You Are by Christina Dodd.

If you are interested, here is the info on the entire Series:

The Lost Hearts series includes:

-- CLOSE TO YOU Enhanced

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