Finished October 29
Just the Way You Are by Christina Dodd, performed by Natalie Ross
This is the first book in a trilogy.
It starts with 16-year-old Hope standing outside her home in Texas with her sisters and brother, listening as the leaders of her father's church discuss her parents' death, their supposed criminal actions, and what will happen to her family now.
It then jumps ahead seven years to Hope's life in Boston, barely getting by, working at an answering service and studying hard at college. Her aim is to get a computer science degree, get a well-paying job and earn the money to find the siblings that she was so abruptly and unkindly separated from all those years ago in Texas.
Wealthy businessman Zacharaiah (Zack) givens is successful, but technologically challenges and his secretary has set him up with the answering service Hope works for (Madame Nancy's), and his butler Griswald has set him up to easily access the service from home as well. When Zack has a particularly unpleasant wrapup to a business takeover deal, his best friend challenges him to be nice to others for a particular length of time.
So when Zack calls in to get his messages and is mistaken for his butler by Hope, he goes along with it and finds himself wanting to be nice to her, in fact fantasizing about her as a result of her pleasant husky voice. As Hope enters his life, he finds her attitude refreshing, as she treats him as she would treat anyone, not deferring to his status or wealth as she is unaware of who he really is.
Zack has always got everything he wanted and so when he finds he wants Hope, he believes that he will get her, but his confidence has become arrogance, and Hope's discovery of his real identity may put his conquest in jeopardy.
Both characters have trust issues. Zack was betrayed by a supposed friend when he was younger and now assumes that everyone he meets wants something from him due to his wealth and success. Hope was betrayed by people she thought were her family's friends, and separated from her siblings against her will, all in the name of money, and she distrusts anyone with money.
This book has some very steamy and graphic sex scenes, and there were moments when I felt his character verged on too in control at the cost of Hope's wishes, but she does find her own voice here and the characters are evenly matched by the end.