Avon, $6.50, ISBN 0-380-81552-4
Contemporary Romance, 2000
Unlike many of her fellow authors who write about millionaires courting sexually-traumatized virginal small-town city gals, Barbara Freethy still writes stories of family and romance that dares to be different occasionally. Just the Way You Are is a daring story in this time of plot homogeneity, in that it features two women and a man. A love triangle, sort of.
It’s just too bad that like many of these sort of stories that demand the hero’s redemption, this one seems tad too in awe of its hero to make him grovel like he should. Which is a pity as Sam comes off a total jerk at times, and without him really bared open, he comes off utterly unworthy for either sisters Tessa and Alli.
Sam loved Tessa, but Tessa left town to be a supermodel. Less prettier, more insecure Alli, who loves Sam, manages to get him instead, but she keeps believing that Sam really loves Tessa. So years later, she files for divorce. Sam decides to go after Tessa now that he’s free.
On his part, Sam isn’t as bad as he sounds. He cares for Alli, of course, and he loves their daughter. It’s just that, well, Tessa… er, damn, but… jeez, he is so confused! And Alli, the willing martyr, will step down and die if that is what Sam and Tessa wants, because she is the Good Heroine here.
After page 200, I would have happily throttle both characters.
Thankfully, maybe even surprisingly, it is Tessa who lifts this story from descending completely into predictable I’m too good for you melodrama. She isn’t a stereotypical witch, and how she tries to handle Sam’s confused attentions and her sister’s unhappiness are well handled by this author.
There’s no surprise on my part who will get Sam in the end, of course. I’m happy for the loser in love, however, because no matter how I try, I keep seeing Sam as a childish twit.