How do you start writing a letter to someone, six years after breaking their heart?
Ava is unlucky in love as well as in life. The new office bitch has landed the dating column Ava wanted, and she can't remember the last time she had a second date. It's a good thing she has best friends Max and Gwen to pick up the pieces.
Deep down, Ava knows the reason why one date never turns into two - she's in love with someone else. Someone she's never even met.
It all started six years ago, with a letter from a secret admirer, Mr Writer... but then they suddenly stopped and Ava was heartbroken.
Now the letters have started again and Ava knows it could mean winning back the dating column at work. This time she's determined to unmask Mr Writer... and find out once and for all if he's Mr Right or Mr Very Definitely Wrong!
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Just the Way You Are is the début novel from Lynsey James and since it's publication in May last year she has also gone on to publish The Broken Hearts Book Club. I started this book looking for something light and easy and feel-good after reading a number of more serious books. I got what I wanted from this book, it is as I have mentioned above as it provided me with the light relief I was looking for and truthfully it was an awful lot better than I thought it would be. It's not without its faults but for a début read Lynsey James has done a very good job. Lynsey obviously has a deep love for the chick lit/women's fiction genre and knows what's needed to make a book like this a success. Yes the plot maybe just that little bit predictable in parts but overall I really enjoyed this story.
We meet Ava as she is attending the seventh wedding of her mother which is ironic really as she hates weddings and also working as a reporter for Sleek magazine weddings are part of the job. Ava is a girl who just wants to be happy and to find someone who will love her forever. She has been badly hurt in the past yet there is a hole inside of her waiting to be filled with love. 'I felt that something was definitely missing. There was an ache somewhere deep inside me and I wasn't sure how to heal it'. But yet there is someone always in the back of Ava's mind preventing her from taking that step and accepting the advances of any man and that someone is the enigmatic Mr. Writer who after six years has begun writing the most romantic letters to Ava. The only problem is his identity is a secret.
As if her love life isn't bad enough Ava had been expecting a much longed for promotion in her job to be the new Next Top Dating columnist. An unfortunate incident at her pitch to the bosses gives arch enemy Maddie McQueen the position. Ava is very despondent and believes the promotion should have been hers and now Maddie is only going to make her life a misery in the office. Can anything ever go right for her? The one good thing Ava has going for her is her friends Gwen and Max who are always there by her side to listen to her problems at any time of day or night. They believe love won't come calling and if she wants to find a partner or even uncover the truth behind Mr.Writer she needs to get out there and do something about it.
I did enjoy reading of Ava's exploits as she seeks so many answers in a bid to ultimately find true happiness. These scenes are nicely balanced alongside day to day office antics and the competitive streak coming out in Maddie. I also liked reading of the friendship between Gwen, Max and Ava. How they were always up for a laugh and how they followed each other trials and tribulations in relation to love. But what really grabbed my attention was the story of Ivy St Clair and her lost love. This was a brilliant addition to the book and to my mind could have been developed even more. I understand this aspect wasn't the whole crux of the story rather used more as an aid to help Ava in her own way. But Ivy's story was interesting and even a chapter or two from her point of view set back when she lived in America would have brought an added dimension to the story that might just have pushed it that little bit further.
In the first quarter of the book as we get to know Ava we can see she is a lovely girl with friends who care deeply for her. She wants to achieve just that little bit more when it comes to her career as she knows she is capable of a lot more if only given the chance. She may not have had the best of luck when it comes to the romance department but she is still hopeful that her soul mate is out there waiting for her. Initially I did find it annoying that when she first starts receiving the mysterious letters after the gap of six years that she didn't jump in immediately and start discovering who could be the sender. She seemed to spend too much time worrying about everyone else’s problems. If it had have been me in that position I would have been straight on the internet researching anything that could have given me a clue. It's not until Ava meets Ivy St. Clair at a wedding that she shouldn't even be reporting on that I felt Ava got the kick start she needed and the search began in earnest. Ava gets her head together and begins her quest with some hilarious, disastrous if at times creepy results.
Ava was well written and you could identify with her from the first few chapters so as a reader you had your fingers crossed hoping against hope that she would find the happiness she deserved. You knew the path to discovery wasn't going to run smoothly but that's what made this book all the more enjoyable even if odd cliche or two of this genre was thrown in at times. Although two things struck me. As I had had my suspicions from the start as to who Mr.Writer could be, did the reveal come too early and was it too obvious? Secondly the last quarter was just too stretched out and could have been shortened and nothing would have been lost from the overall storyline. In the end I was just screaming at the pages come on just get it together and stop all this faffing around and confusion. It proved just that bit drawn out for me.
As a reader you do really become invested in the characters lives and are rooting for their desired outcome. Yes the reveal may have come too early for my liking but up until that point I was keen to discover just who Mr.Writer was and could he justify his actions to Ava? Would she feel the same for him as he does for her? Or would it just be one big disaster? I wanted to know would my suspicions be correct or would Lynsey throw a spanner in the works? In a way I was hoping this would happen as it would have given a different slant to the book. For seasoned readers of this genre it might just have been a bit too easy and clichéd but I had to let this pass and soak up the other great elements of the story. One strong aspect of this book was the letters Mr.Writer sends to Ava. The writing within them is fantastic and packed full of romance, raw emotion and advice for Ava. You feel his love for Ava pouring from the page. You realise he has put his everything into carefully constructing the sentences to convey his feelings. He wants to come across as the man that is right for Ava. The one who will never let her down and love her until they grow old together. But that all just makes you wonder why can he not confront her and tell her who he is? Why should Ava be the one to search? Is he just painfully shy and fearful of revealing his identity as is shown when six years ago he failed to show up for an agreed meeting? Or is he just more clued in then we think and knows Ava needs to undertake this journey for her own personal benefit? Judging on the letters alone Mr. Writer is the ideal man that any woman would wish for in their lives. He seemed perfect but had he built himself up way too much? My opinion of him changed ever so slightly when the reveal came.
Lynsey James has written a very good book for a début with Just the Way You Are. It's a good example of a book in its genre and I really did enjoy it for what it was – a good romance with a few twists and turns along the way. I feel though there is an awful lot more to come from Lynsey and with this book she didn't reach her full potential. I'm now interested to see what her second book is like and will definitely be reading it in the future. Lynsey is a bright new talented that I feel will only get better with the more books she releases. I look forward to seeing where her writing path will take her. But in the mean time if you want a nice, easy book to relax with on the couch on a lazy afternoon you wouldn't go far wrong with choosing Just the Way You Are especially as it is only 99p on Amazon at the time of writing this review.
Many thanks to Carina UK for my copy of Just the Way You Are Are via NetGalley and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.