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Justesen, "Family by Design" (reviewed by Tristi Pinkston) Options · View
Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 1:19:14 AM

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Title: Family by Design
Author: Heather Justesen
Publisher: Bonneville Books
Genre: Romance/Family Drama
Year Published: 2012
Number of Pages:245
Binding: Trade Paperback
ISBN10: n/a
ISBN13: 978-1-59955-920-9
Price: $15.99

Reviewed by Tristi Pinkston for the Association for Mormon Letters

Confident, talented interior decorator Rena has everything she could possibly want - a fantastic career, a bright future, and a very pleasant boyfriend. If she pretends hard enough, she can believe herself to be happy, but she wants more. She wants someone to fall madly in love with her and sweep her off her feet, but she's over thirty, and it just seems that such things will never happen. The most exciting thing that ever happens to her is helping her best friend, Tucker, redecorate his flip home.

Tucker, a Marine home until his next deployment, is hit with the surprise of his life when his brother and sister-in-law are killed in a car accident, leaving their two young children without parents. The young father's dying wish is for Tucker to raise the children, and Tucker wholeheartedly agrees. He loves his niece and nephew, and would do anything to keep from losing them. Anything.

When a social worker expresses her concern that Tucker could get called up again at any moment, leaving the children without a guardian, Tucker stumbles upon a plan. He and Rena have always been good friends. If they were to get married, they could raise the children together, and then if he got called up, Rena could watch over everything for him. Approaching her in a somewhat less-than-romantic way, he proposes.

Rena doesn't know what to think. She's had feelings for Tucker off and on throughout their ten-year friendship, but she never expected it to culminate in a marriage proposal. And it's not a marriage for love, anyway ... but rather, a marriage of convenience.

As we read the story, we see Rena and Tucker move through the emotional stages from best friend, to reluctant fiance, to committed spouse, and then finally, falling in love. We see character growth in both of them, and we can see how they each struggle in some ways to leave their single life behind and embrace their instant family. We also see how deeply they care about these children and are determined to create a solid foundation for them as they grow up.

The themes of the story are familiar. We've all heard of two best friends getting married, of the need for a marriage in order to gain custody of children, and people falling in love unexpectedly. What makes this story unique is Heather Justesen's own writing style. She has a unique turn of phrase and the ability to describe things in a way that makes her books unlike anyone else's. It's distinctive and a pleasure to read. And, if I were to be totally honest, I would have to say that I did rather appreciate the moments of sweet romance throughout the story. Perhaps I might even go so far as to say that it sounds to me like Tucker is a pretty good kisser.

If you're looking for a family drama with romantic elements and plenty of tear-jerking moments, I daresay you would enjoy "Family by Design" by Heather Justesen.
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