Today’s the day I get to tell you all about a recent independent-release contemporary novel: Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham. The best news? Pepper is here for an interview AND an ebook giveaway! This story is equally hilarious and romantic, with a depth that draws you into the lives of the characters in the very first chapter. See my gushing review below. Pepper has been gracious to answer a few of my interview questions and provide the ebook giveaway, so many thanks to her for that treat!
Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham
Book 1 in the Pleasant Gap Romance series
Single mom, Eisley Barrett, prefers to keep romance safely housed within a centuries-old mystery, but when she travels to England to unearth the secret, an actor with a sordid past offers her reluctant heart a very different type of discovery.
Wes Harrison has a past he’s ashamed to confess. Suspicious and cynical, he’s managed to avoid romantic entanglements since a tragedy upended his career and life, that is until American Eisley Barrett comes along. Her authenticity and kindness upend his bitter assumptions and send his heart into unscripted territory.
When his past threatens to ruin a second chance at love, can some Appalachian matchmaking and letters from the grave salvage their unexpected romance?
At the heart of any great story lies characters who are likable, relatable, and dynamic. Author Pepper Basham always succeeds in penning her characters as such, with a healthy dose of family and joy. Wes and Eisley are what propel this story from a light and humorous start to an ending with surprising transformation, romance, and depth. Add in the fairy tale-like England trip, family mystery, and pop culture references and you have the perfect witty romance.
Country meets England between to covers of this book, in a “Britallachian” style as Pepper coined, using immersive descriptions and words not familiar to the southern vocabulary. I enjoyed seeing the prevalent clash of cultures in the verbiage alone with thoroughly English words like “nick” contrasted to southern expressions.
Wes is the definition of swoon-worthy. With a haunting past and bright career ahead of him, he’s a walking picture of a changed man that’s been redeemed by grace, trying to please his Heavenly Father and juggle his newfound faith within a challenging world. Eisley is someone you want as your best friend, especially with her crazy family and innate clumsiness. Her independence and spunky personality are a contrast to her own emotional insecurities, which she has to learn to surmount.
Let’s talk about the ROMANCE! (where’s my fan?) Fellow blogger Robin called Pepper the “Queen of Swoony”, and it’s a title well-earned and proven with this story. Wes’s tender pursuit and desire for true friendship, plus the fact that he has no clue how attractive he is to Eisley, combine to make this one of Pepper’s best romances yet. (It’s tied for me with The Thorn Keeper for my fav.) It’s not all chocolate and kisses in centuries-old towers, though, in Just the Way You Are. The romance has a certain maturity to it, a perspective of second chances, that makes it more meaningful. Wes and Eisley are at a point in their lives where they understand of the importance of a deeper friendship, a “gracious heart”-attitude, and this makes the love story all the sweeter.
The way the storyline and characters deal with potential obstacles is a fresh take. It has the requisite insurmountable problems for a modern fairy-tale type story, but the reactions of Wes and Eisley make you cheer them on and step back and think “Yes. This is how to handle it in the real world.” A lesson of “being enough” just as you are because you’re a redeemed, new creation in Christ is a prominent faith thread in this story. I especially liked the family support and encouragement both of them have as they make some important decisions or need advice.
I could go on about more aspects of this story I loved, like the history (and mystery!) threads with long lost letters that tie into the modern story and offer encouragement, the adorableness of Eisley’s kids and how they are so “normal”, or the humor and pop culture references that made me smile (from Pollyanna to Superman to Lucille Ball). Fans of romance, modern-day fairy tales, stories of culture clashes, or humor and faith intertwined will love this start to a new series.
Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel. This is my honest review.
Eisley has a big Appalachian family. You have a big Appalachian family, Pepper. Do any members of your real family have similar personalities or share specific characteristics with this fictional one?
Hee hee, well, there are a few who have characteristics like my characters in Just the Way You Are. I think Sophie is a delightful combination of my cousin, Ashley, and my dear, sweet friend writing buddy, Ashley. My parents certainly influenced the Jenkins’ parents – anyone who knows my dad can see him on the page 😉 I think there are fun parts to Greg which remind me of my brother sometimes, but my bro isn’t a flirt – he’s just funny. Eisley’s three kids were inspired by my oldest three when they were about the ages of Nathan, Pete, and Emily, so lots of the personality traits and…quirks…aren’t fictional 🙂
Please tell us 1″must-see” destination in both England and the Appalachians?
Oh my! That’s SUPER hard! Let me think…I loved LOVED the Peak District in Derbyshire and among the beautiful parts of it is Haddon Hall, the manor house Lornegrave was fashioned after in the novel. I’d LOVE to go back there.
As far as Appalachia? Blue Ridge Mountains? You HAVE to go somewhere with a view! Just getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway will give you loads of opportunities for vistas that just take your breath away. Pisgah National Forest, Roan Mountain, New River Valley…too many to name, but just drive on the Parkway. That’s what I’d suggest (and if you’re ever close to Asheville, you should visit the Biltmore!!)
I agree, the Blue Ridge Parkway itself is beautiful! As is Roan Mountain. The Biltmore is on my travel list, for sure!
Where do you get character name inspiration?
Some just pop into my head but others are chosen for specific reasons. You can get an idea of it here in the video linked below. In The Thorn Bearer I picked Ashleigh’s name very specifically. Her sister Catherine’s name means ‘pure’ and that was on purpose too – as a deeper meaning in the story about how God makes us pure, even when our sin corrupts our hearts and lives.