Family by Design
Bonneville Books, 2012
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
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.