You and No Other
Francis Ray definitely has a way with words. Her word choice and writing style compel the reader to keep turning pages and in her latest novel she creates characters who are strong, interesting people. Sadly, these promising people live in a somewhat clichéd world and inhabit a book that suffers from severe series-itis with its proliferation of links back to past happy couples and the rather obvious setting up of all the single characters for books of their own.
Morgan Grayson is a powerful Santa Fe attorney, and part of a well-respected family. Just how Morgan and his entire clan rose to such prominence is not fully explained in the book, but it is obvious that Morgan and each of his many siblings are driven folks who have risen to the top of their respective professions. Normally this sort of “perfect family” story does not work for me, but Ray makes Morgan into a very human and appealing character. The reader gets to see him living a day-to-day life, and as a lawyer myself, I appreciated reading about a lawyer actually doing legal work.
It is in the course of this work that Morgan meets Phoenix Banister, a sculptor living in relative seclusion at a home rented by her mentor while the two are in Santa Fe for an art event. Morgan is immediately drawn to her, but Phoenix fears that any sort of romantic involvement will ruin the orderly life she has created for herself. Phoenix has some secrets in her past and living apart from people is the only way she has to keep her life private.
Still, Morgan is deeply interested in the young woman and he finds himself coaxing her slowly out of her safe world. The more he sees Phoenix, the more he wants to get to know her better. Phoenix is also drawn to Morgan, and the reader sees her struggling with herself as she decides whether or not to trust him. Though Morgan can be a touch arrogant on occasion, he and Phoenix really have a beautiful and tender story.
Unfortunately, the touching nature of that love story is jarred again and again by designer name-dropping and constant reminders that the Graysons and those around them are apparently rich beyond imagination. In addition, there are frequent mentions of Morgan’s older brother and cousins who seem anxious to remind everyone that their HEA is ongoing. And then we have Morgan’s anti-marriage younger siblings who appear often just so that we know they will have books, too.
Eventually, these jarring touches become so frequent that it is hard to concentrate on Morgan and Phoenix or any of the main plot. When I started this book, it felt different from most contemporary romances I’ve read, and I thought I would really like it. Sadly, however, as the book moved along, it faded to something far more ordinary. This is quite a shame because Ray has a distinctive voice, and could obviously write something far stronger.