In the late 1980s, aspiring writer Leticia Peoples grew increasingly frustrated by rejections from publishers who believed there was no market for African-American romances. Peoples established Odyssey Press and invested her time, love and money into proving the skeptics wrong. In the early 1990s, the fledgling Maryland-based publishing company released early works by Donna Hill, Rochelle Alers, Mildred Riley and Crystal Wilson-Harris.
Leticia Peoples was a visionary. Unfortunately, Odyssey ceased publication shortly before the mainstream publishing industry discovered the prospects of the African-American market. Although Peoples never profited financially from her vision, her faith in the potential of black romance readers and writers was vindicated. Works by several authors Peoples was unable to publish have been released by other houses. Today, African-Americans comprise the fastest growing segment of the romance readers.
Francis Ray was among Leticia Peoples’ first published authors. Ray had sold several short stories to romance magazines, but “wanted to write a book that showed the healing power of love between a man and a woman. Fallen Angel, her first single title romance was published in 1991. Ray’s current publisher, St. Martin’s Press, has republished the novel as Someone to Love Me.
Michelle Grant is a successful Dallas commercial real estate executive. It is a tough business and Michelle is among the best. She is only 26 and rumors persist that her meteoric rise has more to do with her bedroom skills than her business acumen.
When California executive Brad Jamison arrives in Dallas, he contacts Michelle’s firm to negotiate several real estate transactions. Michelle is assigned to his account. Brad, who has heard the rumors about Michelle, immediately assume they are true.
But Brad and Michelle have a history. Ten years ago, Michelle was the beneficiary of a heroic act by a man known only to her as “BJ.” She remembers him, but he does not remember her. His current treatment of Michelle is often less than heroic.
However, the two are attracted to each other. Their implausible relationship ping-pongs back and forth as a result of Brad’s jealousy, personal history and insecurities. Michelle continues to give and give and give until one is forced to ask: Why?
Someone to Love Me carries Francis Ray’s name and a glossy new cover. However, it is important to remember that this is the work of a new author. The story is contrived and the characters are one-dimensional. The sexual tension between Michelle and Brad is forced. Within this story we do get glimpses of the storyteller Francis Ray later would become.
I am tempted to recommend this book for purely sentimental reasons. The Odyssey edition of the novel has been out of print for quite some time. Someone to Love Me will appeal to those Francis Ray fans who have been scouring the Internet sites for copies of Fallen Angel. This release is a must for those who want to complete their collection of the author’s work.
This early effort indicates how far the Francis Ray has come. As if to underscore that point, the book includes a new unpublished novella, “Maybe This Time.” In fewer than 60 pages, Ray tells the story of divorced father Shane Saunders and Amelia Dennison. After an argument with her new husband, Amelia’s younger sister prevails upon her neighbor, Shane, to drive her to her sister’s house.
Amelia has had several bad experiences with men and has chosen to stay clear of relationships with men. Although she and Shane are attracted to each other, she rebuffs his attempts at conversation and friendship. However, when Shane’s troubled young son comes to visit, Amelia recognizes the child’s problems may be caused by his parents’ divorce. She reaches out to Shane and suggests he consider counseling. Shane initially rejects her help, but reconsiders when he recognizes the impact she is having on his son. It is a satisfying little story with a surprise cameo by private detective Luke Grayson, hero of Until There Was You. It’s a good read.
Another reason to consider the book is that it contains a teaser for You and No Other, the long-awaited next installment in the Taggart and Falcon family series. This is Morgan Grayson’s story.