Break Every Rule
The Heart of the Falcon
Incognito
Silken Betrayal
Until There Was You
Winter Nights

 
The Turning Point by Francis Ray
(St. Martin=s Press, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-312-97862-6
****
It's hard to believe, but it has been nearly two years since the release of Until There Was You, Francis Rayís last full-length novel. Since the August 1999 publication of that story, Francis Ray sightings have been few and far between. Incognito was reissued in conjunction with a made-for-TV movie bearing its name. Winter Nights, a holiday anthology, was re-released in paperback. New Ray novellas were published last year in Dellaís House of Style and Welcome to Leoís. In 2001, Francis Ray has reached a turning point in her writing career. Appropriately, the authorís first mainstream novel is called The Turning Point.

Lilly Crawford and Adam Wakefield were both victims of senseless violence. Adam, a prominent San Francisco neurosurgeon, was accosted when he attempted to resist carjackers. The attackers took more than his car. The injuries they inflicted temporarily robbed him of his eyesight and his self-esteem. Unlike Adam, Lily knew her attacker. Her husband was a pillar of the Little Elm, Texas community where they lived. Myron Crawfordís domestic violence temporarily robbed Lily of her self-esteem and her lifeís vision. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Determined to get control of her future after the death of her beloved mother-in-law, Lily uses all but $40 of her lifeís savings to file for divorce. Knowing her husband will try to block her attempts and discredit her, she flees her six-year-old marriage in a twelve-year-old car. As she heads for New Orleans, the car breaks down in Shreveport, not far from the Wakefield estate.

The once proud and arrogant Dr. Adam Wakefield is both humbled and angered by his inability to see. He has turned down all offers of assistance from his family and has refused to enroll in classes to help him adapt to his blindness. Adam has come to his Shreveport retreat, to hide away and lick his wounds. He is determined that his sight eventually will return. Despite his demands, his family refuses to leave him in Shreveport alone. Lily happens upon the estate seeking help with her disabled car just as the family has decided to hire a caretaker for Adam - against his wishes. He relents only when his godfather threatens to have him committed to protect him from himself.

One thing leads to another and Lily is offered what can only be described as a heavily disguised blessing. Adamís abrasive manner reminds Lily of the husband she has just fled. But she desperately needs the job to gain her freedom. They are both wounded souls. But Lilyís healing has begun more quickly than Adamís. What she lacks in knowledge of dealing with the needs of her blind charge, she makes up for in the ability to empathize with his pain. Vowing never to be verbally or physically abused again, Lily immediately sets up ground rules on what she will not tolerate from the churlish Dr. Wakefield.

Lily quits and/or is fired several times before an uneasy peace settles between the two. As they begin work together as a team, both gain needed self-confidence and discover ďasking for help doesnít mean youíre helpless.Ē Lily learns to expand her vision of the world around her and Adam learns to look closely within.

The Turning Point is populated with a number of great secondary characters who provide support and clarification. However, Iím not quite sure what to make of the smattering of young, spoiled female characters like Adamís sister and Lilyís stepdaughter that Ray has placed within the story. I also would like to know more about Lilyís stepson, Rafe, who makes two brief appearances.

The author could not abandon her romance roots altogether. As a result, there is a poignant second-chance romance between minor characters that adds dimension to the novel. The narrative deftly explores relationships among the characters. The PG-rating is in keeping with the authorís continuing de-emphasis on the sexual nature of the complex relationships between adults.

The Turning Point marks a new phase in Francis Rayís career. I strongly recommend it.

--Gwendolyn Osborne


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