Friday, March 19, 2010

Feature Review: "If You Were My Man," By Francis Ray

By Tracy Montoya, RBTB Contributing Editor

When beloved author Francis Ray first approached me to request a feature review, it was for her 2009 release, “And Mistress Makes Three.” I have to confess, her e-mail was so adorable, it kind of cracked me up. She wrote, “[The book] might have a risqué title, but the main characters are good, moral people, as are all my main characters in my romances.”

Sadly, I was in the middle of a cross-country move, and by the time I was ready to open that book, Ray had another romance ready to hit the shelves. So I ended up reading “If You Were My Man” instead, leaving my curiosity about the mistress as yet unsated. But I definitely can’t say I was disappointed – “If You Were My Man” is a beautifully written, emotion-driven page-turner, featuring a hero and heroine who feel like your best friends.

Police hostage negotiator Rafael Dunlap has a reputation among his colleagues as a ladies’ man. And true to form, when a group of officers decides to relax together at the upscale seafood restaurant Fontaine, Rafael’s wandering eye zeroes in on its elegant, accomplished owner, Nathalyia Fontaine.

Obviously relying on his devastatingly handsome looks, Rafael tries a line on her that’s just a slight improvement on, “Hey, baby, what’s your sign?” (The scene where Nathalyia takes his considerable ego down a notch had me doing a little cheer in my seat. Which happened to be on an airplane -- always embarrassing). Widowed three years earlier, Nathalyia has her hands full ensuring the continuing success of her late husband’s restaurant, and she simply doesn’t have time to waste on a Casanova-type.

But underneath that touch of swagger, Rafael is pure gentleman -- the kind who stands when a woman enters the room, plans swoon-worthy dates worthy of an episode of “The Bachelor,” and has a heroic selflessness that makes him exactly who you’d want serving and protecting you. He’s also persistent, thankfully, so Nathalyia gets to learn this firsthand. When she watches the aftermath of one of his hostage negotiations on TV, she realizes that life is too short not to take a chance on such a good man.

But Rafael has his flaws, and one threatens to derail their promising relationship. His job is dangerous, and thanks to some family-related emotional baggage, he’s determined never to put someone in the position of loving him and losing him to violence. In one of his more boneheaded moments, (sorry, guys, you know you have them), he tells Nathalyia outright that their time together isn’t forever.

Although Nathalyia decides at first that a little time with Rafael is better than none at all, she soon shifts gears after receiving a life-changing shock. Though it’s even more painful than losing her first husband, she chooses to walk away, aided by her manipulative sister, who’s always tried to sabotage Nathalyia’s happiness out of jealousy.

The question of whether these two stubborn souls will overcome their very real flaws and have their happily-ever-after kept me reading into the wee hours -- and given the guaranteed upbeat ending in romance, that’s an accomplishment indeed. I’d be hard-pressed to think of a contemporary romance author I’d pit against the divine Francis Ray.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, while Ray’s characters may be “good, moral people,” that doesn’t make them annoyingly perfect or repressed. I love that theme in Ray’s work -- steamy love scenes included – which conveys you can be a person of good character and still fully embrace your sexuality.

One thing I didn’t have room to mention was the charming subplot/secondary romance between a Fontaine waitress and bartender. Have you read a romance lately with a really good subplot? And what turns you off when it comes to subplots?
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Make sure you jump on board the RBTB NEWs so you don't miss out on any of the upcoming new stuff happening. You'll only get the advance deets if you take part. So please join here, won't you?!
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Monday: Becke Davis brings you the delish deets on Leigh Duncan's "The Officer's Girl." Yes. Apparently handcuffs are involved.
Thursday: PJ Ausdenmore and Gannon Carr invite you to join them here as these darlings from TheRomanceDish.com show us the mysterious, sexy side of "His Darkest Hunger," by Juliana Stone.
Friday: Cara Elliott -- debut author and half of the classy Yale romance class teachin' team you read about here first -- visits RBTB to chat! Her "To Sin With A Scoundrel" is getting lots of great praise! I've just started it, and I can see why...
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27 comments:

Book Junkie said...

Ohhhh! This book sounds simply delicious!

Kara said...

I just love stories with good subplots...I think they add so much to the story. But it has to flow with the story...I don't like being pulled away from the main characters to secondary characters that don't have anything to do with the main theme. The two plots should compliment each other.

This sounds like a fantastic book...added another one to my TBR list...RBTB is such an enabler!!! LOL

Becke Davis said...

I think I have the first book you mentioned in my TBR pile - the author's name is really familiar to me, but I don't think I've read her books before. I'm going to change that asap - the new book sounds wonderful!!

Becke Davis said...

No wonder her name is familiar! We're friends on Facebook and, woot!, I just checked and I've got at least two of her books in my TBR pile. Now I just have to run out and get THIS one.

And when I looked her up, it turns out I have read one already - The Way You Love Me.

Tracy Montoya said...

Book Junkie, it is! I loved it.

Tracy Montoya said...

Kara, most often, I find myself getting impatient with a subplot because I want to get back to the main plot, but the one in this book was really great. I would have read a full book with those two characters!

Tracy Montoya said...

Becke, it IS wonderful. I need to read some of her backlist, too.

Lucy Monroe said...

My fave author for subplots ('cuz I can't just choose one of them) is Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her secondary storylines always absolutely rock. :)

Tracygrrrl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy Montoya said...

Lucy, very true! I like Suzanne Brockmann's, too. They tend to be so developed that it's almost like having a novella inside your novel, and they really work!

Lucy Monroe said...

Tracy...I almost mentioned her too! Suzanne Brockmann creates this intense story within a story that can't help but intrigue us. :)

Shelia Goss said...

Francis Ray is one of my favorite romance writers.

Interesting subplots is what keeps me intrigued in the stories. Its also a good way to introduce secondary characters that could later have their own stories.

Tracy Montoya said...

I can see why, Sheila. I do like meeting characters you've seen before in future stories, but I hate cliffhangers where the next book isn't available. Of course, they work, because I go and get the next book!

Renee Williams said...

If I Were Your Man is a wonderful book! I give it 5 stars. I agree with Shelia about the subplots and secondary characters.

Farrah Rochon said...

This book sounds awesome, and I love, love, love subplots! Thanks, Tracy! I'm adding this one to my "to be bought" pile.

-Farrah

Katharine Ashe said...

I love decent folk/steamy sex stories. The more decent a bad-boy hero is, the sexier he is!

Kara and Tracy, I completely agree with you that best secondary plots are really well integrated with the main romance, so they don't distract.

Tracy Montoya said...

Renee, me, too!

Tracy Montoya said...

Farrah, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. It's hard not to like a Francis Ray.

Tracy Montoya said...

Katharine, great point--bad boy heroes are so effective when they secretly have a heart of gold.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buona sera, Bellas! Tracy, I'm kind of bumming because every time you mention a book,I've so totally got to read it! Like NOW! I'm so with Katherine. She's hit on what's great about Rafael: that solid gentleman of character inside that's so admirable. Nothing wrong w/a man working what he's got. : ) but when you know there's something in there that's going to be so worthwhile settling down for, well, that's the stuff of romance. And I love that Nathalyia gives him a great set down. I'm assuming, however, it's still respectful? Not that he deserves it, maybe. but it seems like ray would want her girl to be strong that way.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Now, subplots that are secondary romances I totally adore! Like Lucy, SEP's come to mind, especially because so often they involve women 'of a certain age,' chicks who are a bit older, who are finding love the second time around. And brockmann is a 'master' of the secondary plot and love story warring withthe first for excitement and setting up future novels and romantic intrigues.

like kara (hi kara!), i get bummed when the subplot seems like a whole 'nuther story. i want to read through it fast. unless there're clues that it's gonna hook up w/the primary at some point. Becke talks about this style as something like mystery writing, which is pretty apt to me.

what i also love about secondary love stories is often the characters seem so deserving of finding someone. if that makes sense. and the hea payoff happens in such an active or energetic way because it's written more in short-story form, that the movement of the subplot is just exciting and satisfying in its own way.

I think i just confused myself.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Bookjunkie! honest ta gawd. i'm dying to read this now. i hate that i can't do it right away!

Hi, Sheila! What a great point. I remember feeling pathetic when i first read romance, dying to know whether a certain secondary would get his/her 'story'. Then i realized others were equally as sad as me, and simply rejoiced in it! What's really cool is when a totally peripheral and has a line or two somewhere that ingratiates him/her to readers. Maybe even years later ,the author writes the story of that character. so cool.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Renee! Excellent to have more great recs on this one! Guess we can't go wrong with Miss Ray, no?

Hey, Miss Farah! So nice to see you here. I'm kinda with you. When I even get a whiff of a subplot, my heart goes all pitter-pattery.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Wow, Tracy. The subplot must be awesome if you'd've read a book about the characters. I have a book in my keeper boxes that I saved because I love the secondary love story so much. It's really minimal, but it's fraught with "oh, we can never be together" and "oh, let's just give in to love.' sigh. and it's a medieval. and the hero's a young knight. there you have it.

Tracy Montoya said...

Michelle, the "set down" isn't messy, but it's as respectful as an overconfident guy with a bad line deserves! The medieval sounds really good! Do you remember the title? Now I'm curious.

GladysMP said...

Took time to read the many comments here and now it is late; but I enjoyed the original story and every comment so I don't regret the time spent. Happy Easter to all! It comes quickly in April this year.

Lise said...

Let's hear it for complete, complex characters who embrace their sensual sides, be they as a couple, or in menage, or kink or, hey, flying solo! How one chooses to express one's physical side is just another facet of a personality that includes all the characteristics you cover for Ms. Ray's hero and heroine. And in my book, that's a very good thing!