2008, Contemporary Romance
St. Martin's, $6.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312946848 Part of a series
An important thing for authors to know is when to end a series. Even when fans clamor for more, writers should know not to continue by adding unnecessary conflict. The same is true of spin-offs. Francis Ray crossed this line with The Way You Love Me, the first in her Grayson Friends spin-off series, which is little more than an indulgent addendum to her previous series, after she apparently ran out of Graysons to write about.
Shane Elliot, a security expert with a company somehow affiliated with the large, wealthy, and powerful Grayson family, does a favor for a woman he knows by agreeing to investigate her daughterís no-good boyfriend. Paige Albright is an event planner for a non-profit organization and is only dating Russell Crenshaw because her father approved of him before he died. However, she feels little passion for him, and thinks that she is just passionless in general Ė until she meets her motherís houseguest, Shane, and sparks fly.
And thatís pretty much it. We know immediately that Russell is a jerk and so does Paige. Thereís some sort of tension between Paige and her mother regarding her father that is never actually explained (I think it was in a previous book), while Shane is concerned about something that happened between him and Paige (again, in a previous book), though she doesnít know it was him.
The characters in this story are completely one-dimensional, with no depth or complexity whatsoever. We have the good-hearted protagonists with difficult pasts and we have the rest of the world, who are all out to get said protagonists. Time after time Shane and Paige (and sometimes an assortment of their allies) go up against a prejudiced/hostile/inept person, only to emerge victorious as they use their superior intelligence and kindness to make the other person cower in fear and retreat in shame. This happens, step by step, at least five separate times during the course of the book. These opponents of theirs arenít real characters - theyíre caricatures so extreme that it's an insult to readers.
The characterizations are just so obvious. Ray obviously didnít trust her readers to get it, so she spells it out painstakingly, with Paigeís no good-boyfriend and society bitch mother having absolutely no redeeming qualities, but giving them every slimy, repulsive personality trait in existence. It made me hate Paige, wondering how stupid she is, how blind, to even tolerate Russellís presence, much less date him.
Shane wasnít an awful character, but I had more issues with Paige. Ray tried to force a neglected, beaten down, and abused complex onto her, which just didnít fit, and failed to tie in with her actual experiences. She kept trying to insinuate that Paigeís father was abusive, but it just didnít come through.
The conflict is also forced and too connected to the events of previous Grayson novels. It requires too much revisiting and too many sentimental happily-ever-after scenes with previous heroes and heroines. I like revisiting characters in connected books as much as the next person, but this was overkill. Too much of what happens here is grounded in one of the Grayson books, which may have been a sop to readers, but provided absolutely no incentive to read this one. Whatever was left unresolved in the plot after the first third of the book was directly related to actions that were barely explained; readers only got a confusing, ill-explained prologue that did nothing to preface the relationships, characters, or conflicts.
The Way You Love Me is a mess of a story - indulgent, poorly characterized, weakly plotted, and unsophisticated. Ray's fans deserve better.
-- Jane Granville
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